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December 2, 2013

Transcript-- Coleen Rowley About Meeting with Edward Snowden in Moscow

By Rob Kall

transcript of the interview I did with Coleen Rowley on October 16, 2013, shortly after she'd returned from her Moscow meeting with Edward Snowden.

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Here's a link to the audio podcast  of the interview I did with Coleen Rowley on  October 16, 2013, shortly after she'd returned from her Moscow meeting with Edward Snowden.


R.K.:  Welcome to the Rob Kall Bottom Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM out of Washington Township reaching metro Philly and South Jersey, sponsored by Opednews.com.  My guest tonight is Coleen Rowley.  She's a retired FBI agent and former chief division counsel in Minneapolis.  She's now a dedicated peace and justice activist and board member of the Women against Military Madness.  Welcome to the show!  Welcome back!

C.R.: Thank you for having me again, it's been a little while.

R.K.: It has been, I think the last time we actually saw each other face to face was back down in Occupy Washington D.C. in October of two thousand and eleven.  It's even longer back since I had you on the show so I am glad you're here and I think when we first met it was at a Whistle Blower conference in D.C. where we were both speaking and then we spent a day walking through the halls of Congress doing some lobbying to try to get some advocacy going for Whistle Blowers

C.R.: Right, yep, and of course the story never ends because now there has been a new Whistle Blower making dramatic disclosures and hopefully with some cautious optimism here, I've got my fingers crossed, that maybe this time some reform of this horrible subverted rule of law that we have right now can occur and we can kind of get back to a little normalcy.  

R.K: Lots of subverted, perverted rules of law.  So one of the reason I invited you on the show is because you recently traveled to Moscow to present an award to Edward Snowden.  Can you tell us about the award?

C.R.: Yes, four of us, and actually not all of us were Whistle Blowers but we're all members of the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, this was a group founded mostly by Ray McGovern, based on his colleague during the Vietnam War by the name of Sam Adams who was the CIA analyst who discovered that the Generals were pretty much halving the number of the Viet Cong enemy troop strength.  

The reason for doing that was because they were trying to project progress, especially right around nineteen sixty seven when people were getting tired of the war, they were always giving out this message that we are killing so many enemy and that the enemy troop strength is diminishing to show progress was being made.  

Well this CIA analyst Sam Adams traveled to Vietnam and discovered that it was really twice as many and this is kind of the surprising part, there were meetings behind closed doors for several months discussing this finding that the enemy was much more numerous and more of a challenge than they apparently had considered and there was a military colonel or something on the side of this Sam Adams but by and large the majority wanted to go with the general, and they didn't want to tell the press that the North Vietnamese forces were that large.  

So actually Westmoreland lied and he went out at certain point in sixty-seven and just arbitrarily halve the number.  This story is all in a book entitled War of Numbers and it's kind of a chronology of Vietnam.  The upshot of this though was that the CIA analyst that was Ray McGovern's friend regretted to his death, and he went to an early death, too, at age fifty five, trying to write a book about this.  He went on "60 Minutes," too I should say, after Vietnam was concluding and he was a witness in Daniel Ellsberg's trial so there were things that were accomplished here in getting the truth out, but still it was not timely and the Vietnam Wall has maybe double the number of names on it simply because they covered up the truth about this in sixty-seven.  

So it's based on that true story and in order to honor the memory of Sam Adams, for ten years now or more, someone -- and it's not always a Whistle Blower but largely it has been -- many of the Iraq War Whistle Blowers who knew, of course, shenanigans that were going on, lying, Katharine Gunn in England knew that the United States was pushing the secret U.K. agencies to monitor and to bug,  to place secret listening devices on U.N. countries, on the various countries in the U.N. Security Council in order to coerce them to vote to give permission to the United States to go to war.  

In fact she was honored, she was like the second or third Whistle Blower that was honored, so there has been a series of Whistle Blowers.  And sometimes even people inside government who merely had to fight and were successful in getting out accurate intelligence and analysis instead of these concocted things.  

So that sort of stays done, and of course Edward Snowden was selected in July of this last year for his speaking truth to power and letting the American public know what the NSA was doing in monitoring and collecting all of this irrelevant data, and it's key to understand that, it's not relevant, it's all mostly irrelevant data on innocent people and so we gave him the award but then we couldn't figure out exactly how to get to Moscow.  Took a little while to make the arrangements and we just went there a few days ago and were able to meet with him.  

We had several hours that we were able to meet with him, give him the award, tell him he's not alone and you know, kind of also discuss some of the famous, historical figures who themselves were in similar predicaments as he is now, but ultimately history gets it correct, sometimes it takes a little while but ultimately the person who is doing the right thing is vindicated.  So we talked about that, we talked a lot about the whole situation of seeking reform of this massive dragnet surveillance that's going on, it's not even only just the NSA, it's all of these other intelligence agencies as well.  So, we had a great opportunity and now we are, our group is committed to following through and keep pushing for these reforms.

R.K.: So tell me a bit more about your visit with Edward Snowden.  What was the setting?

C.R.: Well we can't, we don't know where we met him because none of us are familiar with Moscow but the people, you know the representatives of the Sam Adam Associates for Integrity in Intelligence were myself, Ray McGovern, Tom Drake who was a former NSA Whistle Blower himself, and Jess Radick who is an attorney, I think she is in charge of National Security and Human Rights area at the Government Accountability Project and she herself was actually a Department of Justice Whistle Blower in regard to the American Taliban who was deprived of right to counsel.  

                   So-

R.K: Our listeners will recognize all of them because they've all been on this radio show

C.R.: Yep and thank you very much - 

R.K.: God bless you

C.R.: by the way.  Our Whistle Blowers have limited mechanisms many times for talking and getting out the, and this is the problem: if we had better mechanisms inside government, if these attorney, inspector general mechanisms for instance, if it actually was viable and worked, Tom Drake's history is a prime example of how it doesn't work because he actually was going through the proper channels and disclosing fraud, waste, and abuse to Inspector Generals, both at the pentagon and the NSA, he actually also was a witness to the 9/11 Commission and the inquiries, the earlier Joint Intelligence inquiries about NSA, gaps, and cover-ups about what they knew before 9/11.  

Nobody knows any of this of course because guess what, those internal channels, if it is some piece of information that  that they want to keep covered up, they never see the light of day.  People don't even know it, what Thomas Drake told the Joint Intelligence Committee about 9/11 because it was - 

R.K: Well I actually have Thomas coming on the show in another week or two - 

C.R.: Oh great!  Well - 

R.K.: Let's stay focused for now on the visit to Moscow, okay?  We'll get in to other stuff after that -

C.R.: Okay

R.K: but I want to kind of focus the lens here a little sharper.  So you basically arrived in Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow and you got whisked away somewhere and you don't know where - 

C.R.: We actually were not afraid ourselves; in terms of security, Edward Snowden does have to be careful and there's a lot of reasons for that because even though he's in probably one of the -- if not the safest country, there are still ways.  I mean, the United States has covert agents and certainly they can pay off informants and all kinds of things, so he does have to be careful and use a lot of caution with regards to his travels.  However, we - 

R.K.: Did he talk about that?  Did he talk about his concerns about his safety?

C.R.: No, not so much.  He, of course has realized this from the start.  This was no surprise to him and he is actually very thankful and grateful for being given one year of temporary; it's not permanent ye,t but he's got this one year of asylum in Russia.  So he's extremely grateful for that and as far as we could see of course he's safe because he is, he's safe in Russia right now.  But - 

R.K: That's good.

C.R.: What you, what you alluded to us, we didn't have any problem, I actually had a former FBI colleague thinking I had gone, he called and said, "you've gone in to hostile, a hostile country" or whatever, something like that and I said, "No, you wake up!  The Cold War is over.  We had -

R.K.: Exactly

C.R.: no problem of being stopped or questioned or anything by any official Russian entity so we traveled by ourselves and of course they've even eased the Visa requirements.  You can now get a Visa that's possible for three years for on and off travel.  Ours was not like this, we had a humanitarian category Visa that's only good for one month.  But the Visa thing has eased and so there's a lot of business people from all of Europe, western Europe and the United States going to Russia.  

We traveled, we stayed ourselves in a hotel and then we met Snowden for this award ceremony at an undisclosed location. What I was saying is, we don't know where we were because we don't even know Moscow so when we're driving and stuff we had no idea where we really were. Ray by the way had served in Moscow forty years before but it had changed greatly and none of us really knew where we were.  It was a safe place and we did then have a nice long opportunity to discuss issues that evening.

R.K.: So let's hear about the discussions, what did you learn from Snowden?

C.R.: Well you know we did discuss quite a bit, the whole reform problem, of trying to reform the laws.  He would like to see the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendment Act repealed.  And I think when he said that he meant portions of, because those things are quite extensive and they're disparate.  They include like, for instance, the Patriot Act is two hundred and sixty-four different provisions and so when people say the Patriot Act, of course nobody has even read that whole long, it's a three hundred pages or so, no one has read it so what they are referring to in their heads, mentally, they're referring to this spying business.  It is a lot, there's other things in the Patriot Act that people don't even that are in there.  

Most of the debate, public debate in the United States has focused on Section 215 of the Patriot Act which is the provision they subverted, it was never intended to allow the vacuuming up of all telephone subscriber data, you know all the various major telephone carriers are given these orders every ninety days and it says that they have to hand over all their telephone subscriber data and call's Meta Data, it's what it's called, that was never intended to allow that. Sensenbrenner, who actually was one of the people who drafted this portion of the Patriot Act, was fairly incensed that it got interpreted later, broadly interpreted or twisted to allow them to do this.  

So a lot of people know about that and that's the area that only twelve votes difference a couple of months ago when it came up in the House, and I want to say it was two hundred and five that wanted to end this massive collection of telephone meta data and two hundred and seven -- two hundred and five wanted to end it and two hundred and twelve, something like that, so really it was just a question of seven votes in the House that failed to end this vast collection and people are quite aware of that, and are hoping that at the very least this can be reined in.  

There may be some solutions, different solutions whereby the government can't use this vast vacuuming up of data.  That's the one - 

R.K: It's interesting that that legislation was proposed by Justin Amash who is a Tea Party member.

C.R.: Right. 

R.K.: Yeah.

C.R.: And, in fact the libertarian, I mean this is kind of what happened, especially in the last couple of years, and it's not just on this issue of massive surveillance, it's also on the NDAA, on the National Defense Authorization Act, the group that was probably the most stridently, and had the numbers of senators and House members that were more opposed to the NDAA, it's provisions, it also was the Libertarian group.  

I kind of distinguish some of these from the, just your basic Republican because it is a new group that is really focused on Liberty, and so they actually had higher numbers voting also not to pass the, or not to pass and re-pass the NDAA. 

There's been a change I think, I will just mention one third example, here in the twin cities we had a very, you know, almost a Rush Limbaugh radio host.  He actually at times even substituted for Rush Limbaugh on the National Show.  He was a real, you know mostly Right Wing Conservative, his name is Jason Lewis.  He was one of our main Right Wing radio talk show hosts.  A couple of years ago he went one hundred and eighty degrees flip to now be a completely against the wars and certainly for restoring these Constitutional Civil Liberties.  

It's been quite an amazing thing.  I said two years and it might be almost three years ago.  He writes op-eds for our main paper and the funny thing is, that his op-eds are stronger than almost any op-ed I ever see.  He just recently wrote one quoting Eisenhower about how bad the military-industrial complex is and how -

R.K: Yeah that's a classic...

C.R.: Yeah.  So in any event we're seeing this and I guess the hopeful part is if we can just combine now.  If we can get that good side of the Libertarian issues and we can combine it with the good side of the progressives, guess what?  We now have a real strong consensus.

R.K.: Yeah that would be exciting.  And let me get back to Moscow now, what did you learn from your conversation with Snowden that you didn't know before you made the trip to Moscow?

C.R.: Well, one thing I learned is, and this runs counter to some of the propaganda in the mainstream press, they have painted him as kind of a low-level contractor who abused his access, legitimate access to get access to these secrets, that's what you've kind of seen in the press. And I learned that, or we learned that actually that's not the case.  

He was working on a lot of high-level projects.  He was obviously trusted and had gotten access, very legitimate access to knowledge of these things.  Many analysts and even other technical assistance people would be compartmentalized.  They would only be working on a narrow area and in some cases they don't even see the forest for the trees.  They don't see the big picture of what's going on because they really are focused narrowly.  

Government has tried to do that in fact, compartmentalize because they don't want people to see the big picture.  Actually from a security standpoint in striving to prevent leaks, what happens is it ends up compartmentalizing.  You actually end up also with all these pre-9/11 problems where agencies don't share information with each other and even inside agencies, one group will say "you don't have a need to know" to a different group and they won't share the information.  

That compartmentalization, I think, had diminished for a little while after 9/11, there was a lot of impetus to break that down and to have wider sharing because they realized that's what allowed 9/11 to happen.  But it has gone back now the other way.  It's gone back more into compartmentalization and especially by launching the Insider Threat program, which is now an actual office; in every agency has something called the Insider Threat Program where they're trying to find potential leakers and disgruntled employees.  

Well I'm going back to what I was surprised about, Edward Snowden was in one these unique positions where he actually did have an ability to see the overall picture as opposed to being compartmentalized.  By seeing the overall picture, he of course was stunned and realized that this was something that the American citizenry would have to know about in order to fix and reform.  

I think there's been a lot of disinformation, the press painting him as some low-level person and obviously equating him also with being a spy.

R.K: So what did he tell you that made it clear to you that he was not a low-level person and that he was not compartmentalized?

C.R.: You know, some of these program names, I of course did not take notes, but and I'm not familiar with these programs, but Tom Drake was more familiar with these programs, and there were high level programs that he was very much involved in, and he was integral to, and even helping establish some of these programs so that is one of the ways, again, that's why he knew what was going on and he wasn't just one of these guys, one of these people that just was narrowly focused on one little area.  He traveled of course as the news has reported, he wasn't in just one place, he served in several different locations.

R.K.: So anything else besides just his level of authority and access to information? 

C.R.: Well - 

R.K: [ss] that you learned there?

C.R.: I'll tell you another thing that, it didn't exactly surprise me but it's important, I guess it underscored what I already thought, he was smart enough and astute enough to realize that he could not have this data, these secret data on him, he could not himself have control over it or he would potentially be susceptible not only to any country's intelligence forces who might get a hold of them but also even obviously to the United States and anybody, so he, from the start gave control of the data to other people and other sources, including obviously journalists and that was a precautionary thing that he did.  

This undercuts what everybody is saying, oh he fled to China, first he was in China then he was in Russia and of course this has threatened all of United State's secrets with these hostile intelligence agencies that would have control over him.  Well no, because he realized that from that start and he did not, he does not have the data himself -

R.K.: Wait are you saying that he never had possession of the data that he transferred to journalists?

C.R.: He, I don't know for how long, you know obviously he had possession for a short while but that the possession was transferred and so that again, it undercuts this idea that he's vulnerable somehow or someway because they can get this data out of him, these secrets out of him.  They can't do that.  And that's -

R.K.:  So he never has the data?

C.R.: I'm sorry what?

R.K.: So he no longer has the data?  

C.R.: No, he does no longer have the data.  The actual hard data.  At least that's what I understood.

R.K: Okay. Keep going. What else did you learn about him that you didn't know before you met him in Moscow?

C.R.: He of course, this is also part of this disinfo, I knew this but it is something that should be mentioned, he did not of course intend to ever stay or flee to Russia.  Most of the news will say something like, "he fled to Russia" or something like that, and that's not true at all.  He had a plane ticket and was actually booked to go to Latin America and the only reason he got  stuck in Russia was because when he got to the Moscow Airport they revoked his passport and then he was in this transit zone in the airport for whatever it was, five weeks, six weeks, something like that, and a lot of people of course think this was all some kind of a pre-planned thing for him to go to Russia, but then why would he have stayed in the transit zone of the airport for five weeks?  

R.K.: Okay...

C.R.: And that's something that people, again in the wider public, don't appreciate is that this was not planned.  In essence it's turned out probably for the best, in a way because other countries might not be as secure as Russia.  You know, if you think about other countries where the United States is allowed to get a freer hand to operate in and stuff, it wouldn't be as secure as Russia is, but it was not planned for him to be there.

R.K: And what else?  What about his perspectives on any other aspects of the government or NSA?

C.R.: So this did not surprise me at all because he has said this publicly, but his emphasis and focus is not on himself.  He was perfectly willing to risk his future, his freedom, and obviously he knew he was giving up his job, but he was perfectly prepared to risk those things.  

What he is most focused on is that something come of this, that there actually be a reform in the United States where we can actually return to Constitutional Rights and Rule of Law and he constantly comes back to that and in our press we always get asked, "how was he?" and they want to talk about all this of a personal nature, and he is not that way.  

He is doing that, there's a clip that's out there now publicly where he is talking about the fact that the massive intelligence gathering is not effective and doesn't work and how it's hurting the United States.  It's hurting economically, but it's also hurting in other ways.  It's completely counter-productive.  

I think that actually dovetails with what I often say, because I think if people misunderstand and they think that it's just the Constitution, someone's lofty idea of law and ethics, then when you get those messages of, and this will be a great transition to what Diane Feinstein is very falsely saying in order to keep the NSA's dragnet surveillance going, as soon as they say, "well we'll have another 9/11 happen if we have to drop the NSA's programs" and no one's actually talking really specifically about dropping some of this, what they're talking about is reforming so it's consistent and actually works legally, I really should say pragmatically, works.  But now they're just flooding these databases with non-relevant info, it can't possibly help to find these very unique cases of terrorism when you're flooding the databases.  

There are ways perhaps, if there could be, that intelligence can be gathered under reasonable suspicion and with probable cause, so it actually is relevant, well then of course no one is against that.  So, let me just transition now into what Diane Feinstein is saying -

R.K.: We're going to get to that, but I want to stay a little bit longer with your meeting with Snowden.  Is there a way for you to continue to stay in touch with him?

C.R.: Well I think so.  I am probably not the one but there are other people that have made contact with him.  In fact, what might not be well-known is Snowden, by proxy, provided a statement to the European Union Parliament just about a week prior to our visit and that statement was written and delivered by Jess Radick of the Government Accountability Project, that she was reading his statement. 

So there is, because he is a person who really knows this stuff and so for all of the various countries now that are looking at this , as well as our own Senate and House when they have these hearings, there hopefully will be a way for Snowden to communicate directly.  Not in person of course but he can actually through writing and written statements and obviously somebody else will probably have to read them if they want them read, actually to submit his own statements for the record and so, and which he did at the European Union Parliament, just a week before.  

R.K.: Okay.  Did he have anything to say about Clapper or Alexander, the people who lied to Congress?

C.R.: Did he say anything about that?  Yes he did.  What he said was how astonishing it is that the people, he thought apparently that lying to Congress should be treated a lot more seriously than it has been so far.  And he was astonished that there has not been any outcry for their removal.  

You know, I will just add to that because two days before we traveled to, or three days before we traveled to Moscow, there was a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee that featured both Clapper and Alexander and they were not even put under oath.  So here we have two individuals who have both been caught lying, outright providing untruthful responses to the Senators and when they're brought in again they're not asked to tell the truth.  

I think that's pretty amazing and it was actually in contrast to the second part of that hearing had two law professors and a professor on technology and the professors who are only giving opinions about their opinion of the law, not fact witness as were Clapper and Alexander, they were forced to raise their right hand and swear to tell the truth.  

I mean this makes no sense whatsoever that the same Committee would make law professors raise their hand and swear to tell the truth about their legal opinions which you really can't even do because it's just their opinion and then Clapper and Alexander were allowed to go give some more unsworn testimony.  So it is - 

R.K:  We're almost done, we're almost done talking about Snowden I guess, I am really trying to really pick your brain about any nuggets that you learned from him about his, what his experience, his state of mind, his health, how does he look?  What was his attitude?  Was he stressed out?  Was he cheerful?  

C.R.:  He  looked very healthy, he's not overweight at all, he's not one of these people who obviously sits on or lays on a couch all the time.  He's in good shape and he was very happy to see us since we were I think some of the first Americans he's, I think we were the first Americans he's seen, at least in a long time.  His father came the next day after this meeting and I believe he met with his father a couple of times.  

So I think he was pretty happy about the visits in general and you know a chance to get to talk about these issues with people, especially Tom Drake who is in the know.  He was very centered, you know some Whistle Blowers, and you probably come in contact with that, are really thrown off balance by everything that happens and he is somebody who is not in this category.  

He seemed very, very focused and centered and again, like I said he doesn't so much care about his own personal situation as he does about  what's going to come of this and what kind of reforms will happen.  

R.K.: So did he have any priority message that he wanted you to bring back? 

C.R.: Yes he wanted to, he wanted us to constantly stay focused on these issues.  I mean, I've said this a million times but the story, you know how they always say you get fifteen seconds of fame or whatever it is?  That's the way the news cycle runs.  There will be some kind of a fame, but fame is fleeting so you can be on the pinnacle one day and fall to the bottom,  the News kind of likes that kind of thing.  Eliot Spitzer is a great example of this. 

There's many other examples but they're like that, you know?  You're a hero and then the next day you're a, he really and we talked about this phenomenon.  That is a silly way to approach these things.  These are extremely important issues and people can actually be doing extremely heroic actions.  That doesn't mean the person is perfect and it doesn't mean they will always do the right thing but I mean, for a period of time they can take heroic action and that's the way to view this.  

So we talked, we read Camus, there's some great quotes about that Camus gave, Albert Camus, about the solitude of really choosing to go this route and how it has to be done and you have to find ways of dealing to some extent with this kind of very solitary path.  Edward Snowden has had a wikileaks journalist at his side since Hong Kong, Sarah Harrison, and so to the extent that he has at least somebody there, kind of moral support, and also dealing with these human rights issues of seeking asylum and all the requests, etc. he's has some assistance that way and you know I think what I was struck by is he is not at all one of these people who have been knocked off his game or knocked off balance by this type of persecution.  

He was asked, because of a "joke" Hayden, Michael Hayden made; he says it was a joke but who knows if it was a joke or not, but he made some comment about putting Edward Snowden on the kill list and then Mike Rogers joined in and said something like I "could help you do that" or something so there was this, it made some press about how they were talking about putting Snowden on the kill list.  So that came up in conversation and essentially, instead of saying "Oh I'm really worried about that" or whatever, he just more or less rolled his eyes.  That was it.  I mean it shows that he was very much in control of his situation and he very much appreciated the challenge of no one knowing exactly what the future holds, and that's a very scary thing for most people when you can't really count on what you're going to be doing next year.  

He was only given one year of temporary asylum and so, to most people that would be a very scary thing because it's precarious.  Politics can change, you know, he doesn't know what his future holds.  I brought up the example of Benjamin Franklin because Benjamin Franklin was a Whistle Blower in 1774 and lost his job as Post Master for the colonies.  

He was called every name in the book, traitor, the same names that Edward Snowden is being called, and of course he became one of the Founding Fathers and it was a during a very short time that he was actually vilified; and that can happen.  It all depends on what happens in the future and none of us know what the future holds.  Of course we know that people like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr, it took decades after they were persecuted for them to finally have everything change and be seen as great heroes and -

R.K: Okay,  so I want to nail this down.  Was there a priority message that he wanted you to bring back?  You've already said that he would like to see the repeal of at least parts of the Patriot Act -

C.R.:  Well the other, there was two parts to this, I mentioned the Patriot Act but the other one is the FISA Amendment Act and that one actually has not gotten much public attention, that's Section 702 and that's what they've interpreted FISA to mean, well they didn't interpret it, there was actually a lot of illegal collection being done and then they tried to patch it up and again this was through fear-mongering in Congress in two thousand seven when Hayden went in there and said that we're going to have another 9/11 attack unless you give me authority to keep doing what James Risen had just exposed in the New York Times and so the Congress were, what's the word, they were bowled over and knuckled under and they gave him this temporary authority, and then it became the FISA Amendments Act and that's the other part that has not gotten much attention.  So to the extent that I know, he actually wants people to start talking about reform of that as well.  Which is 702 of the FISA Amendments Act.  

R.K.: Okay.  

C.R.: And actually reduce secrecy.  I mean, overall that's the underlying problem here which is this excessive secrecy.  If secrecy could be reduced and American people and other agencies, of course this would reduce the compartmentalization, and all of these things.  

R.K: Did he say anything specific about secrecy?

C.R.: I'm trying to think of an exact quote.  He did, but I can't quite remember exactly.  We talked a lot about secrecy and how this was wrong, and I think he did say something like, "well obviously there's some necessity for limited secrecy but not to -"

R.K.: Did he bring up -- any names of people in the government or Whistle Blowers or people helping him or anything like that?

C.R.: Yes, he did say that he had learned a lot from seeing the example of other Whistle Blowers and of course mostly I think pointing to Thomas Drake  and the other NSA Whistle Blowers, Benny and Curt Weeby [inaudible names 39:16] and the others, there's like four NSA Whistle Blowers who had spotted these problems years before Edward Snowden was even - this would have been when he was a teenager-   he was a teenager when 9/11  happened.  

So he did point to the example of other Whistle Blowers and learning from their example.

R.K: Okay, any other names?  Any people in government?  Any media people?  Did he have anything to say about Glen Greenwald or Laura Poitras?  The people who brought him to the attention of the world?

C.R.: I think he's appreciative of the news coverage and that it sparked a debate but nothing real specific about any individual journalist.  

R.K.: Okay.  

C.R.: He knows that there is a  lot of media flying, you know in both directions, there's good and bad and in some cases it's some cases it's helpful and other cases it's like these sneers that have gone on where he was likened, he and Bradley Manning, or Chelsea Manning were likened to Robert Hanson, the FBI spy and James Aldritch the CIA spy.  There was something like this in the Washingontonian.  There were at least two major articles like this in the week before and we -

R.K:  Did he say anything about Chelsea / Bradley Manning?

C.R.: I think that, yeah he mentioned that example of Whistle Blowing and he mentioned Manning's name.  I think he mentioned a few but he, he was just saying the same thing, that he's learned from these examples and that he can, he very much supports and understands the Whistle Blowing that's been needed, obviously since -

R.K.: Yeah

C.R.: He's followed in their footsteps.  

R.K: Did you feel any, like there was any possibility that you would be at risk because you're aiding a man who the president and others have characterized as  a terrorist?

C.R.: Well I will tell you we didn't have any problem returning home.  We weren't pulled off for questioning or anything like that.  We had talked about that a little bit because we thought it was possible. And the reason we thought it was possible is it's been happening.  

There have been travelers, people traveling who were either, I would say, information activists or even writers, documentary makers, even journalists who actually have been pulled, when they've crossed in to the United Sates, they've been pulled in for questioning as Glen Greenwald [clears throat] sorry I'm losing my voice here, Glen Greenwald's partner was stopped for those nine hours in the UK, the same thing has happened in the United States.  And maybe not for quite as long but it has happened and like laptops and phones have been searched and so since that has happened we kind of thought it might, there was a chance it would happen.  We didn't even take laptops.  

Of course, I don't have my own laptop, I sometimes borrow my husband's laptop when I travel and I thought, I'm not going to take my laptop because my husband will kill me if they were to keep it and I would lose his laptop and so my reason was just very selfish.  I didn't want to jeopardize losing my husband's laptop and so I didn't take anything with me and so I was more or less incommunicado with my   family and everything for the time I was there.  

R.K.: Wow

C.R.:But you know, nothing happened.  We actually just crossed in just as normal.  You know, they stamped your Visa and that was it.  We didn't get pulled aside or nothing.

R.K: Good, good.  You know, I promised you we could talk about Diane Feinstein and let me try to summarize the article that you wrote just because we don't have that much more time.  You wrote an article within the last week, criticizing Diane Feinstein because she said that 9/11 might not have happened if we had the NSA functions in place that we have now and your article says that she is full of it.  

C.R.: Yes. *laughs*

R.K.: That there's no truth to what she is saying and on the contrary it is just about the opposite.  

C.R.: Right.  Right.  Since that time she gave this very passionate speech on October 2nd in the Senate Judiciary, not long after senator Leahy had begun, he had opened the hearing by saying that reform was needed.  So he opens it up saying reform is needed and later in the hearing Blumenthal, Senator Blumenthal took over as a substitute for Leahy  and he was echoing that as well.  

Now in between Diane Feinstein was not, she of course is head of the Intelligence Committee, but she has no official chairmanship of the Judiciary, but she interjects herself and they gave her time, they let her speak out of line, and she gave this passionate speech about if we were to curtail the NSA's intelligence gathering programs, we will be risking another 9/11 attack and also implying that 9/11 itself would not have happened had the NSA been doing it's massive data gathering so, and she was really passionate about this.  

I'm afraid that it probably made some points with the other members of the Senate Judiciary.  You could kind of see them all looking at her and kind of shaking their head in agreement and this is exactly what I just mentioned to you about using this fear mongering and  this idea, well we could have another attack if we now reform these interpretations of the law, about relevancy, etcetera and she since has written an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal.  I think the title of the Wall Street Journal is about two days ago and the title is "NSA Programs Protect Us" or something like that.  It has the word "protection" or "they offer protection from 9/11" something like that is the problem  

R.K: the problem with that oped is that it's behind the Wall Street Journal's paywall so people can't get to it.

C.R.: I somehow, I don't know how, I got to it but I was able to read it.  I guess maybe through different ways on the internet I found it somehow and I have even posted on Facebook but maybe other people when they click it they can't get it. I'm not sure.  But that oped actually puts in words what she said at this hearing and there's two things that she's saying: she's saying that Keith Alexander and Clapper claim there are fifty four, she doesn't use the word claim that was my term, she says, there are, she just takes it point blank for sure, there are fifty four examples where the NSA's data has stopped a terrorist attack.  

Now that, right from the start, that's been debunked.  When Keith Alexander first said there were fifty four examples, he was asked the next day, "well what are they?"  And they de-classified three examples and once those three examples were out the press itself said, "uh Mumbai attacks, that's not effecting America and by the way what was the piece of that evidence that connected it with the NSA?"  And there was another one, I think it was a U.K.example.  So they immediately debunked these examples.  And then in July, a FBI offical testifies that there's only one real example and the one real example that the FBI says does exist when they  "found the needle" which means, the needle meaning that you have to have a haystack.  

That was the quote that this FCBI official says, "we found the needle" which means you have to have a haystack.  Makes no sense at all.  But in the haystack they found this one connection and this was to a San Diego case of a cab driver who gave something like eight thousand dollars and they convicted him ostensibly for knowing that that few thousand dollars was going to Shebab.  I don't know how strong that evidence, I think it's still on appeal, the evidence showing that he knows this eight thousand dollars was going to El Shebab or wether many times they think they're giving their money to a charity or etcetera, in any case it seems to me to be a pretty flimsy example if that's the one example.  

Well you won't see that in the Wall Street Journal of Diane Feinstein.  She says there's fifty four examples.  She's going right back to what Keith Alexander claimed.  The reason this is important is, and actually the Senators themselves on October 2 asked Alexander, they asked him point blank, you said there were fifty four examples but isn't there just one"?  Because they were quoting the FBI official.  Keith Alexander kind of stuttered and goes, "well I thought there were two." *chuckles* That's what his response was.  Anyway, this seems like she's really now going back to an earlier time and this has been debunked.  

It's very important because if people think that this works, of course it puts it on a very different footing that what Edward Snowden and many other statisticians and other people believe, which is that by adding hay to a haystack it makes it more difficult to find some rare profile or whatever you want to call it.

R.K.: That brings us to this whole new fascination with big data that suddenly it's going to be a massive gold-mine of useful information.  You know what you also talked about in that article is about your experience going back to 9/11 and how the real problem was not not having NSA data it was that the information that was collected was not properly shared.  

It was called "smoke-stacking" and that's kind of like what you described was the way they're handling things now with this new approach.  What did you call that term?  The -

C.R.: Haystack ?

R.K: Insider - 

C.R.: Oh The Insider Threat Program? Yeah -

R.K.:You know I've never heard of that term before.  It seems to me like that kind of stuff is, and the way that they are compartmentalizing as you described it, is likely to produce more of the same kind of failures within the agencies that were failures prior to 9/11 that prevented it from being stopped.  

C.R.: Yep.  That's exactly the case.  The Insider Threat Program is basically a very similar to what they claim that they can do which is profile for terrorists and that somehow the computers that they -- if you just collect everything and input all of this data somehow they will be able to tell you.  This Insider Threat Program is the same only it's going to be able to tell agencies directors who are the potential leakers in an agency.  

This is all hogwash, complete hogwash.  The National Academy of Sciences,  amongst others, this is not possible.  It's basically kind of a theme of "Minority Report" that somehow you're able to guess or judge a future action.  Just not possible.  It justifies though, this is what justifies this big massive collection of overwhelmingly non-relevant data.  That's the key thing that you have to understand,  Bush got caught by the New York Times in two thousand -- right after he was elected and this article came out.  It had been called Total Information Awareness up to then.  

That was this Orwellian thing that people realized was bad because it was collecting non-relevant data.  First thing Bush did when he got exposed by that New York Times is he switched the name of the program to Terrorist Surveillance System and that made people believe that no, it's the terrorists that you're collecting data on.  He used the example, if I find a phone that was used by a terrorist suspect, we have to have all the data.  

Well no one would ever disagree with that the because that's relevant.  That is relevant.  What they did was took the term "relevant" and they said, relevant to the whole universe, the whole global battlefield of this large war on terror.  And it makes no sense because the word relevancy, it has to be relevant to something.  It can't just be relevant to the need to stop terrorism.  That's what has gone on here.

R.K: Well it seems to me like the way the intelligence agencies are working is: if the technology is available, they're going to use it regardless of what effect it has on people's constitutional rights or our freedoms. 

C.R.: And lots of contractors use the technology.  There's of course the technology development, but there's all of these so-called intelligence contractors, Booz Allen Hamilton is just one.  They have a conflict of interest because they are making enormous amounts, billions and billions of dollars are being made and they would probably shrug and say well okay if it doesn't work, what's the harm?  

Everybody's phone numbers in these 1.6 billion pieces of data that are flowing in Bluffdale and into the NSA computer and they say it's several trillion now pieces of data.  Even the FBI has twenty records for every man woman and child on one of their programs.  So people kind of shrug and laugh and say what's the harm well if they want to collect this data, well one harm actually Edward Snowden actually points to directly is the economic harm.  

Here were are facing a shut down of government with seventeen trillion dollar debt ceiling and  these trillions of dollars are going for this useless and actually counter-productive, it's worse than useless, it's actually hurting the effort.  The Boston Marathon Bombing being an example in point.  Russia gives a specific warning about the brother, then a later notice comes that this brother has traveled to the Chechnya area and in fact the FBI doesn't even look at it.  

They are looking at the time at Occupy  protestors in Boston.  So this massive collection that has spread them way too broad, not focused is actually hurting the effort and that Boston Case is not the only one.  Major - 

R.K.:   Well what did Snowden say about economic impact?

C.R.: Well he just says that this is having a counter-productive effect in economic terms.  We didn't really talk about the shut down too much.  In economic terms, this is huge amounts of money.  The person who actually talked more about that was Tom Drake because a lot of his points went directly to this fraud,waste, and abuse.  

There was a very inexpensive program that would have allowed privacy protection and compliance with the fourth amendment and instead Hayden scraps it and goes for this expensive program because there's many contractors making money off of that  and it does not accomplish the privacy protection and it's not legal.  It is actually violating the fourth amendment.  So -

R.K: So we've got to wrap up now.  Anything you want to finish up with? 

C.R.: No, I just, the only thing I would encourage all listeners to do now is to really pay attention to the intelligence committee hearings in the senate.  Judiciary hearings, are going on in the House.  Maybe you don't care for the Libertarian congress person if you are in one of those districts.  But you know what?  There is a chance right now because this is transcending the normal party politics and so there is a chance now that like I said, they only lost the first reform attempt by seven votes and I would just encourage all listeners to really, if you want to help Edward Snowden, and help yourself and help people, the citizens of other countries in the world who are victims of economic espionage etcetera like Brazil, this is what we need to do.  

We have to pay a lot more attention to what congress is doing.  We have some power.  We saw with Syria that if we can show the politicians that we are not going to be happy with this, even writing comments, today's Washington Post has a brand new disclosure out about how the NSA is collecting email lists and chat lists, you know, all of your friends on chat and stuff.  So there's a whole brand new disclosure out this morning.  

Look at the comments under this Wasington Post.  The good thing is that many people now are taking that next step of doing something.  At least they're writing comments.  And you know what?  Politicians  read the Washington Post.

R.K.: All right

C.R.: I want to just encourage people to keep alert and keep acting.

R.K: And you're helping with the work that you've done as an activist and as a writer.  And OpEd news has been publishing your writing as you put them out there.

C.R.: Thank you.

R.K.: Just one last thing, what's your take on OpEd news?

C.R.: Well my take on OpEd news is that it was one, I had a friend of course who was a reporter for OpEd news, I had two friends, I've had two close acquaintances who were writers for OpEd news and I've recommended to a lot of people, especially when I've come in contact with people who have something to say, I say you know there's a great location to, that will publish this, this is great and I've encouraged them to write for OpEd news and I urge  people to read what OpEd news has on.  I've posted many times, David Swanson, I don't even want to began to name the names of all the great people who  have put their articles out so we're just extremely appreciative for everything you do. 

R.K: Thanks a lot. 

C.R.: Keep up the good work

R.K.: You too.  Love you Coleen, you're just a force of nature.

C.R.: Thank you, byebye.  



Submitters Bio:

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

Rob Kall Wikipedia Page

Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com

Rob is, with Opednews.com the first media winner of the Pillar Award for supporting Whistleblowers and the first amendment.

To learn more about Rob and OpEdNews.com, check out A Voice For Truth - ROB KALL | OM Times Magazine and this article. For Rob's work in non-political realms mostly before 2000, see his C.V..  and here's an article on the Storycon Summit Meeting he founded and organized for eight years. Press coverage in the Wall Street Journal: Party's Left Pushes for a Seat at the Table

Here is a one hour radio interview where Rob was a guest- on Envision This, and here is the transcript. 


To watch Rob having a lively conversation with John Conyers, then Chair of the House Judiciary committee, click hereWatch Rob speaking on Bottom up economics at the Occupy G8 Economic Summit, here.


Follow Rob on Twitter & Facebook. His quotes are here

Rob's articles express his personal opinion, not the opinion of this website.


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