Thursday, May 12, 2005

What is there to debate about Bolton?

From today's N.Y. Times:

U.N. Nominee Asserts His Independence on Intelligence

With a vote scheduled today on his nomination, John R. Bolton said a policy maker should maintain the right to "state his own reading of the intelligence."

Oh, ha ha!!!! If, by "intelligence," you mean transparent self-serving lies and, by "his own reading," you mean making shit up, then I guess, yeah, Bolton is independent as hell. But let's suppose your intelligence analysts say, "We are not certain that country so-and-so has chemical weapons." In response, you say "I think they do have chemical weapons. Only give me intelligence that backs up the idea that so-and-so has chemical weapons." Is that your own reading? Or is that deciding what the conclusion should be then fitting facts around it? Because one of those is appropriate behavior and one is not.

I think that it's the one that is not.

Let's take the intelligence on Cuba discussed in the article:

Among newly declassified documents being reviewed by the committee are some from the Central Intelligence Agency expressing vehement opposition to testimony on Cuba that Mr. Bolton planned to give in June 2002, at least partly on grounds that Mr. Bolton was presenting as the government's view a conclusion that Cuba possessed biological weapons, when the intelligence agencies were not so certain.

One memorandum sent by an unnamed C.I.A. official to George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, told how a meeting in mid-2002 on the Cuba testimony "quickly grew contentious when we discovered that Mr. Bolton had left instructions that we confine our comments to sources and methods issues or to substantive information that strengthened the under secretary's argumentation in the proposed testimony."

OK, that's not right. We've demonstrated, in the largest venue possible, that there can be great damage to our credibility—not just of the person speaking but of our entire nation—when suppositions and theories about intelligence are stated as facts. Uranium from Niger, WMDs ready to launch in 45 minutes, and missile tubes are just a few, not to mention Colin Powell's dog-and-pony show at the U.N. Security Council.

Now we're debating whether or not we're going to send one of the very architects of this "intelligence of assertion" to the U.N. while our credibility is already shredded. Should anyone be surprised that other countries are leery of our declarations on Iran and Korea's nuclear programs and other intelligence?

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