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.