Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A “Kiss-Up, Kick-Down Sort of Guy”

…John R. Bolton had so bullied an intelligence analyst over Cuba's suspected weapons programs that it shook the intelligence bureau and prompted the secretary of state to intervene.

“In caustic and unusually personal testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Carl W. Ford Jr., who was assistant secretary for intelligence and research, said Mr. Bolton was a ‘kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy’ who ‘abuses his authority with little people,’ and an ill-suited nominee to become ambassador to the United Nations.

Mr. Bolton, he said, had been dissatisfied with what he considered the analyst's overly cautious assessment of Cuba's weapons program.

The testimony offered an extraordinary public glimpse into the long-running and raw intelligence wars in the Bush administration, pitting hawks like Mr. Bolton, a protégé of Vice President Dick Cheney, against more circumspect intelligence operatives at the State Department who, among other differences, cast doubt on some prewar claims about Iraq.

Mr. Ford described himself as a conservative Republican and enthusiastic supporter of President Bush, Mr. Cheney and the policies of Mr. Bolton, who has been under secretary of state for arms control and international security since 2001 and an outspoken conservative critic of the United Nations. All the Republican senators at the hearing took pains to praise Mr. Ford for his service and his candor.

Democrats portrayed Mr. Ford's testimony about the clash between Mr. Bolton and the analyst, Christian P. Westermann, as having grave and far-reaching implications for American credibility, especially telling in light of the failure to find illicit weapons in Iraq that the intelligence agencies had said would be there. Republicans, though, characterized it as an isolated incident that would not derail the nomination.

Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, had to go to the intelligence bureau after Mr. Bolton's criticism of Mr. Westermann, and assure employees that they should continue to "speak truth to power," Mr. Ford recounted.

The reputation of the State Department's intelligence bureau has since emerged relatively unscathed by the highly publicized reviews of intelligence failures in the last few years, its analysts known for resisting what has come to be called group think.

Mr. Ford's gruff, direct and sometimes off-color manner took some senators aback, as when he described Mr. Bolton's dressing-down of Mr. Westermann by saying that ‘he reamed him a new one.’ ”

Mr. Ford's gruff, direct and sometimes off-color manner took some senators aback, as when he described Mr. Bolton's dressing-down of Mr. Westermann by saying that "he reamed him a new one."

It was hardly the kind of language usually heard from diplomats appearing before the Foreign Relations Committee, and it raised eyebrows, but also chuckles, among the senators, their aides and the rows of spectators.

"There are a lot of screamers that work in government," Mr. Ford said. "But you don't pull somebody so low down the bureaucracy that they are completely defenseless. It's an 800-pound gorilla devouring a banana."

Despite the drama, however, Mr. Bolton remained likely to be confirmed for the United Nations post, a nomination that startled both Congress and Embassy Row when the president announced it last month. Senator Lincoln Chafee, a Rhode Island Republican who Democrats were hoping would oppose the nomination, said he remained inclined to support the nominee, viewing the episode about which Mr. Ford testified as an isolated incident.…
con·cept: A “Kiss-Up, Kick-Down Sort of Guy”