Published 12:00 am Monday, October 21, 2002

scapegoats on 9-11, Rogers says

[10/20/02]The FBI and the CIA have been in some cases targets of unjust criticism since the beginning of the war on terrorism, Vicksburg’s George Rogers said.

Rogers, an attorney and former state legislator who headed the CIA’s computer security for nearly 15 years, made his comments Friday while he was here for a weekend reunion of his Carr Central High School Class of 1944.

Both federal intelligence-gathering agencies have “in a way caught a bum rap on bashing because they didn’t do a very good job on intelligence on the internal threat,” he said.

“The sole mission of the FBI in intelligence up to now has been gathering what was called foreign counterintelligence,” he said. “That was intelligence about domestic spies. Not terrorists, spies.

“And the CIA was told that You will not do any domestic intelligence, only overseas intelligence. And any time they stepped over these bounds, they got beat up about it. Now we’re beating them up because they didn’t do it.

“Well, it’s Congress’ fault and the people’s fault that they didn’t do it, because they were following what they were told to do. So we’ve all got to bear some responsibility for this, not just the agencies who were trying to do what they were chartered to do.”

Rogers went to Washington in 1978 and spent 15 years with the CIA, coordinating computer security for all national foreign-intelligence programs.

“The shorthand for my job was to try to get the intelligence-community computers to talk to each other securely,” he said.

He is now a consultant for private companies and government agencies, focusing on computer-security policies and practices.

Also a Rhodes scholar, Rogers got started in computers while practicing law in Vicksburg and serving as a 20-year member of the Mississippi Legislature, for which he co-authored the bill that created the state’s central data-processing authority.

“Back in the more early days of computing it was expensive and there were not a lot of technically trained people around,” he said.

“I got very interested in the subject, and so we passed a bill in the Legislature that I helped write that set up this (authority). I got so interested in the subject handling the bill in the House that I got appointed to the authority when it was set up.”

He spent 10 years as a member of the authority, which succeeded in reducing the state’s cost of computing dramatically, he said.

Correlating the different types of intelligence gathered by government agencies is always a problem, he said. “That’s what the 9-11 flap was about: failure to correlate,” he said.

“The problem is sifting through the tremendous vacuum cleaner of information sucking in, and finding the significant bit, and then when you find the bits, putting those bits together to make a picture. The question is, how do you organize to try to sift through that information.”

With the war on terrorism under way, the mission of the FBI has been adjusted, Rogers said.

“The FBI was chartered to support the investigation of crimes,” he said. “They weren’t supposed to gather any information unless there was probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed. Well, that’s too limited a function if we’re going to contain internal terrorism.”

Similarly, the CIA must be told that “it’s all right for you to cooperate with the FBI and work to gather information to try to track down domestic terrorists, as well as terrorists overseas,” he said.

“I trust that as a result of all this, there will be a better definition of what their roles and responsibilities are so they can get about setting up better internal intelligence structures that will help protect us against the internal terrorist threat without overstepping the bounds that we want to put on, willy-nilly, gathering intelligence on U.S. citizens.”