ProPublica: Bolton Has History of Distorting Intelligence

ProPublica: Bolton Has History of Distorting Intelligence April 2, 2018

ProPublica has a report that only confirms what has been obvious to anyone who has observed John Bolton for any period of time, as I have since the 80s. He has a long history of cherry-picking, distorting and filtering out intelligence that doesn’t support his predetermined agenda. This makes him particularly dangerous as Trump’s National Security Adviser.

There are two stories in the article of instances where Bolton was so upset that non-partisan intelligence analysts in the CIA and other agencies disputed his overstating and distortion of the intelligence they had provided to him that he tried to destroy their careers. One was in 2002, when Bolton suddenly, and inexplicably, began prattling on about Cuba developing biological weapons and sharing them with outlaw nations and terrorist groups. Bolton was with the State Department at the time and one of that agency’s specialists on biological weapons, Christian Westermann, urged him to soften language in a speech because it overstated, rather dramatically, the intelligence information on the matter (and in fact, it never happened, as we know now). Bolton called the analyst into his office and berated him and had him moved to a different position.

He did the same thing with Fulton Armstrong, then the National Intelligence Officer for Latin America working across multiple intelligence agencies. Like Westermann, Armstrong objected to Bolton’s serious exaggeration of the information our agencies had on possible Cuban biological weapons. Bolton went after Armstrong with a vengeance, demanding his firing. The CIA rejected that demand and kept him on because he was considered an excellent analyst. Veterans in the field said this was unheard of behavior for a policymaker:

After dressing down Westermann, Bolton pressed Westermann’s supervisor to remove him from his subject matter portfolio — a move that officials described as tantamount to dismissal.

“People stay on their accounts a long time,” a former State Department intelligence colleague of Westermann said in an interview. “If you remove him from the account, that means he basically loses his job. Bolton went out of his way to bully him. It was beyond the pale.”

Other, more senior State Department officials described Bolton’s behavior as unprecedented. “Asking me to fire an intelligence analyst is a singular event in my career,” former Assistant Secretary Carl Ford, who oversaw the intelligence bureau at the time, said in an interview. “Threatening to have someone fired for not altering intelligence judgments to suit them, that is uniquely Bolton. I have worked in both intelligence and policy positions. Even the most opinionated people with reputations of being difficult never even suggested they were thinking about doing something so outrageous.”

As National Security Adviser, Bolton’s job will largely be to filter the very intelligence he has a history of distorting for his agenda. And we know damn well that Trump won’t be in any position to dispute him on anything because he barely stays awake for his Presidential Daily Briefings. Bolton has an agenda and it’s a very dangerous one. As NSA, he will be able to push that agenda on Trump and be free to lie and distort and exaggerate the case for that agenda to an already impetuous president with a crying need to act like a bully. We are truly and well screwed.

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