Colleen Rowley: Minders Ensured She Didn’t Say Anything About 9/11 the FBI Didn’t WANT Told, Even to Government Officials With Top Security Clearance

FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley was interviewed by Scott
Horton, professor at Columbia Law School and Contributing Editor of
Harper’s Magazine.

Rowley said
that in her testimony to the Joint Intelligence Committee regarding
9/11, she was “minded”. Specifically, she said that “FBI minders”
listened to her every word, to trail her and make sure that she didn’t
tell government personnel with top secret clearance even higher than her own anything which the FBI did not want to be told.

While this might sound fantastic, it is nothing new.

Rowley said the same had happened to Daniel Ellsberg went to members of Congress with the Pentagon papers.

As I wrote a year ago:

9/11 Commission chair Thomas Kean points out
that if "minders" had been present during the Commission’s
investigation, that would have been intimidation, which would have
stemmed the flow of testimony from the witnesses:

I
think the commission feels unanimously that it’s some intimidation to
have somebody sitting behind you all the time who you either work for
or works for your agency. You might get less testimony than you would.

However, that’s exactly what happened to Kean’s own 9/11 Commission.

Specifically:

A recently released 9/11 Commission memo
[released in January 2009 from the Commission to the National Archives;
referenced in the The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the
United States, Finding Aid: Series Descriptions and Folder Title Lists, page 52, "Memo Concerning Minders Conduct" *]
highlights the role of government “minders” who accompanied witnesses
interviewed by the commission. It was added to the National Archives’
files at the start of the year and discovered there by History Commons
contributor paxvector.

The memo, entitled “Executive Branch Minders’ Intimidation of Witnesses,” complains that:

  • Minders “answer[ed] questions directed at witnesses;”
  • Minders
    acted as “monitors, reporting to their respective agencies on
    Commission staffs lines of inquiry and witnesses’ verbatim responses.”
    The staff thought this “conveys to witnesses that their superiors will
    review their statements and may engage in retribution;” and
  • Minders
    “positioned themselves physically and have conducted themselves in a
    manner that we believe intimidates witnesses from giving full and
    candid responses to our questions.”

The memo was drafted
by three staffers on the commission’s Team 2, which reviewed the
overall structure of the US intelligence community. One of the drafters
was Kevin Scheid, a senior staffer who led the team. His co-writers
were Lorry Fenner, an air force intelligence officer, and lawyer Gordon
Lederman. The complaint was sent to the commission’s counsels, Daniel
Marcus and Steve Dunne, in October 2003, about halfway through the
commission’s 19-month life.

The memo makes clear that the
problems were not occurring only with witnesses talking to Team 2, but
also in “other teams’ interviews.” A hand-written note on a draft of
the memo says, “not one agency or minder – also where we’ve sat in on
other Teams’ interviews.”

According to the memo, some minders
merely policed prior agreements between the commission and their parent
agency about what the commission could ask witnesses, and others were
simply there to make a list of documents the commission might want
based on a witness’ testimony. However, some minders saw their role
differently.

Intimidation through Physical Positioning

The
three staffers argued minders should not answer questions for witnesses
because they needed to understand not how the intelligence community
was supposed to function, but “how the Intelligence Community functions
in actuality.” However: “When we have asked witnesses about certain
roles and responsibilities within the Intelligence Community, minders
have preempted witnesses’ responses by referencing formal polices and
procedures. As a result, witnesses have not responded to our questions
and have deprived us from understanding the Intelligence Community’s
actual functioning and witnesses’ view of their roles and
responsibilities.”

The memo also describes the minders’ conduct
in detail: “… [M]inders have positioned themselves physically and have
conducted themselves in a manner that we believe intimidates witnesses
from giving full and candid responses to our questions. Minders
generally have sat next to witnesses at the table and across from
Commission staff, conveying to witnesses that minders are participants
in interviews and are of equal status to witnesses.”

The
staffers also worried about minders taking “verbatim notes of
witnesses’ statements,” as they thought this “conveys to witnesses that
their superiors will review their statements and may engage in
retribution.” They believed that “the net effect of minders’ conduct,
whether intentionally or not, is to intimidate witnesses and to
interfere with witnesses providing full and candid responses.”

Another
problem with the verbatim notetaking was that it “facilitates agencies
in alerting future witnesses to the Commission’s lines of inquiry and
permits agencies to prepare future witnesses either explicitly or
implicitly.”

Proposals

In response to
this, the three staffers proposed not that minders be banned from
interviews, but a set of rules governing minders’ conduct. For example,
minders were to keep a “low profile,” sit out of witnesses’ sight, not
take verbatim notes and not answer any questions directed at the
witnesses.

Perhaps the most remarkable proposal is that the
number of minders be limited to one per witness. The memo indicates
that where an interviewee had served in multiple agencies, more than
one minder would accompany the witness. The memo therefore requests,
“Only one minder may attend an interview even if the witness served in
multiple agencies,” meaning a witness would at least not be outnumbered
by his minders.

As the Family Steering Committee (made up of 9/11 victims’ family members) wrote in 2003:

The
FSC [Family Steering Committee] is shocked with the use of “minders” in
the interrogatory process. And, despite the Commissioner’s similar
objection to “minders”, as stated at the last press conference,
“minders” continue to be present during witness examination and
questioning. The FSC does not want “minders” present during any witness
examination and questioning; it is a form of intimidation and it does
not yield the unfettered truth.

Indeed, even 9/11 Commission co-chair Lee Hamilton admitted that "it is very difficult to tell when a witness is being intimidated by a minder."

Not only did the Bush administration adopt Communist torture techniques geared towards extracting false confessions, it also appears to have adopted Communist intimidation tactics.

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