John Bolton: Trump’s volatile neocon surrogate in the White House

John Bolton, Donald Trump’s choice to be the US National Security Adviser, has long been a surrogate for former Vice President Dick Cheney. In almost every sense, Bolton mirrors the war-hawk policies advocated by Cheney before, during, and after his stint as George W. Bush’s vice president.

Bolton was the only US ambassador to the United Nations never to have been confirmed by the US Senate. George W. Bush took advantage of the Senate’s recess to confer upon the extreme war-hawk a recess appointment. It was Bush’s way of paying back Bolton for serving as one of the Bush campaign’s disruptive attorney- surrogates during the 2000 Florida presidential vote recount.

Wherever Bolton sees a conflict in the world he, like Cheney, sees an opportunity for US military engagement. Bolton is a standard neoconservative—someone who, like Cheney, dodged the Vietnam draft but is all-too-willing to commit US troops to foreign battlefields. While at the UN, Bolton and his openly gay assistant and diplomatic valet, Richard Grenell—tapped to be Trump’s ambassador to Germany—were known for their constant inability to get along with other delegations, save for one, Israel. Bolton infamously got into heated arguments with the British ambassador over procedures and rules in the Security Council.

While an official in the Reagan administration’s US Agency for International Development (USAID), Bolton, according to divorce papers served by his ex-wife, allegedly forced his wife to engage in group sex activities at New York’s Plato’s Retreat, a swingers’ sex club, in the 1970s and 80s. A decade later, while an attorney for USAID contractor International Business & Technical Consultants Inc. (IBTCI), USAID, Bolton harassed a female USAID contractor who was working in Kyrgyzstan. According to the contractor, Melody Townsel, Bolton made her life miserable during their time together in Russia.

Townsel told the “Dallas Observer” in May 2005 the following about Bolton’s antics: “[John Bolton] began chasing [me] through the halls of a Russian hotel—throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman.” Townsel added that this “went on for two weeks, during which time Bolton routinely visited me . . . to pound on the door and shout threats.” Bolton also falsely told Townsel’s colleagues that she “was under federal investigation for misuse of funds and that she was bound for federal prison.” Townsel said Bolton made “unconscionable comments about my weight, my wardrobe . . . and my sexuality, hinting that I was a lesbian (for the record, I’m not).” “Time” magazine and the “Toronto Star” corroborated Townsel’s version of events, even as right-wing propaganda mouthpieces like radio’s Rush Limbaugh called her a liar. In a case of likes attracting one another, Bolton’s sexist attitude toward women and his insulting demeanor toward subordinates are likely what first attracted Trump to the walrus-mustached former ambassador to the UN.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell privately warned a few Republican senators during Bolton’s confirmation hearing in 2005 that Bolton was not suited to be the American ambassador to the UN because his former top diplomat for arms control had problems with those who disagreed with him. Former chief of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) Carl W. Ford, Jr. was even blunter when he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Bolton was a “quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy” and “a serial bully.” In the end, the Senate—including Democrats and Republicans—could not bring itself to confirm someone as unqualified and dangerous as Bolton for the UN post.

But Trump sees nothing wrong with Bolton as National Security Adviser. Bolton reportedly plans to conduct a purge of White House National Security Council staffers deemed by him to be disloyal to Trump and prone to leaking information to the media. However, when it comes to leaks, Bolton has several of his own in his dossier.

During the Bush presidency, while Bolton was still serving as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, he is believed responsible for taking part in the leak of national security information from the INR and the Central Intelligence Agency.

In 2003, Bolton, who had virtually declared war on INR, was working closely with Vice President Cheney’s staff, including Chief of Staff Scooter Libby, David Wurmser, and John Hannah, as well as Karl Rove, to craft propaganda justifying the war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Bolton was part of the Bush administration cabal that outed the identity of CIA non-official cover (NOC) agent Valerie Plame Wilson and her Brewster Jennings & Associates cover firm. Plame’s identity was disclosed by Bolton and his friends in retaliation for her husband, Joe Wilson, a former Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad and a former ambassador to Gabon, penning an op-ed in The New York Times that debunked Bush’s spurious claim that Iraq received “yellow cake” uranium from Niger. By exposing Plame and Brewster Jennings, Bolton put into jeopardy NOCs around the world, agents who were critical to the CIA’s clandestine missions, including identifying networks used for the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Exposure by Bolton, Rove, Libby and others of the Brewster Jennings & Associates counter-WMD operation also resulted in the exposure of allied intelligence NOCs and private business assets working for British and German intelligence agencies, who were assisting the CIA in its efforts to counter the flow of WMDs. The foreign agents worked for Britain’s MI-6 (Secret Intelligence Service) and MI5 (Security Service) and the German Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND). The German counter-WMD operation concentrated on the smuggling of nuclear material from the former Soviet central Asian states. The British agents, using “trading company” fronts, had close contacts with assets in Iran, North Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Ukraine, China, India, Pakistan, and Russia.

Bolton also misused National Security Agency intercepts for political purposes. As National Security Adviser, Bolton will have access to all-source intelligence, including NSA communication intercepts. In 2005, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) revealed during Bolton’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee UN ambassador nomination hearing that Bolton requested transcripts of 10 NSA intercepts of conversations between named US government officials and foreign persons. Later, it was revealed that US companies [also treated as "US persons" by NSA] were also identified in an additional nine intercepts requested by Bolton. The requests for NSA intercepts by Bolton were as suspicious as those requested more recently by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, apparently for no valid reason other than curiosity or something more sinister.

The following NSA intercepts were among those requested by Bolton and his neocon cabal in Cheney’s office:

  • Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and their conversations with their counterparts and officials around the world;
  • Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns and his telephone conversations with International Atomic Energy Agency director general Mohammed el Baradei and Britain’s top non-proliferation official William Ehrman (Bolton was frozen out of negotiations between Burns, Britain, and Libya over the stand down of the Libyan weapons of mass destruction program;
  • Burns’s conversations with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al Shara over charges by Bolton that Syria possessed WMDs and conversations between Burns and former chief UN Iraq weapons inspector Hans Blix;
  • Various phone calls made by Chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board Brent Scowcroft;
  • US Special Envoy on North Korea Charles “Jack” Pritchard and his telephone conversations with US ambassador to South Korea Thomas Hubbard, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs James Kelly, and Richard Armitage;
  • New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and his telephone conversations with Secretary of State Powell and North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador Han Song Ryol [confirmed personally by Richardson to the author];
  • Phone conversations between Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden and his Iranian counterpart, Majlis foreign affairs chair Mohsen Mirdamad;
  • Phone calls between Biden, his staff, and William Burns and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman;
  • Former President Jimmy Carter’s phone conversations with Cuban officials before and during his May 2002 trip to Cuba (Carter said he found no evidence to support Bolton’s claims of Cuban biological weapons development).

Bolton’s multiple requests for NSA “raw SIGINT” or signals intelligence evoked the following response from then-NSA director Michael Hayden in an internal NSA memo:

“(U) US law and policy present more serious issues. EO [Executive Order] 12333 recognizes that electronic surveillance is so intrusive that we have established very specific rules to prevent unreasonable intrusion into privacy. EO 12333 tells us that information derived from electronic surveillance is not to be shared unless two criteria are met: US person information has been minimized so as to uphold 4th Amendment protections from unreasonable search and the information provided is of inherent intelligence value.

“(U//FOUO) Much of the above would delight many of those who have been clamoring for more extensive access to our databases and other SIGINT derived information. [Emphasis added] These folks usually couch such views in the form of a request for ‘raw SIGINT’—a formulation that usually connotes little knowledge about our discipline and even less likelihood that any kind of sharing with them would lead to something useful!

“(U//FOUO) When I press for an explanation of what these folks mean by ‘raw SIGINT’ (usually accompanied by an explanation on my part of our production processes: access, collection, processing, translating, analyzing, reporting), I’m finally told that what they really want are English language transcripts of intercepted communications. They often seem surprised when I report that that usually that doesn’t help us much in terms of dealing with the volume of modern communications and in fact would probably add to our workload. And to those who might have linguists in appropriate languages, I also point out that no one would be served by ‘amateur night’ with inexperienced analysts second-guessing our linguists about the meaning of guarded conversations in obscure dialects laced heavily with allegorical Koranic references and spoken by interlocutors who seem to easily confuse the ‘is’ with the ‘ought to be.’”

Bolton represents the worst American diplomatic face that Washington ever displayed to the world. The Senate rejected him to be America’s ambassador to the UN. The National Security Adviser position does not require Senate confirmation. With Bolton in position at the White House and current CIA director Mike Pompeo in charge of the State Department, the United States will be on a steady course to war. May the human race survive Trump, Bolton, Pompeo, and the other minions of the American neocon right-wing who now control the helm of the American ship of state.

This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal.

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

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