Meet Coleen Rowley – A Genuine Agent For Change and Another Strong National Security Democrat
by Howie Klein
on TIME Mgazine cover
Does that cover of TIME Magazine ring a bell? It should; just like Coleen Rowley did for our intelligence establishment. TIME didn't put her on their cover as Person of the Year because they liked her legs. She's the former FBI agent who blew the whistle on the FBI's lack of response to evidence of terrorist activities just before 9/11. The FBI's Minneapolis office had the goods on Zacarias Moussaoui, passed it to DC and DC… ignored it, probably missing an opportunity to derail 9/11. TIME edited down the 13-page memo here. It starts with a gut punch to FBI Director Robert Mueller and the other political appointees Bush had in charge of national security:
The issues are fundamentally ones of INTEGRITY and go to the heart of the FBI's law enforcement mission and mandate. Moreover, at this critical juncture in fashioning future policy to promote the most effective handling of ongoing and future threats to United States citizens' security, it is of absolute importance that an unbiased, completely accurate picture emerge of the FBI's current investigative and management strengths and failures.
To get to the point, I have deep concerns that a delicate and subtle shading/skewing of facts by you and others at the highest levels of FBI management has occurred and is occurring. The term “cover up” would be too strong a characterization which is why I am attempting to carefully (and perhaps over laboriously) choose my words here. I base my concerns on my relatively small, peripheral but unique role in the Moussaoui investigation in the Minneapolis Division prior to, during and after September 11th and my analysis of the comments I have heard both inside the FBI (originating, I believe, from you and other high levels of management) as well as your Congressional testimony and public comments.
Coleen is an extraordinary person, a professional and as far from a political hack as you will ever find running for political office. I've written about her before and in the interests of not wasting space, I'd like to ask you to read my take on Coleen from a political point of view at Down With Tyranny. Even forgetting that she's running against one of the most extremist right wing loons in the Congress who thinks exercising congressional oversight means rubber stamping everything Bush and Big Business want (in return for massive “donations” from those same Big Businesses), Coleen is exactly the kind of woman America needs in public ofice.
She is outspoken, honest and her integrity is beyond question– unless you're Karl Rove or one of his minions, in which case… she actually is one of Osama bin Laden's wives. And Coleen doesn't have a lot of nice things to say about the partisans on the extreme far right like Rove. She's a no-nonsense professional and doesn't think Rove's, Cheney's and Bush's partisan game-playing with our national security is tolerable.
Republican officials, as well as unofficial Republicans like Joe Lieberman, are cravenly exploiting the recent terrorist takedown and the all-powerful fear factor to manipulate public opinion for political advantage. But their “reminders,” as they refer to them, are not necessary. There is no question about the magnitude of the threat but that threat is most effectively minimized by smart, solid investigative work, not fear-mongering, “security theater,” or projection of toughness.
As a recent [Minneapolis] Star Tribune editorial pointed out, it was “good police work that foiled the terror threat.” Conversely, Bush's rush to the ill-conceived and unjustified war in Iraq has, irony of all ironies, greatly increased the terrorist threat. According to a recent State Department report, the number of terrorist incidents worldwide increased nearly fourfold in 2005.
George Bush, John Kline and the other public officials responsible for miring America in this costly and counterproductive conflict can't say they weren't warned. A small but vocal group of intelligence experts warned before we ever went into Iraq that a spike in terrorist recruitment would result, including Brent Snowcroft, National Security Adviser under George H. W. Bush.
Weeks before the 9/11 attacks, I saw bureaucratic incompetence hinder an investigation which might have stopped the attacks from happening. So in February 2003, even though I still worked for the government, I spoke upin an effort to head off the even graver mistake of invading Iraq:
At this critical point in our country's history I have decided to try once again, on an issue of even more consequence for the internal security posture of our country. That posture has been weakened by the diversion of attention from al-Qaeda to our government's plan to invade Iraq, a step that will, in all likelihood, bring an exponential increase in the terrorist threat to the U.S., both at home and abroad.
That these predictions have proven accurate means nothing to the GOP leadership in Washington. They believe any admission of error indicates weakness, so they continue their destructive, misguided path regardless of consequences. This is what I meant when I talked about “squaring the error” in my announcement speech in July 2005. The post 9-11 round-up of innocents, indiscriminate and politicized orange alerts, failure to follow tried and true investigative formulas, alienating allies, launching an ill-conceived war, use of torture, illegal wiretapping and over-collection of private data that does nothing but clutter intelligence databases are among the series of errors propelled by a combination of fear, lack of judiciousness and reliance upon neo-con cronies instead of non-partisan experts.
As Edmund Burke, the great British statesman of the 18th century so wisely stated, “nothing so effectively robs the mind of its ability to act or to reason as fear.” And fear is not only the force that's been used to get the public to go along with this squaring of the error, but it's what the terrorists want since provoking fear is their prime tool.
It's difficult to imagine a worse response to 9/11 than the invasion of Iraq, which at the time had no meaningful connection to Al Qaeda, and was serving as a buffer zone in the Mid-east. The invasion not only boosted Al Qaeda recruitment and gave them a training ground, but it diverted resources away from Homeland Security, federal, state and local law enforcement and first responders. Bush and his cronies have received “D's” and “F's” from the nonpartisan 9-11 Commission for failing to implement homeland security safeguards including important port, airport, chemical/nuclear plant and transit system security initiatives. The Bush approach to fighting terror is like playing a soccer game without providing water to your defenders and sending all of your strikers to a bar fight in the next state.
Stellar law enforcement and cooperation between allies– all accomplished within statutory surveillance guidelines, it should be mentioned– are the reasons the London terrorists were stopped. But thanks to the massive distraction in Iraq, the terrorists might succeed in penetrating our defense next time. It's time to push fear and politics aside and start playing a much smarter game. We need to get our troops out of Iraq and focus law enforcement and intelligence gathering in a much more surgical, precise way upon true Al Qaeda terrorist threats and better homeland security.
Hopefully by now you've heard the little song embedded in the nice banner Taylor made for this series (above; just click the banner). A grassroots supporter of Coleen's in Minnesota took the song and made a cool little film which I hope you will take a moment to view. If it inspires you, or if the idea of replacing a rubber stamp political hack with a clear-eyed level-headed, no-nonsense professional inspires you, please take a little trip to Taylor's ActBlue page and make a contribution to Coleen's campaign. Bush and his corrupt rubber stamp are not going to go away of their own accord. And we won't be safe until they do. No one's going to do this for you. Do you believe in America? The real America, not the BushCheneyRove bizarro version? Is it worth fighting for? If you think so, helping to elect Coleen Rowley is a way to affect change.