Did Lugar and Kerry Name CIA Operative?

The AP reports that Senator Richard Lugar and John Kerry may have outed a covert CIA operative in yesterday’s hearings on John Bolton’s nomination to the U.N.

Senators May Have Named CIA Operative (AP – SFGate, WaPo A10)

Mr. Smith came to Washington again Monday, as an alias for a Central Intelligence Agency officer who works covertly. Senators, however, may have blown his cover. During questioning on John R. Bolton’s nomination to be President Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton and members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee referred to “Mr. Smith” as one official among several who were involved in a dispute over what Democrats asserted was Bolton’s inappropriate treatment of an intelligence analyst who disagreed with him.

“We referred to this other analyst at the CIA, whom I’ll try and call Mr. Smith here, I hope I can keep that straight,” Bolton said at one point.

Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., both mentioned a name, Fulton Armstrong, that had not previously come up in public accounts of the intelligence flap. It is not clear whether Armstrong is the undercover officer, but an exchange between Kerry and Bolton suggests that he may be. In questioning Bolton, Kerry read from a transcript of closed-door interviews that committee staffers conducted with State Department officials prior to Monday’s hearing. “Did Otto Reich share his belief that Fulton Armstrong should be removed from his position? The answer is yes,” Kerry said, characterizing one interview. “Did John Bolton share that view?” Kerry said, and then said the answer again was yes. “As I said, I had lost confidence in Mr. Smith, and I conveyed that,” Bolton replied evenly. “I thought that was the honest thing to do.”

It should be noted that the WaPo version of the story used “[the person in question]” rather than “Fulton Armstrong.”

Michelle Malkin does some digging and finds that Armstrong’s name is hardly a state secret:

Arms Control Wonk , the blog of Research Fellow Jeffrey Lewis at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, provides four previous media citations of the agent’s name–all which make public reference to the agent, Fulton Armstrong, and the specific intelligence controversy at issue–dating back to September 2002.

Charles Johnson ignores the fact that Republican committee chair Lugar is mentioned in the story and notes only that, “John F. Kerry may have blown the cover of a CIA agent.” The excerpt Johnson provides is identical to mine. In an update to the post, though, he notes that a Google search reveals numerous mentions of Armstrong.

World O’ Crap notes that one can even find Armstrong’s bio online.

Fulton T. Armstrong was appointed National Intelligence Officer for Latin America on 1 June 2000. Previously Mr. Armstrong served as Chief of Staff of the DCI Crime and Narcotics Center (CNC). Prior to that, he served two terms as a Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council (1995- 97 and 1998-99) and as Deputy NIO for Latin America (1997-98).

Mr. Armstrong began his government career in 1980 as Legislative Assistant and Press Secretary to US Representative Jim Leach. In 1984-95, he served as analyst, political-economic officer, and manager specializing in Latin America in the both the intelligence and policy communities.

Prior to joining government, Mr. Armstrong worked four years as a reporter, editor, and translator in Taiwan. He earned his B.S. in Linguistics and Spanish at Georgetown University in 1976. He is fluent in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.

Athena, in Cori Dauber’s comments, notes that Armstrong is an analyst, not an agent, which means he’s by definition not a covert operative.

Not much of a story here, it seems.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Athena says:

    People are confusing National Intelligence Officer with “Case Officer” which is an operative, spy, whatever you want to call them.

  2. Tom Maguire says:

    Well, the story is that someone needs to buy the vaunted reporters at the AP a subscription to Google.