Former FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley says presidential candidates are ignoring the link between increased US military intervention and uptick in terrorism
JESSICA DESVARIEUX: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. In the wake of the attacks in Brussels an old debate centered on surveillance has resurfaced in the U.S. and presidential candidates are weighing in. Democratic presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton, called for toughening surveillance and the government’s interception of communication. On the Republican side, Ted Cruz, he called for patrolling Muslim communities in the United States while Donald Trump has called for the surveillance of Mosque. Now joining us to talk about these responses is our guest Coleen Rowley. Coleen is a former FBI special agent and whistle blower who exposed some of the FBI’s pre 9/11 failures. Thanks so much for joining us Coleen. COLEEN ROWLEY: Hi, thanks for having me. DESVARIEUX: So Coleen what’s your take on this rhetoric that’s being expounds by Republicans and Democrats alike on increasing the role of surveillance? ROWLEY: Well it’s always a call to double down on tactics and actions that have actually proven ineffective and counterproductive in fact. If you understand the real reasons for 9/11, what enabled 9/11, the officials at the time claimed they had too much information. They claimed there was so much information flowing in it was like a fire hose and you can’t get a sip from a fire hose. That means you can’t make sense of what you have when you have so much. So what do they do after 9/11? They turned on warrant-less surveillance to collect trillions of pieces of non-relevant data and flood these databases. Every time an event happens there’s a call for doubling down on what has already not worked and it’s usually sold to us as, now we have to not worry about the laws so much, we don’t have to worry about the constitution and the 4th amendment and civil liberties because we want to be safe. Well if we want to be safe we have to start doing what make sense. We have to fix the problems and not continue with these terrible strategies. DESVARIEUX: Pushing back a little bit, Coleen, I hear your point, you’re inundating the system with a lot of information. But some of that information is actually useful. This is what the official response is, that there is a level of success and there have been attacks that haven’t happened because they were able to use these communications to stop them from happening. So what do you make of that argument? ROWLEY: Well I think there’s always a chance of getting lucky. I worked in law enforcement for 24 years and there are times when things come together and you luck out and you find a kidnap victim before the worst happens, so these things happen. The public doesn’t really know the level of success because this is all cloaked in secrecy. But after Snowden’s disclosures when they really were under pressure to produce some examples and they claimed there were 54 examples, all of those, the media checked into and found out they were not true. So that’s telling us something. I think that their argument is that you have to have hay in order to find a needle. That was what they actually said publicly in a testimony. I was one of the first people to say, well if you’re looking for a needle in a hay stack what good is it to add non-relevant hay to cover up the needle? You have to compare that it’s easier to find something when you don’t have non-relevant information cluttering it up. Things like the underwear bombers, on father calling up, like the Russians telling us about the Boston bombers. In fact, the cases that Turkey authorities told Belgium authorities about the suspects in the recent case. You’re always going to find this as the issue that there is the information. Now the other problem here is not dealing with the root problems of why we have such a high level of terrorism. DESVARIEUX: I’m glad you mentioned that, the root problems because I want to pivot to something that came out of WikiLeaks recently. They released an archive of Hilary Clinton’s emails when she was Secretary of State and it revealed that in 2012, Sidney Blumenthal wrote to her saying quote “The fall of the house of Assad could well ignite a Sectarian war between the Shiites and the majority Sunnis of the region, drawing in Iran; which in the view of Israeli commanders would not be a bad thing for Israel and its western allies. Coleen I want to get your take on this. Can you talk about the U.S. role in destabilizing the region and talk about how that has brought us to a point of needing to bolster the national security apparatus? ROWLEY: Well, I think one of the main problems since 9/11 is this neoconservative ideology that intervention and especially military, hard military force intervention, will somehow help and solve terrorism. And in fact the graph is just the opposite. Worldwide terrorism has increased by some accounts 6000%. I read on the news today that authorities believe that there are at least several hundred ISIS operatives that could attack in the immediate future. Now this was not the case actually in 9/11. They exaggerated the number but it was not even close to what it is now. And this is actual prove that intervention in foreign countries is increasing the hatred. The U.S. now in polls is seen as the number 1 threat to world peace. So this level of radicalization is automatically going to increase if the United States continues these policies. And unfortunately as I just said there’s always this tendency to double down on what is already proven, not only just ineffective but completely counterproductive. It’s going against and increasing the level of terrorism, world problem. DESVARIEUX: So Coleen what are you then proposing? What should be American attitudes in regions like the Middle East, for example, to lessen the threat of terrorism? ROWLEY: You know we need to get back, I hate to be conservative but we need to get back to adhering to the rule of the law, to these old time tested principles of what works. You know, our old laws of interrogation which did not include torture and the reason it didn’t include torture was not because of ethics or law. It was because torture is unreliable, it gives you false information. That’s why we have a 5th amendment. So you go back to the rule of law. All of our laws that have evolved over hundreds of years, I think the anniversary of habeas corpus, the Magna Carta is coming up shortly or it just was, 800 years. Go back to those laws. Go back to actually the treaties of the time that made wars of aggression illegal because they serve nothing but creating more chaos, more violence, and stirring up more people. You know, terrorists are just fighting back because we have such a violence going on. Even in the United States we’re seeing the active shooters as a result, the same result, of so much violent culture. So what we need to do is really go back to a time where we solved things through diplomacy, by leadership, by example. You know they always talk about smart power. Hilary Clinton especially talks about smart power. Smart power starts with leadership by example and it ends at the very of the spectrum with use of hard military force. Well we’ve just gone on to always seen the answer as war and military force instead of the other end of the spectrum which is leadership by example. In fact, we’ve lost a lot of our ability to even be a leader on human rights and getting other countries to follow the laws that we wished that everyone would live by. DESVARIEUX: Alright Coleen Rowley joining us from Minnesota. Thank you so much for being with us. ROWLEY: Thank you. DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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