Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al Sa'ud, has submitted his resignation. Bandar is the son of Sultan bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz, the Minister of Defense and Aviation, and grandson of the current king. His father will become the crown pronce when the current king dies.
I have always liked Bandar, and I think overall he has been an effective ambassador for his country, as well providing good counsel to the royal family about things here.
Bandar has been suffering from depression for many years. There has been depression in his branch of the family. One of his half-brothers, Khalid (of Gulf War fame), has also suffered from similar depression.
From what I am told, after 9/11, he got pregressively worse and had wanted to resign and go back home. He wanted to take over as Director of General Intelligence, but for whatever reason did not get the job. He may still get the internal security portfolio.
I will always remember being in Bandar's study in McLean (just down Chain Bridge Road from the CIA back entrance) two days before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. My boss and I went over at Cheney's direction to Soyster to show Bandar how serious the Iraqis were. So, we took maps and satellite imagery - at the time no one was overly concerned about releasability - of the Iraqi deployments and the information on the continued flow of men and materiel to the border area. We had some large sheets, so he motioned for us to spread them out on the floor.
Here's a picture: The ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and me on our hands and knees crawling around sheets of annotated imagery with magnifying glasses. After about half an hour of this, Bandar, a military man, looked up at my boss and me and said, "This is bad, very bad. I must call His Majesty - shall I tell him they will invade?"
My boss said, "It would appear that way."
Bandar shook his head in disbelief, looked at me and said, "But Saddam said he would not."
I did the Gallic shrug, with the "what can I tell you" look.
Bandar is to be replaced by former Director of General Intelligence Prince Turki bin Faysal, currently the Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom. In my opinion, he was the biggest impediment to any meaningful cooperation between American and Saudi intelligence for over 20 years.
During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, when the Saudis had a vested interest in total cooperation with the American intelligence services, the General Intelligence Directorate was evasive and unhelpful, and at times almost to the point of impeding our own efforts - I speak from personal experience. The military intelligence service was much better at working with us - they understood what was at stake. Later, when the United States sought to investigate the series of terrorist attacks against American facilities in the Kingdom, including the attacks on the Al-Khubar Towers in 1996 that killed 19 members of the U.S. Air Force, Turki stymied the investigations at every turn.
When he was appointed to be ambassador in London, many of his "fans" thought Turki had been marginalized and put out to pasture. Garnering the post of ambassador to the United States is not exactly "out to pasture."
Prince Bandar bin Sultan will be missed.
July 20, 2005
July 19, 2005
Looking at Saddam's first trial
On July 18, I spoke with MSNBC anchor Chris Jansing about the upcoming trial, actually the first of a series of trials, of Sadddam Hussein. Here is a summary of that interview and a link to a video.
MSNBC analyst Francona analyzes the choice for initial case against Hussein
As Saddam Hussein awaits his first trial, many are left scratching their heads about the facts of the first case that will be brought against him. While the former dictator has been accused of killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, prosecutors have decided that his first trial will involve a massacre of about 150 people. MSNBC analyst and retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona joined MSNBC Live’s Chris Jansing on Monday to discuss the decision.
The case itself reflects a 1982 assassination attempt that was made on Saddam Hussein’s life in the town of Dujail. “Saddam sends his henchmen to take care of the situation, and immediately, 150 people are arrested, tortured and executed, about 500 go missing and hundreds of others are banished to the Southwest desert.” Francona said describing the details of the case.
What remains in question is why this particular incident was chosen over much more horrendous crimes.
Francona notes that because world leaders have generally claimed exemption from prosecution for things they did as heads of state, this makes the prosecution’s job much harder than one might expect.
“Are you accusing Saddam Hussein, or are you accusing the president of Iraq, because if you’re accusing the president of Iraq he could say he was acting in his official capacity.” Francona said.
This simple reasoning has prosecutors initially starting small, in order to build a workable case against him.
“Why this one when you’ve got all the others, (including) the gassing of the Kurds?” Francona asked. It’s because they think they can prove this one relatively easily. They’ve got the witnesses, they’ve got a lot of documentation, there’s even U.N. documentation on this, so they believe that they can go into a court of law, win this one, and they’ve got to come out first and win, they can’t afford to lose a case.”
Though the first case is very important, this is far from the only case planned against the former dictator. “There are going to be probably 13 or 14 trials involving Saddam Hussein.” Francona said.
To watch the complete interview, go to:
© 2005 MSNBC Interactive
July 14, 2005
Valerie Plame Wilson - CIA Agent?
How many times in the last few months, years even, have we seen media reports about the revelation of a CIA agent's name? It is against the law to knowingly reveal the name of undercover intelligence personnel and assets, be they CIA, Department of Defense or other intelligence agency. Mrs. Wilson may have fallen into that category, but is she a CIA agent?
No, she is not.
Let's get the terminology straight. Mrs. Wilson is a CIA officer, a civil servant, a civilian employee of the Central Intelligence Agency. She is not an agent.
So what is the difference? An agent is someone, usually a foreign national, recruited by American intelligence officers, sometimes called "case officers," to work on behalf of the United States. These are the true spies, they are most often betraying their own countries for the benefit of the United States.
Once again, Mrs. Wilson is not a CIA agent, she is not a spy - she is an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency.