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April 12, 2005

WaPo Self-censors Report on Bolton Hearing

An Associated Press piece is available at the Guardian and the Washington Post website in different versions suggesting that the Washington Post is self censoring.

The piece by Anne Gearan, AP Diplomatic Writer, is titled 'Senators May Have Blown Cover of CIA Agent' and refers to yesterdays hearing of John R. Bolton at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

During the hearing, Senators Lugar and Kerry referred to a National Intelligence Officer by the name Fulton Armstrong. The Washington Post version (also in print on A10) of the AP piece does not name Mr. Armstrong like AP does, but inserts instead the phrase '[the person in question]'.

The full transcripts of the public hearing are available through the New York Times and do include the full name of Mr. Armstrong.

The AP piece itself is dubious. Mr. Armstrong is known to be a National Intelligence Officer working on Latin America issues. In the summarize of a Council of Foreign Relations discussion available here he is referred to as "Fulton Armstrong/National Intelligence Officer for Latin America". More information on his career is available through schema-root.org. There are reports available on Cuban-Exile sites that do mention Bolton and Armstrong in the discussion about alleged, overblown Cuban bio warfare preparations.

Two questions to ask:
- Why is the Associate Press suggesting "Senators May Have Blown Cover of CIA Agent" when a simple Google search turns out that there was no cover to blow on the person in question in the first place?
- Why does the Washington Post believe it has to edit the AP piece and to hide the full name, mentioned in a public hearing, from its readers by printing '[the person in question]'?

What is your take?

UPDATE: Jeffrey Lewis, the Arms Control Wonk, has additional bits

Reference:

The Washington Post's version of the AP piece:

During a hearing on John R. Bolton's nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton and members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee referred to the analyst as "Mr. Smith." They were discussing one of the officials involved in a dispute over what Democrats said was Bolton's inappropriate treatment of an intelligence analyst who disagreed with him.

"We referred to this other analyst at the CIA, whom I'll try and call Mr. Smith here," Bolton said at one point.

But the committee chairman, Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) mentioned a name that had not previously come up in public accounts of the intelligence flap.

In questioning Bolton, Kerry read from a transcript of closed-door interviews that committee staffers conducted with State Department officials before yesterday's hearing.

"Did Otto Reich share his belief that [the person in question] should be removed from his position? The answer is yes," Kerry said, characterizing one interview. "Did John Bolton share that view?"

The Guardian version:

During questioning on John R. Bolton's nomination to be President Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton and members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee referred to "Mr. Smith" as one official among several who were involved in a dispute over what Democrats asserted was Bolton's inappropriate treatment of an intelligence analyst who disagreed with him.

"We referred to this other analyst at the CIA, whom I'll try and call Mr. Smith here, I hope I can keep that straight," Bolton said at one point.

Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., both mentioned a name, Fulton Armstrong, that had not previously come up in public accounts of the intelligence flap.

It is not clear whether Armstrong is the undercover officer, but an exchange between Kerry and Bolton suggests that he may be.

In questioning Bolton, Kerry read from a transcript of closed-door interviews that committee staffers conducted with State Department officials prior to Monday's hearing.

"Did Otto Reich share his belief that Fulton Armstrong should be removed from his position? The answer is yes," Kerry said, characterizing one interview. "Did John Bolton share that view?"

Posted by b on April 12, 2005 at 8:16 UTC | Permalink

Comments

Please recommend the cross-post at D-Kos

Posted by: b | Apr 12 2005 8:35 utc | 1

Sometimes I wonder if everything will be a secret some day! I think all that happened is the some members of the committee were unaware of how public Mr. Armstrong's record was and played the hush hush game for a while until more experienced members stopped the charade. The AP scooped what they thought was a story, and then the editors of the other papers grew concerned that there was a breach of protocol and played the Pontius Pilate game of washing their hands of potentially violating national security, but hungering to run the story, edited it and ran it anyway. Today they all have red faces and slink home.

Posted by: diogenes | Apr 12 2005 11:00 utc | 2

could be that they're throwing interference to create another fire which burns brighter and faster than the heat bolton should be feeling.

Posted by: b real | Apr 12 2005 14:34 utc | 3

@b real - that is what I guess. The unfounded AP report makes Lugar and Kerry look suspicious and the WaPo variant makes this even more sinister because they keep the name "secret" while it is obvious in the open.

Such writing and editing has nothing to do with "news". It's terrible reporting when it takes only 2 minutes of google time to find the claims are unfounded. To do this in a blog under RBN is one issue. To be AP and WaPo to do so is out of bounce.

Posted by: b | Apr 12 2005 15:19 utc | 4

b

"bounds"

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 12 2005 15:40 utc | 5

B: To be AP and WaPo to do so is out of bounce. [bounds]

You must drag yourself away from this assumption that our press is credible. They have proven themselves repeatedly to be nothing but lackeys of the reptiles.

Posted by: rapt | Apr 12 2005 15:43 utc | 6

Just for the record: The NYT put the AP piece on their Website unaltered. Senators May Have Blown Cover of CIA Agent

Bad for the NYT but still worse for WaPo.

Posted by: b | Apr 12 2005 20:34 utc | 7

Sounds like the Guardian and NYT got punked by AP too. Wa Po probably is just skittish after the recent attacks on reporters' privileges by prosecutors in the Plame case; or just publicity/scandal/circulation hungry. Retractions?

Posted by: gylangirl | Apr 14 2005 1:35 utc | 8

unclassified Fulton T. Armstrong : Ways To Make Analysis Relevant But Not Prescriptive is more proof that there's nothing secretive about his identity.

and it sounded yesterday like bolton is in the hot seat , no matter how you things.

Posted by: b real | Apr 14 2005 19:15 utc | 9

A blatant attempt to smear Kerry. Lugar is not a contender so the 'collateral damage' to him is insignificant.

Posted by: 3rdDegree | Apr 21 2005 23:05 utc | 10

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