The Corner

Clash! Dispute! Scandal!

Doug Jehl of the New York Times continues on the Bolton non-scandal beat. Today again he writes about how Bolton might have THOUGHT about saying things that the intelligence community didn’t support, but then didn’t. Check out this passage, quoting a former senior intelligence official:

“I remember the Syria brouhaha,” Mr. Hutchings said in responding to questions by e-mail. “I was not directly involved in vetting drafts, but I instructed all those working for me NOT to clear on anything they could not verify.”

Mr. Hutchings added: “I remember saying specifically that I wanted us to play hardball on this one. I said that if anyone on the policy side chose to give a speech without our clearance, that was O.K. by me – policy makers have a different set of considerations. But if they asked for our clearance, they would get it only if we could verify the intelligence judgments it conveyed. I had no ax to grind with anyone, but we had a professional responsibility to call it as we saw it.”

In testimony before the Senate committee on April 11, Mr. Bolton acknowledged that there had been “a lot of disagreements” about his proposed testimony on Syria and that objections from the Central Intelligence Agency and others were among the factors that contributed to his decision to postpone scheduled testimony in July 2003.

The C.I.A. specifically rejected an assertion in a classified section of Mr. Bolton’s prepared testimony saying Syria had a biological and chemical weapons program that threatened regional security in the Middle East, intelligence officials have said.

Ultimately Mr. Bolton delivered public testimony on Syria, in September 2003, that was fully cleared by the intelligence agencies.

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