Bolton’s Non Defense

The Wall Street Journal shills for John Bolton today in an editorial which dismisses as “political smoke” accusations that Bolton misused intelligence in a 2002 speech about Cuba. Here’s how the Journal defends him:

In May 2002, Mr. Bolton told an audience at the Heritage Foundation that he believed Havana had “a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort” and has “provided dual-use technology to other rogue states.” As is usual, the speech was cleared by intelligence authorities prior to delivery. If they had done their homework, the critics would know that Mr. Bolton wasn’t the first U.S. government official to use such language.

That’s all well and good; the problem is the Journal misstates the accusation. Nobody says the speech Bolton actually gave included bad intelligence. The accusation, stated in today’s Washington Post, is that Bolton wanted to use flawed intelligence in the speech, then threw a fit when intelligence officials told him he couldn’t:

In spring 2002…Using evidence described by three knowledgeable intelligence officials as ambiguous, Bolton planned to announce the existence of a secret bioweapons program in Cuba during a speech that May to the Heritage Foundation.

But he was blocked by Christian Westermann, the chief bioweapons analyst at the State Department, who refused to clear the speech unless the language more accurately reflected the intelligence assessments. Bolton summoned Westermann to his office and berated him, officials with knowledge of the encounter said, and then tried to have him fired….When [Carl] Ford backed up Westermann, Bolton refused to speak with him again.

Note: Bolton must have read the WSJ editorial – he just used the same argument in his hearing, claiming the Cuba speech was cleared by the intelligence community. Unfortunately, that is an answer to a charge no one has leveled. He then admitted he tried to have Westermann “removed from his portfolio” after the incident.