Post 911 World – Coleen Rowley and Peter Dale Scott
December 8, 2010
The Real News Network
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. And it’s the first perhaps annual Real News Webathon. We’re heading towards our $200,000 target by the end of December 9, where I think we’re getting upwards of $165,000 now, with another tonight and tomorrow night to go. So we’re doing very well, and I want to thank everybody so far for donating. And if you like what The Real News is doing, please give us a little tap on the donate button here, or you can call 888-449-6772, or you can also email us at contact (at) therealnews (dot) com if you’re having any other trouble. But the best thing is just to hit the donate button. The $200,000, I’ve explained before, covers just barely four months of the work that we’re doing now at the level we’re doing now, but we really want to expand in 2011. We need producers that specialize in certain areas. And one of the areas we want to specialize is the military-industrial complex. We’d like to have a producer who does nothing but cover stories about the sort of underpinnings of US foreign policy and the real issues that don’t get discussed very much in terms of what’s driving much of global politics, and even, as I–in the current WikiLeaks there’s a layer of truth, one could say, that is not really revealed in these WikiLeaks, because they’re not top secret, as we’ve heard described by some of our guests. Now joining us to talk about WikiLeaks and the world since 9/11 are two people that have been associated with this topic. First joining us from–Peter, you’re in Berkeley, California, right?
PETER DALE SCOTT, AUTHOR, FMR. CANADIAN DIPLOMAT: That’s correct.
JAY: Joining us from Berkeley, California, is Peter Dale Scott. He’s the author of the book–and I’m going to hold it up here, control room–and the book is American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan. . . . And also joining us now from Minneapolis is Coleen Rowley. Coleen was an FBI agent who uncovered certain things that had to do, she thought, with a possible terrorist attack. And if I remember the story correctly, Coleen, it was someone who was trying to get flying lessons to fly but not necessarily land. But you can correct me on that. And Coleen tried to get this information looked into, and it was more or less blocked by headquarters of FBI. But Coleen, thanks very much for joining us.
COLEEN ROWLEY, FMR. FBI AGENT, POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Thank you.
JAY: Coleen, very, very quickly, just remind us of the story that you were involved with around the 9/11 events.
ROWLEY: Well, I’ll just correct you slightly. It was the agents in the office that had received a call from a flight school, and they basically said we’ve got the most suspicious student we’ve ever had here. He’s flopping down cash, thousands of dollars, and says he wants to learn to fly a jumbo jet as an ego boost. That was just one of several things. If you remember–a lot of people don’t remember the summer of 2001, but there were so many clues and so much information coming in that CIA Director George Tenet and Richard Clarke were said to have their hair on fire. I wrote a memo eight and a half months after 9/11 because of the cover-up that had ensued afterwards. Essentially, you had everybody denying that they knew that they had this information. You know, no one knew that the president had been briefed in early August. No one knew that the [Zacarias] Moussaoui case had been briefed to the director of Central Intelligence in mid-August, I think August 23 or 24, well before 9/11. So all of–you know, I’ll talk more about this, but the 9/11 Commission concluded after two and a half years that it was due to a failure to share intelligence and information that 9/11 attacks actually occurred.
JAY: Which to some extent led to this creation of the SIPRNet, which gave 2.5 million people in–mostly in the military, but not only: also in the diplomatic area–access to information from secret down to confidential [inaudible] And this SIPRNet apparently was the source of WikiLeaks. But before we get into the WikiLeaks story, Peter, let me ask you a question, first of all, about 9/11. It’s probably–of all the emails we’ve got over the last four or five years at The Real News, maybe the email we get the most is how come nobody talks about 9/11, the issue of the cover-up, the need for an independent investigation, what really happened in terms of the buildings. And what’s your view in terms of, to start with, the idea of how taboo it is even to talk about it?
DALE SCOTT: Well, I think that what Coleen has just been telling us about is part of a bigger picture that indicates very strongly to me that the CIA was using elements of al-Qaeda for their own operations. And that’s why, for example, when two of the alleged hijackers came into the United States at the beginning of I think it was 2000, this information was shared in the White House. it was considered that important. It was not shared with the regular FBI, just with the head of the FBI. The fact that–.
JAY: This–you’re talking about the fact that two people had entered the country.
DALE SCOTT: Entered the two countries, should have gone on the watch list, didn’t go on the watch list until much, much later. And I’d like–even perhaps more important, I have a whole chapter in my other book, The Road to 9/11, which I think I will also show here. There’s a whole chapter about Ali Mohamed, who trained the people who grew blew up the World Trade Center in ’93, and they went to great lengths to keep his name out of the trial, because he was training people who went to Bosnia. And there were all kinds of things that the CIA was doing. And there’s no doubt that he was a double agent for America, because they see that he was picked up in Canada. They had very good reasons to arrest him in Vancouver airport, and he gave the RCMP a phone number, said phone this number and you’ll let me go, and they phoned the number, and it was the San Francisco office of the FBI, and they did let him go, with devastating consequences, because he then flew to Kenya and surveilled the American Embassy, reported the results personally to Osama bin Laden. That’s how high up he was inside al-Qaeda [inaudible]
JAY: Peter, what’s your source for this?
DALE SCOTT: –of the embassy in 1998. So that sort of thing was going on, which I think explains why Coleen was not able–. You were trying to get inside the computer of Moussaoui, is that right? And you were denied the right to do that?
ROWLEY: There was an FBI agent who was a pilot and an intelligence officer, and he spotted the suspicious nature–you know, that this–in fact, I got called one day after that call had come into our office, that night, because the suspicious agents had taken Moussaoui already into custody. And, actually, that agent also pinpointed the exact two statutes that were later used to charge him. So, I mean, the agents in Minnesota were very much on this. They ended up exchanging 60 to 70 emails and telephone calls arguing with FBI headquarters. And actually, sometime in late August our supervisor, on the phone, said: this is a guy who could fly into the World Trade Center. He was that explicit. So when–afterwards, you know, when Condi Rice held up a plane and said, well, no one would have known that planes would fly into buildings–and that actually kind of, you know, was the theme of this long-term cover-up. I think you’re absolutely right that the pre-9/11 intelligence and some of the embarrassing things, like blowback–. You know, it’s a form of blowback when things don’t go correctly when you’re in the intelligence world. And it’s amazing how much of that–just simply because it’s embarrassing–this’ll lead us right into WikiLeaks–that government officials will not share, even when national security is on the line. It’s actually a pretty shocking thing to not hear people come clean and admit honest failures or honest, you know, lapses. If–I was actually shocked afterwards that there was this kind of defensiveness.
JAY: Well, what was your reaction, then, when WikiLeaks broke? And what do you think is the significance of it?
ROWLEY: Well, you know, initially, the first leaks are at least about the United States. I wasn’t following it real closely when WikiLeaks was leaking about Kenya and murders in Kenya and frauds in Iceland, but I began to follow it closely with that Collateral Murder video. And as I saw, that was in the–kind of like the spring, and then of course the arrest of Bradley Manning occurred. And I think the Afghan war documents, 76,000 had been released. And that’s when it occurred to me that everybody that was really kind of weighing in on this had the wrong idea, because they were all going under the premise that extra secrecy protects us. And I started asking people, don’t you remember what all of the five inquiries have said about 9/11, that it was due to a failure to share information? And it wasn’t only due to a failure to share information inside the FBI in that one Moussaoui case. That was just one of many failures. It was also–as Mr. Scott just mentioned, it was that failure between the CIA to tell the FBI when the two hijackers had come in to California. So it was interagency. And then the 9/11 Commission, you know, I know there’s a lot of, you know, people criticized that it didn’t go far enough, etc., but at least the 9/11 Commission, in my opinion, correctly concluded that it was also due to a failure to share information with the public and the media. And that’s the part that, of course, after WikiLeaks began to be criticized, that no one remembered that it’s actually the public and the media that needs to know a lot of this threat information, because they’re the ones on the front lines.
JAY: Right. Peter, in the WikiLeaks leaks that we’ve seen, the kind of information that has been released in both of the last two–the current release and the one on Afghanistan and Iraq, it wasn’t startling in terms of it makes us think again about the objectives of US foreign policy. Now, some of the experts we’ve talked to say that that kind of discourse that would be more revealing happens at the top-secret level, which wasn’t revealed. But when you talk about something like continuity of government–and I’ll ask you–. Actually, we have caller on the line who I think wants to ask a question about that. Caller, are you there? Jeffrey from Willington. Go ahead. Yeah, go ahead.
JEFFREY: Yeah, I’m here. I was wondering [inaudible] after 9/11 give government the right to continue activities like the Patriot Act and continuity of government? And what can a citizen do to end this?
JAY: Did you hear that, Peter?
DALE SCOTT: Not very clearly.
JAY: Okay, I’ll repeat it. In terms of the Patriot Act and continuity of government, what can a citizen do about it? So let me put my question together with Jeffrey from Willington. WikiLeaks has–so far, has not revealed something at that kind of level of continuity of government, which has been just sort of mentioned in the press. Well, first of all, tell us what continuity of government is, and then you can talk a little bit about what you think people can do about it.
DALE SCOTT: [inaudible] I’d like to just pick up on whether WikiLeaks has released anything sensational or not. We shouldn’t forget the murder video. I mean, that’s the sort of thing which I think the public should see. I mean–.
JAY: Okay. By “murder video” you’re talking about the footage of the helicopter shooting people in the streets of–in Baghdad.
DALE SCOTT: And we hear the voices of the people who are doing the shooting and who seem to be getting a thrill out of it. That absolutely was vital to be revealed. We’re getting stuff in this last batch–I think some of the really important things have been about the degree of corruption in Afghanistan. Now, I have a chapter in my book about how in Afghanistan we’re trying to do the same hopeless thing we tried in–first of all in Laos in 1959, and then in Vietnam shortly after–to build a nation. And that’s an absurd metaphor, but it’s the government’s metaphor–nation-building is what they think we’re doing, doing it with a totally corrupt government. And what I said in my book is, of course, before all these leaks from WikiLeaks about the corruption, but the public has a right to know just how corrupt it is and just–and draw the conclusion how futile it is to think that we can just be in there for a year or two or three years and then hand it over to a system, when the system is falling apart and is being held together with Band-Aids and bits of Scotch tape.
JAY: Okay, Peter, now talk about continuity of government.
DALE SCOTT: But what the citizen can do–I mean, I want to come back to the caller. I think the–insist on the right to know. I mean, the government assumption is that we’ll have a better foreign policy if the public are left out. There was maybe some excuse for that in the 19th century, and there will always be a case for some amount of secrecy. But, you know, I’m a former diplomat myself, and I wrote a long poem in which I make fun of myself, ’cause I used to write top-secret cables, and I say in my poem, not one of them was worth being written down at all, let alone being labeled top secret. The public is probably at this point better informed, or some of the public are far better informed, than some of the people who are making the policy.
JAY: Okay. Peter, tell us what continuity of government is.
DALE SCOTT: Oh. Alright. There’s always been a need for emergency planning to do–deal with the risk that the government would be decapitated by a nuclear attack. This was something they worried about legitimately in the 1950s, supposing not only the president is killed, but also the vice president and also the speaker in the House and everyone who’s supposed to succeed. We have to have some planning for that. This became known after a while as continuity of government planning, or COG planning. And then, in the ’80s under Reagan, and particularly George H. W. Bush, and finally Oliver North, who was a big figure in this, they kept the emergency part of it, but they steered it to a new target, which was not now an atomic attack from outside but dissenters in the streets who might inhibit the ability of the government to wage another Vietnam War. And so Oliver North started planning how to round up large numbers of antiwar protesters and that sort of thing. And what’s really interesting about this [inaudible] all through the ’80s and all through the ’90s, two of the people who were involved in this secret planning were Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, even though in the ’80s only one of them was in the government as a Congressman, and that was Cheney, and by the late ’90s neither of them were in the government. They went on planning for the suspension of the Constitution, as it was described. And then, lo and behold, after 9/11–actually before even Flight 93 had hit the ground, Cheney implemented COG planning. So the plans that they had worked on for 20 years they were able to implement because of 9/11. And they–the planning continues, and Bush introduced some new COG elements in 2007 [inaudible]
JAY: COG being continuity of government.
DALE SCOTT: We don’t know what these new elements are. And a congressmen asked, who was on the Homeland Security Committee, Congressman DeFazio asked to see these things, and he’s told he couldn’t do it because he didn’t have a high enough security clearance.
JAY: Right. Now, just for people that want to really dig into this, I did an interview with Peter about this on The Real News Network. You can kind of look up, probably, the phrase continuity of government. And we actually have the speech that–the congressman you’re talking about, we have his speech in Congress in our story. Coleen, when this was happening after 9/11–.
DALE SCOTT: [inaudible] it’s also in my book [inaudible]
JAY: Well, you plug your book, I’ll plug our website. Coleen, when this happens in the days after 9/11, you’re still in the FBI. Are you aware at all of this continuity of government plans? How far does this reach?
ROWLEY: The continuity of government I was not quite aware of. I think I saw it in news articles.
JAY: Yeah, there was a couple of articles that broke. Apparently they even had both people in government and even private citizens were asked to come and do regular shifts underground in a secure facility for several months after 9/11, this creation of literally a new shadow government that might take power, I suppose, if there was–I don’t know, another airplane came and hit the White House or something.
DALE SCOTT: No, I think they were producing the Patriot Act, and they were producing, first of all, the Homeland Security Office, which eventually became the department, which is now the third-largest department in the government.
JAY: So when you talk about sharing of information, Coleen, I mean, should all of this be public? Because, you know, people that are kind of really into this stuff and followed it on the Internet, you see the odd news report broke around at the time about this continuity of government and then disappeared. It’s–there’s very few pieces in the press about it. How far do you go in terms of transparency?
ROWLEY: Well, there’s some necessary secrecy. It’s better if it’s limited in time. So, for instance, the best example is an FBI investigation of the Mafia has to be secret while the investigation is going on. That could take, you know, a year. It could even be two years or longer. But once the investigation is over, the affidavits, you know, have to be handed to a defense attorney, and he’s allowed to check to see if every i is dotted and t is crossed. In the intelligence world, you have something far different. It’s almost perpetual secrecy–or at least many of the people that are, you know, following orders and doing things think that it will never be known. And that actually really opens the door not only to some wrongdoing, you know, deliberate wrongdoing, like Oliver North, but it also opens the door to just be sloppy and more reckless, because no one–you don’t believe that anyone will ever–the public will never be reviewing your work. There are still items classified from 40 years ago. So I think that what we can do–and I think most security experts actually advise that we limit secrecy to the very lowest amount necessary for things like ongoing investigations, for a strategic military operation or a landing on D-Day, things like that. But what happened after 9/11? You know, you mentioned that there were these millions, I think it’s over 2 million documents on SIPRNet, and you’re absolutely right: that certainly was a consequence of trying to follow the 9/11 Commission’s finding that it was a failure to share information. I’m certain that that sharing with low-level people like privates was that result. But that wasn’t uniform. And there also was a far greater generation of secret and top-secret documents. And so you have everything being stamped secret and top-secret, and then you also have this idea, in perpetuity, all of your Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act surveillances, for instance, unlike criminal ones, are considered to be perpetually secret. So secrecy wasn’t at all reined in after 9/11.
JAY: Now, in terms of 9/11, I said it’s one of the things we’ve been emailed most about. Are you satisfied that we know what caused 9/11, what took place, and who’s responsible? And a lot of the emails we get have said, you know, whether anyone believes anything, you know, happened, the buildings came down, you know, other than just airplanes hitting them or not, you know, there’s certainly building–I think it’s–seven is the one that came down just by burning, and even in the report, the–I think it’s the National Association of Science report, even they say they’ve never seen something like that happen before. Do you think there needs to be an independent investigation? Some people suggest it’s just a distraction in terms of the economic crisis, in terms of what’s going on in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Where do you come down on that?
ROWLEY: If you’re asking me, I stay out of the engineering and architectural arguments because I have no background in those areas. I think–I don’t think we do know the complete full truth about 9/11. And my personal opinion aligns with Mr. Scott’s in the sense that I think the murkiest areas are–is this area of intelligence, and what was known by foreign intelligence services, what was shared with certain individuals, but not fully shared. I think the NORAD callout, if you really want to pick a very obvious thing that the truth was not told about–and everybody admits that now–is that the timeline on the NORAD callout is not accurate.
JAY: And I think one of the cochairmen of the 9/11 Commission himself has said that they didn’t get the truth on that.
DALE SCOTT: Right.
ROWLEY: Right. And I’ve actually–there was a New York effort to call for a new investigation that I wrote, because 9/11 served as the pretext for so many–so much, including the ordering of torture, the warrantless monitoring, the creation of this new security surveillance, whatever you want to call it–”Top-Secret America” is what The Washington Post called it. 9/11 is the pretext for that. And I think that–.
DALE SCOTT: [inaudible] COG planning, you see? That is COG planning. They planned it for 20 years, and then suddenly you have 9/11 and they implement it. And all I know is that the 9/11 Commission–actually, it’s a useful report, but everybody agrees it was very limited. Some of the biggest issues they didn’t look at it all. And I think that when it comes to Ali Mohamed, for example, who–clearly here is a very senior al-Qaeda operative who was a double agent, who was sprung by the FBI after he was released by the–when [he got] arrested by the RCMP. And what they said about that was almost the opposite of truth, and they relied on people who actually had been responsible for the massaging of Ali Mohamed in the court cases that arose out of the first World Trade Center bombing. The question of double agents, I agree with Coleen that the–covering up snafus is one of the things that we see here. But I think another thing we’re saying, also: that they’ve used double agents whom they thought they could control who did get out of control. And although I keep talking about Ali Mohamed, he has–there’s another one now, which is [David] Headley, with the DEA actually paid to send to the–to Asia to report on drugs. And when he was there, he did the same thing as Ali Mohamed: he surveyed Mumbai for the terrorist bombings in Mumbai. So it’s not just once but it’s twice that we’ve had these terrible disasters from relying on double agents.
JAY: Now, let me give you a counterargument in terms of some of this area. If you talk to a sort of seasoned investigative journalist for a newspaper, they’ll say that too much of what [inaudible] particularly in terms of the Internet conversation about some of these issues, doesn’t have to meet the standard of really verifiable information, and that some things that get said, you know, if you ask what your source or what’s your double source, often this stuff isn’t sourced. I mean, how do you respond to that, Peter?
DALE SCOTT: Well, I would say that probably 95 percent of the stuff on the Internet is junk. But then probably a high percentage of the stuff in the mainstream media is also junk. What I do see is that the Internet is improving. I mean, there’s no reason why you can’t source on the Internet. I write mostly from the Internet now, and I try to follow a journalist rule: if it’s a single-source story, I won’t use it. I get very–a lot of criticism for–from people who say, hey, I’ve got a great story here and you’re not using it. I do that because a journalist has to get corroboration from another source, and that didn’t happen [inaudible]
JAY: Okay. So let me just finish off with WikiLeaks again. You know, there’s an accusation here that governments need to have a certain level of secrecy, and what–if it’s Private Manning actually is the one that released this material, that in theory that he’s putting lives in jeopardy, this is a national security question–the governments have rights to be secret. How do you address that, Coleen, when you’re talking about the need for more transparency?
ROWLEY: Well, I did give a couple of good examples. And one thing is the–in this case, WikiLeaks actually is working with major media. There were five newspapers. And they actually had months to look through those documents and are being quite careful about what’s released, and they’ve redacted names out of the–. I think in some cases they’ve even let the government see what they were going to be releasing and let them say if there was something on there. I know WikiLeaks took that effort, too, of actually saying, if there are some names that you need blacked out–. And in the case of the Iraq War documents, when they compared what WikiLeaks had redacted out, it was even more comprehensive than what the government or the Pentagon had. Up till now, no one has been able to find that anyone has been harmed as a result of the disclosures, which I think is–would be thousands of documents. That’s, you know, pretty amazing that they–that’s happened. And you’re–as you said, these are not top-secret; they’re not the identity of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame. I mean, they were really pretty low-level. Most of them are confidential.
JAY: Well, I think part of the problem, too, is that there’s not enough sources of funding for investigative journalism to cut through some of this fog, especially independent journalists who are–if you work at any of the major newspapers, they still have to be very careful about the lines that they stay within, and there’s very few places where an investigative journalist can get funding who are willing to simply follow facts for some of these deeper geopolitical stories, which are–you know, there’s a lot of pressures post-9/11 not to ask certain questions and not to follow certain fact trails. This, I mean, [inaudible] the reason why we wanted to start Real News in the first place is we want to create a place where we could fund investigative journalism, there won’t be a fear of anything. Peter, any last words?
DALE SCOTT: Yes. I feel you–I’ve always said this is a wonderful country. I’m a Canadian, but I love living in America, and I love my neighbors and the people I meet as I travel around. But the foreign policy of this country is badly out of whack. It doesn’t represent the priorities of the American people. We’ve gone into two preemptive wars in [inaudible] Afghanistan and Iraq. We can see that the Iraq War was a total disaster. In fact, few people now would defend the decision to go in. I think that Afghanistan, something had to be done in Afghanistan. But what we’re doing there is also wrong. And it’s in that context that the leaking of documents makes sense. And maybe [inaudible] some risk to lives by leaking the documents, but the war itself is certainly risking a lot of lives, innocent civilian lives. And as I say, America has to do something in Afghanistan, but not what it’s doing now.
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End of Transcript
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