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May 6, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

Bolton and Powell
When Undersecretary of State John Bolton termed North Korean leader Kim Jong-il a "tyrannical dictator" in 2003, the remark seemed, to Republican hard-liners, an apt description. After all, Kim runs a reclusive Stalinist regime that allows thousands of its citizens to starve to death as it exports nuclear weapons technology and dabbles in drug trafficking and counterfeiting.

Yet the frank assessment is part of the ammunition Democrats are citing in an effort to derail Mr. Bolton's nomination to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on his nomination next week.

On that particular issue, Mr. Bolton has a strong ally in former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

In a letter dated Aug. 26, 2003, to Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, Mr. Powell stated, "Undersecretary Bolton's speech was fully cleared within the department. It was consistent with administration policy, did not really break new ground with regard to our disdain for the North Korean leadership and, as such, was official. The speech was given during a time of delicate negotiations on the part of the Chinese government to arrange six-party multilateral discussions. As a result, it got a lot of attention in the regional press and drew a sharp North Korean reaction directed towards Secretary Bolton."

In fact, the regime called Mr. Bolton "scum."

Mr. Powell also wrote of how the administration handles North Korea day to day.

Ambassador Charles L. "Jack" Pritchard "from time to time meets with the North Korean ambassador to the U.N.," Mr. Powell wrote. "His job is to listen to whatever they have to say, tell them whatever we want them to hear. He does not debate with them or even engage them beyond seeking clarification of their remarks."

Bolton critic
We also have obtained information from several U.S. government officials about the appearance before the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by John Wolf, former assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, who worked for Mr. Bolton and testified against him.

Mr. Wolf on several occasions lost his temper and screamed at co-workers over policy issues, said three officials who worked with him.

In one case, Mr. Wolf argued with a Pentagon official in 2001 over China's arms sales to rogue states. Mr. Wolf told the official that China should not be sanctioned by the United States for illegal arms sales, and the Pentagon official told him the Bush administration was no longer following that Clinton administration policy of ignoring China arms proliferation.

Another official, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Paula DeSutter, was so shaken by an outburst by Mr. Wolf during a meeting that she feared for her safety, officials told us.

A second administration official said Mr. Wolf "on multiple occasions lost his temper in public and started yelling and screaming."

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity after Mr. Wolf spoke against Mr. Bolton to the Foreign Relations Committee staff April 28. According to a transcript of the committee testimony, Mr. Wolf said Mr. Bolton "tended to have a fairly blunt manner expressing himself."

Asked about the incidents, Mr. Wolf, now head of a nonprofit group in Philadelphia, said he did lose his temper on at least two occasions but apologized to the two people after the incidents.

"It is true that at times I lost my temper in a couple of cases with people who were not at my level," Mr. Wolf said. "And I remember apologizing to both."

Mrs. DeSutter and Steve Rademaker, assistant secretary of state for arms control, are expected to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about Mr. Wolf and Mr. Bolton.

NSA candidate
Now that Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden is in place as deputy director of national intelligence, or DDNI, a search is under way for a replacement for him as director of the National Security Agency.

Administration officials said one person mentioned as a candidate is Army Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the deputy chief of staff for intelligence. Gen. Alexander is said to have experience in electronic spying.

Taliban escape
The Washington Times two years ago reported on how a top Taliban commander, Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani, was captured by U.S. Army soldiers in southern Afghanistan, then mistakenly released at headquarters at Bagram.

The soldiers provided the newspaper with photographs of pieces of evidence that, in their opinion, made it 100 percent certain they had their man.

Now, a book is hitting the street that details the capture and release of Mullah Osmani. Called "Hunting al Qaeda" and written by "Anonymous," the book chronicles the missions of an Army Green Beret A Team in Afghanistan.

Says a book blurb, "Along the way, these 12 men captured Mullah Osmani and witnessed the corruption that helped him escape to Pakistan and become chief of the Taliban. Inadequate operational support led to their inability to capture [top Taliban leader] Mullah [Mohammed] Omar even though they knew his exact location."

The book's two main authors are identified only as "Adam," a sergeant, and "Alan," a captain and team leader. They were assisted by Bob Mayer, a West Point graduate and special forces soldier who has written more than a dozen novels.

Lawmaker promoted
Promotion to Navy commander is a common occurrence. What's unusual is for the commander in chief to do the honors.

But there was President Bush on Wednesday at the White House presiding over what the Navy calls a frocking ceremony for a group of naval officers, including Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illinois Republican. Promoted to commander in the Navy Reserve, Mr. Kirk is Congress' only regularly drilling naval reservist, his office says. In his full-time job, he sits on the House Appropriations Committee and has made several trips to Afghanistan to judge U.S. counterdrug and counternarcotics operations.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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