Knowing that truth ignored is truth suppressed, that error tolerated is error magnified, she endured the scorn of her peers and the hostility of her superiors to break the bureaucratic bonds and boundaries of her agency and tell truth to power at a moment of grave peril to the United States of America. Thanks to her perception, wisdom and courage, our country is better prepared to grapple with that peril and bring it to ground. She risked her livelihood that our lives might be safeguarded.
Presented this 10th day of January, 2003, at the Seat of Government (well, very near it) by admirers of the Sam Adams tradition.
*Commercial value certified at less than $20, candle included.
by Coleen Rowley
(published in International Journal of Intelligence Ethics, Fall/Winter 2013, Vol 4, Number 2, link here)
“Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich.” –Sir Peter Ustinov
“War is a lie.” –David Swanson
As you might guess—and to put it mildly—I’ve long been a non-believer in the “war on terror.” I’m really pleased to take full advantage of this invitation to write what I think.
It is important for students to know the objective facts of “the war” that U.S. officials decided their generation would grow up and be saddled with. It is the basic premise of the “war on terror,” that I and many others have constantly tried to expose as faulty and disastrous. It seems we may be at the point now of watching perplexed as the little boy did when the foolish emperor was conned into parading naked. The naked emperor did not know what to do but to continue his prideful march, trying to ignore the boy’s yelling and the crowd’s subsequent snickers.
It is easy to see constant confirmation of the above quotes–fundamental wisdoms making clearer the terrible consequences and costs of this war. Terrorism and war are nothing but the flip sides of each other. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and many other modern-day ethicists and foreign policy observers have observed that violence only begets violence.
That’s also what the Defense Science Board Task Force concluded in 2004. Donald Rumsfeld had directed this Board to review the impact which the Bush-Cheney Administration’s policies — specifically the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — were having on terrorism and Islamic radicalism. The resulting report in September 2004 vigorously condemned the Bush/Cheney approach as entirely counter-productive, i.e., as worsening the terrorist threat those policies purportedly sought to reduce. The Task Force began by noting the “underlying sources of threats to America’s national security”: namely, the “negative attitudes” towards the U.S. in the Muslim world and “the conditions that create them.” What most exacerbates anti-American sentiment, and therefore the threat of Terrorism? “American direct intervention in the Muslim world” — through our “one sided support in favor of Israel”; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, “the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.”
It is axiomatic that terrorism and war will therefore always work in sync and serve to ratchet up, not reduce, the other. This, of course, guarantees no end, just ever increasing conflict, leading to our “global war on terrorism” being aptly re-named “the long” or “the perpetual” war. American citizens may grow weary of it, especially as the costs and the blowback increase, but the Military Industrial Complex and its little brother, the National Security Surveillance Complex, could not have hit upon a better, more self-sustaining profit formula. Dwight Eisenhower was so correct to warn about this.
Since the Bush-Cheney Administration’s initial launching of this war in the form of a military assault upon Afghanistan—as a response to 9-11, which essentially occurred before an encyclopedia could be written and even before any real truth had trickled out about why and how the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had even occurred, it is noted in this publication that the “war on terror” and terrorism have already perhaps taken about two million lives. It has spread to countries around the world, which the U.S. now refers to as “the global battlefield.” Accordingly, newspapers including the Washington Post, report that groups like “Al Qaeda in the Peninsula” have tripled or quadrupled their numbers since the US began its latest form of warfare, its drone bombing in Yemen. Sectarian hatreds, sparked by US invasions and toppling of regimes, have spread violence like wildfire. Understandably, polls in the countries comprising the ever expanding global battlefield show increasing hatred of Americans. This indicates the “global battlefield” will probably only grow larger. It already encompasses the United States proper as the search for “homegrown terrorists” and “insider threats” has effectively replaced the old mantra of “we’re fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here.”
The attempted “legalizing” of previously unconstitutional tactics such as warrantless monitoring and personal data collection about American citizens, torture and abusive interrogation as well as drone assassinations were and still are predicated upon the “war powers” in the original “Authorization to Use Military Force.” Worse of all, our government’s declaring war and departing from the rule of law, in many people’s eyes, caused our country to lower itself to the level of the terrorists. Ironically, the declaring of “war” instead of sticking to well-established concepts of criminal justice enhanced the legitimacy and raised the image of the terrorists from mere criminals to a loftier, nation-state status.
Paul R. Pillar, who spent 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency and rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts, recently wrote about another downside of the precedent set by our “playing of the terrorism card”:
Of course, many dictators and crackdown artists would shout the T-word as a justification for their actions regardless of what the United States does or says. “Terrorist” is an all-purpose pejorative. But the fact that the United States has made the subject such a preoccupation following one event 12 years ago has unquestionably increased the value of this particular card.
Anything that is an obvious preoccupation of the superpower lends credibility to others claiming the same priorities. Invoking the issue also can serve as an appeal for support or at least tolerance from the superpower itself.
The playing of the terrorism card in this manner is in turn but one of the many ways in which the drastic swing of the pendulum of American political priorities in September 2001 still confounds much else the United States is doing, or trying to do, both foreign and domestic.
To be clear, I’ve been a non-believer from the start. In my “whistleblower memo” of May 21, 2002, I even put “war against terrorism” in quotes because no one I knew at the time considered it to even be a real war. We thought it was only being used as a strong metaphor like the “war on drugs” or the “war on poverty.” At that time, people were still hopeful that the “Powell Doctrine” would set strict limits on all (real) post-Vietnam wars. The Powell Doctrine stated that a list of questions all had to be answered affirmatively before military action is taken by the United States:
1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
7. Is the action supported by the American people?
8. Do we have genuine broad international support?
But none of these questions were asked before the “war on terror” was declared. The hope of the existence of any such limits went totally up in smoke when Colin Powell himself helped destroy his name-sake doctrine, testifying dishonestly to the United Nations in February 2003, by exaggerating and concocting evidence of “weapons of mass destruction” to justify Bush-Cheney’s ensuing pre-emptive (and all too real) war on Iraq. The decision to launch a pre-emptive invasion of a country that had nothing to do with 9-11 terrorism, prompted me to write a second whistleblower letter to the FBI Director. (Among other things, Robert Mueller had to know Iraq bore no connection to 9-11, that there was no proof for Vice President Dick Cheney constantly falsely pointing to 9-11 hijacker Mohammed Atta having met with Iraqi intelligence.) My warning about how this next “war,” the next step of the “war on terror” would turn out to be counter-productive fell on deaf years as by that time, the war propaganda had succeeded in getting 70% of the American public to believe, without a shred of evidence, that Saddam was behind the 9-11 attacks! Talk about an example of “war is a lie!”
By that time, the ethics training I and other FBI legal counsel happened to have presented just one week before 9-11 “not to puff, shade, skew, massage, tailor or firm up statements of fact” was obviously long forgotten. Truth had become the first casualty of the “war on terror” as in all wars. None of the various unethical and illegal actions that quickly took the U.S. not only to hot wars on Afghanistan and Iraq but also to “the dark side”: i.e. warrantless monitoring; massive data collections; kidnapping renditions; creation of black sites; indefinite detention of captured prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere; declaring that the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply; use of various “enhanced interrogation” torture and abusive tactics; depriving detainees of their rights to attorney, due process and to habeas corpus; the costly hiring of millions of “top secret cleared” employees through private contractors and more recently the widespread use of drone assassinations throughout the world far from conventional battlefields—bears any connection to the problems and failures that the 9-11 Commission and other official 9-11 investigations concluded had allowed the attacks to occur. The official conclusions about the factors and real reasons for 9-11, however, came way too late, years after almost all of the kneejerk “dark side” actions had begun.
It was eventually determined there were real failures to share information, not only within agencies and between intelligence agencies but also, and most importantly, with the public. Failures to even read important pre 9-11 intelligence memos, let alone share important intelligence, were identified. But as far as I can tell (noting that I’ve been retired since the end of 2004), none of those failures were ever remedied. If anything, the official excuse for not reading or acting on memos addressed to the top, that “you can’t get a sip from a firehose” was made thousands of times worse by the initiation of “total information awareness” type massive data collection programs and by hugely increasing the use of secret classifications to compartmentalize and keep even more information secret. “Secret intelligence” is nothing but a dangerous contradiction of terms.
The various unethical, illegal responses not only had nothing to do with fixing the pre 9-11 lapses, but they made matters worse pragmatically as well as caused the U.S. to lose the moral high ground. Adopting the “law of war” and departing from judicial “due process” also meant dropping (or greatly reducing) the need for evidentiary showings. Open judicial processes inherently guarantee more accuracy, than for example, instituting bounty systems to capture foreigners who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time but whom it was easy to label “the worst of the worst” and then detain indefinitely at Guantanamo. Guantanamo was selected deliberately so as to be outside the reach of American law. Accuracy was also sacrificed in allowing the CIA to make ex parte decisions to kidnap and torture other suspects, some of whom turned out to be totally innocent. The same ex parte decisional authority later impaired the CIA’s and Pentagon’s drone “kill list” once the faultiness of their prior “capture process” became public knowledge, leading to ramping up the “kill” prong of “kill or capture.”
Even a strong proponent of military drones, journalist Mark Bowden (author of Blackhawk Down), in his recent sales pitch for “The Killing Machines” in The Atlantic felt the need to temper some of his praise for President Obama’s drone killing program by admitting that an increasing lack of judiciousness was counterproductive:
As U.S. intelligence analysis improved, the number of targets proliferated. Even some of the program’s supporters feared it was growing out of control. The definition of a legitimate target and the methods employed to track such a target were increasingly suspect. Relying on other countries’ intelligence agencies for help, the U.S. was sometimes manipulated into striking people who it believed were terrorist leaders but who may not have been, or implicated in practices that violate American values.
Reporters and academics at work in zones where Predator strikes had become common warned of a large backlash. Gregory Johnsen, a scholar of Near East studies at Princeton University, documented the phenomenon in a recent book about Yemen titled The Last Refuge. He showed that drone attacks in Yemen tended to have the opposite of their intended effect, particularly when people other than extremists were killed or hurt. Drones hadn’t whittled al-Qaeda down, Johnsen argued; the organization had grown threefold there. “US strikes and particularly those that kill civilians—be they men or women—are sowing the seeds of future generations of terrorists,” he wrote on his blog late last year.
(However Bowden credits John Brennan, Harold Koh and others with re-establishing “judiciousness” in the “rigorous vetting” that goes into CIA and Pentagon officials’ selecting drone bombing victims which nonetheless remains secret and obviously ex parte. But can “judiciousness” ever be established in the absence of judicial process?)
One of the burning issues that got a lot of attention at conferences that I attended was about whether it was ethical to use torture to interrogate terrorist suspects. A number of those attending, including some of the academics who self-identified as “utilitarian ethicists” gave presentations and wrote papers that answered in the affirmative, that it was ethical to use torture to gain information to find a “ticking time bomb” or otherwise thwart terrorism. Obviously the “act utilitarian” fictional plots of Jack Bauer “24” type TV shows which concocted happy outcomes predicated upon use of unethical, illegal means had swayed many. I recall constantly raising my hand, based on my FBI experience, to try and refute other attendees’ deluded notions that torture “works” to obtain reliable information on a timely basis to save lives.
The most well-established “due process” principles of criminal justice that are embodied in the Bill of Rights have evolved and stood the test of time for a reason: simply because they generally work. Laws prohibiting “dark side” methods: torture, coerced confessions, warrantless search and arbitrary detainment ensure the highest degree of reliability and are thus most effective or “rule utilitarian.” Anyone who comes onto the scene, subscribing to a “1% solution” that the ends justify the means (even if it only works 1% of the time but doesn’t work as a rule), and who claims that centuries of pre-existing legal principles must give way and be redrawn and re-balanced against the demands of “security,” should therefore always be viewed with extreme suspicion. Yet The One Percent Doctrine (the title of journalist Ron Suskind’s book) was exactly what former Vice President Dick Cheney and others publicly vowed with little objection.
If you don’t care about the truth and pragmatic facts, it’s not that hard to concoct happy outcomes where practicing torture and abuse is what leads to finding Bin Laden; where massive data collection of information about billions of innocent citizens helps detect and thwart terrorist plots; where surgical drone bombing kills only the high level terrorists; where bending the constitutional and international rule of law due to a state of war and fear-inspired emergency “because the Constitution is not a suicide pact”; where bombing the village saves it, etc., but these are all simply different versions of highly discredited “act utilitarianism.” It is also why Jan Goldman’s encyclopedia is valuable, because it contains actual facts as opposed to fiction.
No one in their right mind would take a new drug that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) found to be only 1% effective, hoping beyond hope, that they would prove to be the exception to the rule, and especially if the testing revealed terrible, longer-range side effects. But the “war on terror” uses propaganda to effectively push Western people’s emotional buttons: mostly fear, hate, greed, false pride and blind loyalty (in that order) to produce an irrational collective mindset to get people to go along. Since 9/11, no more than 50 Americans have died due to Islamic terrorism outside of the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. And even then, almost all of these 50 victims have been military, CIA or other US government personnel. By contrast, the U.S. appears to lead the world in domestic mass shootings, the senselessness of which serves to naturally terrorize us but which are almost never categorized as “domestic terrorism” despite taking several times the number of American civilian lives as international terrorism. These mass shootings are variously described as spree killings (i.e. the snipers that terrorized Washington DC after 9-11), “going postal” workplace retribution, school shootings, cases where the shooter suffered from serious mental illness or military veterans suffering from PTSD. By further contrast, in that same period since 9-11, over 450,000 people in the U.S. died in (mostly preventable) car accidents and about 180,000 died as a result of violent crime. Over two million in the U.S. may have died due to preventable medical errors or improper use of medications. Even bee stings, which I admit are pretty scary, kill many times more Americans (between 50 and 100 per year) than terrorism and bathtub accidents still more (300 some drown in U.S. bathtubs per year).
“Nothing so effectively robs the mind of its ability to think or to act as fear,” observed Edmund Burke. To Burke’s observation, I would add that fear can rob us—and mankind in general—of our ability to adhere to ethical and legal norms. After all, didn’t some famous Nazi once explain that all you have to do to get people to go to war is to tell them they are being attacked? And that this fear-mongering technique works the same in any country, even in a democracy? Pressing the United States citizenry’s buttons in this manner has certainly worked thus far to manipulate most into supporting or at least going along with the “war on terror” especially when it was believed this “long” or “perpetual” war only targeted others, not U.S. citizens. But it has also opened Pandora’s Box. And it most assuredly has not made us any safer. Quite the opposite is true as one now sees the growing backlash across economic, diplomatic, environmental and even domestic security spectrums, given the increasing militarism of both police and violent criminal actors inside the U.S. Clearly we have opened a Pandora’s Box. Americans now need to get a grip to recover some of their critical thinking skills just as FDR wisely counseled at the outset of World War II. The ethical and legal principles that have stood the test of time, whether described as based on the inherent reciprocity of international law or simply “the Golden Rule,” to properly balance human freedom and security, should never have been so carelessly and recklessly tossed away.
Seven prominent national security whistleblowers Monday called for a number of wide-ranging reforms – including passage of the “Surveillance State Repeal Act,” which would repeal the USA Patriot Act – in an effort to restore the Constitutionally guaranteed 4th Amendment right to be free from government spying.
(Photo of (left to right) Kirk Wiebe, Coleen Rowley, Raymond McGovern, Daniel Ellsberg, William Binney, Jesselyn Radack, and Thomas Drake by Kathleen McClellan (@McClellanKM) via Twitter)
Several of the whistleblowers also said that the recent lenient sentence of probation and a fine for General David Petraeus – for his providing of classified information to his mistress Paula Broadwell – underscores the double standard of justice at work in the area of classified information handling.
Speakers said Petraeus’s favorable treatment should become the standard applied to defendants who are actual national security whistleblowers, such as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Jeffrey Sterling (who has denied guilt but who nevertheless faces sentencing May 11 for an Espionage Act conviction for allegedly providing classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen).
In a news conference sponsored by the ExposeFacts project of the Institute for Public Accuracy at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., speakers included William Binney, former high-level National Security Agency (NSA) official; Thomas Drake, former NSA senior executive; Daniel Ellsberg, former U.S. military analyst and the Pentagon Papers whistleblower; Ray McGovern, formerly CIA analyst who chaired the National Intelligence Estimates in the 1980s; Jesselyn Radack, former Justice Department trial attorney and ethics adviser, and now director of National Security and Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project; Coleen Rowley, attorney and former FBI special agent; J. Kirk Wiebe, 32-year former employee at the NSA.
Exclusive: There are historical warnings to countries that inflict violence abroad, that the imperial impulse will blow back on the domestic society with suppression of public debate and repression of common citizens, that the war will come home — as is happening in the United States, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.
By Ray McGovern
Brutality thrives in American police treatment of common citizens reflecting an ethos of violence that has flourished over the past dozen years with almost no one in authority held accountable. Much of this behavior can be traced back to U.S. wars of choice – and it is not as though we were not warned of the inevitable blowback.
On Feb. 26, 2003, three weeks before the U.S./UK attack on Iraq, Coleen Rowley, then division counsel and special agent at the FBI office in Minneapolis, had the prescience and the guts to send a letter to then FBI Director Robert Mueller. The New York Times published it a week later.
Rowley warned Mueller that launching unjustified war would prove counterproductive in various ways. One blowback she highlighted was that the rationale being applied to allow preemptive strikes abroad could migrate back home, “fostering a more permissive attitude toward shootings by law enforcement officers in this country.” Tragically, the recent spate of murders by police has proved Rowley right.
Exclusive: For many years, the East German Stasi was viewed as the most totalitarian of intelligence services, relentlessly spying on its citizens during the Cold War. But the Stasi’s capabilities pale in comparison to what the NSA can now do, notes former U.S. intelligence analyst Elizabeth Murray.
By Elizabeth Murray
On a chilly morning in late January 2015, an unlikely assortment of former U.S. and U.K. intelligence officers gathered at the former headquarters of the Stasi — the former East Germany’s Ministerium fuer Staatssicherheit [Ministry of State Security] — for a tour of Berlin’s “Stasi Museum.”
The delegation – which included ex-officers from the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and British MI5, who count themselves among the members of the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) – had traveled to Berlin to confer the 2015 Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence on former NSA senior technical director-turned-whistleblower William Binney, for his role in exposing the extent of mass surveillance of ordinary citizens in the United States.