Rowley announcing her run for Congress in July
Over at MDE, Coleen Rowley is criticized for her fashion sense (or lack there in)...but you'll get substance from the Truth Surfer..
'The Truth Ultimately Will Win'
Coleen Rowley on changes in the post-9/11 FBI and her run for Congress in Minnesota on the Democratic ticket.
Ann Heisenfelt / AP
By Bao Ong
Oct. 29, 2005 - After 24 years of service, Coleen Rowley has retired from the FBI. But the woman who moved into the spotlight as the agency's 9/11 whistle-blower is still scrutinizing issues of national security—and how the government is handling them. She takes a measured view of this month's 9/11 Commission's follow-up report criticizing the FBI, Congress and the Bush administration for failing to act on the panel's antiterror recommendations, describing some of the charges leveled at the agency as "unfair" and arguing that the panel was too lenient on the administration.
A longtime Republican voter, Rowley has switched political allegiances by running as a Democrat in a Minnesota congressional race against GOP incumbent John Kline. She spoke with NEWSWEEK's Bao Ong about the race in the state's Second Congressional District, ethical decision making and changes at the FBI. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: What are your thoughts on the 9/11 Commission's follow-up report saying that the FBI has failed to overhaul its antiterrorism programs and resists institutional change?
Coleen Rowley: Some of it is unfair. Their intelligence and analysis has been greatly changed [since September 11]. It was completely beefed up. If you follow the news, the FBI's criminal cases have declined in half. The reason for that is that [more] personnel and efforts have been placed on terrorism. There's also been a huge change into much more proactive prevention. The other thing that is unfair about the 9/11 panel is that they do very little criticism of the administration....
My opinion is that [one of] the top lingering problems in the FBI [is] the fact that they've never been able to deal with the careerism, which is that unfortunately you promote people in any bureaucracy not based on their merit but on their ambition. The other problem is recruiting translators and linguists and providing the best training for people.
You were called a whistle-blower for your decision to expose FBI shortcomings before the 9/11 attacks. You subsequently wrote to the FBI director warning that the bureau was not prepared to deal with new terror attacks that could follow a war with Iraq. Any regrets?
My actions and contribution in being a so-called whistle-blower about some of the pre-9/11 issues has gotten greatly distorted in the media. You'll read lots of articles that say something like "Coleen Rowley tried to warn the FBI pre-9/11 about a terrorist who's now the 20th hijacker" or something like that. That's way off base ... I had a peripheral legal-counsel role. Nowhere in my memo [that bureau supervisors blocked Minneapolis agents trying to investigate 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui before the attacks] do you see me giving [a] warning. I've tried to set the record straight that I actually fault myself for not having done more pre-9/11. The impact it had was everyone was hiding behind this gigantic blanket defense that nothing could've prevented [the attacks.] It protected everyone from unraveling their mistakes ... I was actually one of the people protected by this. I'm really proud that I wrote that letter. It's awful to be credited for something you actually blame yourself for!
Have threats of terrorism become politicized?
The pre-election Orange alert was used for political purposes. President Bush called off the Orange alert soon after the  election. Instead of combating and fighting the true terrorist threat, the Bush administration chose to exploit 9/11. They chose to turn it into something they could use for political purposes. If you don't do it [national security] right, you make it worse.
You say the country has "blind loyalty" to the Bush administration?
Bank robbers keep going back many times to the same bank they've already robbed. If it works the first time, they'll try it again and again. Until we can stop this use of bullying tactics, marketing stratagems and blind loyalty, it's going to continue. I have to really applaud the Republicans who have stood up against this strong pressure to speak the truth.
You describe yourself as a conservative. Why are you running as a Democrat?
In an ideal world, we perhaps could move beyond the two-party system. In Minnesota, Jesse Ventura's win as an independent set a precedent. But unfortunately, we still are not there unless you are Jesse Ventura or Arnold Schwarzenegger with that name recognition. Most other people still need that party assistance. I voted for Bush and Cheney the first time. Votingwise, I probably voted Republican much of my life up until 2002. Beginning in September 2002, I saw the Bush administration doing the absolute worst thing in the world by selling a completely unjustified war. They used very deceptive marketing. I always give a quote in my civil-liberty talk: "The bedrock of democracy rests upon the informed consent of the governed." The key word there is informed. That's one of the reasons why I think the only hope now is to get a Democratic reversal of the situation by getting the seats they need in Congress.
Al Franken calls you his hero. Howard Dean has given you his support.
I have to confess, I don't have the time to listen to talk radio. It's almost certain that I probably wouldn't agree with them on everything. I greatly admire Al Franken's ability to get his points across, especially when we're in a situation where people are very fearful and intimidated from even stating the obvious criticism. Doing it with humor helps. Actually, Howard Dean is one of my heroes. In the presidential campaign, he was speaking the truth about the Iraq war. He was doing it in an effective way. Maybe it's naive but I just have the strongest belief that telling the truth ultimately will win.
What are your chances of winning in such a strongly Republican district?
I would like to think we have a real good chance despite the last election [results.] I don't think it's impossible. I'm hoping there will be enough independent thinking people. What's happened in the last couple of years and especially the last few months is the veil has been lifted from the horrendously bad policies.
You've focused your campaign on "ethical decision-making." What other issues are important to you?
National security. That would be my top one. The Iraq war was the absolute worst approach to minimize terrorist threat. It has produced more terrorism and made us less secure.
Is there now an environment where other FBI agents or whistle-blowers will speak out about faults?
Nope. It's worse. I was probably one of the last so-called whistle-blowers to not be fired.
© 2005 Newsweek, IncUED