Coleen Rowley, FBI insider and whistleblower explains – Part 2

With so much happening in our intelligence agencies, the average citizen has no idea of the invasive danger these rogue, secretive, overbearing groups present to our everyday lives. Over the next few weeks I’m going to present insider information from whistleblowing patriots; high level operatives from the FBI, NSA, CIA and DOJ.

The patriot forces that protect us are spread out across the homeland and foreign soil preventing the tragedies we all fear from madmen with untold weapons of mass destruction. Their actions often unknown, yet ever present, make our lives safer, and allow our freedoms to be enjoyed and shared.

But, worthy as some in public service are with their activities, some are alarmingly perfidious, dangerous, while secretly spying and subverting, invading our personal lives for purposes planned, and known only to a few who wish to gain or increase their power over us. We’ve seen it in the past but has the Trump light of scrutiny exposed more and more vermin than a New York sewer on Thanksgiving?

To bring to light the activities, familiar as well as unacknowledged, of these government watchdogs, it’s been a privilege to talk with people from the inside of some of our country’s top agencies. Patriots who dedicated years of service to doing what they thought right, best, honest and appropriate. All of these insiders having become whistleblowers, exposing the wrongdoing at great risk to future personal and career opportnities.

Many of us have taken the oath to support and defend the Constitution, to protect against “all” enemies, foreign and domestic, and yet never imagined that meant against our own administrations. Most of us grew up when the government and its many parts were respected, not feared; depended on, not worried about.

In this series, I introduce special people assembled to express facts and opinions, lay out those facts of agency abuses, and whose valuable time is so appreciated to share what should be an enlightening  warning based on their own experiences and observations. You’ll see some answers are short. Reasons being 1) some of my interviewees are traveling internationally at this time and their valuable time limits long discussions. 2) Some subjects require restraint on the information they can give for personal, legal,  career reasons or national security reasons.

Part 1 of Ms Rowley’s interview is HERE.  This is part 2 of 2:

FBI – Coleen Rowley: B.A. degree in French from Wartburg College, graduated with honors from College of Law at the Univ. of Iowa. In 1981, Rowley was appointed a Special Agent with the FBI, and in 1984 was assigned to the New York Office working Italian organized crime and Sicilian heroin drug investigations. Rowley also served in the Paris, France Embassy and Montreal Consulates. In 1990 Rowley was “Chief Division Counsel” which entailed oversight of the Freedom of Information, Forfeiture, Victim-Witness and Community Outreach Programs as well as providing regular legal and ethics training to FBI Agents of the Division. In May of 2002 Rowley brought forth some of the pre 9-11 lapses and testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about some of the endemic problems facing the FBI and the intelligence community.

Rowley’s memo to FBI Director Robert Mueller in connection with the Joint Intelligence Committee’s Inquiry led to a two-year long DOJ Inspector General investigation. She was one of three whistleblowers chosen as persons of the year by TIME magazine in 2002. In April 2003, following an unsuccessful and highly criticized attempt to warn the Director and other administration officials about the dangers of launching the invasion of Iraq, Rowley stepped down from her (GS-14) legal position to go back to being a (GS-13) FBI Special Agent. In early March 2003 she warned FBI Director Robert Mueller of further problems, including his going along with the Bush Administration’s deceptive plan to launch war on what would become the counterproductive war on Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks. (Sadly enough, despite all facts to the contrary, the Bush Administration was able to fool 70% of the American public into believing that Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11.)

Ms Coleen Rowley, retired FBI agent. Photo courtesy of Ms Rowley.

RB ~ With all the agencies working inside and outside the country, are we overlooking the presence AND dangerous influence of groups like CAIR and others with ties to foreign entities or governments?

CR ~  I think the most consistently dangerous things the CIA and other US agencies have done has been to aid and arm various Al Qaeda and other associated terrorist groups, trying to use them as our “proxies.”  This began with “Charlie Wilson’s War” using the Mujahadin in Afghanistan and Pakistan who morphed into Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  We should’ve learned our lesson about the consequences of aligning ourselves with foreign terrorists but it has continued with the Chechen terrorists, the Syrian and Libyan jihadists and even the Iranian terrorist dissident Mujahedin al Khalq (MEK) group.

As bad as the increase in international terrorism is, all due to this stupid US foreign policy and perpetual wars, aligned with Wahabi extremist Saudi Arabia, domestic mass shootings have tripled in recent years and actually take more lives inside the U.S.

RB ~ With your background related to the law and ethics, and inside knowledge of our government, is this something that should be personally adhered to by agents or something they need to be taught? And is the FBI and other agencies doing enough to counter illegal activities within?

CR ~   Senator Grassley, long an effective FBI watchdog, released a report compiled in 2000 chronicling misconduct by FBI agents, which he called a “list of horrors.” [Grassley report on FBI misconduct] Unfortunately I doubt that things have much improved since that time.  The Department of Justice’s Inspector General and a US Attorney are looking at some of the current FISA Court abuses but I doubt they have either the time or resources to address all of the misconduct that is happening.

Law enforcement ethics training was initiated in 2001 as a result of various reckless (drunk driving) homicides committed by agents and other serious misconduct but this training seems to have gotten neglected after 9-11.

RB ~ For most of us, the Clinton’s have been on the highway of free rides since the 80’s, bypassing every legal stop sign and prosecution toll booth in their path as they speedily wind their way toward fame and riches – mostly infamous riches. Everything they touch seems to be laden with bi-chromatic fingerprint dust and the blood of innocents mixed with confusion. With the questionable death of Seth Rich and other DNC maneuvering, it’s been said you have your own theories and proof that the DNC email hacking was not the Russians, but an inside job.

CR ~   It’s true that both of the  Clintons have constantly displayed deceptive and corrupt, self-enriching and ruthless activity in the course of their prior “leadership” of the U.S.

I haven’t weighed in on the Seth Rich case because it’s not possible to intelligently opine without hard evidence i.e. what’s called a “smoking gun.” But it’s possible he or some other insider leaked DNC information.  I don’t think anyone really knows.

Hacking and hackers are now ubiquitous and everywhere.  There are certainly hackers in Russia and China but also in the U.S. and Western countries.  It looks like more than a few separate hackers were targeting and exfiltrating info from the DNC and DNC officials for months.  I don’t think the full truth has come out.  The “Intelligence Community Assessments” (which the FBI, CIA, NSA and DNI’s handpicked analysts produced), were mere allegations and did not provide any real evidence showing the Russian government was responsible for the hacking.  The ICA was thus a good example of the opposite of “intelligence,” similar to what was ginned up for Colin Powell’s false presentation to the United Nations in order to launch war on Iraq.  President Obama even admitted that it could not be shown that Russians hackers were the source for “Wikileaked” DNC info.  Yet our mainstream media constantly spews this war propaganda.

RB ~  And for whose benefit and for what purpose? Was Rich to receive the blame for the hacking but wanted to prove otherwise?

CR ~  It’s hard for anyone right now to adequately know.  For good overviews on the overall situation, its general purpose and to whose benefit—a horrible and extremely dangerous predicament for the American people brought on by corrupt government leaders, your readers should see these two exhaustive reviews:   The first review is on Russianmania at the boiling point, and the second is on Mass Deception and the prelude to war.

RB ~  Is the FBI capable of independently pursuing “political crimes” to bring about justice to those involved in all this current Clinton/DNC/State Dept./intelligence corruption, or should they be more an investigative, enforcement force against more traditional crimes? Or is there really a difference?

CR ~  I really doubt the FBI is up to the task of impartially investigating the President and these highest levels of corrupt government leaders.  In a way, it’s easy to sympathize with Comey and McCabe trying to walk a political tightrope given that unprecedented fact that BOTH presidential campaigns were under FBI investigation in the months and even weeks right up to (and after) the 2016 election.  It’s hard to see how any law enforcement/justice entity could conduct an independent investigation and hold the highest level accountable.  Those pragmatic reasons are why Nixon (and many other presidents) have always thought they were above the law.

RB ~ Is enough finally being done to investigate and dig into these email scandals and schemes?

CR ~  I don’t know what’s going on with regard to any further investigation of the Clinton email server and the Clinton Family Foundation corruption, but I doubt any official will get to the bottom of it any time soon.  I do see the Dept of Justice’s Inspector General is expected to produce a report on some aspects of alleged FBI misconduct involving “Russiagate” so there is some source of hope that some independent investigation can be conducted.

RB ~ And as a follow up, are the lines of communication between the FBI, CIA and NSA now more open than before, or is interagency pride and elitism keeping them from working together efficiently?

CR ~  No doubt some turf battles persist, but I think the great enlarging of all their budgets after 9-11 to fight the “war on terror” has reduced interagency rivalry to a large extent.   The agencies also seem to have equal access to the big intelligence databases (which include billions of pieces of non-relevant data) but as I mentioned before, that entails as many problems as it solves involving creating a bigger and bigger “haystack” as well as potential illegal and improper use of the data.

RB ~  Did you in your wildest intelligence dreams ever think that a major political party could invade the sanctity of our election process by creating false documents, use them to smear an opposition candidate before an election, then use them to assault the privacy of his closest confidants, using them to corrupt the privacy process of the FISA system, all while the long term goal of removing a duly elected president loomed in the back of their destructive playbook?

CR ~  That is an excellent description of what appears to have transpired with the “Steele” dossier.  Although I and other whistleblowers warned the surveillance abuse would happen—I wrote an article back when Congress was initially intimidated into passing the “FISA Amendments Act” in August 2007 that the powers they were giving to the Executive Branch’s “national security” agencies would be turned on themselves, I am still somewhat surprised at how this all transpired so quickly.  Officials sell their grabbing for more and more abusive and illegal powers as only being used to target foreigners but it was a slippery slope, and a rather quick slippery slope.  The “war powers” quickly migrated home.  That’s frankly why the CIA was supposed to be prohibited from acting domestically, because of their history of abuses since they are so used to having free reign abroad, without having to follow any laws.

Eris Snowden

RB ~  Was Snowden a traitor or a hero?

CR ~  I don’t believe in heroes and have written many times why it’s foolish to put anyone on a pedestal.  Everyone is a mixed bag.  But there are heroic actions and all whistleblowers who tell the truth about government fraud, waste, abuse, illegality and serious risk to public safety despite the personal risks and misfortunes and despite group think pressures are to be praised and emulated.

RB ~ You’re a strong proponent of critical thinking vs the standard partisan rants that are so pervasive. What can be done from the government side or the personal side to get back to reasonable thinking using truth and facts and not ideology?

CR ~ That’s a good question and I have asked prominent psychologists the same question, and unfortunately without any good answer.  I have given many presentations on “ethical decision-making” and also on “Psychopathy, Propaganda and Group Think” but just letting people know how this works, how easily human vulnerabilities to emotional manipulation work, doesn’t seem to be very effective in reducing the phenomenon. After all, Nazi leader Goering’s warnings during the Nuremberg trials about how easy it is to manipulate people, to turn otherwise good people into monsters, even in a democracy, are well known.  Perhaps a concerted effort to reduce group think by instilling critical thinking at an earlier effort in the education process would have an impact but our country’s educational and media apparatus do just the opposite.

RB ~ Did the decision to become a whistleblower come easy given your patriotism and seeing the need for truth, or was it a life changing moment with thoughts of reprisals and long term career and personal ramifications?

CR ~  Other than Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden and perhaps a handful of others, very few people deliberately decide to sacrifice everything to tell the truth.  The majority of whistleblowers that I’ve met and I now know dozens, begin more naively, believing that it’s possible to get the truth out without martyring oneself.  In my own case, I was realistic enough to know that my truth telling about FBI Headquarters having dropped the ball, that 9-11 could have been prevented, would anger these FBI officials and hurt my career but even I was somewhat surprised when I heard they were immediately discussing firing me.  The only reason that probably didn’t happen was due to media pressure and four Senators writing to Mueller and Ashcroft recommending that I not be fired.

RB ~ What can day to day citizens – who before now had nothing to fear – do to be aware, and to ensure they are not caught up in some unintentional web of government lies from an alphabet agency set on invading our lives and destroying our futures?

CR ~  Well I think average citizens need to do a better job of watchdogging their own government and not abdicate their own responsibility to government “leaders” who don’t have their interests in mind.  This means they have to read more, beyond mainstream news, speak up and write their opinions, contact their elected representatives, engage in protests and political action, basically exercise their First Amendment rights.  Perhaps if more people would have voiced their opposition a few months ago to the reinstatement/enlargement of the FISA Amendments Act, it wouldn’t have passed when the alphabet agencies claimed they needed these vast spying powers, that allow monitoring and collection of Americans’ communications.

RB ~  With Alexis, Echo, TVs with cameras, home security Wifi cameras, Google phones tracking our every move and refrigerators knowing what we buy and how we shop, are we living totally exposed and non-private lives open to any invasion from someone is willing to review, sell or track?

CR ~  You also need to include the recent example of Facebook (and other social media) using and selling the data they collect on those who join social networks or use the internet.  There’s no doubt that almost all technological advances and new communication devices that people see a need for also are privacy-defeating.  Cameras are everywhere now and while they serve some good purposes, they also infringe on privacy and exercise of rights.  I don’t see any of this being ever rolled back.  So laws and policies need to keep pace with developments in technology.

RB ~ With so many problems and scandals related to political corruption, spying on citizens, immigration, local communities and states opting out of abiding by federal law….are we losing America?

CR ~ Things are always changing.   When the 13 colonies became states, the federal government had very little power.  Even when the FBI was formed in 1920’s, there were almost no federal laws creating federal crimes that it could investigate.  But the federal government has been aggregating and centralizing power since the U.S. came into being under the Constitution and perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea if power went back to being more decentralized and citizens could have more input on lower levels than they can have on the national government.  I don’t see that happening however.

I do think our democratic form of government is in danger for a lot of reasons: corruption; war powers abuses; lack of ability of voters to hold leaders accountable, etc.

RB ~ And with all the action and complications of a government intelligence / law enforcement position, what was that one fun, rewarding, passionate moment you remember from your whole career?

CR ~ I’m not sure there was one such moment but I did a lot of painstaking transcribing of intercepted conversations among Italian organized crime members in New York City in the early 1980’s by which we were able to piece together elaborate labor racketeering schemes that were eventually successfully proven at trial and used to convict a number of mob bosses.

RB ~  In closing, does the America public have something to fear about the growing unknown? Are we headed down a path of intrusion that warrants the Utah facility be turned into a veteran’s homeless shelter while money and resources are directed to the outside world instead of inside our borders?

CR ~ I do believe we face a “Brave New World” to put it euphemistically with all the data gathering going on—and without a shred of evidence that it has reduced terrorism.  Even worse, I also think we could be headed for a nuclear WWIII .

RB ~ Are there any other areas you think important to cover here or highlight?

CR ~  I’ve included a number of links to articles for you as I feel Americans need to be aware of where we’re coming from, where we are and where we’re headed..

As I’ve interviewed and written about these intelligence professionals and whistleblowers, I’m reminded…

Power is always dangerous.  Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best.”

–Edward Abbey

 

My next article will highlight a former NSA intelligence official. His input will add much to this series of government insiders.

Our gratitude and appreciate to Ms. Rowley for her service to our country and her time in sharing these important inside views. Part 1 of Ms Rowley’s interview is HERE.

~ RB

Coleen Rowley, FBI insider and whistleblower explains – Part 1

With so much happening in our intelligence agencies, the average citizen has no idea of the invasive danger these rogue, secretive, overbearing groups present to our everyday lives. Over the next few weeks I’m going to present insider feelings of whistleblowing patriots, high level operatives from the FBI, NSA, CIA and DOJ.

The son of a longtime friend knew from age 5 that he wanted to “travel the world and carry a gun.” In the many years I’ve known “Brandon,” his life’s passion found the fulfillment of his destiny and resulted in assignments to include military intelligence in Haiti and Korea, guarding an Iraqi general, investigating a military payroll heist in Italy, and various other assorted and disavowed activities in undisclosed locations with unmentionable associates from alphabet agencies.

These forces of patriots spread out across the homeland and foreign soil protecting us and preventing the tragedies we all fear from madmen with biological, chemical and nuclear opportunities. Their actions often unknown, yet ever present, make our lives safer, and allow our freedoms to be enjoyed and shared.

Their motivations for such a life could be categorized into passion for our country, the love of intrigue and travel, or countless other personal expressions of self-fulfillment, but are valued and appreciated none-the-less for the dangers they encounter and survive.

But, worthy as some in public service are with their activities, some are alarmingly perfidious, dangerous, while secretly spying and subverting, invading our personal lives for purposes planned, and known only to a few who wish to gain or increase their power over us. We’ve seen it in the past but has the Trump light of scrutiny exposed more and more vermin than a New York sewer on Thanksgiving?

To bring to light the activities, familiar as well as unacknowledged, of these government watchdogs, it’s been a privilege to talk with people from the inside of some of our country’s top agencies. Patriots who dedicated years of service to doing what they thought right, best, honest and appropriate. All of these insiders having become whistleblowers, exposing the wrongdoing at great risk to future personal and career activities.

Many of us have taken the oath to support and defend the Constitution, to protect against “all” enemies, foreign and domestic, and yet never imagined that meant against our own administrations. Most of us grew up when the government and its many parts were respected, not feared; depended on, not worried about.

Being “just citizens,” most are limited in personal resources to fight against such corruption, misfeasance and malfeasance. When the IRS spies on the citizenry for no legitimate reason or the Social Security Administration starts to stockpile weapons, and seeing every email, text, and phone call under collection and scrutiny becomes normal……. It’s not your grandmother’s America anymore.

I introduce the special people assembled to express opinions, lay out the facts and abuses, and whose valuable time is so appreciated to share what should be an enlightening, and a warning discussion as to their own experiences and observations. You’ll see some answers are short. Reasons being 1) some of my interviewees are traveling internationally at this time and their valuable time limits long discussions. 2) Some subjects require restraint on the information they can give for personal, legal or career reasons.

This is part 1 of 2 from:

FBI – Coleen Rowley: After a B.A. degree in French from Wartburg College, graduated with honors from College of Law at the Univ. of Iowa. In 1981, Rowley was appointed a Special Agent with the FBI, and  in 1984 was assigned to the New York Office working Italian organized crime and Sicilian heroin drug investigations. Rowley also served in the Paris, France Embassy and Montreal Consulates. In 1990 Rowley assumed the duties of “Chief Division Counsel” which entailed oversight of the Freedom of Information, Forfeiture, Victim-Witness and Community Outreach Programs as well as providing regular legal and ethics training to FBI Agents of the Division. In May of 2002 Rowley brought forth some of the pre 9-11 lapses and testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about some of the endemic problems facing the FBI and the intelligence community. Rowley’s memo to FBI Director Robert Mueller in connection with the Joint Intelligence Committee’s Inquiry led to a two-year long DOJ Inspector General investigation. She was one of three whistleblowers chosen as persons of the year by TIME magazine in 2002. In April 2003, following an unsuccessful and highly criticized attempt to warn the Director and other administration officials about the dangers of launching the invasion of Iraq, Rowley stepped down from her (GS-14) legal position to go back to being a (GS-13) FBI Special Agent. In early March 2003 she warned FBI Director Robert Mueller of further problems, including his going along with the Bush Administration’s deceptive plan to launch war on what would become the counterproductive war on Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks. (Sadly enough, despite all facts to the contrary, the Bush Administration was able to fool 70% of the American public into believing that Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11.)

Coleen Rowley, FBI ret. Photo courtesy of Coleen Rowley

RB ~  You, like myself, grew up in a small midwestern town but aspired to greater things. What drew you to the law and then the FBI for your career choice? How early in your life and what initially prompted you to enter public service?

CR ~  I, like many other kids, got ideas from TV and movies.  At about age 11 or 12, my favorite TV show was “Man From U.N.C.L.E” a kind of law enforcement-spy show.  I wrote a letter to our town newspaper stating that I wanted to join U.N.C.L.E when I grew up and asking how I could write to the organization.  The paper’s response was that “UNCLE” was fictional but the closest to it in the U.S. would be the “F.B.I.” and they gave me the FBI’s mailing address.  I then wrote to the FBI which sent me their “99 Facts About the FBI” pamphlet, one fact (followed by a convoluted explanation) was that women were not allowed to become FBI agents.  But I got enthused anyway as I figured that rule was stupid and would change by the time I grew up.  Later after majoring in French and going to law school, I took the Foreign Service exam and applied to a few other government agencies, along with the FBI.

It always appealed to me to be on the side of working for justice and helping solve (and hopefully) reduce crimes.

RB ~ Did your overseas positions add any different perspective to your overall view of national security?

CR ~  When I joined the FBI, I was also pursuing joining the Foreign Service (of the State Dept) and had taken the (very difficult) foreign service exams and even went through their interview process.  However the FBI recruiter told me the FBI had its own “foreign service” branch, called “legal attaches (legats)” who worked in liaison with foreign law enforcement and intelligence agencies and which at the time were stationed in 13 foreign countries including France.  In the course of my FBI career, I worked for a few weeks in both Paris and Montreal as a “temporary duty” assistant legat just filling in and mostly helping with translation of French information in response to FBI leads.  The number of “legats” grew from 13 to over 60 by the time I retired.  I haven’t checked what the number is now but I suppose that increase in the FBI’s foreign assignments reflects U.S. hegemony and this notion that the U.S. needs to exercise more control over the world.  (I don’t think our national security has improved, however, due to all the counter-productive wars and violent regime change actions the U.S. has undertaken.)

RB ~ Today we see such a pervasiveness of corruption in the higher levels of” leadership. In the early days, was there more of a separation between national security and politics? The line seems very blurry these days.

CR ~ I think that it’s obvious some of the leaders of the bigger intelligence agencies have indeed used and abused their “national security” surveillance powers for improper political purposes. Some of us warned that would happen if the massive monitoring and data collection was not reigned in after Snowden’s and other NSA whistleblowers’ disclosures.  (See my 2013 essay on CNN: “Massive Spying on Americans is Outrageous”.)

 

The current situation is a bit of history repeating itself if you go back to the J. Edgar Hoover days, when Hoover’s broad, virtually unfettered spying, including on political figures, was based on his (and Joseph McCarthy’s-HUAC’s) hysterical fear of communism during the Cold War and then the Korean and Vietnam Wars.  The Church Committee reigned some of those abuses in after Hoover died, but almost all of the Church Committee reforms–for instance in the form of Attorney General Guidelines and strict separation between criminal and intelligence matters– have now been rolled back.

Hoover’s 47 year term as FBI Director and his gathering of info (including a lot of “dirt,” in some cases creating secret files on politicians and government leaders, made him arguably more powerful than the presidents and other politicians.  But as a balance, the FBI was the agency most restricted from engaging in any partisan political activity under the strictest provisions of the Hatch Act.  I’ve read that Hoover himself, realizing his vast power, boasted that he would not even vote (so as to not show favoritism).  Over the years, the Hatch Act got watered down, first reducing the prohibitions on the Department of Justice and US Attorneys’ offices, to allow them to engage in more political activity, and then even reducing some of the restrictions upon FBI personnel.

Perhaps more importantly, corruption occurs via politically appointed agency leaders constantly going back and forth through the “revolving door” to profit from their public service in the private sectors.  Nearly all FBI managers get lucrative second careers after early retirement which sets up numerous potential conflicts of interest.  This happened far less frequently when I joined the FBI, partly because after a 25 to 30 year career, most FBI agents just retired on their pensions and did not go on to lucrative second jobs.

RB ~ It used to be we never thought of much except who’s playing Friday night at the high school, where’s lunch after church on Sundays, but now… it’s the gov’t in our face, the IRS after our records, the NSA storing emails and phone numbers and the CIA doing who knows what. Did this really need to get to the level it is with normal everyday patriotic Americans

CR ~  Well as many lament, Orwell’s “1984” was not supposed to be a “How To Manual.”  It’s a very sad situation that has now developed and which may have gotten its start when Eisenhower’s warning about the “Military Industrial Complex” went unheeded.  Now we have a Military-Congressional-National Security-Media Complex that has fully metastasized as I detailed in “War on Terror: a False Promise for National Security.”  Even the rule of law has taken a back seat these days which, by the way, was what Founding Father James Madison, Father of the Constitution, warned, that “no country can maintain its freedom in the midst of continual war.”

RB ~  People used to think that national security meant protecting us from foreign entities bent on our destruction. But then talk of special phone equipment rooms in San Francisco surfaced with connections to the government and that huge collection facility in Camp Williams, Utah came to light. People couldn’t believe their eyes. How were explanations handled internally about such expansion? Or was it common knowledge that the government was now in the data collection/citizen surveillance business?

CR ~ When the NSA turned on its illegal, warrantless surveillance of Americans just days after 9-11, then called the “Presidential Surveillance Program” enabled via secret legal interpretations and emergency orders signed off every 90 days by the Attorney General, it was a closely held secret.  Even those attorneys working on regular (legal) secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) matters, were not all in the loop.  The first whistleblowers, like DOJ Attorney Thomas Tamm, whose father had been an FBI official, figured out that the illegal surveillance was taking place but he was cautioned not to ask any more questions.  I retired at the end of 2004 and although I think at that time, most of us suspected that things had already vastly changed, most of these draconian changes, not only the illegal surveillance but also the illegal kidnappings and torture was still a closely guarded secret from most employees of the intelligence community.

I made a few complaints to the Department of Justice Inspector General regarding wrongful and illegal surveillance actions that I became aware of and I detailed some of these, including the wrongful post 9-11 detentions of nearly 1000 immigrants in a letter to Mueller in February 2003, written to caution against his going along with going to war on Iraq.

Eventually the NY Times broke the story of the illegal “Presidential Program” in 2005, over a year after they got the story but were threatened by the Bush Administration not to publish it.  Bush immediately re-labeled the program the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” and although some aspects changed, it mostly continued in different forms, despite being disclosed by several NSA whistleblowers, and eventually in documents from Edward Snowden.

RB ~ While surveilling citizens with ties to terrorists should warrant close examination, can’t John Doe and his parents be left alone in peace? (AKA James Rosen from FOX News?)

CR ~ Before 9-11, nearly all of the news industry thought that the First Amendment provided them some protection in publishing news from their sources, even if the information was classified.  The thought was that there was some remaining remnant of “Reporters Privilege” and/or that the provisions of the old 1917 “Espionage Act” that could be used to charge reporters with receiving/retaining classified information would be held unconstitutional if ever the Department of Justice decided to charge a member of the press with that violation.  But that’s no longer the case after the Plame investigation wherein reporters were jailed or threatened with jail for not giving up the identities of their news sources; after FOX Reporter Rosen was named as a “conspirator” in a search warrant; after the DOJ went after then NYT reporter James Risen for publishing classified information and other cases like this.  Members of the press now realize they have very little legal protection under the First Amendment so some try to be pragmatic and rely on their own efforts such as encryption to keep their sources’ identities’ secret.  Unfortunately, I think the majority, with few exceptions, have taken their cue from the government’s threats and have become more like stenographers of government press releases instead of actual investigative reporters.

RB ~ You had your own pushback toward the Bush administration related to this invasion of Iraq.  Is national security, surveillance, foreign policy all mistakenly wrapped up together?

CR ~  US wars and violent “regime change” actions have come home with devastating consequences for all of us even though most Americans have not connected the dots.  I have written tomes on this problem of “blowback.” And so have others.  A recent piece that I co-authored detailing some of this is “Recipe Concocted for Perpetual War Is a Bitter One.”

RB ~ When the average American thinks about all this data collection, the feeling is the gov’t should be spending time, money and resources chasing bad guys in Yemen, Iran or Syria, not worrying about some conversation or email between a guy and his grandmother. Are there hidden reasonings behind collecting so much private and inconsequential information about non-threats within the country?

CR ~ As I’ve said and written many, many times, how does it help if you are looking for a “needle in a haystack,” to add more hay?!  I attended a Senate Hearing in 2013 about the massive illegal monitoring of Americans where this and other bizarre and deceptive excuses were made (and wrote about it) but to answer your question, the collection of non-relevant data is not warranted.  NSA whistleblowers will tell you that the NSA Director and other intelligence agencies were given vast budgets after 9-11 and they just wanted to “collect it all.”

RB ~ Is the invasion of our privacy “rights” (and maybe I’m suing the term loosely) growing or has the presence of Trump in the oval office stemmed the tide of intrusion into our lives?

CR ~ Unfortunately it hasn’t been stemmed at all.  I cannot believe that House Intelligence Chair Nunes, and other congresspersons recently voted to enlarge the monitoring even though they are well aware of how the agencies have abused their powers for political purposes.  Even more than mere “privacy rights,” the entire Bill of Rights and other parts of the Constitution have been greatly undermined.  As Cicero observed hundreds of years ago, “In times of war, the law falls silent.”

RB ~ In dealing with Mueller at the time, did you find him considering or totally dismissive of your position against the war? What do you see in him now that you did or didn’t see at that time? Do you trust him to do things right or things political?

CR ~ Well Mueller was brand new—he had only been director for one week before 9-11.  And when I met him in person in June 2002 after my memo went public and I was going to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee, he had not been on the job for even a year.  So I had a relatively more open mind back then.

But in light of all the deception and wrongdoing that they have been involved in, I don’t think either should be trusted or put on pedestals.  See “No, Robert Mueller and James Comey Are Not Heroes” and “‘This is Nuts’: Liberals Launch ‘Largest Mobilization in History’ in Defense of Russiagate Probe.”

RB ~ From what you know now, at the time, did you consider “Trailblazer” an invasive threat to personal freedoms? Was it a tool available to the FBI and if so how was it applied domestically?

CR ~ All of these secret legal opinions and programs were initially closely held secrets and I retired in 2004 before they were openly revealed.  I will add however that from my current reading, it appears that the FBI is using NSA domestic surveillance of American citizens in its targeting for sting operations as well as using NSA info to start investigations via what is called “parallel construction,” by which the NSA or CIA info that gave rise to the FBI investigation is kept secret

Our thanks to Ms. Rowley for her time and input. Next is part 2 which expands on more internal agency surveillance, the actions of Eric Snowden, the Steele dossier and more. Any information or views presented are those of the interviewed and not necessarily those of Ron Boat or talkamericaradio.com.

 

Soon to follow an interview from the NSA insider.

~ RB