Congressman demands answers from Bolton over Niger fiasco
Uranium Equals Kryptonite for Bush Nominee:
by James Ridgeway
WASHINGTON, D.C.Henry Waxman, the Democratic California
congressman, charges that President Bush's U.N. Ambassador
designate, John Bolton, participated in promoting the
administration's phony story about Saddam Hussein negotiating to buy
uranium for nuclear weapons from the African country of Niger.
Subsequently, Waxman says, the State Department tried to cover up
Bolton's involvement by using the designation "sensitive but
unclassified" to conceal information about his role "in the creation
of a fact sheet distributed to the United Nations that falsely
claimed Iraq had sought uranium from Niger."
Waxman, ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government
Reform, describes Bolton's role in a letter to Republican committee
chair Christopher Shays, from Connecticut. And its release comes as
the Senate considers whether to confirm Bolton.
The story goes likes this: On December 19, 2002, the State
Department issued a fact sheet entitled "Ilustrative Examples of
Omissions from the Iraqi Declaration to the United Nations Security
Council." It included eight key areas where the Bush administration
faulted Iraq's weapons declarations to the U.N. on December 7, 2002.
Under the heading "Nuclear Weapons," the fact sheet read: "The
Declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger. Why is
the Iraqi regime hiding their uranium procurement?"
Waxman points out this was a bogus claim, and notes that "both State
Department intelligence officials and CIA officials reported that
they had rejected the claim as unreliable." So, wondered Waxman, who
in the State Department prepped the lie?
On July 21, 2003, Waxman wrote then secretary of state Colin Powell,
asking him for an explanation of Bolton's role. Bolton's title was
under secretary for arms control and international security. On
September 25, 2003, State responded: "Under Secretary of State for
Arms Control and International Security Affairs, John R. Bolton, did
not play a role in the creation of this document."
Later, Waxman and other committee members asked the State
Department's inspector general for a chronology of just how the
Niger claim came to be, which they were subsequently sent.
Writes Waxman: "This chronology described a meeting on December 18,
2002, between Secretary Powell, Mr. Bolton and Richard Boucher, the
Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Public Affairs. According to
this chronology, Mr. Boucher specifically asked Mr. Bolton 'for help
developing a response to Iraq's Dec. 7 Declaration to the United
Nations Security Council that could be used with the press.'
According to the chronology which is phrased in the present tense,
Mr. Bolton 'agrees and tasks the Bureau of Nonproliferation,' a
subordinate office that reports directly to Mr. Bolton, to conduct
The next day, the bureau sent one email to Bolton's office
accompanying the fact sheet with the Niger claim, and two other e-
mails mentioning the Niger connection.
The Inspector General's chronology was marked "sensitive but
unclassified" and the letter sent out along with it, says
it "contains sensitive information, which may be protected from
public release under the Freedom of Information Act." The letter
asked that no "public release of this information" be made.
At issue for Waxman is who among the members of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, which will look into Bolton's record, will ask
about the cover-up? Will anyone ask Powell? Boucher? What is the
connection between Bolton and the smearing of Ambassador Joseph
Wilson's wife, the CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame? Wilson had
been sent out to find out what the Niger deal was all about. When he
discovered it was a phony, someone in the administration outed his
wife as a covert agent, to writer Bob Novak and to other agents. A
federal grand jury is now investigating this situation. Was Bolton
involved in any of this?
Be sure to watch this story of a cover-up taking place in plain
view. Question is, will members of the federal grand jury see it?
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