Bolton Hearings Highlight Internal Differences on Cuba's Biological Weapons

Article excerpt

During April 11-12 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the confirmation of John R. Bolton to be U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, a major controversy involved the use of intelligence on alleged Cuban efforts that might lead to biological weapons.

Senators dissected in minute detail the drafting of a May 2002 speech that Bolton delivered to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative interest group in Washington, DC, and cleared by members of the intelligence community.

According to senators at the hearing, administration officials, recorded testimony by Department of State officials, and a previous Senate Intelligence Committee report, there were important if subtle differences between the speech that Bolton had first drafted and the one that he delivered.

Aides have testified to the committee that Bolton's initial draft placed considerable weight on an intelligence document that he received in early 2002 from the CIA and did not fully take into account the views of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). A row between Bolton and INR chemical and biological weapons analyst Christian Westermann over the clearing of the speech was a focal point of the Senate hearing and related recorded testimony by State Department officials.

According to a number of accounts, Bolton's initial draft read, "The United States believes that Cuba has a developmental offensive biological weapons program and is providing assistance to other rogue state programs." It also called for international inspectors to monitor Cuba's biological facilities.

The speech that Bolton delivered read, "The United States believes that Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort. Cuba has provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states. We are concerned that such technology could support [biological weapons] programs in those states. We call on Cuba to cease all [biological weapons]applicable cooperation with rogue states and to fully comply with all of its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention."

The remarks that Bolton ultimately delivered closely paralleled those that Assistant secretary of State Carl Ford, then head of the INR bureau, had made before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March 2002. (see ACT, June 2002.)

Bolton's initial call for biological weapons inspections in Cuba is particularly striking, given that only months earlier he had led the Bush administration's effort to reject a verification and enforcement protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The administration contended that the protocol, which had been negotiated over a six-year period, was insufficient to ensure compliance and could harm U. …