FBI’s Rowley addresses supportive crowd

Elizabeth Dunbar

Community members showed support for Coleen Rowley at Hamline University on Friday, days after the FBI whistleblower warned that the bureau was unprepared for the terrorist attacks that could come after a U.S. attack on Iraq.

St. Paul resident Michaelene Zowistowski gave Rowley a thumbs up when she entered Sundin Music Hall.

“I have really admired her,” Zowistowski said. “She’s an outcast from this kind of good ol’ boys club in the FBI.”

Time magazine named the 22-year agent one of its Persons of the Year after she revealed FBI intelligence failures in its investigation of terrorism conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In a seven-page letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller last month, Rowley said the agency won’t be able to handle the “flood of terrorism that will likely head our way in the wake of an attack on Iraq.”

Approximately 300 people packed into the small auditorium and gave Rowley a rousing round of applause before she was introduced to deliver a lecture on legal ethics.

“This has to be the most enthusiastic crowd for legal ethics ever,” Rowley said.

In her lecture, Rowley said unauthorized disclosure rules in law enforcement and confidentiality rules in legal ethics sometimes hurt the public.

“Most of the time in the FBI we give this standard ‘no comment’ answer,” she said. “There are cases where we can’t really defend ourselves in the media, and because of these rules we can’t really tell what the truth is.”

The “fringe” areas, Rowley said, should be examined “to protect society as a whole.”

Despite Rowley’s warning that audience members would be nodding off as soon as she started, many lingered afterward to ask questions.

Many, like St. Paul resident Marty Evans, voiced support.

“She’s up for losing her job,” said Evans, who gave Rowley an ethics book by Bishop Fulton Sheen. “That book gives some insights that might help her.”

One person asked if Rowley was concerned about losing her job and people questioning her motivations.

“I’m so thankful that we live in a free country,” Rowley said.

In response to a follow-up question about the USA Patriot Act and other legislation limiting freedoms, Rowley said she hopes rights can be preserved.

“If you look back in history, we’ve gone through many periods where our freedoms were going down,” she said. “I think that’s something we have to keep on.”

Evans said he came to see the person willing to speak out.

“I wanted to see what the person was like that was willing to put everything on the line,” Evans said. “She’s got an awfully difficult battle to fight.”

“Somehow we have to change this attitude as a society,” Zowistowski said. “People are not coming forward.”

Elizabeth Dunbar covers international affairs and welcomes comments at

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