This is the second of a series of posts where I will examine what the Bolton nomination testimony tells us about the Plame Affair. In the first post, I looked another Neocon smear against someone challenging Bolton’s fictions (CIO for Latin America Fulton Armstrong) to see how Bolton and his cronies carried out such a smear. In that smear, Bolton et al issued talking points to those involved in the smear; I suggest there is probably a set of talking points on Plame that includes all of the information they used to smear Wilson, including Plame’s maiden name.
Since Arianna has gotten everyone looking closely again at the possibility of Fred Fleitz revealing Plame’s identity to Bolton, I’ll use this post to look at Fleitz. What does the Bolton testimony tell us about Fred Fleitz, his function in Bolton’s office, and the role of WINPAC (his CIA office) in Iraq intelligence?
First, who is Fred Fleitz and what was he, a CIA analyst, doing working for John Bolton? He explains in his testimony.
FREDERICK FLEITZ: My name is Frederick Fleitz, I'm a CI [Counter-Intelligence] officer on detail to John Bolton's staff as a Special Assistant, I've been on detail since August 2001. I've been a CI officer for nineteen years, and I came the, a CI WINPAC, the Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center. I've done some work in WMD, most of my work has been on international organizations, and I played a role in drafting the [Cuba BW] speech, and look forward to answering your questions. I also handled UN issues when he was the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, and he had asked that I be sent to him.
Fleitz later goes on to explain his specific role in Bolton’s office.
FREDERICK FLEITZ: I'm the acting Chief of Staff for the T front office [the Under Secretary’s Office, which overseas four Assistant Secretaries], and I also have responsibilities with WINPAC and I perform liaison function for the Agency and Mr. Bolton.
PAUL FOLDI: And, I'm sorry, did you say when you started in that position?
FREDERICK FLEITZ: August 2001. BRIAN McKEON: And have you been -- for the three and a half, going on four year period you've been there -- have you been acting Chief of Staff, or did you have other positions and other duties?
FREDERICK FLEITZ: I came on as a Special Assistant in August 2001, and sometime in 2002, the Executive Assistant left, and I took this, the responsibilities of this job had actually been passed to me, and they just weren't able to find another Chief of Staff, so I just kept performing those duties. (note, the pagination on this file is unreliable, so I wont give page numbers)
They just weren’t able to find a suitable Chief of Staff, the story goes, so this guy from WINPAC effectively took over that role.
Alan Foley, head of WINPAC, gives a little more historical background on Fleitz. He describes, first of all, how Bolton came to ask for Fleitz to be assigned to him at State.
John had requested of me -- I don't know when the date was; early in the Administration -- he said, "Look, I'd like to have Fred Fleitz sent over here to work in my office," and I thought that was a good idea, because I wanted to establish a good rapport with John's office, and so I helped get Fred assigned over to John's office. (Foley 6-7)
Foley is asked for further details on Fleitz’ background, but he offers primarily organizational details. Fleitz, it seems, was in Nonproliferation, a less-specific umbrella group that preceded the formation WINPAC.
Mr. Foley: I think he [Fleitz] worked in WINPAC. But, you remember, WINPAC was put together early in the Administration, and I think Fred was with the Nonproliferation Center, one of the -- John Lauder's old organization -- and we were all, sort of, reorganized into one group then. That's what I remember. But I couldn't tell you where Fred exactly worked at the time. (Foley 7)
Fleitz’ Relationship with Plame
Let’s pause for a moment to consider whether Fleitz’ job description tells us enough for us to assert (as I and many others have) that Fleitz would have been one of the half dozen or so people who would have had the need-to-know Plame’s identity. The answer: he may have, but we don't have enough information to say for sure.
We know Plame and Fleitz both worked on counter-proliferation. Plame worked developing spies with knowledge of weapons proliferation while Fleitz seems to have worked at the intersection of non-proliferation and organized groups, perhaps terrorist or spy organizations. It may have been that Plame provided some of the raw data Fleitz used to analyze proliferating groups.
But there is one issue that needs some clarification. WINPAC is an umbrella organization set up early in Bush’s first term to bring together all the expertise on WMD in one place. The thing is, though, WINPAC is organizationally part of the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), the analysis side of the CIA as opposed to the spying side, the Directorate of Operations (DO). And we know that Plame managed spies. So doesn’t that mean Plame and Fleitz were in two different sides of the CIA? Does that mean there was a “Chinese Wall” of sorts that separated the collector of raw intelligence, Plame, from the analyst of it?
First, we know that WINPAC includes Operations officers. We know, for example, that two WINPAC officers who questioned the CIA’s use of Iraqi intelligence were kicked out of WINPAC. One of these appears to be the CIA officer now suing the CIA for retaliating against him for refusing to adapt his intelligence to desired outcomes. And this officer is a DO operative—he worked with top Iraqi sources. In other words, this officer was, at one time, part of DO and part of WINPAC. So we know it’s possible.
Further, some of the details we know about Plame suggest she, too, may have had such a position. In a seminal WaPo article on the Plame Affair (George Tenet has always been considered one possible source for this article), she is described as having both an operations role and an analytical one.
She is a case officer in the CIA's clandestine service and works as an analyst on weapons of mass destruction.
Further, CIA ubersource Vincent Cannistraro, himself the former chief of Counter-Terrorism in the DO, affirms that Plame worked for WINPAC.
Contrary to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s reporting, former CIA official Vincent Cannistraro said that Plame worked undercover for the Center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control, or WINPAC. (Wilson xl)
So Fleitz and Plame both worked on non-proliferation issues, apparently both in WINPAC. Again, this tells us Fleitz may have known Plame’s identity. But at least from the well-supported evidence readily available online and the Bolton testimony, we can’ t be sure.
The Role Fleitz Played
But even if Fleitz did know Plame’s identity, the question has been asked, why would a CIA officer out one of his own? I’ve long maintained that Fleitz’ involvement in outing Plame wouldn’t necessarily have required more than some comments, from one person with top security clearance (Fleitz) to another (Bolton), about Plame in reaction to the vetting of the June 10 INR memo. But as we look further, we see that Fleitz was willing to work to further Bolton’s goals.
Fleitz seems to have played three roles for Bolton. They are:
- Manipulating the vetting process to ensure Bolton could make statements not universally acceptable to the Intelligence Community
- Identifying and funneling raw intelligence from WINPAC to Bolton
- Aligning Bolton closely with WINPAC
Fleitz’ Help on Vetting
We know from Alan Foley’s testimony that Fleitz was one of the key people vetting Bolton’s statements and speeches.
Mr. Foley: I don't think John personally got involved in any of this. Most of this would be done via his staff, you know, Fred and other folks. It would, I think – you know, John, as the Under Secretary -- I don't think he would get involved in this sort of stuff. (Foley 28)
When asked, Thomas Fingar, then Assistant Secretary of INR, and Fleitz present slightly different pictures of the approval process. Fingar says the National Intelligence Council would take the lead unless the speech or statement related to some proliferation issues.
MR. FINGAR: We send it either to the National Intelligence Council most of the time, or to WINPAC for certain proliferation -- (Fingar 3)
But Fleitz describes the vetting process as primarily going through WINPAC.
JANICE O'CONNELL: Who's the focal point?
FREDERICK FLEITZ: That's a good question, it would be -- it would be sent to the DeMarche coordinator at WINPAC --
JANICE O'CONNELL: Why WINPAC?
FREDERICK FLEITZ: At the time, that was the way it was done. And, in fact, a lot of the e-mails you'll see when you review this -- from me and from Chris Westerman -- refer to this person as "DeMarche Coordinator" in parentheses next to her name. It was the way it was done at the time.
PAUL FOLDI: I'm sorry, WINPAC is at the CIA?
FREDERICK FLEITZ: WINPAC is the Director of Intelligence Office for Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control at the CIA.
By going directly to WINPAC, Fleitz ensured he could check up on what INR was doing, as he did during the flap with Christian Westermann over Cuba intelligence.
FREDERICK FLEITZ: Well, I had asked Mr. Westerman to relay this language to WINPAC. Now I also sent a back channel, the same request to WINPAC on my Agency machine to tell them that it was coming. This was simply because I have two bosses, and I wanted to let them know that this was coming to make sure it was acted upon. And after they received Mr. Westerman's e-mail, it may have been a fax -- whatever the form of communication is, it is a document that will be shown to you -- the WINPAC DeMarche Coordinator called me and said she was confused, because she had received a document from Mr. Westerman that said, had the language that we were proposing for Mr. Bolton's speech, but it also had a sentence saying, "INR does not concur with this, and proposes you approve the following formulation instead." And, he did that without telling me, or anyone in Mr. Bolton's office.
Much has been made of this “two bosses” comment, which suggests a greater ongoing engagement with Fleitz’ home department than many CIA officers on loan might express. But note the “two bosses” is a convenient excuse, not just to keep WINPAC in the loop, but to set WINPAC against INR. But don’t worry. Fleitz denies he was double-checking Westermann for any untoward reason.
BRIAN McKEON: Did you have any other purpose other than giving them a head's up?
FREDERICK FLEITZ: No, I routinely keep my supervisors at the Agency informed.
BRIAN McKEON: Let me keep going, Paul. Did you have any suspicion that Westerman might do some funny business, or go outside, not follow procedures?
FREDERICK FLEITZ: I was concerned that Mr. Westerman, I mean, I did have some concerns, based upon our exchanges. And before Mr. Westerman sent the language to WINPAC –
BRIAN McKEON: So, was it more than a head's up? What were you trying to do?
FREDERICK FLEITZ: Well, it was a head's up, that is what I routinely did in situations like this.
BRIAN McKEON: But your concerns were based on Westerman was disagreeing with you about some things, so you thought he was going to pull a fast one?
FREDERICK FLEITZ: Westerman had asked some unreasonable requests for the language that I had asked, especially when he had asked for the source documents behind published IC publications, that was an extraordinarily unreasonable thing to ask, so I was suspicious about what would happen when he sent the language to the Agency.
BRIAN McKEON: Suspicious that -- ? What do you mean by "suspicious"?
FREDERICK FLEITZ: Well, it was pretty clear he disagreed with the substance of the language we wanted to have de- classified, and I just wanted to make sure that procedures were followed.
Incidentally, Westermann disputes Fleitz’ contention that including the source of the intelligence in the statement was “extraordinarily unreasonable.” On the contrary, he says he included the source because that was the form required by the CIA. I have no way of weighing who was right in this case. But Richard Armitage judged Bolton’s abuse of the vetting process to be so problematic that—after a time—he required that Bolton submit all statements to him to vet personally. This from Larry Wilkerson’s testimony.
Mr. Wilkerson: As I moved into the chief of staff's office, it became clear to the -- both the Deputy [Armitage] and I that we were having a problem with both testimony and speeches given by Under Secretary Bolton.
Mr. Foldi: Problems, in what sense?
Mr. Wilkerson: It was not always checked with the building. It was not always cleared and vetted through all the processes that it should be; and, therefore, the Deputy made a decision, and communicated that decision to me, that John Bolton would not give any testimony, nor would he give any speech, that wasn't cleared first by Rich. (Wilkerson 19-20)
Perhaps Stuart Cohen says it best. He suggests that loaning an officer to State ought to lead to easier relations between CIA and State. But Fleitz adds to the difficulties, rather than minimizing them.
Mr. Cohen: Well, my concern -- well, it seemed to me that if we were sending a reasonably senior officer down to Secretary Bolton's office, that it would have been his responsibility to make this whole process work a lot more smoothly than it appeared to have been working. And my recollection is that Alan and I talked about that, and Alan agreed with me on that subject. It just seems to me that the clearance of the [Heritage Foundation Cuba] speech, as I think I told you the last time, was entirely too rancourous and too burdensome. And one of the reasons we send a seasoned officer down to an Under Secretary of State was that -- so that we could avoid problems like this and that he can handle these issues. And it didn't seem to me that it was being handled very well. And, again, I had never met Mr. Fleitz, but I -- given what I had heard, I had the suspicion that maybe he was a little bit a part of the problem. (Cohen 3)
At least according to Cohen, Fleitz effectively increased the amount of contention, at least on the Heritage Foundation Cuba speech. He was not facilitating the vetting process. He was obstructing it.
Fleitz’ Access to Raw Data from WINPAC
As I mentioned, Fleitz’ presence does more than helping Bolton game the vetting process. He also makes it easier for Bolton to get raw intelligence, bypassing the analysts who had been trained in evaluating the quality of intelligence. As Westerman describes,
Mr. Westermann: I think Fred was a conduit for Mr. Bolton to receive other information, I know there are a couple of times that he goes back to CIA and he picks up things out there and whatever. So I'm sure there were times that materials flowed from other agencies to Under Secretary Bolton not through INR, but I'm not so sure that that necessarily violated anything.
But this was perceived—by Fleitz at least—as a source of contention between Bolton and the INR.
FREDERICK FLEITZ: Mr. Tillman [Greg Thielmann] was never happy that there was an Agency person on Mr. Bolton's staff. I think that's because INR understandably liked being the exclusive source of classified information and advise on intelligence questions to policy officials, but Mr. Bolton wanted a broader source of intelligence, he wanted to use INR's talents, plus tap into the talents of WINPAC. And Mr. Tillman actually tried to stop, for several month, me actually being on his staff, because he didn't want an Agency person there. Eventually, it was worked out anyway,
Thielmann’s concern—at least as he described it—was that Bolton’s office did not properly secure the raw intelligence that they received through back channels. I’ll look at that in more detail in a later post.
But in the testimony related to improperly secured documents, it becomes clear that Fleitz and other CIA officers are getting things to Bolton directly. As Westermann says, it’s not clear this is a violation of any regulations. But there are enough examples of either lost documents (early drafts of the SOTU) or leaked documents (such as leaks to Judy Miller) in the larger tale of Iraq intelligence, that the problem of unsecured documents should raise some alarm.
Bolton’s Alliance with WINPAC
It should not necessarily be a problem if the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs establishes a close alliance with the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center. After all, both organizations are closely concerned with non-proliferation, right?
And close alliance it was.
As Alan Foley describes, Bolton or Fleitz were in fairly regular contact with him.
Mr. Foley: Between the two of them [Bolton and Fleitz], I think it would be quite normal for me to talk to one of them at least once a week, or three times a month. It depended on, you know, what the issues were. If there was something particularly important going on, I'd probably be in touch more often than not. (Foley 5-6)
Foley goes on to describe that Bolton was quite positive about the analysts at WINPAC.
Mr. Foley: No, quite -- my recollection is quite the contrary. John was very complimentary of a lot of our analysts. I remember, or think I remember, he even took one of them on a trip he made, abroad. So, I think John – I don't remember John having any problems, specific problems, with one of my guys. I think he was actually quite supportive of my folks, in that he would -- you know, he wanted to hear what we had to say. He invited them down to briefings, and that sort of thing. (Foley 33-34)
Which is odd, given that Bolton thinks poorly enough of State’s INR analysts to refer to one of them as “a mid-level INR munchkin analyst.” (Fingar 10) And told Theilmann, an officer in INR, to stop coming to Bolton's meetings.
But perhaps Bolton had good reason to prefer WINPAC to INR—they told him what he wanted to hear. We know from Justin Rood’s article, if we couldn’t already tell from reading the SSCI, that the INR generally assessed Iraq intelligence rigorously.
WINPAC, on the other hand, had mixed results.
Foley himself was originally skeptical of the Niger documents. (SSCI 38) But when Foley was the primary reviewer of Bolton’s Niger fact sheet (another case where Fleitz and Bolton found a way to effectively bypass INR’s vetting of a document), he left the claims about Niger untouched. (SSCI 60) Foley, too, is the person who originally told the SSCI that the SOTU initially included claims specifically mentioning Niger; when Hadley denied that, Foley agreed that he had been mistaken. (SSCI 65)
The WINPAC analysts, however, were even more credulous toward Niger claims. While one WINPAC analyst’s comments on the NIE have been redacted (SSCI 54), leaving the possibility that he challenged the assertions on Niger made in the NIE, most other WINPAC analysts have been important supporters of Iraq Niger claims. One unnamed WINPAC analyst judged that the results of Wilson’s trip would not be “believable under most scenarios” (I have often wondered if this analyst is Fleitz himself; SSCI 41) Later, rather than reporting the results of Wilson’s trip directly to Cheney, the DO alerted WINPAC analysts of the result of the trip (they had put together Cheney Cheney's Niger brief a few days earlier; SSCI 43); if Cheney didn’t learn the results of that trip, it’s because WINPAC didn’t tell him. Finally, WINPAC (the organization that Fleitz insists has to be the lead on vetting questions involving proliferation) mysteriously did not pick up its copies of the Niger forgeries in October, when INR distributed them; they only requested and received these documents in January 2003 (SSCI 62). And once they had received them, WINPAC analysts did not alter intelligent assessments based on the Niger forgeries even though they had already noticed inconsistencies in the documents (SSCI 62)!
And then there are the three egregious misjudgments that follow-up studies have pinned on WINPAC. A WINPAC analyst was the guy who convinced the CIA to trust intelligence from Curveball, in spite of all their misgivings about him. And the Robb-Silberman report (Bush’s whitewash of pre-war intelligence) declared that WINPAC
"was at the heart of many of the errors . . . from the mobile BW [biological warfare] case to the aluminum tubes," the commission reported, saying it feared "a culture of enforced consensus has infected WINPAC as an organization."
So in matters specifically related to intelligence on Niger and on Iraq intelligence more generally, WINPAC was central to sustaining unreliable claims that, ultimately led us to war.
But what does this mean for Bolton, Fleitz, and Plame?
It means two things. First, by working with Fleitz and through him WINPAC, Bolton was able to effectively supplant a very credible intelligence service with one that—either for cultural reasons or in response to explicit pressure—made many of the egregious intelligence errors that got us into the Iraq war. Marginalizing INR made it possible to make the Niger (and other faulty Iraq claims) in the first place.
Second, the claim that a CIA guy would never out one of his own doesn’t account for the fact that this CIA guy (and, ironically, Plame herself) was working in an area of the CIA that seemed to be doing all it could to sustain the Iraq war fictions. I have no idea whether Plame played along, as many other WINPAC analysts seem to have. But we have solid evidence that Fleitz not only played along, but was a central figure in making sure WINPAC supported these claims about the war. I made the argument in my Judy series that Judy's demonstrable participation in hyping WMD claims makes it more likely that she would willingly participate in smearing the person who undermined that hype. The same could be said of Fleitz.