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US overreaction to terror threat makes it easier for terrorists – former FBI agent

Published time: April 22, 2013 03:43

Members of a police S.W.A.T. team exit Franklin Street moments after 19-year-old bombing suspect Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev was apprehended on April 19, 2013 in Watertown, Massachusetts (AFP Photo / Spencer Platt)

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Former FBI agent and whistleblower Colleen Rowley told RT that by going into propaganda overdrive against the terror threat the US authorities are missing real terrorists.

She also explains that the US government’s acceptance of some rebels as freedom fighters while branding others as terrorists does not help to reduce the terror threat to the US homeland.

The Boston Marathon bombing last week killed three people and injured more than 170. After an initial blank, the FBI identified two suspects, both brothers originally from Chechnya. They had lived in Cambridge Massachusetts since about 2001.

A huge manhunt ensued with the elder brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev dying in a shootout with police, while the younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured late on Friday in Boston and is in hospital in a serious but stable condition, with gunshot wounds to the neck in what may have been a suicide attempt.

RT: As we’ve been reporting, Russia warned the FBI, that one of the suspects was following radical Islam, but the FBI found nothing suspicious. How likely is it that the US security forces missed these vital clues that would have prevented the Boston attacks?

Colleen Rowley: I’ve written a piece called ‘Chechen Terrorists and the Neocons’, where I allude to part of the problem, but in-fact the lack of follow up the FBI had is not unusual. The three other terrorists cases we’ve had in the United States, Abdul Matlab, the underwear bomber, Shizad and even major Hassan were also characterized by lack of investigation and follow up even when for instance in the underwear bomber, the father called up. So these tips, these very key tips, are going uninvestigated. It is the case also with Musawi, before 9/11 where I was the whistleblower about these failures, and we continue to see this play out over and over where the real terrorist incidents are ignored, while the FBI puts enormous resources into profiling and of course even in some cases suddenly pressuring, entrapping all kinds of other cases.

RT: So why is this happening, why this reaction, why are they not taking some reports seriously, and others more so, how is this happening in places where security is so tight, everybody is monitored and key words like radicalism and bombs or “we’re going to kill people”. Surely they are key words the FBI should have picked up on, either way, whether its home grown or anything else? They would have done the same thing elsewhere?

CR: There are two possible explanations here and may be both apply. One is, as I was just talking to you, there is little idea that if you’re looking for a needle in a haystack the answer is not to put in more hay. So they are collecting lots of data, masses of data, on innocent Americans. That’s all part of this top secret America. Eventually it hurts the ability to hone in on the real critical pieces and this again is what I’ve just mentioned. The other potential explanation is that the idea of terrorism being a confusing concept because we have our terrorists and their terrorists. The definition is supposed to be “acts of violence against civilians for political purposes”, but you see this over and over where the US considers they are good rebels and good freedom fighters at the very least the separatists in other countries are not considered as terrorists. We have a whole establishment, a neoconservative establishment, in the US now which is heavily involved in propagandizing that there are good and bad rebel groups. For instance in Iran, is the latest example, of the Mujahedeen Khalq, which actually was on the US terrorist list and have now been delisted to become the good rebel fighters against Iran.

RT: OK let me quickly ask you this then, after the revelation that the suspects were of Chechen origin, the US media quickly shifted their focus to the armed groups in Chechnya, which they portrayed as freedom fighters, but now as ferocious terrorists, how would you explain that? Are these the other terrorists?

CR: My piece is about how shocked I was watching Rudi Giuliani [former mayor of New York] on a morning news show a couple of days ago, saying that he was so surprised that this had a link to Chechen groups because in his case, his neocon buddies, including the former CIA director Wolsey, are part of a group that are helping and trying to legitimize the Chechens. And the reason they are doing this as they did for the Mac, the same group by the way, is for political reasons and of course maybe Giuliani is that ignorant he doesn’t even understand, but in the Musawi case, which was the only example of finding a terrorist suspect before 9/11, the real hang up and problem in that case was because the FBI and other figures did not understand that the Chechen group was actually considered under FISA law [The foreign intelligence surveillance act] , for purposes of getting organizations to monitor you need to show that a person is acting on behalf of a foreign power, which includes a terrorist group. There was a lot of confusion as to whether Ibin Quatab at the time, there was intelligence he was working for Musawi, was actually part of a legitimate FISA foreign power. So Giuliani was completely disingenuous feigning surprise because even if he had the slightest understanding of 9/11 he would know this. 

RT: I just want to quickly ask you, a group of congressmen now insist that the surviving suspect be denied a defense attorney and he should be declared an enemy combatant and shipped to Guantanamo, what do you make of that?

CR: It’s very difficult to go against this horrible propaganda in the United States that draws the wrong conclusions from acts. We’re going to end up with thousands of cameras in public places, we’re going to end up with the FBI doing more of its ill-considered preemptive targeting and making these boasts that they can prevent, which is actually not true, it’s actually the opposite. And in-fact we’re going to see terrible conclusions formed and public safety exceptions by the way pre-existed 9/11, we should have been able to interview in a very limited way without an attorney in order to prevent future deaths, the reason why that was disregarded after 9/11 and actually for several years, it led the US to overreact with the commissions and what Cheney and John You did, which was take the US to the dark side of torture and all of these extremely illegal actions.

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