Colleen Rowley was named the “Time” person of the year. She went from F.B.I informant to F.B.I. whistleblower. She spoke out on the war in Iraq and visits Camp Casey from her home in Minnesota. [includes rush transcript]
Colleen Rowley retired from the F.B.I and blew the whistle on pre-9/11 intelligence failures. Time Magazine named her person of year in 2002.
She says she is visiting Camp Casey with Senator Becky Lourey of Minnesota because, “I was essentially issuing a warning that launching an attack on Iraq would prove couterproductive to the couterterrorism efforst…It is really sad that not only Bush, but no other federal governmental official really will take the time to explain exactly what is going on in Iraq.”
- Colleen Rowley, former FBI informant turned whistleblower.
AMY GOODMAN: As we talk about security, as we talk about secrecy, we are joined now by Colleen Rowley. Yes, she is the Time Person of the Year, worked for the F.B.I., but started to speak out, became a whistleblower, and felt that she was retaliated against and left. Colleen Rowley joins us now. She usually lives in Minneapolis but has come to Camp Casey. Welcome.
COLLEEN ROWLEY: Thanks for being here.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about your — what you did in the F.B.I. and what landed you here?
COLLEEN ROWLEY: Well, I have actually spoken out more than once, which, of course, one time landed me on the cover of Time, which was bringing forth some of the issues that occurred pre-9/11 and that led to, or at least, you know, allowed the attacks to occur, but then the thing that’s lesser known is I actually spoke out also a couple of weeks before the Iraq war was launched, and in that case, I was essentially issuing a warning that launching an attack on Iraq would prove counterproductive to the counterterrorism efforts. So, that’s a continuing question that needs to be asked and answered, actually, from the people who are waging the war in Iraq is, “How is this making us safer?”
As bad as the casualties and the military losses are, which a lot of people are speaking about today, there’s another aspect to this, is who is going to suffer next? What American civilians are perhaps going to be targeted, and with this new increased threat and these new jihad groups that have emerged since the attack on Iraq?
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of the USA PATRIOT Act?
COLLEEN ROWLEY: Well, the PATRIOT Act is a mixed bag. There’s 160 different provisions, and I think what people perhaps — the fallacy here is that any Homeland Security or F.B.I. even using aggressive investigative measures can protect the United States if we literally ignore all of the other things that the 9/11 Commission recommended, which is what we would do to decrease the threat itself. And that’s where the real lapse has been. I mean, the war in Iraq has increased or quadrupled the number of significant terrorist attacks in the world, and so, you know, it’s delusional to think that the F.B.I. and Homeland Security, no matter how good — actually, I think there have been some improvements, but no matter how good they are, it will be impossible to prevent.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re wearing a sticker that says “Think,” and it’s where the stars in the American flag would be. And then it says, “It’s patriotic.” We recently interviewed Sibel Edmonds. She has taken on the F.B.I. in a big way, a former F.B.I. translator. How many of your colleagues in the F.B.I. do you think were/are thinking?
COLLEEN ROWLEY: Well, actually, in the F.B.I., I do have a certain amount of residual pride. For instance, at Guantanamo, where did the emails come from people who were speaking out about some of these, you know, either torture or close to torture, abuse, at least, abusive situations? It was the F.B.I. And I take a little credit, because our 56 field offices had people like me giving legal training on Constitutional rights and ethics training. And I think later on that somewhat paid off, and there were many F.B.I. agents who were speaking out a little bit.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to follow up on something you said, Colleen Rowley, Time Woman of the Year, that what you got less attention for was your opposition to the war in Iraq, and how often we have seen this when, with this kind of position in the media, that they’re willing to talk to you about one issue, but not the other. Can you talk about that? I mean, you were on the cover of every single newspaper and magazine in this country.
COLLEEN ROWLEY: Well, I still had — it was two months after the Time Person of the Year, and so I had some residual, what do they say, Warhol’s 15 seconds of fame, that at least I got my letter published in The New York Times and in our Minneapolis paper. And it sparked, you know, some media coverage; however, it was absolutely not seen in the same light. It was not at all, of course, listened to, and a lot of my interviews ended up on the cutting room floor.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did you leave the F.B.I.?
COLLEEN ROWLEY: Well, I retired, actually, because I was able to. I retired at the earliest moment, and it was not really due to my opposition to the Iraq war, but I thought I could perhaps contribute in other ways.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being here. Your purpose here now?
COLLEEN ROWLEY: Well, my purpose was — I came as moral support for our Minnesota State Senator, Becky Lourey, and I thought that this would be a very therapeutic thing for her and Cindy Sheehan to meet each other, and so that’s my main reason here, just in the background and giving moral support to her.
AMY GOODMAN: As a person who worked in the government, do you think President Bush will meet with Cindy Sheehan, the sign behind us, “Bush talk to Cindy”?
COLLEEN ROWLEY: Well, you know, it is really sad that not only Bush, but no other federal governmental official really will take the time to explain exactly what is going on in Iraq? The American public really is coming up with greater and greater amount of unease. This group here just is reflective of that lack of comfort that is growing in this country. And if the officials will not answer the questions, that lack of comfort is going to grow.
AMY GOODMAN: Colleen Rowley, thanks so much for being with us. Colleen Rowley, Time Woman of the Year, worked for the F.B.I. and is now here at Camp Casey, where we’re broadcasting on location.