Did the Deep State Facilitate Flynn’s Resignation?
Former FBI agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley says there’s a difference between leaking and whistleblowing, and it’s likely that the former took place in the ongoing power struggle between the deep state and the executive branch of government – Two – Part Interview
SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.
The New York Times, and CNN, published two major reports on Tuesday, alleging that Trump campaign officials had extensive contacts with individuals in the Russian government, during the 2016 presidential campaign. The reports were based on interviews with four unnamed intelligence officials. Even Republicans are now calling for a congressional investigation, into the Trump campaign’s connections to the Russian government.
For example, Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said Tuesday, that it was highly likely that the events leading to General Flynn’s resignation from the National Security Council, would be added to the broader probe into Russian meddling in the U.S. elections.
Meanwhile, President Trump blasted the media, for reporting the leaks during a press conference on Wednesday. Let’s have a look.
DONALD TRUMP: Michael Flynn, General Flynn, is a wonderful man. I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media. As I call it, the fake media, in many cases. And I think it’s really a sad thing that he was treated so badly. I think in addition to that, from intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked, it’s criminal action. Criminal act and it’s been going on for a long time, before me. But now it’s really going on. And people are trying to cover up for a terrible loss, that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.
SHARMINI PERIES: Joining us now to analyze these latest developments with Trump/Russian connection, is Coleen Rowley. Coleen is a former FBI Special Agent and Division Counsel. In 2002, she was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, for having exposed some of the FBI’s pre 9/11 failures.
Thanks for joining us again, here at The Real News, Coleen.
COLEEN ROWLEY: Yes. Thanks for having me.
SHARMINI PERIES: So, Coleen, what do you make of these latest developments about the Trump camp, and communication with the Russians?
COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, Glenn Greenwald has written an article that these leaks were illegal, so Trump is right about that. They are technically illegal. And Greenwald also said that the leaks are justified. I’m less in agreement with that second part of his title there, and I’ll tell you why. But, let’s go back to why they’re illegal. Obviously with electronic interceptions of a foreign country, that actually violates a statute that carries a 10-year penalty. So, it’s a serious crime for these four individuals to have relayed that to the media.
And, in fact, the media may well have known this even before the papers have published it. Oftentimes they learn these things. Ignatius, who writes for the New York Times — the CIA has a direct pipeline into him — so it would not be surprising if he already knew this ahead of time.
Now the question is, are these leaks justified? And, you know, whistleblowing, and leaks, are different things. Whistleblowing, I distinguish that as based on a good motivation, to inform the public of an illegal act, on the part of people in power, the government or people in power. Leaking could be a different motivation. It could be to get even.
Flynn was not well liked, obviously, by many people on the intelligence community. He was fired, in fact, when Trump hired him. So, they had an axe out for him. And on top of that, Trump has made no friends in the mainstream media. He’s called them fake news. He’s called CNN many names, etcetera, and also he has maligned the intelligence community. And he’s been warned that he would probably have to pay the price for that.
So, in other words, I think they are gunning… it seems very one-sided, the coverage. And, you know, for three weeks now, we’ve seen news reports, night after night, about how Trump has done this or that, especially, I think, this is worrisome — a lot of the criticism of Trump, of course, is valid — but I think what really should be of concern to many people, is the war-mongering that’s embedded in this, with ginning up a confrontation of Russia.
And this goes back to the fall, when the allegations came out of Russians hacking. Which I think were greatly exaggerated, and all the way to now, where they have built this conversation. We need to see the conversation that actually occurred. We need to actually see the words to this, because now, by the media accounts, it’s as if Flynn is in collaboration with Putin, etcetera, which I don’t think is the case. And the other side to this is, that he was going to be in position, advising Trump, in just a few weeks. And it’s very normal for Flynn to carry on conversations with heads of foreign governments. It would not be abnormal.
Besides having those conversations with the Russian ambassador, guess who else Flynn had conversations with? He had conversations with Israeli intelligence folks, in order to set up the meetings that just happened today, between Netanyahu and Trump. There may be other countries as well. I would imagine he probably had many of these conversations and yet, they are singling out the conversations he had with the Russian ambassador, which I think should be a worry to many Americans who do not want to see this launching, or ginning up of a new war with Russia.
And I think that’s one of the reasons why, if they’re going to go this far in the media, we really now should see the actual conversation, so that we don’t have any kind of exaggeration going on.
SHARMINI PERIES: And speaking of that, now these unnamed intelligence officials make accusations about the conversations between the Trump camp, and the Russians, but they don’t reveal any of the details, as to what kind of conversations actually took place. And having the experience you have, it could have been about upcoming meetings, upcoming phone calls, upcoming visits, etcetera.
And if you’re saying that that’s the norm for election campaigns to be pre-emptive about that kind of stuff, why are the intelligence officers making a big deal out of it, at the same time revealing nothing?
COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, you know, we’re at this pivotal point between administrations, where you had the Obama Administration in its last month, and they did a lot of things in that last month. Which actually kind of, set the… kind of wrong-footed things that Trump had indicated he would do. One, is this detente with Russia. And so there were other things that Obama did. Of course, troops were placed in Poland and in Norway, right on Russia’s border.
The Ukrainians — there was an attack — or more warfare going on in the Ukraine, between the Russian loyalists and Kiev government people. Who knows, if that wasn’t a signal from Washington, start more fighting in Ukraine. Who knows? Syria, the same types of things were going on. There’s been a lot of leaks, not so much leaks, but information about… to try to get us back in the war on Syria, where we are on the side of the rebels.
So, I think there’s been a lot of things’ going on. And there’s this other problem — is that who’s actually in power in Washington, D.C.? You know, is it really the Executive Branch, or the Legislative Branch, or is it these intelligence agencies that oftentimes are very powerful. Especially when they can use secrecy, and they can now, obviously, leak with impunity.
I think it’s important to understand the difference between whistleblowing, and leaking. And again, I think it just all gets meshed together. And there’s one even worse thing — which is planting false information, and that’s the very worst category. But the difference between whistleblowing, are people that are not in authority, they do not have a green light from anybody in authority, and they see an illegal act, and they decide to tell the public about it. And, of course this is what is justified and good.
Leaking is something in between. Leaking is what actually, Deep Throat did. He wasn’t motivated for the public good necessarily, with Nixon. He wanted to get back at J. Edgar Hoover, and he had some other motivations. He was actually part of the COINTELPRO himself, Deep Throat. Mark Felt, he was part of it. And so, leaking is different. This is when people might be motivated for different partisan reasons. They might be wanting to influence public opinion. Certainly they might be, in this case, wanting to take down Trump, and take down Flynn, there’s all kinds of reasons.
And then the last category is what I just mentioned, that’s the planting of mis-info, actually in the media. It’s what Scooter Libby did with Judith Miller. It’s what Leon Panetta did with Kathryn Bigelow, in the Zero Dark 30 movie. So, this is where actually false information is put into the press, as if it’s a leak, or a whistleblowing. But actually, it’s false information, and it’s designed for a really bad agenda. So, for instance, in the Zero Dark 30 movie, it’s designed to tell the public that torture works. With Scooter Libby leaking to Judith Miller, he was planting false information about uranium tubes. And that’s the worst category.
I think people really have to be looking out for that right now, especially with this ominous confrontation of Russia that’s going on. And the fact that there’s not many people, there’s just a handful of people, and they’ve been vilified as Putin apologists, etcetera, for trying to ratchet down the tensions with Russia right now. And I think that’s what we have to be looking for.
These leaks are something in the middle, and I think that there’s a lot of political reasons, and I think it’s power. I think in Washington, D.C., right now, it is really a struggle for power between the Deep State, between the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch. I don’t think our courts are very much involved in it, but I think there are these entities that are all kind of vying for power now.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Coleen, that’s a good place to pause, and we’ll take up the issue of who’s really in power here, the Executive Branch or the Deep State, in our next segment.
Thanks for joining us for now.
SHARMINI PERIES: Welcome back to The Real News. I’m speaking with Coleen Rowley. Coleen is former FBI Special Agent and Division Counsel. In 2002 she was named one of Time Magazine’s Persons of the Year, for having exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures. Thanks again for joining us, Coleen.
COLEEN ROWLEY: Thank you, Sharmini.
SHARMINI PERIES: So, Coleen in the first segment we ended with who’s really in charge? Is it the Deep State, and what are the divisions within the Deep State that’s going on right now, or is it the Executive Branch?
And it is interesting to note, that Senator Charles Schumer warned Trump last month, about talking about the intelligence community, period. He said that Trump — “Really, it’s dumb,” he said, “for attacking intelligence agencies,” He then added, “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”
Schumer’s implication seems rather serious, confirming what many suspect that intelligence community is a government unto itself. What do you think?
COLEEN ROWLEY: I think they’re pretty powerful. And if you go back, even decades, you can see that there are times when the intelligence community is — one of their illegal acts, for instance are being found out — now this happened in the lead-up to COINTELPRO, to the Church Committee, when the CIA and the NSA were even monitoring Frank Church, at the time.
You also see it, for instance, when Brennan’s CIA was found to have engaged in that torture program, and Brennan reacted by actually then trying to sabotage Feinstein’s Legislative Branch, Senate Intelligence Committee, investigation. So, it’s not beyond the pale that Schumer is right. You have to be very careful, you’re walking on eggshells, they’re very powerful, especially now that they’ve been given the power to spy on Americans.
And, of course, this is, little people that are talking to their friends and neighbors, they don’t care about, but the people at the top, are the ones they care about. And certainly this is true with foreign governments; it’s always been the case with foreign governments, even allies. So, our NSA knows pretty much everything, they know all the communications of many very powerful people in the world.
You can question why Flynn did not understand that this was all being tape recorded, since he was the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. How could he have not understood that this would all be on tape, and etcetera? So, obviously, they’re very powerful. There are people that even suggest that the CIA, the Dulles Brothers, you know, the heads, not the CIA, but the heads, when they become very powerful, they can actually go against Executive Branch. Maybe they were responsible for John F. Kennedy’s assassination. That’s considered a conspiracy theory, but there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence for that.
Besides the intelligence agencies, there’s another group that Trump has gotten wrong-sided with, and that’s the mainstream media. And that’s another group you don’t want to mess with. They’re very powerful. During the election he was able to somehow get elected, even with the mainstream media pretty much criticizing him all the time. However, I think that it’s just a question of time, and there are many different things, that even working together, may be with some people in the Legislative Branch, with Congress persons.
And so, yes, you can say this was very, politically, not smart of Trump and Flynn, to have kind of, provoked the media and the intelligence agencies.
SHARMINI PERIES Coleen, what do you make of the political divisions within the Deep State, or the intelligence state, and what they prefer, and who they prefer to have in power?
COLEEN ROWLEY: You know, I think the division, if there is one; it exists between the leadership and the worker bees. I think there are good people working in the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and they just want to do their job. Collect intelligence, do their analysis. I think, though, the people in Washington, that are more political appointees, in and out, I think those are the people with these political objectives, usually.
And, unfortunately, I’m very worried that this neo-con cabal that began already before the Bush administration, has simply become more and more powerful. And it has engaged some of these leaders, and former leaders of intelligence agencies, such as Michael Hayden, such as Brennan, and they’re out of power now, so they have every motivation to leak, and to try to sway the mainstream coverage, and sway public opinion to their way of thinking.
Again, I think the people down at the lower levels are trying to do their job. And maybe a good whistleblower will actually come out of those lower levels, who is motivated for the right reasons, just trying to reveal some deceit on the part of higher levels. But it’s a mess in Washington, D.C. It does not take an Einstein to say it’s a mess. We have a polarized environment, completely polarized now.
And unfortunately, we also have this perpetual war that’s in the background, and that threatens to even worsen, if we go against Russia, Iran, all of these things have been talked about by different politicians and officials.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Coleen. I thank you so much for joining us, and looking forward to having you back.
COLEEN ROWLEY: Thank you.
SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.