CBS' Plante denied "improper" actions by recess-appointed Bolton


During the CBS Evening News' coverage of John R. Bolton's August 1 recess appointment as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante reported that "Democrats never demonstrated" that Bolton did anything "improper" by requesting secret National Security Agency (NSA) intercepts in the run-up to the Iraq War. That may in fact be because he did nothing improper -- or it may be because the administration has refused to provide the Senate with details of those communications intercepts, which Plante failed to address. Further, Plante's report omitted mention of any other allegations or evidence that Bolton acted improperly, such as the State Department's recent acknowledgment that Bolton misinformed the Senate by not disclosing that he had been interviewed by the department's inspector general about the Bush administration's use of intelligence in building the case for the Iraq war.

From the August 1 broadcast of the CBS Evening News:

PLANTE: Democrats also focused on Bolton's request for secret communication intercepts in the run-up to the Iraq War, suggesting that he may have been on a witch hunt for U.S. officials who disagreed with him. But despite lengthy hearings, Democrats never demonstrated that Bolton had done anything improper.

But Democrats never got the opportunity to discover if Bolton did anything wrong with the NSA intercepts. As the Los Angeles Times reported on August 2, "Democrats had asked to see unedited copies of 10 intercepts given to Bolton that contained the names of 19 American officials" in order to "be sure that Bolton did not seek the information to intimidate intelligence analysts." But the White House refused to comply, as The New York Times reported on June 25:

[T]he White House has refused to provide even to [Republican Senate Intelligence chairman Pat Roberts (KS)] the names that it provided to Mr. Bolton, and it has rejected as too broad a request that it review a list of 36 "names of concern" prepared by Senate Democrats and declare whether or not any of those names were obtained by Mr. Bolton.

Further, much like print reports on Bolton's appointment that appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), and USA Today, Plante's report neglected to mention a more recent example of a potentially "improper" action by Bolton. In a letter to President Bush, Democrats raised concerns about a false statement he made on a Senate questionnaire he filled out as part of the nomination process. According to the Los Angeles Times article, the letter noted that Bolton "answered 'no' on a sworn questionnaire [asking] whether he had been interviewed by an inspector general or grand jury during the past five years" when he had actually "been questioned by a State Department inspector general about administration assertions that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium." The Washington Post similarly noted in its August 2 report on Bolton's appointment that "Senate Democrats ... [got] the State Department to admit publicly that Bolton misinformed the Senate when he did not reveal he had been interviewed by the agency's inspector general about faulty prewar intelligence."

Finally, Plante's report excluded other evidence raised by Democrats that Bolton attempted to manipulate intelligence and pressure intelligence analysts. In preparing to testify before Congress in 2003, Bolton reportedly exaggerated the threat of Syrian chemical and biological weapons programs by drafting a statement that, according to various news reports, went far beyond what the intelligence community believed at the time. In 2002, Bolton similarly drafted a speech that referred to Cuba's biological weapons capabilities as a "program" rather than an "effort," which the intelligence community considered a significant distinction. After a State Department intelligence analyst edited the language to conform to the intelligence community's accepted description, Bolton attempted to have the analyst removed from his job.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.