By Chris Simmons
Recent articles by the Washington Free Beacon and other media outlets have challenged the credibility of the Associated Press. A central figure in the newswire’s use of suspect sources is Fulton Armstrong, the one-time National Intelligence Officer for Latin America.
Following the conviction of career spy Ana Montes, several administration officials – including Otto Reich – sought the reassignment of NIO Fulton Armstrong, one of the government’s senior specialists on Cuba. The New York Times cited critical officials as describing Armstrong as overly “soft” on Cuba threats to U.S. interests. Behind the scenes, they were deeply concerned not only with Armstrong’s strong ties to Montes, but how closely his analytic conclusions mirrored or endorsed hers.
In Newsmax, Kenneth Timmermann wrote that Armstrong would minimize or trivialize everything “derogatory to Castro, Venezuela, or to the FARC.” Several former U.S. intelligence officers confirmed that Armstrong, aided by Janice O’Connell, Senator Christopher Dodd’s top staffer, went so far as to continuously defend Montes “in closed-door sessions with top policy-makers” long after her arrest.
Armstrong is well-known for consistently minimizing Cuba’s ability to threaten U.S. interests and its continued support to terrorists. In one interview, Scott Carmichael – the senior Counterintelligence investigator for the Defense Intelligence Agency – said Montes was “on a first name basis” with the Armstrong. In fact, Montes and Armstrong confided in one another by phone into the final stages of her investigation.
Dr. Norman Bailey, who previously served as the Issue Manager on Cuba & Venezuela for the Director of National Intelligence noted, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Fulton Armstrong had something to do with Ana’s products not being pulled.”
In his book, Sabotage: America’s Enemies within the CIA, Rowan Scarborough recalled a meeting convened by Fred Fleitz, a CIA officer on an interagency tour with the State Department. Representatives from most of the Intelligence Community attended, including Fulton Armstrong. Citing the damage caused by Montes, Fleitz called for a review of all intelligence products on which she’d worked. He felt such a review might provide insights into disinformation and biases built into her analysis. Armstrong opposed any such review as wholly unnecessary. “He had worked on the same assessments as Montes and was sure she did not distort them,” wrote Scarborough.
Roger Noriega, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, was so repulsed by Armstrong’s openly biased stance that he banned him from his office. In a view shared by many, Noriega said: “I didn’t question his patriotism. I questioned his judgment.” Noriega went on to tell his assistant he “didn’t want to see a single scrap of paper he was involved in. I was not interested in a person with such a profound lack of judgment.”
In conclusion, a 2012 post by Capitol Hill Cubans reported the following: “During his three-year stint as a staffer to Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Armstrong often forgot who was the elected Senator … and led a mostly unauthorized assault on all-things Cuba policy under the Senator’s name. This led to Armstrong’s retirement in 2011.”