State Dept. Official Accused of Fabricating Charges Against Cuba

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

( - Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Del.) is being urged to investigate the State Department's allegations that Cuba is developing biological weapons and may even be exporting those weapons to America's enemies.

However, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), the group calling on Biden to convene Senate hearings, has already concluded that the source of the allegations, Under-Secretary of State John Bolton, is a "fabricator."

According to COHA, Biden's committee should "either disprove or substantiate the explosive charges" made by Bolton with hearings as soon as possible.

In a speech before the Heritage Foundation in Washington last week, Bolton accused Cuba's Castro-led government of trying to develop biological weapons.

But Bolton's comments "were not based on any new information provided to the State Department," according to COHA director Larry Birns in a letter to Biden. Birns wrote the allegations were based "on documents recently de-classified at the behest of the Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich."

Birns cautioned Biden that there is good "reason to suspect that a high powered political alliance of ultra-conservative Cuban-Americans in senior policymaking positions are coordinating with like-minded (Bush) administration hardliners like Bolton to produce a more inflammatory era in U.S.-Cuba relations."

Bolton's comments were intended to blunt this week's visit to Cuba by former Democratic President Jimmy Carter, "triggering a hostile environment where constructive dialogue could not occur," Birns wrote.

Carter criticized the Bush administration earlier this week for not briefing him about Cuba's biological warfare research.

White House spokesman Sean McCormack told that Bolton's comments were based on fact.

"Certainly, we do not make such statements lightly. They are based on facts and based on proof. We have this proof from a variety of different sources and methods," said McCormack.

Lynne Weil, a spokeswoman for Biden, said the Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemispheric Affairs, headed by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), might hold a hearing on the issue next Wednesday.

"A request was put in yesterday evening (Wednesday) to the State Department. Among the witnesses that are being invited is Bolton and although the hearing is not yet scheduled, we have tentatively planned for a hearing next Wednesday and are awaiting a response from (the) State (Department)," Weil said.

Dodd's office reported it was trying to work out scheduling details with Bolton's office.

A spokesperson for Bolton said the invitation had been received and State Department officials were trying to work out a date so Bolton could testify. He will be in Moscow next week with President Bush at the summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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