Conservative Internet gossip Matt Drudge attempted to smear Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) by linking to an Associated Press report that falsely suggested that Kerry and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-IN) "may have blown" the cover of CIA officer Fulton Armstrong.
Drudge went further than the AP in implicating Kerry. Omitting Lugar's name, he titled the link simply "Kerry Blows CIA Agent Cover?..." The AP article, written by AP diplomatic writer Anne Gearan, reported that Kerry and Lugar both mentioned Armstrong by name during the April 11 Senate confirmation hearings of John Bolton, President Bush's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and falsely suggested that they "may have blown his cover" by doing so.
In fact, while Bolton's critics had apparently not previously mentioned Armstrong in connection with allegations that Bolton tried to retaliate against an intelligence analyst who corrected the text of a speech he delivered, government, news, and non-profit sources had publicly identified Armstrong as a CIA officer on multiple occasions prior to the April 11 hearing. In claiming that Armstrong "works covertly," Gearan apparently overlooked several significant references:
- Former intelligence official Larry C. Johnson referred to "a senior CIA analyst by the name of Fulton Armstrong" in a January 23, 2004, interview with Salon.com.
- A House International Relations Committee schedule for the week of February 24, 2003, identified "Mr. Fulton Armstrong (Invited), National Intelligence Officer for Latin America, CIA" as a possible witness for a hearing titled "Overview of U.S. Policy Toward the Western Hemisphere."
- A summary of a 2001 conference hosted by the National Intelligence Council (NIC), an agency that advises the director of central intelligence, titled "Prospects for WTO Trade Negotiations After Seattle: Foreign Strategies and Perspectives," identified Armstrong as a "National Intelligence Officer" for Latin America, a post within the NIC that "reports to the Director of Central Intelligence in his capacity as head of the US Intelligence Community."
- A listing of "expert speakers" on the website of the American Management Association identified "Fulton Armstrong, National Intelligence Officer for Latin America, long-time C.I.A. expert in the region." (That page is no longer posted on the website but is available through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.)
The faulty AP story appeared in major newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and The Washington Post, which actually expunged Armstrong's name from the version of the story it published despite it having been widely reported both before the hearing, as noted above, and in coverage of the hearing.