June 10, 2005

MSNBC - Francona on Intelligence Sharing


On June 10, I was interviewed by Randy Meier on MSNBC about continuing problems with intelligence sharing. Here is a summary of that interview and a link to a video.

Intelligence sharing better, but needs improvement MSNBC analyst Francona says changes taking place from bottom up

A newly released Justice Department report says the FBI missed at least five opportunities to uncover vital intelligence that could have helped stop the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The missed opportunities occurred in large parts because of bad information sharing, according to the report, particularly between the FBI and CIA, along with problems within the FBI's own counterterrorism program.

The intelligence community, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, have claimed that improvements have been made in this area. Those claims are true, according to MSNBC Military Analyst and Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona, who worked for the Department of Defense as a counter-terrorism official specifically charged with targeting al-Qaida in the late 1990s, but that that doesn't mean the problem has been solved.

"I know at the worker level, it's much more improved," Francona said Friday in an interview with MSNBC's Randy Meier. "People are exchanging the information, but the system hasn't caught up with what is really going on. "

It's at the higher levels of the bureaucracy that the information flow is still not as free as it should be, Francona said.

He noted that while working for the Defense Department in the 90s, that intelligence sharing was practically non-existent.

"I wish there had been some," Francona said. "That's the bottom line. The problem was this wall people keep talking about between the law enforcement community and the intelligence community. But the problem was deeper than that. It was within the intelligence community itself.

"The agencies weren't real good at sharing information that they had gained with the other analytical cells. Then, once you had something within the intelligence community, it was very very difficult to exchange that with the FBI," Francona said. "You could provide it to the FBI, but you never got anything back from the FBI. It was the mindset - the FBI wanted to put people in jail, the intelligence community wanted to stop operations."

Francona admitted that working in this atmosphere was very frustrating, and while improvements have been made, there is still a long way to go. "I think the problem has been recognized and people know it needs to be fixed, but the bureaucratic problems are still there," he said.

To watch the complete interview, go to:

© 2005

June 9, 2005

Iraq: History and the Charges Against Saddam


On June 8, I appeared on MSNBC Live discussing how a past chapter in US-Iraqi relations may have influenced the list of charges levied against Saddam Husayn.

Here are some excepts of the interview:

One of the charges Saddam Hussein will defend himself against in his upcoming trial is the gassing of 5,000 Kurds in the village of Halabja back in 1988. However, Hussein's use of gas against Iranian troops, which occurred within months of that incident, was not one of the 12 charges brought against the Iraqi dictator.

According to MSNBC Military analyst Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona, the omission of that incident from the list of charges likely has much to do with the fact that the U.S. was actively advising Hussein in his military effort against Iran.

"This is an interesting omission from that entire list we see," Francona said on MSNBC Live on Wednesday. "I think that they just don't want to raise this issue for the defense team to pick apart. They're going to want to know, 'Why was the United States supporting Saddam Hussein when now you're putting him on trial?'"
Francona, one of only two U.S. military officials present in Iraq at the time, was working in the defense attaché office in the American embassy in Baghdad. But, in an interview with MSNBC's Randy Meier, said he didn't know the gassing of the Kurds had happened until after the fact.

He did, however, learn quickly of the use of gas on Iranian troops, which combined with the news of the Halabja incident, initiated a quick response from Washington.

"The Reagan administration's response was that we were to cease operations inside Iraq immediately, and we all returned home on the next plane."

However, Francona said that once he returned to Washington, he attended a series of meetings to decide whether to abandon the effort and risk letting Iran win the war.

"The decision was taken that we would continue to help the Iraqis and we returned to Baghdad," Francona said.

Returning to Baghdad with the knowledge of what Iraqi troops had done was not easy, Francona said.

"It wasn't pleasant returning in that circumstance. We knew we were working with military people who had given the orders to use chemical weapons - not only on Iranian troops, but against their own people - so it was kind of distasteful," Francona said. "But here, we were dealing with the lesser of two evils. The foreign policy goal was to make sure the Iranians didn't win the war."

Watch the complete interview at:

© 2005