Democratic U.S. Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee, who are pressing to see the unredacted NSA reports requested by U.N. ambassador nominee John Bolton, attempted to get colleague Sen. Jay Rockefeller to spill what he knew about the NSA documents, according to a Republican staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the intelligence body was briefed, along with committee chairman Pat Roberts, on the NSA documents Bolton requested. While Rockefeller did not see the names of the 19 individuals and businesses mentioned in the NSA intercepts, he confirmed that by his best estimates Bolton was within his jurisdiction as undersecretary of state for arms control. Rockefeller, however, has questioned whether Bolton, once he had the names, might have shared them improperly within the State Department or with the White House.
"Those who have been briefed on this by the NSA all come away with a clear understanding that this was not about grudges, or Bolton playing games. This was about doing his job: what individuals and firms might be assisting in nuclear proliferation," says the Senate staffer. "Rockefeller is not a bipartisan stooge. If he's saying this stuff is kosher, you'd think his colleagues would go along."
But folks like Sens. Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and Barbara Boxer have not gone along. Instead, according to the Intelligence Committee staffer, they tried to get Rockefeller to give them some inside information that they could use to further attack and damage Bolton: "The word here [in the committee] was that they wanted Rockefeller to do to Bolton what [Sen. Harry] Reid did to that federal judge nominee [Henry Saad]. Rockefeller wouldn't do it. Couldn't do it actually." That's because Rockefeller, as well as Roberts, didn't see the names, either.
"What we're seeing here is the pattern," says a Republican leadership aide. "When the Dems start losing traction, they go to smear tactics. They did with the judges, and they're doing it with Bolton. At some point, you'd think the wavering Republicans would just get fed up and send their friends across the aisle a message."
Those wavering Republicans may be getting a message themselves. Sen. Chuck Hagel, who has been an obvious waffler on Bolton, is seeing his 2008 Presidential aspirations skittering away. Once thought to be a solid conservative, Hagel, with his penchant for aping his buddy Sen. John McCain's antics and rebel political positions, is angering a base that consisted of strong-defense conservatives.
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