Coleen Rowley: The Right Side of "Us vs. Them"

jbone at place.org jbone at place.org
Mon Oct 20 07:33:05 PDT 2003


This came across Lisa Rein's Radar the other day, apologies if you've 
already seen it (I hadn't, I don't check her stuff every day since I 
actually *watch* the Daily Show... ;-)

---

http://www.onlisareinsradar.com/archives/001871.php

FBI Special Agent Coleen Rowley Explains How The Shrub Administration's 
Intimidation Tactics Erode Our First Amendment Liberties

Right On Coleen! Thanks for having the guts to publish this article. It 
means a lot coming from you.

There are a lot of good people working for the government right now 
that are working for change, but it's really hard because their hands 
are tied. Most of them are in Damage Control mode and just trying to 
make it through their day-to-day activities without having to 
participate in anything too horrible until this administration can be 
replaced.

Coleen Rowley: The wrong side of 'us vs. them'
By Coleen Rowley for the Star Tribune.

I didn't attend Attorney General John Ashcroft's speech last month in 
Minneapolis, but newspapers have quoted him as saying that Americans 
are "freer today than at any time in the history of human freedom."

Well, this American disagrees! And I would venture to say that many 
others feel the same way -- those who have been put on the "them" side 
of the "us vs. them" equation in the context of the administration's 
"you're either with us or against us" mentality.

It didn't matter whether you were a career FBI agent, a decorated war 
veteran, a duly elected congressman or senator, a military general or 
even a former president, you were labeled a traitor for voicing any 
criticism of administration policies. You were accused of giving aid 
and comfort to the enemy, called a friend of Osama bin Laden and thrown 
to the wolves (or more accurately, the FOXes).

The intimidation in this country that's been whipped up by this 
official fear and warmongering has been far more effective than any 
Patriot Act in whittling away our civil liberties...

It's also no secret that this administration has used its considerable 
power to fight giving any real legal protection to government 
whistle-blowers and even attempted to water down the Sarbanes-Oxley 
Act's protections recently enacted for corporate whistle-blowers.

Of course, no "whistle-blower protection" exists for public disclosures 
or articles such as this one. But even without it, the First Amendment 
should suffice and is what I rely on. However, the official warnings 
along these lines that I've repeatedly received in the course of my 
attempts to speak on issues of public importance seem little more than 
veiled threats; or are they perhaps a warning that the First Amendment 
is not as robust as it used to be?

There's another large segment of our citizenry who have found 
themselves cast as "thems" by this "war" mentality. Complaints of 
discrimination against Muslim workers and reports of hate crimes 
against people believed to be of Middle Eastern descent have at least 
doubled...

Although it must be recognized that the origin of this problem was in 
the horror of the violent attacks themselves and that certain 
government leaders, such as FBI Director Robert Mueller, have 
undertaken efforts to reach out to affected Arab groups, the social 
scientists point to other government actions following 9/11 (including 
the government's roundup and detention of illegal immigrants, the 
special registration requirements that single out students and visitors 
from Muslim nations, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) as sending 
"social signals" that are worsening these biases.

A specialist in the issues of prejudice and stereotyping has noted that 
people who perceive themselves under threat naturally tend to think of 
"who's with me" and "who's against me." In any event, I doubt that many 
in the Arab-American segment of the populace feel "freer today," as 
Ashcroft's generality suggests.

Here is the text of the entire article in case the link goes bad:

http://www.startribune.com/stories/562/4147904.html

Coleen Rowley: The wrong side of 'us vs. them'
Coleen Rowley

Published October 12, 2003

ROWLEY1012

I didn't attend Attorney General John Ashcroft's speech last month in 
Minneapolis, but newspapers have quoted him as saying that Americans 
are "freer today than at any time in the history of human freedom."

Well, this American disagrees! And I would venture to say that many 
others feel the same way -- those who have been put on the "them" side 
of the "us vs. them" equation in the context of the administration's 
"you're either with us or against us" mentality.

It didn't matter whether you were a career FBI agent, a decorated war 
veteran, a duly elected congressman or senator, a military general or 
even a former president, you were labeled a traitor for voicing any 
criticism of administration policies. You were accused of giving aid 
and comfort to the enemy, called a friend of Osama bin Laden and thrown 
to the wolves (or more accurately, the FOXes).

The intimidation in this country that's been whipped up by this 
official fear and warmongering has been far more effective than any 
Patriot Act in whittling away our civil liberties.

Interestingly enough, Ashcroft himself is not above using this 
technique to lump those who disagree with him in with the terrorists to 
thereby discourage debate. Recall his statement, three months after 
Sept. 11: "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost 
liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists -- for 
they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give 
ammunition to America's enemies."

It's also no secret that this administration has used its considerable 
power to fight giving any real legal protection to government 
whistle-blowers and even attempted to water down the Sarbanes-Oxley 
Act's protections recently enacted for corporate whistle-blowers.

Of course, no "whistle-blower protection" exists for public disclosures 
or articles such as this one. But even without it, the First Amendment 
should suffice and is what I rely on. However, the official warnings 
along these lines that I've repeatedly received in the course of my 
attempts to speak on issues of public importance seem little more than 
veiled threats; or are they perhaps a warning that the First Amendment 
is not as robust as it used to be?

There's another large segment of our citizenry who have found 
themselves cast as "thems" by this "war" mentality. Complaints of 
discrimination against Muslim workers and reports of hate crimes 
against people believed to be of Middle Eastern descent have at least 
doubled.

Social psychologists say that the attacks of Sept. 11 and their 
aftermath have created a real-world experiment which unfortunately 
indicates that the more positively one feels about the United States, 
the more likely one is to be anti-Arab.

Although it must be recognized that the origin of this problem was in 
the horror of the violent attacks themselves and that certain 
government leaders, such as FBI Director Robert Mueller, have 
undertaken efforts to reach out to affected Arab groups, the social 
scientists point to other government actions following 9/11 (including 
the government's roundup and detention of illegal immigrants, the 
special registration requirements that single out students and visitors 
from Muslim nations, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) as sending 
"social signals" that are worsening these biases.

A specialist in the issues of prejudice and stereotyping has noted that 
people who perceive themselves under threat naturally tend to think of 
"who's with me" and "who's against me." In any event, I doubt that many 
in the Arab-American segment of the populace feel "freer today," as 
Ashcroft's generality suggests.

I could go on in a more general, abstract way about how "free" any of 
us truly is living with the ongoing terrorist threat to our safety that 
will be with us for a long time. For, distilled to their essences, 
security and liberty are very intertwined, if not the same thing. In 
that sense, how many people in yellow/orange-alert America feel "freer" 
today than they did prior to 9/11?

Ashcroft may be correct on other matters, including that the letter of 
the law contained in the Patriot Act is, for the most part, not the 
problem, but he is certainly either in denial, out of touch or painting 
far too rosy a picture by saying that Americans are "freer today than 
at any time in the history of human freedom." For our civil liberties 
can be and are in jeopardy in other ways.

For starters, we must do more to break down the "us vs. them" mind-set 
and the accompanying intimidation that ultimately threaten us all. We 
must recognize that we are all in this together.

Coleen Rowley works for the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a 
special agent with the Minneapolis office. (The views expressed are her 
own and are not to be construed as the official views of the FBI.)



More information about the FoRK mailing list