WASHINGTON—A former senior State Department official on Tuesday called President Bush's nominee for U.N. ambassador a "serial abuser" of subordinates who wanted an intelligence analyst sacked for challenging his view of Cuba's biological warfare capabilities.
"I came away with the distinct impression that I had just been asked to fire an intelligence analyst for doing his job," said Carl W. Ford Jr., the former head of the State Department's Intelligence and Research Bureau, or INR, recalling a February 2002 confrontation with the nominee, Undersecretary of State John Bolton.
Ford told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he considered Bolton "a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy" whose treatment of INR analyst Christian Westermann and himself raised questions about his "suitability for high office."
Ford's blunt testimony under oath didn't appear to jolt any of the panel's 10 Republicans into joining the eight Democrats in opposing Bolton, a tough-talking advocate of U.S. global superiority who in the past has strongly criticized the United Nations.
Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., a moderate seen as the most likely GOP defector, remained inclined to vote for Bolton because of the considerable latitude the Constitution gives Bush in naming ambassadors, said Chafee's spokesman, Stephen Hourahan.
The committee was expected to vote on sending the nomination to the full Senate later in the week. Bolton has been the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security since 2001.
Democrats had hoped Ford would reinforce their charges that Bolton was unfit for the U.N. post in large part because he wanted to punish intelligence experts for disputing his views, thereby creating a chilling effect on objective analysis of critical national security issues.
Democrats argued that with U.S. credibility severely damaged by the erroneous intelligence on Iraq, it was critical that the American representative to the United Nations be free of intelligence-rigging allegations.
"This is a big deal," insisted Sen. Joseph Biden Jr., D-Del., saying that the next U.S. ambassador would likely be presenting in the near future to the U.N. Security Council intelligence-based U.S. cases against the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs.
But the panel chairman, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said "the paramount issue" was the confidence that Bush had in Bolton to win changes at the United Nations.
And Chafee pointed out that Westermann, an INR chemical and biological weapons expert, as well as an unnamed Latin America analyst with the National Intelligence Council, an advisory group to the CIA director, kept their jobs after separate run-ins with Bolton over Cuba's biological warfare capabilities.
During his testimony on Monday, Bolton admitted wanting Westermann transferred from his post because he had "lost my trust," but denied that he tried to have him fired or penalized and said he let the matter drop when he wasn't.
But Ford, who described himself as a loyal Republican, backer of Bush and admirer of Vice President Dick Cheney, painted a different picture.
Ford said he decided to testify after "a lot of soul-searching" because Bolton was someone who "abuses his power and authority with little people."
"I have never seen anyone quite like Mr. Bolton," said Ford, whose more than 30-year career took him to the Army, the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department.
He said his run-in with Bolton over Westermann convinced him that the nominee was "a serial abuser."
At issue was part of a speech in which Bolton planned to say that the United States believed Cuba had an offensive biological warfare program.
After Bolton's staff asked him to vet the excerpt, Westermann suggested changes consistent with an assessment of the entire U.S. intelligence community that painted a less definitive picture of Cuba's capabilities.
Ford said Westermann complained to him that he had been summoned by an angry, finger-waving, red-faced Bolton, who berated him for proposing the changes.
"It is an 800-pound gorilla devouring a banana," he said of Bolton's conduct.
Several days later, Ford said, he defended Westermann in his own "heated" confrontation with Bolton over the issue.
Word of Bolton's behavior spread quickly. Ford said the incident was used in INR as a tool to teach analysts what to do when policy-makers dispute their judgments.
In addition, he said former Secretary of State Colin Powell came to the bureau, praised Westermann and told INR analysts they should continue "to speak truth to power."
(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
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