John J KokalJohn Kokal was a top intelligence analyst at the State Department during the run-up to the Iraq war. He disputed government claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, and became an outspoken opponent of the U.S. war plans for Iraq. In November 2003—eight months after the start of the war—Kokal was found dead outside of the State Department’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. Police suggested he might have leapt from the roof, but homicide was not ruled out as a possible cause of death. As of early 2008, the circumstances of Kokal’s death are still shrouded in mystery.
Kokal worked in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research Near East and South Asia unit (INR). His division handled classified documents, researched and analyzed claims about Iraq’s alleged WMD arsenal, and advised State Department decision-makers. According to Greg Thielmann, a weapons expert who worked with Kokal in the INR, the State Department’s Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security at the time—John Bolton—brushed aside INR analysis critical of the Bush administration’s WMD case. Kokal’s former supervisor, Carl Ford, also reported that Bolton routinely manipulated State Department intelligence to serve his own needs. (Bolton went on to become the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 2005. Bolton’s second-in-charge during the run-up to the Iraq war, David Wurmser, later became a top adviser to Dick Cheney on Middle Eastern affairs.)
By November 2003, it had become increasingly clear that no WMDs would be found in Iraq. At the end of the workweek—5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon—Kokal’s body was found. He was 58. Kokal was dressed in business attire, but was not wearing a jacket or shoes. Police responding to the incident speculated that he might have fallen eight floors from the building’s roof, but they did not rule out outside involvement. In the ensuing days and weeks, Kokal’s alleged suicide received almost no media coverage.
Rumors that Kokal may have been murdered revolved around both his opposition to pre-war intelligence analysis and the restricted access to the State Department’s roof. According to a former staffer in Kokal’s division, the INR offices have no roof access. Also, all of the building’s windows are bombproof and do not open. (Several weeks after Kokal’s death, another vocal war critic—ex-CIA agent Dr. Gus Weiss—was also found to have “fallen” to his death at Washington, D.C.’s Watergate complex.)
- “Bureau of Intelligence and Research.” U.S. Department of State, February 2008, http://www.state.gov/s/inr.
- “John Bolton Upset Over U.N. Official’s Criticism of U.S.” Mother Jones, June 7, 2006, http://www.motherjones.com.
- Madsen, Wayne. “Mystery Surrounds Death of State Dept. Official.” From the Wilderness, November 20, 2003, http://www.fromthewilderness.com.