Does the Bush administration

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Does the Bush administration care more about preventing nuclear proliferation or letting John Bolton play payback games with IAEA Chief Mohamed ElBaradei?

Wait, don’t answer that question.

The Post reports tomorrow that Bush administration officials have been busily poring over transcripts of intercepts of ElBaradei’s phone conversations with Iranian diplomats in search of ammunition to try to unseat him from his post at the IAEA.

Unfortunately for them, they don’t seem to have come up with anything. Also revealing is the fact that they have apparently had little luck finding another lackey to throw his hat into the ring to replace the embattled ElBaradei.

Before going any further, let’s stipulate that this isn’t the first administration to listen in on diplomats’ and foreign leaders’ phone calls. Nor, to my lights at least, is there any inherent problem in doing so, so long as the ability isn’t abused. This is, after all, part of what we’re talking about when we talk about having an intelligence service.

But unless I’m missing something this administration seems to get caught doing it more than probably any administration in recent memory, or perhaps ever. Or at least it ends up on the front pages of the papers. And that’s really not a good thing. Especially when it exposes (admittedly, as though they needed much exposing) high-ranking officials using US signals intelligence capabilities to pursue dingbat vendettas or to give Bolton a bit more ammunition in his battles with Colin Powell.

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