Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Guest Commentary by Karin Dragoo

We enjoyed reading your blog about your call for the Return of the Warrior! Not that I have ever been a real fan of McCain's, but at this time his attributes certainly outweigh those of his opponent! With the added bonus of Gov. Palin it looks as if this team should be able to get something good going for at least the next four years. If they are not elected, I very strongly hope that Palin will start carving out a path that will take her to the top of the next national election. She is such a breath of fresh air and appears to have this armor from which all the petty and vicious attacks just bounce away. She impressed me enormously when I read about her accomplishments as a young governor, even before she was asked to join the ticket. If she's willing to participate in the wild and potentially destroying life as a national candidate, I'll be there to support her. Just hope she won't get discouraged by the scoundrels!
You mentioned term limits - yep, that's a sore point with me. We do not need career politicians with huge networks of buddies and cronies. Let them come on in, do their stint for one term, and even a second one if the voters agree. Then it should be curtains and back home.
I, in particular, identify with your observations and feelings about the differences between Europeans and Americans in relation to the socialistic points of view. I first left Denmark in the 1960s - via Germany to the US. A few years gave abroad gave me a different view of the world than what been offered in DK during my school years. I was dumbfounded to discover the leftist currents and anti American feelings in Germany. It was even worse in the early 1970s when in DK. It bothered me that more than 50% of Danish workers were employed by the government; that families with children received monthly assistance for the children whether it was needed or not; that the citizens had no choice of physician; that you had no choice whether or not to participate in the national health insurance. When I asked a dear friend how she felt about paying 50% of her income in taxes she answered that "'s OK because somebody else needs it more than I do". I tried to figure out what I was missing. Another friend, a dentist, decided that he'd rather not be bothered working on people's teeth (in Denmark dentists make very good money!) and planned his life as a recipient of public assistance (occasionally he had to accept a menial short term job just to keep the benefits going). I also tried to understand that one.
But in today’s Denmark things are coming to a head: there are too many at the receiving end and not enough workers to supply the fountain at which the others drink. The added burden of immigrants has accelerated the development. My grandparents were very poor (she a maid, he a tailor), but they worked very, very hard and were constantly worried that they might lose their jobs and have to accept public assistance. To them that would have been the ultimate disgrace. That was only two generations ago; but the perception of public assistance has made a 180 degree change since then. Now people are standing in line and making up stories to get that assistance. That's in Denmark's welfare society. And, sorry to say, I see a complete parallel in this country.
Here in the US, this election is so very important. With the Democrats' choice, we'll be moved way out left, from where it will take a long time to recover, even after just one four-year term. I just do not understand where all these naive, adoring masses are coming from. OK, so Bush was not everyone's choice, but to ignore all the negatives of the D-thugs just to "get even" with GWB is sheer ignorance and stupidity. What has happened to the many good people of this country? Can't they see what is ahead? And who are the real powers behind this???
I have a rather small circle of friends and acquaintances here. But looking around, I see mostly bleeding-heart liberals and unrealistic, well-meaning, naive, indoctrinated/brainwashed people. Where are those individual thinkers? We are being taken over. In Denmark last year I met one person involved (by marriage) in a conservative think tank. All the other friends from my class reunion asked gentle questions so as not to offend me with their liberal ideas. My family is way over on the left: one sister believes in communist and anarchist ideas; the other one ran for office for a leftist socialist party. When she was here for a visit and saw all the open spaces of national and private lands in southern Arizona, she asked why we couldn't just invite the poor people from south of the border to come up here and establish communities. They are both products of the Danish press' biased coverage (must rush to say that I love 'em anyway). It hurts me to admit this, since I was once a member of the press over there. But, you see, the same has happened here: the liberal press has an agenda different from what we used to call "unbiased reporting".
So, I hope the "old warrior" does offer a last minute fight. It still looks as if about half this nation is on board - that just leaves the other half... Hope the "old warrior" gets to read it!

Monday, October 27, 2008

We want our warrior back!

Eleventh hour developments with both presidential campaigns have raised grave concerns with this citizen. Senator Obama's recent focus on redistribution of wealth, or variations of such notions, concern me greatly. As one who experienced a people's paradise and two socialist-style societies directly and personally for extended periods of time, I am appalled at the notion that the citizens of MY adopted country would even entertain such options.

The long-standing promises of the "land of opportunities" - based on the pursuit of happiness and the implied and proven potential of success through hard work and perseverance were to me and remain to countless would-be immigrant the ultimate reason for desiring American citizenship. The idea of being responsible for one's own destiny - rather than having government dictate the parameters of happiness and success - has a timeless appeal. It is this ideal that I perceived in American values as a child and I ultimately found in my country of choice. There is simply no way to express adequately the feeling of exhilaration at the ability to choose one's own destiny.

In a government-controlled society, be it communist, socialist or some light version thereof, the idea of controlling your own fate is largely a fantasy. At best you are labeled into a certain category of citizen or profession, without a realistic chance to reach higher. At worst you are relegated to doing the "people's" work, meaning the government officials' work, based on largely inscrutable reasons, save for "sucking up" to all-powerful party hacks (read those who know what is best for the masses), inevitably requiring casting aside any principles of integrity and fostering a culture of deceit and sycophancy.

Social justice and a fair distribution of income sounds laudable, but it favors those who choose destructive or less productive life styles, while punishing those who choose self-reliance, perseverance and the pursuit of happiness. The concept of personal charity and generosity to others is largely non-existent in socialist systems, because it is assumed to be the government's role, like everything else.

I fell supremely privileged to be an American, so much so that I felt compelled to give back by serving my country in the military. I find the spirit of generosity of my fellow citizens admirable, something I experience constantly even in my small community, but something I never experienced in Europe, where I lived in several countries for many years. Thus I predict with dread that charity will decline considerably under an Obama administration fostering wealth redistribution policies. We are a generous people, but we like our freedom of charity choice and we do not like someone's choice of life style to become our responsibility.

After watching all the debates, many interviews, news analyses, commentaries, etc., I am convinced that an Obama-style government will be counter to our dearly-held American values. Most of us want and need a smaller government focused on the basic needs of the people - safety and security - and more personal responsibility from citizens. While there is no doubt that Senator Obama is a charismatic and probably well-intentioned American, this citizen will not be able to to face the misguided prospect of his presidency without one last appeal:

Warrior McCain: you promised to fight - now come back this very instant with guns blazing!

Put the corporate crooks on notice by promising to appoint a Rudy Giuliani (or someone like him) to pursue and prosecute them as Attorney General! And promise to have someone like Mitt Romney set to work on fixing the economy!

Put the terrorists on notice by promising a Duncan Hunter as Secretary of Defense with the mandate to hunt them down and kill them! Then consider appointing a Tom Tancredo as Secretary of Homeland Security to contain the economic and security drain of illegal immigration.

Appoint a Mike Huckabee/Joe Liebermann as Secretary of State to take a new look at American aid to ALL countries and reassess them in the light of our new economic situation, with consideration for American needs first!

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, task Governor Palin to design a comprehensive, practical and long term U.S. energy policy by the end of your first year!

Senator McCain: do this now and and let everyone know it! We will fight with you, but you have to lead decisively!

Friday, September 5, 2008

I confess - I am prejudiced!

The current election campaign brought it to the surface and I finally have to admit to myself that I am prejudiced. I measure people's character in part based on their history of service, military service or some other civil service, to our country.

For years it has been in the back of my mind - unconsciously evaluating someone based on what they have contributed to their country. In casual or deep conversations with old friends of draft-era age, I usually assumed some kind of military service background. More and more often I discover that that assumption is faulty and I remain surprised and puzzled. I can't help wondering if many people's current attitudes about national and foreign policy are limited by this lack of experience. This is precisely the kind of background our parents, the silent generation, relied on for their perspectives on politics and our national leaders brought to their decision-making process.

When I worked for the US Senate, newly retired from the US Air Force, I found more of my colleagues without military service experience than those who did. Since many of them were considerably younger, I assumed that was a direct result of their coming of age in the post-draft era. When I started tracking senators with actual military service, I was taken aback by lack of any military experience by so many members of Congress and suspect their overall judgement in national security and foreign policy is affected by that gap.

Applying this to the current national elections scene, I can only admit that service experience, military or civil, is something I look for and expect from our leaders. Granted, traditionally you find it somewhat less often with women, but nevertheless, I look for it and it affects my assessment of a candidate. And let me hasten to add, a longtime member of Congress with little other experience does not cut it for me. I want my politicians to serve the people (of the country, not necessarily only those of their district) for a period of time, then go back to other pursuits to continue becoming well-rounded citizens, not remain permanent politicians. Yes, I also confess to being an insistent fan of term limits.

And now you know!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Obama and the troops – can you spell C-L-I-N-T-O-N?

by Rick Francona

Senator Barack Obama was having a great overseas trip, you know, criticizing a sitting president in front of the star-struck and enamored Europeans. Surprisingly, he did not get much applause as he told the Germans that he wanted them to increase their commitments to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. I’m not sure why – the Germans don’t shoot at the bad guys anyway. (German soldiers in Afghanistan - don't shoot the bad guys!)

The senator got the most applause when he vowed to end the war in Iraq – not that Germany has a stake in that conflict. The inexperienced candidate continues to use the wrong word – he needs to be vowing to “win” the war in Iraq, and only then withdraw American troops from the country. Simply ending the war – like taking my toys and going home – is exactly the wrong thing to do.

However, the most telling part of this trip is his decision not to meet with wounded members of the U.S. armed forces recovering in an American military hospital in Germany. After his love-fest with the Germans in Berlin, Obama was scheduled to travel to Landstuhl Army hospital, about an hour flight. There he was to meet the wounded soldiers that just might allow him to withdraw American forces without crating a power vacuum, a power vacuum sure to be filled by the Iranians.

Obama was told by the Pentagon that neither the press nor his campaign staff were permitted in hospital, as political campaign activities are not permitted on military installations. Of course, as a sitting United States senator, Mr. Obama was always welcome to visit the troops. The Pentagon even waived the prohibition on the senator’s campaign aircraft landing at nearby Ramstein Air Base to facilitate the visit.

Senator Obama canceled the visit. The message to the troops: no photo op, no visit. I’d rather go work out at the gym in the swank Ritz Carlton hotel.

The bad decision should haunt Obama. As a senator, not only does he have the right to visit wounded American troops, he has a duty. Obama can speak to 200,000 Germans but he can't spare a couple of hours for U.S. troops.

This reprises the specter of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their no-uniform policy for members of the U.S. armed forces at the White House. It shows the same disdain for the men and women who have volunteered to serve their country.

Shame on you, Senator. Given this display of disrespect to the troops, you have shown yourself not fit to command these patriots.

Monday, July 21, 2008

End the war or win the war?

by Rick Francona

Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is committed to withdrawing American military forces from Iraq. He plans to have this action completed within 16 months of taking office.

That time line, through no prescience on his part, is probably achievable. It is achievable because of the surge - which he said would not work, by the way. Thanks to the increase in the number of troops, changes in tactics and increased capabilities of the Iraqi military and security forces, we may be able to bring most of the troops home even before his artificial deadline.

The time line is really not the issue - it is his characterization of what he hopes to accomplish. Let's look at his words (taken from his official campaign website).

“So when I am Commander-in-Chief, I will set a new goal on day one: I will end this war. Not because politics compels it. Not because our troops cannot bear the burden- as heavy as it is. But because it is the right thing to do for our national security, and it will ultimately make us safer.”

The problem is not the plan to withdraw American forces - the senator has said he will consult with the military commanders and assess the security situation in Iraq. That's pretty much what the President and Senator McCain have been saying without adding artificial time lines.

The problem is his choice of words. The senator, as we all know, is a gifted orator and talented speechwriter, so we have to assume he has chosen his words carefully. The offending phrase is "end the war."

We should not "end" the war, we need to "win" the war. Packing up and going home is not a good idea unless we have accomplished some key objectives. Just because we can leave on a a particular date does not mean that we should. Although the "security situation" may allow us to safely withdraw, the assessment should be based on making sure we do not leave a failure waiting to happen.

I guess the question the senator needs to answer is, "Do you want to win in Iraq?" If you think that is not as important as merely "ending" the war, you do not deserve to be the commander in chief of the fine young men and women who want to win in Iraq.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Nothing but Heartaches" by the Supremes

by Rick Francona

No, it’s not the 1965 hit single by the Motown recording group, but a potentially disastrous recent ruling of the United States Supreme Court (Boumediene v Bush). This creative interpretation of the law in effect gives enemy combatants captured in the act of fighting American troops on a battlefield halfway around the world the same rights in federal courts as American citizens.

This is the court's third attempt to hamstring the American military in the fight against terrorism. In 2004’s Rasul v Bush, they ruled that U.S. laws did apply to detainees held at Guantanamo. Although the treaty with Cuba over Guantanamo Bay grants the United States "complete jurisdiction" over the base while Cuba has "ultimate sovereignty,” the court found that Guantanamo was "effectively part of the United States." I wonder if they ran that by Fidel Castro?

In 2006, they sided with Usamah bin Ladin’s former driver, declaring in their review of Hamdan v Rumsfeld that the military commissions proposed by the Department of Defense did not have Congressional approval and were thus an insufficient means of determining the status of individual detainees. In direct response to the court’s recommendation, Congress enacted legislation establishing the military commissions to remedy that finding.

Surprisingly, Congress doing specifically what the court suggested was not enough. In this recent ruling, five of the justices decided that stateless fanatic zealots determined to kill Americans with impunity anywhere in the world, are entitled to challenge their detention in U.S. federal court using the right of habeas corpus - just like the American citizens they were trying to murder. This is the same syndrome that we saw with the Clinton administration - treat terrorists like criminals. The strategy then was to arrest them and try them in court instead of hunting them down and killing them. On September 11, 2001, we saw how well that strategy worked.

What's next? "Mirandize" all detainees? Extend the same protections to enemy prisoners of war? Conduct interrogations only in the presence of counsel? Allow law suits against the soldiers who detain terrorists? We are creating a potential no-win situation for our field commanders.

I see two solutions here:

- Declare the detainees to be enemy prisoners of war, afford them the Geneva Accords protections they are already receiving, and hold them until the war is over. No commissions, no hearings.

- Take no more al-Qa'idah/Taliban prisoners.

Pick one - either works for me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"Operation Inform Our Soldiers" – A disgrace

by Rick Francona

An organization calling itself The Resistance, self-described as a Christian media watch dog group, has launched a program named “Operation Inform Our Soldiers.”

According to information on their website, "America is to blame for the 9/11 attacks." Organization founder Mark Dice also claims the "9/11 attacks were aided by corrupt U.S. officials for political purposes."

Dice goes on to state that many - he cites an implausible number of 24 percent which I think he made up - U.S. Marines and soldiers believe that 9/11 was an inside job, but are "afraid to speak up out of fear of punishment.”

Okay, here's another conspiracy believer. I tend to summarily dismiss anyone who believes the theory that the attacks on the World Trade Center were in reality explosive charges planted by the U.S. government and that the Pentagon was struck by a missile instead of a hijacked aircraft. The evidence that 19 Arab Muslim young men, 15 of whom were Saudis, led by Egyptian Muhammad 'Atta, were responsible for the outrage of September 11, 2001 is overwhelming. Not only is the evidence virtually undeniable, the organization to which all 19 perpetrators belonged took credit for the attacks. All of the hijackers prepared videotapes to be played after their deaths.

Mr. Dice - wake up. They did it. We didn't.

That said, Mr. Dice, you have the right to believe whatever you like, and thanks to the efforts of the American servicemen you are targeting with this ridiculous campaign, you have the right to say whatever you like. What you are really saying to the servicemen is not (as you claim) to ask the question of their superiors if 9/11 was an inside job, what you are trying to do is foment dissent in the ranks.

These young men and women know why they are in Iraq. Virtually all of them have volunteered to serve in the armed forces after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. They do not believe your drivel. They have better things to do than be distracted by your efforts to hurt the country.

Freedom of speech is one thing – trying to subvert American troops serving in a combat zone is another. Mark Dice is a disgrace.

Email Mark Dice and tell him what you think.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Again, the terminology

Click for larger imageby Rick Francona

Once again, the media has confused the terms used to describe various players in the intelligence game. On the face of it, that is not surprising - it happens virtually every day in the mainstram media. What is surprising is the use of the wrong term on the cover of an magazine associated with the intelligence community.

The March/April issue of Military Geospatial Technology, a publication focusing on military and DHS intelligence, features a cover article about Lieutenant General Michael Maples, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The title of the article: Intelligence Agent. (You can read the online version here.)

As any professional human intelligence (HUMINT) officer will tell you, the term "intelligence agent" is not the correct term to describe LTG Maples. The general may be called an intelligence officer, although his background barely qualifies him for the title. That's not to slight his career, it's just not a professional intellgence career. In any case, he is not an intelligence agent.

An intelligence agent is an asset who is working for an intelligence officer, usually a clandestine arrangement where a person agrees to provide intelligence information in response to taskings from a HUMINT case officer. That agent can also be called a spy. Intelligence officers are neither agents nor spies.

For one of my earlier pieces on this subject, see "CIA Agent - Let's Get the Terminology Straight."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hillary and the snipers

by Rick Francona

I only took passing notice of the recent reporting of Senator Hillary Clinton’s brush with death during an airport landing in the Balkans. The story was of her "swooping down in a helicopter into a war zone..." In her own words: “I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”

Hillary dodging sniper fire

Then today I saw the video of the airport scene – and had to choke back the laughter. I recognized the landing strip as the sprawling former Yugoslav airbase at Tuzla, located in what is now Bosnia. Mrs Clinton landed in an U.S. Air Force transport plane at a secure American military facility, not an airport in the middle of a war. She didn’t have to “get to our base,” she was already on it.

I flew in and out of Tuzla several times while stationed in the country. I had to laugh at the mere thought of snipers at Tuzla Air Base – it was the headquarters of the NATO force in Bosnia, including the headquarters of the U.S. Army 1st Armored Division. The base itself is the size of a small American city. A sniper firing at someone deplaning at the reception terminal on Tuzla would have to be using an artillery piece. It was arguably the safest place in the Balkans. It is where we intelligence teams operating around the country went when we wanted to be safe. The U.S. Army is not in the habit of exposing sitting First Ladies and their daughters to hostile fire. The senator claimed she “misspoke.” Right.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

U.S. Air Force to buy French aerial refueling aircraft

by Rick Francona

The title may be a bit misleading, but I think it captures the thrust of how this will be received in military circles. The Air Force has awarded a $35 billion dollar contract for 179 aerial refueling aircraft - the KC-45A - to Northrop Grumman over a competing bid from Boeing, who proposed a tanker based on its 767 airliner. The deal over the lifespan of the contract could be worth as much as $100 billion.

Northrop Grumman or Boeing - what’s the big deal? The big deal is that while Northrop Grumman may sound like an American corporation, it is actually the American partner of European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), the parent company of Airbus. If the deal stands, the U.S. Air Force will take to the skies beginning in 2013 in a European-designed tanker based on the Airbus A330 airliner. The A330 is built in Toulouse, France.

Northrop Grumman/EADS has committed to the “final assembly” of the KC-45A in Alabama, but it is difficult to determine how much of the aircraft will actually be manufactured in the United States. The initial aircraft will be built in France and converted into the tanker configuration in Alabama. How long before the aircraft are made/assembled in Alabama? It is difficult to say, since the factory in Alabama has yet to be built. With the economy slowing, fears of recession and Congress about to add over $150 billion to the deficit in a rebate program designed to stimulate consumerism, the United States Air Force decides to buy a foreign aircraft.

When asked about the “foreign” nature of the contract, General Arthur Lichte, commander of Air Mobility Command (operator of the USAF refueling fleet) bristled. His response: “This is an American tanker. It's flown by American airmen. It has a big American flag on the tail, and every day, it'll be out there saving American lives.”

Nice try, general. Painting an American flag on the tail of an aircraft does not make it an American tanker. It makes it a French tanker with an American flag on the tail. Like lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.

Not to be outshone by this display of patriotism, we also have another bright light weighing in - Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama: "Not only is this the right decision for our military, but it is great news for Alabama." Given Airbus’s predatory sales tactics and penchant for lining the pockets of politicians all over the world, perhaps Senator Shelby should clarify his remarks. Is it great news for the Air Force and Alabama, or is it just great news for Richard Shelby?

There are several key issues here, among them the effect of this contract on the U.S. economy and the potential impact on our national security. Start with the economy and the impact on the families of the workers in the Seattle area who will not be building hundreds of military aircraft for their own country. I suspect, however, the news will be welcomed in the communities around Toulouse. With increasing criticism of American companies exporting jobs, now we have the Defense Department essentially doing the same thing.

According to Boeing, had it won the contract, it would have meant the creation or retention of about 44,000 jobs in the United States. Although Airbus claims its contract will create 25,000 jobs, it is difficult to see how. A figure of about 2,500 is probably more accurate – Airbus has a history of overestimating these things.

Congress still has to fund this contract. At a time when we are facing record oil and gasoline prices, and a declining dollar, should we be exporting jobs and procuring a foreign military aircraft? How much will spare parts cost if prices are tied to the Euro?

No doubt, Airbus builds a quality aircraft. The A330 airframe is larger than the Boeing 767 and thus carries a larger payload - fuel, cargo or troops - farther. That said, if the Air Force wants or needs a longer range tanker-transport, it should have made that part of the initial requirement. The Boeing 767 meets the Air Force requirement as stated. If the Air Force had stated a requirement for longer range and payload capabilities, there is a Boeing option based on the larger 777 airframe.

I suspect Boeing will exercise its right to protest the award of the contract to Northrop Grumman/EADS. Historical precedent for successful challenges is not promising, but there is an added component here – national security.

Relying on foreign suppliers of military equipment is not in our national security interests. What if France decides it does not support or condone a future American military operation somewhere in the world and prohibits French companies from supplying parts to the U.S. armed forces? The new tanker will likely be the backbone of the American refueling fleet for the next half century. We cannot predict the long-term political situations in other countries that could affect our access to spare parts.

To add weight to that argument, let us not forget that we have done the same thing to other countries in the past. Countries, such as Pakistan and Libya, have ordered and paid for American-built aircraft (F-16 fighters and C-130 transports, respectively), only to find that delivery was blocked by Congress. We should not put ourselves in a position to have our foreign policy held hostage by the whims of another country.

The Airbus A330-based tanker is a fine aircraft, but it is a fine French aircraft. The United States Air Force needs an American aircraft.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Israelis ask for release of Jonathan Pollard - again

by Rick Francona

During President Bush's recent trip to the Middle East, the Israelis again raised the now tiresome request that we release Jonathan Pollard. Pollard was a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy intelligence service, convicted of spying against the United States for Israel and sentenced to life imprisonment.

He was arrested in 1985 and although he pleaded guilty and cooperated, the information he illegally provided to the Israelis was potentially so damaging to our national security and intelligence operations, the judge sentenced him to life in prison and recommended that he never be paroled. The actual damages have never been made public, but were so great that when President Clinton was asked by the Israelis to free Pollard, seven former Secretaries of Defense signed a letter asking him not to do it.

There is a group of Pollard supporters who want the felon released. They have a website -
Justice for Jonathan Pollard - which is full of misleading information and comparisons to others who have been sentenced for the same crime. Although they claim that Pollard has been sentenced more harshly than others, they don't mention that others in the same class as Pollard - CIA officer Adrich Ames and FBI agent Robert Hanssen - were also sentenced to life in prison. My response to those lesser sentences - the judges in those cases got it wrong; the judge in the Pollard case (as well as with Ames and Hanssen) got it right.

During the President's visit to Israel, there was a campaign to highlight the plight of the Israeli spy. A member of the Knesset, Shas Party chairman Eli Yishai, presented the President a two letters asking that he free Pollard. One was from Israel's former chief rabbi, and the other from Pollard's wife Esther. The minister hinted that Bush's response would have an impact on Israel's consideration of American requests for Israeli cooperation with the Palestinians. The above posters (in English and Hebrew) appeared all over the country. Disgraceful, comparing the American president with Hamas leader and Palestinian prime minister Isma'il Haniyah and Hizballah leader Hasan Nasrallah.

What arrogance. In reality, bringing up Pollard likely only underscored American resolve to punish the traitor that is Jonathan Pollard. Many Americans do not want Pollard to be allowed parole or pardon, only to move to Israel and be treated as a hero. After all, in 1995, Israel granted Jonathan Pollard Israeli citizenship and in 1998 acknowledged that he had been an Israeli intelligence asset.

Pollard is a traitor who sold out his country for money. He worked in the intelligence community (I won't insult my former colleagues by calling him an intelligence officer) and knew the rules. It doesn't matter that he spied for an "ally" - the information he gave far exceeded the scope of our intelligence relationship with Israel.

Pollard's wife claims he is "rotting in an American prison." Actually, he's in a low/medium security federal prison in Butner, North Carolina. While it is incarceration, it's not the hard time an active duty Navy officer would be doing at Fort Leavenworth. If it was up to me, he'd be bolted into a cell at the Supermax in Florence, Colorado.

Esther, I missed the part where I am supposed to care about or feel sympathy for a traitor who betrayed my country.

Rick Francona is a retired USAF intelligence officer with over 25 years of operational assignments with the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency in the Middle East. He is an MSNBC military analyst.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Improving the Human Condition

A recent AP article - Spending too much on AIDS? - cites health experts who question the wisdom of chasing boutique funding for high-profile diseases such as AIDS at the expense of addressing more basic health needs - a long-overdue re-evaluation of health-related funding approaches.

UN Secretary Ban Kimoon's declaration of 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation marks a milestone in scientific and funding focus to a more comprehensive global approach for improving human health conditions worldwide. Undoubtedly we can have significantly more impact on the lives and health of children and adults in underdeveloped regions by improving their living conditions and basic needs, rather than focusing on one disease or another.

With over a billion people worldwide estimated to lack access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, these basic health needs are far more critical than the prevention of more high-profile diseases such as AIDS. Without safe water and minimal sanitation, many of these people, especially children, will succumb to diarrhea, amoebic dysentery and other water-born illnesses long before they have a chance to contract AIDS.

It is precisely this realization that drives Rotary International's (
focus on global health and hunger, with specific emphasis on safe water projects. This is not the first time Rotary has partnered with the United Nations and the World Health Organization to attack disease on a global scale - note Rotary's commendable efforts in polio eradication over the past two decades, again in partnership with UNICEF, the WHO and CDC.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A new D/DNI for Collection - when are we going to learn?

In December of 2007, the Director of National Intelligence announced the appointment of a new Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Collection - Glenn A. Gaffney. According to the DNI website, the D/DNI for Collection is to:

"...coordinate collection throughout the Intelligence Community under the authorities of the DNI and ensure that the National Intelligence Strategy (NIS) priorities are appropriately reflected in future planning and systems acquisition decisions. The Office of the DDNI for Collection looks across the entire collection business enterprise to develop corporate understanding of needs, requirements, and capabilities to ensure that a holistic view is taken on current and future collection systems.

Give me a break. I despise this bureaucrat-speak - what it says is the D/DNI for Collection is primarily concerned with the technical collection of intelligence - signals intelligence (SIGINT) and imagery intelligence (IMINT). The phrase "...future planning and systems acquisition decisions" show that technology is the focus, not intelligence.

Collection is focused on technology at the expense of the area in which we really need to put the lion's share of our efforts - human intelligence (HUMINT), or as we used to say in the field, "lies and spies." All the pictures and intercepted communications that our sophisticated systems collect are terrific, but a spy - yes, a traitor working for us - with access, is priceless. Americans prefer the technological approach, not getting our hands dirty. We case officers always considered HUMINT the combat arms of the collection disciplines - out there face to face with the targets, not taking their pictures from space or intercepting their communications from afar.

Then we have the phrase "...collection business enterprise to develop corporate understanding of needs, requirements, and capabilities to ensure that a holistic view is taken on current and future collection systems." A holistic view? Now the bureaucracy has really taken over - we're trying to collect denied information from the bad guys, not have a zen business meeting in Washington. The use of the term "system" reinforces the technical nature of the focus - we should be talking about how recruit better assets and agents.

Gaffney has a degree in engineering science with an emphasis in astrophysics and spent years in the CIA's Science and Technology directorate. I am sure Mr. Gaffney is a fine manager and a competent engineer, but what we need is a case officer - an officer who has convinced someone to betray their country for us - to oversee the recruitment of better spies.

Rick Francona is a retired USAF intelligence officer with over 25 years of operational assignments with the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency in the Middle East. He is an MSNBC military analyst. See

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Military experience, the Presidential campaign and the war in Iraq

Military experience, the Presidential campaign and the war in Iraq
by Rick Francona

Although the economy may soon emerge as the key topic for the upcoming Presidential elections, the war in Iraq still is an important factor in choosing a candidate. Of concern to me is the increasing lack of military service among our elected leaders, from state governments to the U.S. Congress and the Presidency. Fewer and fewer elected officials have ever worn the uniform.

During the Cold War and compulsory service – the draft – many more of our leaders had experienced life in the military. Whether you serve in combat or not, service in the armed forces provides invaluable insight into the capabilities and more importantly, the limitations of the military. In the past, military service was considered almost mandatory to be a viable candidate for political office. That does not appear to be the case today. Approximately one-third of the members of the House and Senate are veterans - the percentage declines after every election.

The current candidates

Taking a look at the front runners for the Presidency in 2008 does not appear comforting. On the Democratic side, none of the leaders - Senator Barack Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator John Edwards - have served in the armed forces; they are all lawyers. Senator Clinton has the added stigma of attempting to prohibit military officers from wearing their uniforms in the White House while her husband was the President. Of course, the Clintons now deny it, but I have it from two fellow military officers. I’ll take their word over a Senator – after all, Congress has achieved the lowest favorable ratings of any institution in the country.

On the Republican side*, consider the backgrounds of Governor Mitt Romney, Governor Mike Huckabee and Mayor Rudy Giuliani: none have served in the military. Senator John McCain, as we all know, was a career officer in the U.S. Navy (retiring as a captain), a pilot shot down over North Vietnam and prisoner of war for over five years. So, of the seven people from which we will elect the next President of the United States, only one has ever donned the uniform of their country, let alone heard a shot fired in anger.

When you are responsible for ordering young Americans into harm’s way, or responsible for declaring war (which today takes the form of an authorization for the President to use military force), service in the armed forces should seem to be a desirable quality. It provides an insight you can’t get from “reading about it.” Until you are involved in the massive logistical efforts of moving a fighting force halfway around the world, then feel the tension and fear when steel starts flying and people start dying, it remains an academic exercise.

“End the War”

It is with discomfort that I hear the rhetoric of the three Democratic candidates talking about ending the war in Iraq. I hope the words I hear are just rhetoric and not resolve. “End” the war is not the word they need to use – they need to say how they are going to “win” the war. Promising to “end the war on January 9, 2009" is just what the remaining insurgents and the Al-Qa’idah terrorists in Iraq want to hear. Hold out until then, hope a Democrat wins the election and victory for the jihad is assured.

I hope that both Senators Clinton and Obama really mean that they will continue to fight the terrorists and insurgents as necessary until a phased withdrawal is plausible. Pulling the plug prematurely is not only contrary to our national interests but dangerous for the troops involved. We should not declare defeat and go home. I am not sure Senator Edwards appreciates the difference.

Last fall, Senator Obama said that he would leave a residual force to fight terrorists, train the Iraqi army and protect the embassy. That’s what the troops are doing…. Let them completely finish that job before you pull the rug out from under them. They have paid too high a price to not be allowed to win.

So, Senators, rather than trite campaign slogans, how about a commitment to an American victory? Do you want to win the war in Iraq or not?

* I have omitted Congressman Ron Paul since I don’t consider him in the top tier of candidates, but want to point out that he did serve as a U.S. Air Force flight surgeon for six years, both on active duty and in the Air National Guard.