Plamegate: The John Bolton Connection

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I’m
now hearing that the investigation may be inching closer to never-confirmed
UN Ambassador John Bolton.

According
to two sources, Bolton’s former chief of staff, Fred Fleitz, was
at least one of the sources of the classified information about
Valerie Plame that flowed through the Bush administration and eventually
made its way into Bob Novak’s now infamous column.

After
delving into Fleitz, I can safely report that he is, at a minimum,
a very interesting character.

He
is a career CIA agent who Bolton handpicked to join him at Foggy
Bottom, having gotten to know him during the administration of the
first President Bush. While working as Bolton’s top aide, Fleitz
also continued his work in the CIA’s WINPAC division, the group
responsible for some of the worst prewar intelligence on Iraq (for
instance, they were, among other things, big fans
of Curveball
and had “high confidence” in the presence of WMD
in Iraq).

“I
perform liaison function for the [CIA] and Mr. Bolton,” Fleitz told
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in
April 2005
[pdf]. What he would have said if he’d been given
truth serum is: “I’ve kept my CIA portfolio, which made it easier
to become an intel-gathering machine for Bolton, who in turn was
Cheney’s spear-carrier in the State Department – working tirelessly
to undermine Powell and Armitage while, at the same time, feeding
the intel to Miller and the New York Times.”

Over
the years, Fleitz earned a reputation as Bolton’s chief
enforcer
, a swashbuckler willing to go the extra mile to make
the intel fit the desired policy – even if it meant knocking a
few heads. And his dual role (serving what he called his
“two bosses”) put him in the position to pick up – and deliver
to Bolton – all kinds of information… including, perhaps, the spousal
standing of a certain CIA analyst named Valerie. Even though Plame
was in operations and Fleitz was in WINPAC, he obviously was in
a position to know.

So
when Joe Wilson started making a stink about faulty intel, you can
bet that those whose raison d’tre had been spreading faulty
intel would move mountains to discredit him. This is a key point
because, in the end, Plamegate isn’t about the outing of Valerie
Plame or the sliming of Joe Wilson. It’s about Iraq and the White
House’s attempt to slam the door on questions about the corrupted
intelligence that was used to lead us into a disastrous war. Intel
that Fleitz and Bolton played a key role in shaping.

So
what does this all mean to the ongoing Plamegate investigation?
Well, another source close to Bolton recently described his management
style to me as “Very hands on. Nothing goes by him. His staff does
what he wants. He’s not the kind of guy to have his staffers freelancing.”
So, if Fleitz was a key source of the Plame info and Bolton is not
the kind of guy to have his staffers freelancing… does this mean
Bolton was being less than forthcoming when he told people, in the
words of my source, that “the first time he ever heard Valerie Plame’s
name was when he read it in the newspaper”? Or was he merely sharing
talking points with
Tim Russert
?

So
could Ambassador Bolton actually be a target of Pat Fitzgerald’s
investigation? When considering this question, it’s important to
keep in mind that he’s never been subpoenaed or questioned by the
Plamegate grand jury – and, as a lawyer who does work for the New
York Times put it: “The target of a grand jury investigation
would not ordinarily be subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury.”

So
here is what we know: We know that Fleitz was the connection to
the CIA, and that Bolton was close to Scooter Libby (and the rest
of the neocons, of course) and Judy Miller (for whom he was an
important source
, although the last time she quoted him by name
was in 1999 when he was at the American Enterprise Institute). And
here is what we don’t know: we don’t know the pathway through which
Plame’s identity got into Novak’s column. Did Miller learn about
Plame from her old chum Bolton? Did she pass that info on to Libby?
Or had Bolton already told Libby? And Rove? Or was it all just passed
around and around in a cozy game of neocon phone tag? It makes one
wonder more than ever before what Bolton and Miller talked about
when he visited
her
in jail.

Meanwhile
the New York Times continues to churn out ever more desperate
and illogical “free Judy” editorials. Monday’s was a particularly
shameful attempt
to link the jailing of Miller (who could go
free the second she agrees to stop covering for her administration
pals – or her own rear end) to that of Chinese journalist Zhao
Yan (who isn’t even sure why he’s been in jail for the last year,
or whether he’ll ever be freed or tortured or executed). The Times’
pallid disclaimer, “We are not suggesting that the American justice
system can be compared to China’s,” is an additional disgrace, since
the entire editorial is based on doing just that. C’mon, guys, if
you are going to use specious reasoning, at least don’t compound
it by being disingenuous too.

Here’s
a suggestion: before you write another overwrought Judy editorial,
how about writing one explaining what happened to the in-house
Times investigation
into Miller’s connection to Plamegate
(which sources tell me has been stopped). Or one reporting the fact
that Judy is negotiating with Fitzgerald and may be facing criminal
contempt charges.

These
are stories that deserve some space, don’t you think? At least as
much as last week’s surprisingly
upbeat story
on John Bolton.

September
22, 2005

Arianna
Huffington [send her mail],
author and columnist, edits The
Huffington Post
.

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