White House spurns Frist on Bolton documents

The White House today refused Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s request for documents relating to John Bolton, the Bush nominee to the post of UN Ambassador. Frist hoped to avert a filibuster of Bolton’s nomination by obtaining the documents on behalf of Democratic senator Joseph Biden and others opposed to Bolton. The motion to end the filibuster failed when the documents were not forthcoming.

Biden said members of the Foreign Relations committee, which in an unusual move sent Bolton’s nomination to the Senate floor with no recommendation for approval, had been requesting the documents for some time. The documents contain National Security Agency intercepts of conversations mentioning US officials. Bolton had asked for the documents when he was the State Department’s lead diplomat on arms control issues. His opponents want to know which US officials Bolton was interested in, and why.

Bolton’s nomination has been troubled by allegations that he sought to have intelligence analyses tailored to his views, and that he bullied analysts who refused to cooperate with him, in some cases attempting to get the analysts fired. His opponents contend that appointing a UN Ambassador with a reputation for twisting intelligence will only diminish the country’s already damaged credibility.

The US is still recovering from the fallout of what two reports describe as massive intelligence failures prior to the invasion of Iraq. More recently, both the British government and the Bush administration have refused to disavow remarks by two senior British officials, contained in what is now known as the Downing Street memo, that the administration were determined to invade Iraq and were “fixing the intelligence and facts around the policy” as early as July of 2002. The administration has insisted that no war decision was made until shortly before the military offensive began in March of 2003.

Senate Republicans and the White House, apparently confusing the UN position with a federal judgeship, complained that the Bolton filibuster comes on the heels of an agreement to limit Democratic filibusters of Bush appellate court nominees.