CODEPINK Interview with FBI Whistleblower Coleen Rowley: Accountability, Bradley Manning, Thomas Drake & Taking Action!

Posted by CODEPINK Staff

CODEPINK Interview with FBI Whistleblower Coleen Rowley: Accountability, Bradley Manning, Thomas Drake & Taking Action!
By Nancy Mancias

Coleen Rowley is a former FBI agent and whistleblower. In 2002, she was awarded TIME "Person of the Year" along with two other female whistleblowers.

Why is it important to hold our elected officials accountable?

There can’t be any rule of law without weighing of the facts and adjudicating the truth of a matter.  Officials must be held accountable if they violate our legal principles or engage in fraud, abuse, or create risks to public safety.

The five things which justify becoming a whistleblower are witnessing fraud, waste, abuse, illegality and a serious risk to public safety.  Truthtelling is necessary in cases of  Pentagon contracting fraud to the long-standing situation of Catholic priest pedophiles.  The need to speak up and reveal wrongdoing is part of the fundamentals of ethics.

There was a reason why Deep Throat, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post did what they did. Nixon did wrongful acts, and there were whistleblowers and brave journalists who brought his presidency down. Can you imagine if that happened now? What we’re currently witnessing in the creation of an all-powerful “unitary executive” is a reaction to what happened to Nixon.  Dick Cheney and others said we have got to restore all the powers to the war presidency and Prof. John Yoo was there to help him. What we need is transparency because otherwise things are easily covered up and the President and other officials are not held accountable. Prof. John Yoo has got to be held accountable or we’ll go back to Nixon-era politics.

What are some of the current activities you are doing around the issue of accountability?

June is torture awareness month. The latest thing we are doing is putting on an art show titled “Canvas(ing) Against Torture”. It’s such a sensitive topic. 50% of Americans are okay with torture.

The Minnesota Institute of Art is holding an exhibition on the issue of war crimes, but our small show will depict scenes on how torture affects us all. We’re hoping that some of the art will break through people’s denial.

Recently we had a visit from U.S. Attorney Eric Holder who was given an award for his efforts to reduce violence. He has not seen fit to tackle the issue of accountability for those who participated in torture in the Bush Administration. We tried to attend his two public meetings. We protested on the issue of torture and FBI infiltration of advocacy groups based on the Patriot Act’s vague and over-broad definitions of “material support of terrorism”. During his event, eight people stood up and said Holder you need to stop the FBI spying.

Senator Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar are following suit saying “we must look forward” when it comes to torture and accountability.  They both are on the Senate Judiciary committee. He and Klobuchar could do something about it, but they will not take action. They simply do not ask the hard questions when in Senate hearings. It’s an amazing situation that Obama wouldn’t seek to investigate members of the previous administration for their crimes.   Perhaps the Senators are not getting enough pressure from the public on the issue of torture although Sen. Franken did vote no on the renewal of the USA Patriot Act.

Why do you think it’s so important for the public to know the truth about how the government conducts military operations?

In the U.S. we have a problem with patriotism and we are not able to see the truth. It’s part of our American exceptionalism. If the public doesn’t know the truth then they do not have the ability to vote politicians out. We need more transparency instead of less. Secrecy is up 20%. The Pentagon Papers have finally being released 40 years later.  The public seems to understand that Daniel Ellsberg did the right thing in becoming a whistleblower who revealed the secrets of the Vietnam War. In the intelligence community secrecy puts you in a special club. It’s intoxicating to have secrets shared with you. We need more whistleblowers. If Manning is the alleged WikilLeaker, then he is a whistleblower, and acted in the exact same role as Daniel Ellsberg.

Manning was being held at Quantico under horrible solitary confinement and retaliatory conditions.  Apparently his condition has improved since moving from Quantico to Leavenworth. We can thank the protesters’ actions for this improvement.  It worked especially for those who sang at the Obama fundraiser in San Francisco. It was cumulative. It had an impact, but it’s not over.  Manning is facing execution. I think Manning was being tortured because the government was seeking to indict Julian Assange. They were trying to pressure him to be a witness against Wikileaks. My fear is those who are being investigated in WikiLeaks could face execution as well.  So we must continue to speak out and explain to the public that Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks, if they did what they’re being accused of, did nothing more than Daniel Ellsberg and 19 newspapers in the U.S who published the “Pentagon Papers”.

Let’s talk about Thomas Drake, National Security Agency Whistleblower. Do you have thoughts about the severe whistleblower retaliation against him?

I think the reduced 10 felony count that could have landed him in prison for 35 years; coming down to one misdemeanor with no jail time is an unequivocal victory for Drake. It shows the government never had a case against him. The government‘s case just fell apart.  But Drake did endure a great amount of retaliation during the last five years.  Recently, Congress almost passed a law that any government agency could take away an employee’s pension if the employee was accused of leaking information (which usually means whistleblowing).  Luckily, the law didn’t pass. Congress has given up too much of its power to the executive branch.

What would be your suggestions to activists reading this blog who would like to take action?

Consider joining the DC Freedom Plaza on October 6th. Make calls daily to Congress. Go public and call into NPR or CSPAN. Stay tune for a petition signed by 20 Whistleblowers.

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