Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Gov. Richardson says his calls may have been monitored

By James W. Brosnan
Scripps Howard News Service

April 28, 2005

WASHINGTON - Gov. Bill Richardson is concerned that some of his phone calls were monitored by a U.S. spy agency and transcripts of them were given to the president's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.

Richardson called Sen. Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, to express his concerns after Dodd revealed that Bolton had on 10 occasions asked the National Security Agency for the intercepts of phone conversations involving Americans.

An online journalist then speculated that Richardson's conversations with former Secretary of State Colin Powell and another U.S. official about North Korea might have been among Bolton's requests.

"The governor is upset that his conversations with Secretary Powell would be intercepted since most of them were domestic calls," said Richardson spokesman Billy Sparks. "The governor felt his calls about North Korea were confidential."

Bolton, as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, was one of the architects of a hard-line approach toward negotiating with North Korea over dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

Two representatives of North Korea's permanent mission to the United Nations traveled to Santa Fe in January 2003 to meet with Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador, to discuss how to resolve the conflict.

A vote on Bolton's nomination by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been delayed until May 12. That will give members more time to investigate allegations that he was abusive to intelligence agents who did not support his charges about the status of Cuban and Syrian weapons programs. But Democrats also want more information about the NSA-intercepted phone calls.

Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said the State Department had refused to provide Bolton's rationale for asking for records on intercepted phone calls made by Americans.

As of Wednesday, the committee had not sent a letter to the State Department requesting more details about Bolton's requests.

Sparks said Richardson's call to Dodd was triggered when he read an online story by Washington journalist Wayne Madsen. The story said intelligence community "insiders" claim the NSA circumvented a ban on domestic surveillance by asserting that the intercepted calls were part of "training missions."

Madsen is the author of "America's Nightmare: the Presidency of George Bush II" and an article that suggested Bush was part of a "Christian blood lust cult" because he supported the death penalty as governor of Texas.

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