FBI 9/11 Whistle-blower Coleen Rowley: Post-Charlie Hebdo Massacre Rush to Expand Warrantless Surveillance Counterproductive

Posted Jan. 21, 2015

MP3 Interview with Coleen Rowley, former FBI special agent and 9/11 whistle-blower, conducted by Scott Harris

surveillance

Europe is still on edge after two brutal terrorist attacks in France that claimed the lives of 17, including 12 at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and four at a kosher food market. Law enforcement agencies across the continent launched investigations into the links between the terrorist Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly, who were killed in France, and other groups of violent extremists. Two armed men were killed and 13 others were held for questioning after a raid on an apartment in Belgium, where officials say a local extremist group was planning an imminent attack. Dozens more suspected terrorists and supporters were arrested or detained in France, Germany and Greece.

In the U.S., conservative, mostly Republican politicians quickly used the terrorist attacks in France to counter the calls by many Americans to reform the National Security Agency's blanket surveillance both at home and abroad. After former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the broad scope of the agency's warrantless surveillance programs that monitor phone and electronic communications, some congressional leaders moved to support legislation that would trim back and reform the NSA’s spying power. But after the French terrorist attacks, the climate in Washington appears to be shifting.

GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Richard Burr of North Carolina were among Republicans who made multiple media appearances to support increased funding and flexibility for the NSA to enhance their power to more effectively connect the dots to prevent a future Charlie Hebdo-like attack in the U.S. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Coleen Rowley, a former FBI special agent, who wrote a critical memo and testified before Congress to describe some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures. Here, she warns that a rush to expand warrantless dragnet surveillance in response to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, would be a serious mistake.

For more perspectives on efforts to reform warrantless surveillance and the debate on the most effective approaches to prevent terrorism, see Between The Lines' archives.

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