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WASHINGTON, D.C.Henry Waxman, the Democratic California congressman, charges that President Bush's U.N. Ambassador designate, John Bolton, participated in promoting the administration's phony story about Saddam Hussein negotiating to buy uranium for nuclear weapons from the African country of Niger. Subsequently, Waxman says, the State Department tried to cover up Bolton's involvement by using the designation "sensitive but unclassified" to conceal information about his role "in the creation of a fact sheet distributed to the United Nations that falsely claimed Iraq had sought uranium from Niger."
Waxman, ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform, describes Bolton's role in a letter to Republican committee chair Christopher Shays, from Connecticut. And its release comes as the Senate considers whether to confirm Bolton.
The story goes likes this: On December 19, 2002, the State Department issued a fact sheet entitled "Ilustrative Examples of Omissions from the Iraqi Declaration to the United Nations Security Council." It included eight key areas where the Bush administration faulted Iraq's weapons declarations to the U.N. on December 7, 2002. Under the heading "Nuclear Weapons," the fact sheet read: "The Declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger. Why is the Iraqi regime hiding their uranium procurement?"
Waxman points out this was a bogus claim, and notes that "both State Department intelligence officials and CIA officials reported that they had rejected the claim as unreliable." So, wondered Waxman, who in the State Department prepped the lie?
On July 21, 2003, Waxman wrote then secretary of state Colin Powell, asking him for an explanation of Bolton's role. Bolton's title was under secretary for arms control and international security. On September 25, 2003, State responded: "Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, John R. Bolton, did not play a role in the creation of this document."
Later, Waxman and other committee members asked the State Department's inspector general for a chronology of just how the Niger claim came to be, which they were subsequently sent.
Writes Waxman: "This chronology described a meeting on December 18, 2002, between Secretary Powell, Mr. Bolton and Richard Boucher, the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Public Affairs. According to this chronology, Mr. Boucher specifically asked Mr. Bolton 'for help developing a response to Iraq's Dec. 7 Declaration to the United Nations Security Council that could be used with the press.' According to the chronology which is phrased in the present tense, Mr. Bolton 'agrees and tasks the Bureau of Nonproliferation,' a subordinate office that reports directly to Mr. Bolton, to conduct the work."
The next day, the bureau sent one email to Bolton's office accompanying the fact sheet with the Niger claim, and two other e-mails mentioning the Niger connection.
The Inspector General's chronology was marked "sensitive but unclassified" and the letter sent out along with it, says it "contains sensitive information, which may be protected from public release under the Freedom of Information Act." The letter asked that no "public release of this information" be made.
At issue for Waxman is who among the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will look into Bolton's record, will ask about the cover-up? Will anyone ask Powell? Boucher? What is the connection between Bolton and the smearing of Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, the CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame? Wilson had been sent out to find out what the Niger deal was all about. When he discovered it was a phony, someone in the administration outed his wife as a covert agent, to writer Bob Novak and to other agents. A federal grand jury is now investigating this situation. Was Bolton involved in any of this?
Be sure to watch this story of a cover-up taking place in plain view. Question is, will members of the federal grand jury see it?