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Fbi whistle blower backed for terror committee

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Posted on Wed, Feb. 16, 2005
Rowley backed for anti-terrorism committee

Associated Press

WASHINGTON Seven members of the Minnesota congressional delegation are urging President Bush to appoint former FBI whistle-blower Coleen Rowley to an anti-terrorism oversight board.

The members want Rowley to get a spot on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which was created in last year's intelligence overhaul bill to ensure that government actions in the war on terror do not infringe on people's rights.

Rowley, 50, who retired from the FBI on Dec. 31, had written to all 10 members asking them to support her for a position on the five-member board.

"This board is really a good idea, because it's a way to balance and avoid mistakes and abuses that can emanate when you engage in this zealous law enforcement," said Rowley, who lives in Apple Valley, in a telephone interview Tuesday night.

In their letter, which was sent to the White House Tuesday, the Minnesota lawmakers wrote: "Coleen Rowley is an excellent candidate to advise you and our nation as we strive to find the proper balance between our constitutionally protected civil liberties and effective action to stop terrorists."

The letter, which was spearheaded by Democrat Martin Sabo, was signed by both Minnesota senators and five of the state's eight House members. Three members did not sign it: Republicans Gil Gutknecht, John Kline and Mark Kennedy.

Angelyn Shapiro, a spokeswoman for Kline, said Rowley had made "alarmist" comments in criticizing the war on terror.

"As a result of those comments, we don't feel she is the appropriate person to recommend for this position," Shapiro said.

Kennedy and Gutknecht did not return messages left Tuesday evening.

Rowley was at the center of a storm of questions over the government's handling of intelligence after she criticized the agency for ignoring her pleas in the weeks before Sept. 11, 2001, to investigate terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui more aggressively. He was the only person charged in the United States in the attacks.

Rowley, who was named one of Time magazine's Persons of the Year for 2002 for her whistle-blowing efforts, has recently raised questions about the dangers to civil liberties in the government's pursuit of terrorists. In 2003, she opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Rowley said the board, which was proposed by the Sept. 11 Commission, was watered down in the bill that Bush signed into law late last year. It has no subpoena power, and it's authority is not clearly spelled out in the law, she said. Also, the board members serve at the pleasure of the president.

"It would be terrifically difficult, no doubt about that," she said. "But if nothing else, this board could serve an educational purpose. Up until now, the approach of cloaking the various initiatives and authorities in complete secrecy has not been a good one."

Rowley said a lot will depend on how independent-minded the board members are, and that's why she's eager to get a spot on it.

She said that the country has been taking "strong medicine" in the war on terrorism without any concern for the "side effects" the undermining of civil liberties. Rowley said she hoped that the board could serve as a check on those side effects.

White House officials could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday night.

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