Former FBI agent and 9/11 whistleblower Coleen Rowley says former FBI head Robert Mueller, now appointed to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, participated in covering up the pre 9/11 role of the U.S. intelligence agencies and the Bush Administration, helped create the post 9/11 national security/surveillance state, and helped facilitate the pre-Iraq war propaganda machine
PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. On Wednesday afternoon, Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert S. Mueller to be a special counsel to investigate the Russia affair, those, not his words, those are mine, to look into the whole issue of alleged Russia interference in the American elections, and that would also, one think, include a look into what happened with James Comey, and James Comey’s firing, and his memo and such. So just who is Robert Mueller? And now joining us to discuss this is Coleen Rowley. Coleen is a retired FBI agent, former legal counsel for the FBI. She testified about the 9/11 lapses to the Senate Judiciary Committee. 9/11 lapses is generous. This is what was written for me. I would say 9/11 subterfuge, but at any rate, she’s known as a whistleblower due to her testimony to two congressional committees that led to an investigation of two FBI 9/11 failures, and one would also have to be generous to call them failures. At any rate, that’s another story. Thanks for joining us, Coleen. COLEEN ROWLEY: Yes, thanks for having me. PAUL JAY: So who is Robert Mueller, and what do you make of this appointment? COLEEN ROWLEY: Robert Mueller had only been director for a few days when 9/11 occurred, so he really didn’t have any responsibility for that, but he also was in charge when this kind of cover-up occurred, where they really weren’t telling the truth. The FBI and all the other officials claimed that there was no clues, that they had had no warning, etc., and that was not the case. There had been all kinds of memos and intelligence coming in. I actually had a chance to meet Director Mueller personally the night before I testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he was more or less … There was another agent in Phoenix who had, he had done the same with, trying to get us on his side, on the FBI side, so that we wouldn’t say anything terribly embarrassing. And he told me that if I ever witnessed anything like that again, the pre-9/11 failures, that I should call him directly. I should get in touch with him. He told me this in our office, and yeah, when you had the lead-up to the Iraq War where the FBI, actually Robert Mueller and, of course, the CIA and all the other directors, saluted smartly and went along with what Bush wanted, which was to gin up the intelligence to make a pretext for the Iraq War. For instance, in the case of the FBI, they actually had a receipt, another documentary proof, that one of the hijackers, Mohamed Atta, had not been in Prague, as Dick Cheney was alleging. And yet those directors more or less kept quiet. That included, like I said, CIA, FBI, Mueller, and it included also the Deputy Attorney General at the time, James Comey. And so when James Comey was appointed to be FBI director by Obama, I wrote this opinion piece for The New York Times, and it appeared the same day of the confirmation hearing, and I suggested that James Comey be asked hard questions about why he had signed off on illegal warrantless monitoring, why he had signed off on the torture tactics. In fact, The New York Times even, they didn’t want me to use the word “torture.” That was still, at the time, that was a verboten term. They wanted me to say “some harsh interrogation tactics” or something, and we settled on saying, “which experts believe is torture,” that’s how it’s phrased in the op-ed. And then he also signed off, this is even worse in a way, James Comey defended a warrantless detention without charges and without right to counsel for three years of an American citizen. This, none of our mainstream news has been going back to what they think is ancient history, which is what the Bush administration did initially on. Both of these figures, Mueller and James Comey, first of all, they became very close with each other, because this was in the first three or four years after 9/11 when there was essentially a state of emergency that Ashcroft was signing off every 90 days, and this was the creation of John Yoo and those Office of Legal Counsel. They thought that if you declared it was an emergency … By the way, all secretly. The public knew none of this, that there was this emergency, but if you declared it was a national emergency, then you could institute a form of martial law. And if you see the John Yoo memos, they say everything that, in times of war, we don’t have a First Amendment. Those are memos that are written within weeks of 9/11, but it’s based on this emergency. So you get to three years, about three years, out, and people like James Comey, Mueller, and some of the new Office of Legal Counsel lawyers that took over after Comey had left … I mean, excuse me, after John Yoo had left, they started saying, “How long can we keep saying it’s an emergency?” And they said, “No, we’re going to have to stop this,” and that’s when that famous hospital room standoff occurs, where first James Comey races to Ashcroft’s room and stands up to the Bush administration, Gonzalez and Card. They arrive, and they try to get a very sick Ashcroft to sign off on this every 90 days emergency, again, authorizing a form of martial law, and Ashcroft, to his credit, does not sign it. Of course, the other part of this that people don’t know is that not only did Comey and the other officials go along with it before that hospital room standoff, but then they also went along with it afterwards. They simply found new loopholes and new legal mechanisms, I call it pettifoggery, legalization ways of making the same things happen afterwards. PAUL JAY: So- COLEEN ROWLEY: Now, Mueller and Comey both got undeserved reputations as being men of integrity. In fact, Mueller, it was extended. There’s a 10-year term for FBI director, and because he was considered so beyond reproach, and he had skated so well between this morass, and of course, some of this didn’t always come out, he was held on for 12 years. And so, again, these two were close, and when Comey spoke out about that hospital room, a lot of people objected to him and argued with him, and it was Mueller, I believe, that kept notes of the hospital room meeting. And so Mueller backed up Comey for that whole hospital room situation. PAUL JAY: Coleen, so you look at this appointment now. Rosenstein appoints Mueller. Mueller, as you’ve told me off camera, is a very good friend of Comey, and they’ve worked together for years. Where do you see this appointment falling down? In terms of whose side, there’s clearly, it seems to me, Comey has decided to get Trump, and Trump fired Comey. Trump writes this, Comey writes this memo, and we know, at least according to the press reports in The Washington Post, Comey decides to … This memo is not classified. There’s several reports that say that some of the memos that he would keep after meeting with Trump, he would make classified. Others were unclassified. The memo that’s in question that everyone’s talking about, which is the memo that says that Trump asked him to drop the investigation into Flynn, that memo he consciously decides to click unclassified. Now, how do we know there’s even a memo? We know it because Comey has given the memo to associates. I’m doing question marks here, or quotation marks, because we don’t know who the associates are. Are they in the FBI? Are they outside the FBI? Some of his associates then leak this information to the Post, apparently also to The New York Times, apparently also to AP, which, if the memo’s not classified, then I suppose it’s not illegal, I guess. But Comey made it so, so Comey wanted this memo to get out, clearly, after he was fired, and now his buddy is being appointed the investigator. Is Rosenstein appointing someone who knows how to be subservient and do whatever his president wants, or is he appointing someone who will work with Comey and others to get Trump? COLEEN ROWLEY: If you go back to the Obama administration, both Mueller and Comey were close with the Obama administration, and so Obama himself, or people around him, made sure that the memos that they were writing from the summer on of the suspicions about Russia and things like that, they made sure that these memos were shared widely in the intelligence community. That’s actually been reported by mainstream news, that there was a deliberate effort to make sure that this information got out and would not somehow be kept secret. And so if you consider that both Comey and, going further back, Mueller, were very much aware of that, they worked with the Obama administration, and Comey, especially, would just be carrying out what was already begun before Trump took office. That’s what I think. I think the [S 00:09:53] on associates, and again, officials, you’ll see sometimes the sources described as officials. You never see them described as whistleblowers, and I think that’s good, that the media does not describe them as whistleblowers, and I think there’s a lot of indications that these are leakers, certainly, but that they are not motivated for having witnessed a fraud, waste, abuse, or another illegal act, I think that this is a lot of political motivation. And maybe they can justify it in their own heads, and, again, it’s more than one person. I think there … PAUL JAY: But where do you think- COLEEN ROWLEY: … are people working together. PAUL JAY: But what do you think of this appointment? Is this an appointment … Like Mueller, based on what you’ve been saying, is more than happy to fudge facts, to cover things up, and play along, but who’s he playing along with? Because you’re suggesting that maybe this is still the echo of the Obama administration, that this is part of the state apparatus that was around the Obama presidency, and perhaps, a lot of people have been arguing, including me, that the people that are so opposed to Trump’s Russia quote-unquote “détente” are people in the industrial-military complex that has so many decades, 60 years, invested into an anti-Russian narrative. Do you think this is all part of this, or is Mueller someone who’s going to help Trump? COLEEN ROWLEY: I don’t know if he’s going to help Trump or help the deep state at this point, and probably he doesn’t even know, but Rosenstein, going back to who picked Mueller, Rosenstein probably knows both of them very well, Mueller, obviously, and Comey. And again, he’s picking them … This is a educated guess. He’s picking them because they have these reputations, whether deserved or not, for integrity, so that’s what he wanted. He wanted someone that would be above reproach … PAUL JAY: I mean, he’s- COLEEN ROWLEY: … while Mueller went out in the highest amount of praise. He was held over another two years, so for starters, Rosenstein is pretty powerful right now, too, vis-à-vis the Trump administration, because he was the one that was kind of sullied in all of this, saying that, “It was your recommendation to fire Comey to begin with.” PAUL JAY: Oh, he did. He did certainly lay the groundwork for the firing of Comey. COLEEN ROWLEY: That’s right, but in that dynamic, Rosenstein gets a little bit of power himself now to say, “Well, then, now, I’m going to pick somebody who’s above reproach.” Maybe Trump isn’t that happy with picking Mueller, who knows, but I don’t think Trump really would have much of a leg to stand on if Rosenstein says, “This is the guy we need.” I think Rosenstein was pretty powerful in this case for a lot of reasons, and Mueller, if you think about the standpoint of the public, whatever, may not be the worst choice. In fact, because of his background and reputation, I think that a lot of, certainly bipartisan, would trust him. Now, if you go back to the deep state and all of these entities that I think want to keep the war in Syria and this rapprochement … Again, if you want to give a little bit of credit to Trump, who I did not vote for and has a lot of flaws, but one of the things that I agreed with in his campaign promises, and now, frankly, he has been carrying out, he has been meeting with Lavrov and has a meeting scheduled with Putin. It’s in order to work on the issues of Syria and ISIS so that there can be some coordination, and so I actually am for that. I think that we should give him some credit, give Trump some credit for that. There are a lot of people in Washington that this is stepping on their toes and their profits. This is not the direction they wanted to go. In fact, if you heard the debates between Hillary Clinton and whatever, this was a sore point, and Trump was criticized for this. I think some of the motivation, maybe not all of it, but some of the motivation for all of this series of leaks from unknown officials and former intelligence sources, various ways described, I think that some of the motivation is actually to put a damper on Trump’s rapprochement or détente with Russia. And, of course, that goes back to the foreign policy, a bipartisan foreign policy that has existed after 9/11, and Trump actually has gone against that, and I think that a lot of this is … Now, how this will all play out with the investigation of Russia, I think, is actually anyone’s guess. And the reason I don’t think it’s settled is because some officials, including Feinstein, including Clapper, I think Comey even one time kind of talked out of both sides of his mouth a little bit on this, have said, made statements to the effect that there is not enough smoking evidence connecting the Trump campaign to Russia and meddling to elect Trump. I know that they’ve said this … In fact, Feinstein said it to Wolf Blitzer. He asked her point blank, and she said, “No, there’s no evidence,” and this is after she’s been briefed. PAUL JAY: Right, but there certainly is smoke and maybe … COLEEN ROWLEY: There’s- PAUL JAY: … fire in the corruption, in all the financial … COLEEN ROWLEY: [Yeah 00:15:20]. PAUL JAY: … wheeling and dealings of Trump’s inner connections with various Russian oligarchs, and maybe Comey was on to that. COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, this is what’s happened. This is what I and other veteran intelligence professionals warned, all of the NSA whistleblowers, warned about from the start, is, all of this massive data collection would not be so dangerous, maybe, for the common person who has quote-unquote “nothing to hide” except their privacy, but for officials who are political figures, who are engaged in this, power struggles in Washington, DC., getting information about people, and could be blackmail … Usually, it’s sex-related, but in this case, it could be all different things. PAUL JAY: Well, Petraeus felt that blow. COLEEN ROWLEY: Yes, but others, too, and if you go back to the Hoover era, he was able to control pretty much every president because he did have information. He collected information on all of these figures. Well, this was what we warned about, going back to this era of J. Edgar Hoover, where we had massive data collection. And honestly, it’s played out. With all of the leaks of things, you see this fear that you have these powerful figures using different pieces of information as leverage, even as blackmail, and all else fails, leak it to the press in order to get public opinion. PAUL JAY: Right. COLEEN ROWLEY: And it’s very … Anyways, I think that that’s one of the dangers of what we’ve always warned about with the massive data collection. PAUL JAY: Right. Well, my fear in all of this is that something Trump wants to do anyway, now he’s got enormous pressure to do, which is to turn his sights on Iran. He’s in Saudi Arabia. He’s going to be working with the Saudis to build an anti-Iran front. There’s nothing like a good war to make him presidential, as we heard after this attack on the Syrian base. The more dangerous this gets for Trump, the more likely he needs a good war to get out of it, and then the Schumers, and the Democrats, and the deep state, everyone’s going to be cheering him on. COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, maybe he learned the lesson that they only cheer him on for a couple of days, that this bombing- PAUL JAY: A good fight with Iran, they’ll be cheering him on longer, I think. COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, that’s the whole problem, and that’s what James Madison warned about, that all presidents … That’s why we were supposed to have checks and balances on going to war, and of course, that’s long been gone, dissipated, and now we have many wars, undeclared wars. We don’t even call them wars. So there’s underlying problems here. Absolutely, Trump, to his credit, has been insisting on some kind of détente with the nuclear superpowers, and even China, to some extent. Maybe, who knows with Iran? It seems like that was definitely in his campaign rhetoric, that he was going to look hard at tearing up the agreement with Iran, but I think the deep state, the military-industrial, congressional, media complex, has really been working largely together. Whether they actually want to see Trump out and Pence in, I think they probably would be happier with someone less independent, who tweeted less, which would be Pence, and so that’s certainly a possibility, that if they can get enough momentum here, that they would prefer Pence, and I think that that would be bipartisan as well, and absolutely- PAUL JAY: And that would be even more dangerous. COLEEN ROWLEY: Exactly, even more dangerous, and not for Iran, but for Russia, for China, for all of these even nuclear superpowers. PAUL JAY: All right. Thanks for joining us, Coleen. COLEEN ROWLEY: Thank you. PAUL JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.