iOS app Android app

Coleen Rowley
Coleen Rowley grew up in a small town in northeast Iowa. She obtained a B.A. degree in French from Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa and then attended the College of Law at the University of Iowa and graduated with honors in 1980 also passing the Iowa Bar Exam that summer.

In January of 1981, Rowley was appointed a Special Agent with the FBI and initially served in the Omaha, Nebraska and Jackson, Mississippi Divisions. In 1984 she was assigned to the New York Office and for over 6 years worked on Italian organized crime and Sicilian heroin drug investigations. During this time Rowley also served three separate temporary duty assignments in the Paris, France Embassy and Montreal Consulate.

In 1990 Rowley was transferred to Minneapolis where she assumed the duties of "Chief Division Counsel" which entailed oversight of the Freedom of Information, Forfeiture, Victim-Witness and Community Outreach Programs as well as providing regular legal and ethics training to FBI Agents of the Division and some outside police training.

In May of 2002 Rowley brought some of the pre 9-11 lapses to light and testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about some of the endemic problems facing the FBI and the intelligence community. Rowley's memo to FBI Director Robert Mueller in connection with the Joint Intelligence Committee's Inquiry led to a two year long Department of Justice Inspector General investigation. She was one of three whistleblowers chosen as persons of the year by TIME magazine in 2002.

In April 2003, following an unsuccessful and highly criticized attempt to warn the Director and other administration officials about the dangers of launching the invasion of Iraq, Rowley stepped down from her (GS-14) legal position to go back to being a (GS-13) FBI Special Agent. She retired from the FBI at the end of 2004 and speaks publicly to various groups, ranging from school children to business/professional/civic groups, on essentially two different topics: ethical decision-making and "civil liberties and effective investigation."

Rowley ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress in Minnesota's Second Congressional District in 2006. In February 2005 and again in 2007, a majority of Minnesota congresspersons and senators nominated Rowley to serve on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board but she was not selected. (This Board was mandated by 2004 federal intelligence reform legislation implementing the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission but never actually functioned until 2013 after Edward Snowden's whistleblower disclosures about the NSA's dragnet surveillance.)

Rowley is active in various peace groups such as the Minnesota-based, 33 year old non-profit "Women Against Military Madness" as well as Constitution & rule of law adherence, integrity in intelligence and whistleblower protection groups such as the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence and Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. She has written several op-eds for major newspapers and publications including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and She authored a chapter in a 2004 book published by the Milton Eisenhower Foundation entitled, Patriotism, Democracy and Common Sense: Restoring America's Promise at Home and Abroad, a chapter on civil liberties in the 2012 book Why Peace and an essay entitled, "The War on Terror: A False Promise for National Security" (published 2014 in the International Journal of Intelligence Ethics 4: 4-12). Rowley's long term goal is to update Kantian ethics by taking into consideration recent human psychological findings.

Entries by Coleen Rowley

Standing Up in the Spirit of America's First Whistleblower Benjamin Franklin!

(8) Comments | Posted June 13, 2015 | 1:45 PM

Our recent "Stand Up for Truth" whirlwind speaking tour through London, Oslo (see here and here), Stockholm and Berlin last week as well as webinars, visual presentations and speaking events in U.S. cities was exhausting but...

Read Post

Real Democracy Promotion: Lord Acton and Tom Clancy vs John Yoo

(0) Comments | Posted May 29, 2015 | 10:54 PM

Lord Acton is famous for his insights on how power corrupts but he also figured out that "everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice." The creators of democratic forms of government throughout the ages, including America's Founding Fathers knew these things too so they tried to ensure governmental transparency,...

Read Post

Legality of Drone Warfare or Illegality of Drone Assassination? Let a Real Debate Begin!

(6) Comments | Posted May 5, 2015 | 10:07 AM

Law professor Harold Koh, a former Yale Law School Dean and former Legal Adviser to Hillary Clinton's State Department, hired by NYU to teach human rights and international law, recently found himself in the crosshairs when NYU law students posted a "statement of no confidence" in...

Read Post

Legality of Drone Warfare or Illegality of Drone Assassination? Let a Real Debate Begin!

(0) Comments | Posted May 5, 2015 | 12:15 AM

Law professor Harold Koh, a former Yale Law School Dean and former Legal Adviser to Hillary Clinton's State Department, hired by NYU to teach human rights and international law, recently found himself in the crosshairs when NYU law students posted a "statement of no confidence" in...

Read Post

Truth, Transparency, Democracy and the Surveillance State

(5) Comments | Posted March 5, 2015 | 7:41 PM

During the past few weeks, retired NSA official Ed Loomis, author of the book: NSA's Transformation: An Executive Black Eye, worked as the principal drafter of the following memo from our "Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)" laying out the current sorry situation in the U.S. and providing recommendations for...

Read Post

Selling 'Peace Groups' on US-Led Wars

(24) Comments | Posted December 25, 2014 | 11:01 PM

This post was co-authored by Margaret Sarfehjooy and Coleen Rowley.

Since the anti-war protests on Vietnam, the U.S. government has made "perception management" of the American people a high priority, feeding them a steady diet of propaganda about foreign crises, even getting "peace groups" to buy into "pro-democracy" wars.


Read Post

Why Do Americans Hate Beheadings But Love Drone Killings?

(297) Comments | Posted September 29, 2014 | 8:32 AM

The answer lies in human psychology. And probably like the old observation about history, people who refuse to understand human psychology are doomed to be victims of psychological manipulation. How is it that even members of peace groups have now come to support US bombing? One lady framed the issue...

Read Post

Petition to Congress: End Israel's Bombing and Blockade

(2) Comments | Posted July 24, 2014 | 5:34 PM

We have just delivered a national petition organized by "Just Foreign Policy" that was created by Abir Elzowidi who lost five members of his family in the ongoing bombing of Gaza by Israel, two of them children. He wrote this. A couple of days later the petition to...

Read Post

Close Guantanamo, End Indefinite Detention and Return from the Dark Side

(15) Comments | Posted May 23, 2014 | 8:18 AM

Local Activists Rally to Close Guantánamo and End Indefinite Detention as Part of the Global Day of Action -- Joining Protests in 46 Cities Worldwide

Protests come exactly one year after President Obama recommitted to close down the detention facility.

Minneapolis, MN -- On Friday,...

Read Post

Challenging Condi Rice's Revision of History

(4) Comments | Posted April 2, 2014 | 7:36 PM

Some of us predicted when Condi Rice left office that she would become intent on revising history. Faustian bargains don't end that quickly!

It's now come to pass that universities around the country, including Rutgers and the University of Minnesota, are willing to heap praise upon Rice and pay her huge speaking fees to hear her talk about her struggle for civil rights. (Her speech is not entitled what she usually likes to talk about: "why war is good" but "Keeping Faith with a Legacy of Justice: the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.") Does it sound like she's hit upon another "noble cause" rationale for why she helped launch war on Iraq and initiate torture policies?!

The University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute officials who arranged for Rice's appearance cleverly framed their invitation as promoting academic freedom and free speech. But it's not about free speech. A student group who saw through this red herring, responded as follows:

First, by rescinding her invitation, the university would not be limiting Dr. Rice's free speech (ironically named, as she will be receiving $150,000 for the talk). We understand that university campuses are meant to be places where multiple viewpoints are heard, where students can be exposed to many opposing viewpoints. We firmly believe in this tradition. As you can imagine, given her prominent former positions as both the National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Dr. Rice will have no shortage of platforms on which to express herself. Rescinding her invitation has nothing to do with limiting Dr. Rice's right to free speech. Instead, it is about the University of Minnesota, continuously seeking to be perceived as a global university, tying itself to Dr. Rice's abhorrent conduct on behalf of the American people. By extending this invitation, the University has condoned Dr. Rice's authorization of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" and her using the threat of a mushroom cloud to push the United States into war with Iraq. The only appropriate action regarding Dr. Rice's invitation is to rescind it. Only this would send the correct message: that the University of Minnesota stands with the people of the world against torture and unjustified war.

A few weeks ago, the Faculty Councils at two Rutgers University campuses voted in support of a resolution to rescind Dr. Rice's invitation to deliver the commencement address there.

Anyway retired Major Todd E. Pierce and I sent the following letter today (April 2) in an effort to educate and inform some of the faculty, students and Administration at the University of Minnesota who have invited Condi Rice to give their "Distinguished Northrop Lecture" on April 17. Some of the faculty and students will be voting tomorrow afternoon on a resolution asking that Rice be disinvited and we thought it important that the facts about her involvement in planning and ordering torture, at least what is currently known, be shared.

Dear Humphrey School Faculty, Fellows, Staff and PASA members,

Former Vice President Mondale is on record as saying there should be some form of accountability for government officials' use of torture in the so-called "war on terror." He said that otherwise it's like laying a "loaded gun" on the table that in the future could be picked up and used again. Unfortunately by inviting Condi Rice to give a distinguished Northrop lecture, the University of Minnesota just reached over the table and cocked that loaded gun.

Strong reasons exist to oppose University officials' decision to give the distinguished podium to someone, albeit a former high official, so credibly accused of serious war crimes. Planning and ordering of torture is a jus cogens crime of the highest magnitude under both domestic and international law, not protected by the First Amendment or even academic freedom. This is not about politics. This is not about facilitating an educational discussion via controversial speakers. This IS about criminality and whether our country is willing to follow the rule of law or make exceptions for past (or in fact, future) leaders' actions.

Despite efforts to keep the facts secret, enough truth has come out to establish that beginning in 2002, Rice convened dozens of top secret meetings of the National Security Council's "Principals Committee" (whose members also included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet and John Ashcroft). The "Principals" planned and approved the use of various tortures, even choreographing some, to include near drowning (waterboarding), sleep deprivation, physical assault, subjection to extremely cold temperatures to cause hypothermia and use of stress positions. At one point Attorney General Ashcroft even questioned the group, "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

It was Rice herself who personally conveyed this White House group's order to the CIA to commence waterboarding of prisoners, telling the CIA: "Go do it. It's your baby" in July of 2002, even before their lawyer John Yoo was tasked with writing his famously faulty "torture memo" to "legalize" what they were doing. The torture memos were an attempt to provide what a later Department of Justice lawyer would label a "golden shield" from future criminal accountability for everyone involved. Other lawyers aptly describe Yoo's memos as a kind of "get out of jail free" card.

After photos leaked depicting horrible inhumane abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Major General Antonio Taguba was assigned to investigate, he called the "interrogation program" that Rice and other officials had devised a "systemic regime of torture." The list of approved tortures for the CIA had migrated down the military chain of command via Donald Rumsfeld, one of the main "Principals" at the White House meetings.

In 2008, the top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial, retired Judge Susan J. Crawford, was forced to dismiss war crime charges against an important 9-11 suspect when she concluded that the U.S. military tortured the Saudi national by interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."

The difficulty University officials experience in understanding these facts about Condi Rice's sordid history probably stems from a political decision, however, the one made by Obama when he took office to "not look backward, only look forward." That decision was not based on adherence to the law, as all accountability for crime inherently requires examining past actions.

As a result, infighting still persists between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee which has spent over $40 million of taxpayers' money on a nearly five-year-long investigation that reviewed millions of government documents. The Senate investigation, launched after it was discovered the CIA illegally destroyed 92 videotapes of its waterboarding torture sessions, produced a 6,300 page report a year ago. It's expected that a summary of that torture investigation will finally be released in the near future.

In fact a declassification vote on the torture report will now likely occur on April 3--coincidentally the very same day the University of Minnesota Faculty Senate votes whether to disinvite Condi Rice.

But in the meantime, Senate Chair Diane Feinstein accused the CIA of having illegally removed documents from her Committee's computers, apparently attempting to thwart legislative oversight. The torture investigation has thus reached a zenith in producing a "constitutional crisis." Clearly these issues are contentious and the full truth has not yet emerged but that's because such serious crimes are implicated!

Unfortunately the legal artifice of the torture memos has worked thus far to protect Ms. Rice so she remains unrepentant and even continues to publicly shill for more pre-emptive wars. But University and Carlson Foundation officials should not be endorsing her past actions. They shouldn't help her bury the truth and revise history.

Since in fact there has been almost no accountability on the use of torture whether through congressional investigation, appointed commission or independent prosecutor and the courts, perhaps the state of Minnesota can provide at least a small measure of accountability by withdrawing its invitation.

Todd E. Pierce, Roseville, MN
Coleen Rowley, Apple Valley, MN

(Coleen Rowley is a retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division legal counsel who writes on ethical and legal issues. Todd E. Pierce retired as a Major in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps in 2012. He was assigned as Defense Counsel in the Office of Chief Defense Counsel, Office of Military Commissions from 2008-2012.)...

Read Post

NSA? No Problemo... Until?

(0) Comments | Posted March 24, 2014 | 12:05 PM

If you think about it, it's ironic, to put it lightly, that whistleblower Edward Snowden -- whose message of the need for change essentially repeats President Obama's own original campaign promise -- is now so threatened and persecuted by that very same "change" president that he must seek asylum in...

Read Post

Tackling Torture Video Contest Finalists Announced -- Jury and Audience Voting Begins

(0) Comments | Posted January 18, 2014 | 11:31 PM

The Tackling Torture Video Contest has chosen eight finalists for its first competition. The five Serious video finalists and three Satirical finalists are posted for public viewing on this Tackling Torture Video Contest channel on YouTube. The seriousness of the topic has attracted filmmakers of all...

Read Post

Torture Doesn't Work. Law Does Work. Why Keep That Secret?!

(3) Comments | Posted December 20, 2013 | 3:37 PM

2013-12-20-index.jpgMost Americans do not know that their government engaged in practices that the civilized world considers war crimes. This lack of awareness is due, in part, to the fact that a comprehensive report of over 6000 pages on this...

Read Post

Challenge for Congress and the NSA This Wednesday: Re-establishing the Rule of Law

(0) Comments | Posted July 29, 2013 | 12:21 PM

Co-written with U.S. Army Major (Retired) Todd Pierce.

There is potentially good news about the continually unfolding revelations about the NSA's massive spying. Apparently two separate Congressional groups will be holding hearings or inquiries this Wednesday, July 31. A lot has happened since one of us (Coleen Rowley) complained that...

Read Post

Why We're Going to Dallas for the People's Response to the Bush Lie-Bury

(3) Comments | Posted March 28, 2013 | 7:07 AM

A recent news report asking "Where is Dubya?" found the former president totally unengaged, spending his time painting strange portraits of himself in the bath. In what seems to be a weird personal attempt to emulate Winston Churchill (but more reminiscent of Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess in her last days),...

Read Post

10 Years Later, Preemption Still Doesn't Work

(2) Comments | Posted March 6, 2013 | 10:06 AM

Exactly a decade ago, when Bush-Cheney's war machine was hell-bent on invading Iraq and few Washington power figures were brave enough to get in the way, I made this appeal to FBI Director Robert Mueller. The Cassandra business of warning about catastrophes that come true is certainly a...

Read Post

Senators Must Not Let John Brennan Dodge Serious Legal Questions

(6) Comments | Posted February 25, 2013 | 7:07 AM

Senator Rand Paul is not the only one with serious questions about the nomination of John Brennan for CIA Director! Many people are rightly concerned that the CIA Nominee failed to provide a clear answer to Paul's question: "Do you believe that the president has the authority to...

Read Post

Tell Obama What Dr. King Told LBJ: "God Didn't Choose America"

(15) Comments | Posted January 20, 2013 | 8:47 PM

There is probably no better a quote for this upcoming Martin Luther King holiday and certainly not a better message to convey at the MLK Day protest march this Monday, Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C. than the above sign photographed last...
Read Post

Only One Good Way to Brake Before Going Over the Debt Cliff: Reduce Wasteful War Spending!

(20) Comments | Posted December 31, 2012 | 7:47 AM

As the final scene of Thelma and Louise seems to be playing out these last few days, it might be a good time to recall the dramatic end of that movie.

It's true that some think the fiscal cliff is real while others say it's just a mirage. Some in the U.S. want to just "keep goin'" as Thelma urges. But most of us probably don't see much of a choice -- it seems more like we are trapped in a car with its gas pedal stuck in the full speed ahead mode and someone has disabled the brakes. For even at this 11th hour, almost no one in the Punch and Judy Show in Washington is able to home in on, much less intelligently discuss, the real problem.

As President Obama meets with congressional leaders at the White House in last-ditch efforts to reach a budget deal, however, one clarion voice, that of Representative Dennis Kucinich was heard on Democracy Now . Here are some of Kucinich's parting words of wisdom about the phoniness of the entire fiscal cliff debate, ignoring as it does the terrible elephant in the room, the war machine:

So, you know, this is -- we really have to decide who we are as a nation. We're spending more and more money for wars. We're spending more and more money for interventions abroad. We're spending more and more money for military buildups. And we seem to be prepared to spend less and less on domestic programs and on job creation. This whole idea of a debt-based economic system is linked to a war machine... We're increasingly dysfunctional as a nation because of our unwillingness to challenge the military-industrial complex, which Dwight Eisenhower warned about generations ago. And so, we really have to look at America's role in the world. We have a right to defend ourselves, but we have no right to aggress. And we're continuing to aggress. And that's coming at a cost to our domestic priorities here, this idea of guns and butter. We are now thoroughly mired in an economy that's based on guns. We are not providing for the practical needs of the American people. And this budget and this fiscal cliff does in no way get into that debate.

Also amidst the darkness comes a news flash of a way by which ordinary people can still make a difference: "DULUTH CITY COUNCIL JOINS SAINT PAUL AND MINNEAPOLIS PASSING THE MN ASAP RESOLUTION CALLING FOR PENTAGON SPENDING REDUCTIONS: the MN ASAP resolution connects the dots between federal military spending, cuts to city council budgets, and the debate about sequestration and the fiscal cliff."

As part of the Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project (MN ASAP), citizens in Minnesota have effectively begun pointing to U.S. war machine spending as the elephant in the room that needs to be noticed, then discussed and addressed. We have found that our city councilpersons and mayors, on the whole, seem more clear-headed, more approachable, less corrupted by the Military Industrial Complex and less defensive than the federal characters responsible for getting us into the costly wars and fiscal mess. As a result, on December 17, the Duluth City Council passed the resolution, calling on Congress for a reduction and redirection of Pentagon spending back to local communities.

(Click here for TV news coverage.)

The resolution initiative is getting real traction not only in Minnesota but around the country! The Saint Paul City Council unanimously passed a similar resolution, October 10th, 2012. And the Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a similar version of the MN ASAP resolution on December 7. (Just a few days before, Des Moines, Iowa joined a growing group of larger U.S. cities that have passed or are passing similar resolutions.)

We have to start somewhere and everyone can do this! For instance on December 13, I requested, for the second time, that the MN ASAP resolution be put on (my own) Apple Valley City Council's agenda warning that the wars are bankrupting America and that the "fiscal cliff" is unlikely to go away as long as the U.S. continues to spend more on the Pentagon, its wars abroad and its military occupations, than on programs of social uplift. I intend to keep knocking on my city's door until they wake up and open it and put this discussion on their official agenda.

Guns or butter is of course the real issue. It's unfortunate, all these decades after Eisenhower's warning about the pernicious, corrupting influence of the Military Industrial Complex, that we cannot count on those in Washington to heed the dangers. In fact, their plan seems to raise taxes on everyone to pay for more wars. More citizens and grassroots efforts like the successful actions of MN ASAP and the National Priorities Project are therefore necessary. People who care about their children and grandchildren's future need to replicate these type of presentations in cities and state legislatures all over the country if we are ever to end the unethical, illegal wars and get our priorities back in order.

And if we citizens choose to do nothing but go along? Note that the old movie mercifully spared its audience of watching crazy Thelma and Louise hit rock bottom. Rest assured, however, that in real life, Washington's collective euphoria and currently prevalent belief that war is the answer will undoubtedly come to a very sad crashing...

Read Post

What to Do after 11 Years of War? How About Occupying Your City Council?!

(3) Comments | Posted October 11, 2012 | 5:00 PM

While electoral politics tends to suck the oxygen out of the room (and apparently out of many people's brains) in these last few weeks before an election, a number of U.S. citizens committed to ending the wars took to the streets this week. Demonstrations in at least 38...

Read Post