Bolton's Request to CIA Draws Further Review
By Douglas Jehl The New York Times
SATURDAY, MAY 7, 2005
WASHINGTON John Bolton's effort in 2002 to oust a top Central Intelligence Agency analyst from his post in a dispute over Cuba represented an extraordinary breach of the line between policy makers and intelligence, the agency's former deputy director has told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to a transcript of the exchange. The comments by the former official, John McLaughlin, in an interview with the committee's staff, go beyond previous criticisms by senior intelligence officials about Bolton's conduct in the episode. The analyst, Fulton Armstrong, was the national intelligence officer for Latin America and had clashed with Bolton's office about a speech that Armstrong thought overstated the Cuban threat. Bolton's request that Armstrong be transferred was one of at least four such episodes being reviewed by the committee as part of its inquiry into Bolton's nomination as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton has told the committee that he sought to have Armstrong transferred because he had "lost confidence" in him. But Armstrong did not report to Bolton, the under secretary of state for arms control, and McLaughlin, who was serving at the time as deputy director of central intelligence, has told the committee that he "reacted strongly" in telling Armstrong's supervisor to disregard the request. The broad outlines of McLaughlin's role in the episode had been previously known. But McLaughlin has declined interview requests, and his comments to the committee, detailed in an unedited transcript made available Friday, reflected what he described as his "strong reaction" to learning of Bolton's request. "This is the only time I had ever heard of such a request," McLaughlin told Republican and Democratic members of the committee staff, when asked whether he recalled any similar attempt by a policy maker to remove a CIA analyst or officer from his post. "It's perfectly all right for a policy maker to express disagreement" with a national intelligence officer or an analyst, "and it's perfectly all right for them to challenge such an individual vigorously, challenge their work vigorously," McLaughlin told the committee. "But I think it's different to then request, because of the disagreement, that the person be transferred." McLaughlin said he had learned about the request from Stuart Cohen, then the acting chairman of the National Intelligence Council, who had told him that Bolton and another senior Bush administration official, Otto Reich, had "serious disagreements" with Armstrong's work, and that they wanted to have Armstrong "reassigned or moved" from his post. McLaughlin said he had told Cohen: "'Well, we're not going to do that, absolutely not. No way. End of story,' or words to that effect." McLaughlin spent more than 30 years at the CIA and served for more than four years as deputy director of central intelligence before his retirement in November. A career intelligence analyst, he has a reputation for being cautious and careful, and some congressional officials said they were surprised by the strength of the sentiments he expressed about Bolton. The committee has not made public its transcripts of the interview with McLaughlin, which was conducted April 29, or with the State Department attorney, which was conducted Tuesday. Unedited transcripts of the interviews were provided by a congressional official who is opposed to Bolton's nomination.


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