Conflicts of Interest and Ethics: Robert Mueller and James Comey

By Former FBI agent – and a 2002 Time Person of the Year – Colleen Rowley.

Mainstream commentators display amnesia when they describe former FBI Directors Robert Mueller and James Comey as stellar and credible law enforcement figures. Perhaps if they included J. Edgar Hoover, such fulsome praise could be put into proper perspective.

Although these Hoover successors, now occupying center stage in the investigation of President Trump, have been hailed for their impeccable character by much of Official Washington, the truth is, as top law enforcement officials of the George W. Bush Administration (Mueller as FBI Director and James Comey as Deputy Attorney General), both presided over post-9/11 cover-ups and secret abuses of the Constitution, enabled Bush-Cheney fabrications used to launch wrongful wars, and exhibited plain vanilla incompetence.

TIME Magazine would probably have not called my own disclosures a “bombshell memo” to the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry in May 2002 if it had not been for Mueller’s having so misled everyone after 9/11. Although he bore no personal responsibility for intelligence failures before the attack, since he only became FBI Director a week before, Mueller denied or downplayed the significance of warnings that had poured in yet were all ignored or mishandled during the Spring and Summer of 2001.

Bush Administration officials had circled the wagons and refused to publicly own up to what the 9/11 Commission eventually concluded, “that the system had been blinking red.” Failures to read, share or act upon important intelligence, which a FBI agent witness termed “criminal negligence” in later trial testimony, were therefore not fixed in a timely manner. (Some failures were never fixed at all.)

Worse, Bush and Cheney used that post 9/11 period of obfuscation to “roll out” their misbegotten “war on terror,” which only served to exponentially increase worldwide terrorism.

Unfulfilled Promise

I wanted to believe Director Mueller when he expressed some regret in our personal meeting the night before we both testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He told me he was seeking improvements and that I should not hesitate to contact him if I ever witnessed a similar situation to what was behind the FBI’s pre 9/11 failures.

A few months later, when it appeared he was acceding to Bush-Cheney’s ginning up intelligence to launch the unjustified, counterproductive and illegal war on Iraq, I took Mueller up on his offer, emailing him my concerns in late February 2003. Mueller knew, for instance, that Vice President Dick Cheney’s claims connecting 9/11 to Iraq were bogus yet he remained quiet. He also never responded to my email.

Beyond ignoring politicized intelligence, Mueller bent to other political pressures. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Mueller directed the “post 9/11 round-up” of about 1,000 immigrants who mostly happened to be in the wrong place (the New York City area) at the wrong time. FBI Headquarters encouraged more and more detentions for what seemed to be essentially P.R. purposes. Field offices were required to report daily the number of detentions in order to supply grist for FBI press releases about FBI “progress” in fighting terrorism. Consequently, some of the detainees were brutalized and jailed for up to a year despite the fact that none turned out to be terrorists.

A History of Failure

Long before he became FBI Director, serious questions existed about Mueller’s role as Acting U.S. Attorney in Boston in effectively enabling decades of corruption and covering up of the FBI’s illicit deals with mobster Whitey Bulger and other “top echelon” informants who committed numerous murders and crimes. When the truth was finally uncovered through intrepid investigative reporting and persistent, honest judges, U.S. taxpayers footed a $100 million court award to the four men framed for murders committed by (the FBI-operated) Bulger gang.

Current media applause omits the fact that former FBI Director Mueller was the top official in charge of the Anthrax terror fiasco investigation into those 2001 murders, which targeted an innocent man (Steven Hatfill) whose lawsuit eventually forced the FBI to pay $5 million in compensation. Mueller’s FBI was also severely criticized by Department of Justice Inspector Generals finding the FBI overstepped the law improperly serving hundreds of thousands of “national security letters” to obtain private (and irrelevant) metadata on citizens, and for infiltrating nonviolent anti-war groups under the guise of investigating “terrorism.”

For his part, Deputy Attorney General James Comey, too, went along with the abuses of Bush and Cheney after 9/11 and signed off on a number of highly illegal programs including warrantless surveillance of Americans and torture of captives. Comey also defended the Bush Administration’s three-year-long detention of an American citizen without charges or right to counsel.

Up to the March 2004 night in Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital room, both Comey and Mueller were complicit with implementing a form of martial law, perpetrated via secret Office of Legal Counsel memos mainly written by John Yoo and predicated upon Yoo’s singular theories of absolute “imperial” or “war presidency” powers, and requiring Ashcroft every 90 days to renew certification of a “state of emergency.”

The Comey/Mueller Myth

What’s not well understood is that Comey’s and Mueller’s joint intervention to stop Bush’s men from forcing the sick Attorney General to sign the certification that night was a short-lived moment. A few days later, they all simply went back to the drawing board to draft new legal loopholes to continue the same (unconstitutional) surveillance of Americans.

The mythology of this episode, repeated endlessly throughout the press, is that Comey and Mueller did something significant and lasting in that hospital room. They didn’t. Only the legal rationale for their unconstitutional actions was tweaked.

Mueller was even okay with the CIA conducting torture programs after his own agents warned against participation. Agents were simply instructed not to document such torture, and any “war crimes files” were made to disappear. Not only did “collect it all” surveillance and torture programs continue, but Mueller’s (and then Comey’s) FBI later worked to prosecute NSA and CIA whistleblowers who revealed these illegalities.

Neither Comey nor Mueller — who are reported to be “joined at the hip” — deserve their current lionization among politicians and mainstream media. Instead of Jimmy Stewart-like “G-men” with reputations for principled integrity, the two close confidants and collaborators merely proved themselves, along with former CIA Director George “Slam Dunk” Tenet, reliably politicized sycophants, enmeshing themselves in a series of wrongful abuses of power along with official incompetence.

It seems clear that based on his history and close “partnership” with Comey, called “one of the closest working relationships the top ranks of the Justice Department have ever seen,” Mueller was chosen as Special Counsel not because he has integrity but because he will do what the powerful want him to do.

Mueller didn’t speak the truth about a war he knew to be unjustified. He didn’t speak out against torture. He didn’t speak out against unconstitutional surveillance. And he didn’t tell the truth about 9/11. He is just “their man.”

Coleen Rowley, a retired FBI special agent and division legal counsel whose May 2002 memo to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. Her 2003 letter to Robert Mueller in opposition to launching the Iraq War is archived in full text on the NYT and her 2013 op-ed entitled “Questions for the FBI Nominee“ was published on the day of James Comey’s confirmation hearing. This piece was originally published at Huffington Post and

Relevant links:

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  • awb22

    “A few months later, when it appeared he was acceding to Bush-Cheney’s ginning up intelligence to launch the unjustified, counterproductive and illegal war on Iraq, I took Mueller up on his offer” – I didn’t realize the FBI was now doing the CIA’s job, silly me.

    Pot, kettle, black comes to mind.

  • Brabantian

    A memo by a former US Dept of Justice employee – showing how Comey is hip-deep in horrific scandals of his own – apparently led to both Comey dropping the ‘obstruction of justice’ claims against Trump – and Comey’s delay in testimony whilst Comey talked to his own lawyers

    Plus, the memo seemed to have caused the remarkable turn-about on Julian Assange, with the US gov’t asking Sweden to drop the ‘rape charge’ enquiry

    Some days back a remarkable memo appeared on PasteBin, by a former US Dept of Justice employee, discussing the dark side of scandal of fired FBI Director James Comey:
    ‘DOJ Dossier Memo – James Comey hid crimes of law firms defrauding client millions’

    This memo apparently wound up being closely read by Trump’s personal lawyers & White House team & the office of US Attorney General. Directly afterwards, Comey pulling back from the ‘obstruction of justice’ accusation against Trump.

    One section of that memo, discussed the ironic situation that Edward Snowden & Julian Assange are now publicly bashing Trump, when both Snowden & Assange are known by every major gov’t to be complete hoaxes & in fact current CIA assets, ‘leaking’ under managed control. The memo linked to one of the major reports on these frauds, excerpted on Veterans Today:
    ‘Intel Agency Report: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald are CIA frauds’

    And we now of course have seen Greenwald’s Intercept outfit do a monstrous sell-out leading to the arrest of leaker – whistle-blower Reality Leigh Winner … we may never know how many leakers have been identified, silenced, and maybe even killed by the actions of fakers Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden or Julian Assange.

    The above memo by the DOJ veteran, recommended that Trump & US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, be personally informed that Snowden & Assange were hoaxes … and that these embarrassing frauds be wound down

    So CIA Director Mike Pompeo & Western intel agencies quickly moved to end the Assange farce … Sweden charges ‘dropped’ suddenly, Assange ‘free to leave’ London Ecuador Embassy (where he likely wasn’t really ‘living’ except for photos etc)

    In short, Donald Trump & US Justice chief Jeff Sessions just learned – as a by-product of Comey events – that Julian Assange & Edward Snowden are frauds created by the CIA in Obama years

    So, immediately after this memo detailing a history of major scandal involving James Comey – and touching on the Assange-Snowden frauds – we saw

    (1) James Comey backed off & reversed his story, testifying that there was ‘no obstruction of justice’ by Trump

    (2) US Senator John McCain, the deepest of deep staters, announced that it was absurd to talk of ‘impeachment’ of Trump

    (3) Suddenly, the Swedish government – long said to be under US intel influence – ‘dropped’ the ‘rape investigation’ of Julian Assange, cancelling everything, no extradition request, Assange is ‘free to leave the London Ecuador Embassy’ where Assange has claimed to be ‘living’ … tho apparently Assange said to be only ‘at the Embassy’ for photos, moved in & out by UK intel when the ‘police watch’ by London coppers advise it is a good time.

    • 200 Years Together

      I’m leaning towards Reality Winner being a patsy or a scapegoat. She didn’t leak anything that is really groundbreaking. The NSA must have a dossier on everyone in the US with a cellphone, so why does nothing of importance get leaked?

      • cityspeak

        Don’t forget a possible “limited hangout”.

        • 200 Years Together

          That was the word I was looking for. Table scraps of intelligence.

  • ICFubar

    American societal structure, the true underlying structure of power, wealth and access, has always served its own interests, all the little people and the nation be damned, or anyone else who gets in their way. This is replicated throughout the west where the same structure also exists in spades. Governments and its agencies, and those who oversee their functions including the FBI are but extensions of this command and control apparatus in place that reach into the public domain and become visible to the population at large. What the corportocracy wants it gets or the financial screws get turned on or death squads begin to act, from lone assassinations, to acts of terrorism against the public, through to resource wars of naked aggression. These denizens of the financial and corporate world should have a motto that reads ‘Our way and our interests at any cost to other’s lives or life support systems.’

    We can see this motto in effect over a broad range of fronts and on many levels, from the obfuscation as cover to naked aggression to attack the Middle East and Africa for the resources there, to the secret negotiations to funnel bulk Canadian fresh water for exportation to the USA (Site ‘C’ in British Columbia) after this same corportocracy has so mismanaged American water resources for their own gain leaving the American populous perilously exposed to potable drinking water shortages, or none, as fracking and other misuses have contaminated or from other uses consuming American water resources frivolously.The projections are that corporate control of drinking water will yield a trillion dollar operation by the year 2030 and the big banks and other such entities are lining up to seize the water resources through P3 swindles while committing economic strangulation of governments so that Their politicians are ‘forced’ to sell off the public’s control over water, through government, to the very culprits who run the command and control structure over society. Talk about war against little people, their nations and a grasping corportocracy that couldn’t understand sustainability if the world was down to its last gallon of fresh water as they think of what they could Get for that last gallon.

  • Zartan

    There are serious illegalities in the US government that are classified. I know. How is it possible for so many leaks to be worthless material? Who did not know the US government was spying? What difference did Snowden Make? I knew about government spying, before 9/11, and I had no special clearances related, as it was called common sense. Who would be naive enough to trust government?

    I can only say, the American People are Sheep. When you look at History you find people like Mussolini who took over ” without a US constitution” absolute power in Italy with nothing more than a Protest. Nothing even close to what has been done to the US citizen was done to the Italian of that era. However, those people had teeth and were willing to fight. Americans are too High, Drunk and Divided!

    Russia also proved that Revolutions Work, The Russian Communist Revolution against the Tsar worked Brilliantly. Today, the American Government is working with Corporate Pirates to make the Taxpayers pay for their own slavery, while they rob them blind. Nobody will fight. And, it would be easier to throw out the US government than at any point in History, because the American people have something nobody else did: The Rights to Bear Arms, Free Speech, Protest, Militia, and Citizens Arrest … However, Americans are happy with nothing.

    Americans want to give to government and receive nothing in return! This is the definition of Insanity! You do not give everything to government and get nothing in return, JESUS CHRIST! You do not offer GOD “spit,” and He is more deserving, so why give voluntarily to a Murder Machine that does nothing but Steal, Kill and Destroy? Americans … Slaves were never abused so badly. You should really think about it, because You are a New and Special Kind of Slave. A Slave that pays for its own enslavement and obeys its master fighting its illegal wars and voluntarily paying tax, while being robbed blind.

    Wall Street is WIDE OPEN, PEOPLE, a BIG JUICY FREEDOM FRY, yes, America, if you could summon up the Courage and 1-million protesters … YOU will get “ANYTHING and Everything” you want by Surrounding the NYSE and Shorting the Markets to ZERO. Think about the Quad-trillion in bogus derivatives waiting to implode? The Bankers will become Your Slaves! Think about all of YOUR MONEY that they Gave to Wall Street! You can get it all back, plus change your nation, by simply checkmating wall street. The International Community and the 1-percent will SACK the US government if you Command them. You have to know how to USE POWER, if you want Change, People. This is your only path to FREEDOM, America. You have all the Power but do not know how to use it: Learn, America.

  • cityspeak

    A call Mueller the “cleaner”.
    He is touted us the straight shooter and the big lawman which must have to with his height.
    If you follow his career you can see that his role is “to look the other way” and assure the rubes that there is “nothing to see here as our government is clean as a whistle”.

  • Douteux55

    Reality Winner? Is that a real person, sounds like a racehorse. Honestly, these guys must be laughing all day long that we believe any of this garbage. Reality Winner indeed. Might as well be House of Cards which is effectively channeling the Clintons. What amazes me is that people can watch that show and yet remain steadfast in their belief that none of it is real, that there are no murders, no “accidents”, no lies, nothing. America needs to believe that somehow the DOJ or FBI or CIA would find out and throw the perps in jail. They simply refuse to believe that these agencies are complicit and compromised. Boggles the mind.


    Interesting, because I have been concerned with the way I see and hear the “parsing” of definitions in a diversionary way of anyone surrounding Trump and his oligarchic wealthy administrators. “He’s learning”. “He’s ignorant of how the Presidency works”. “He’s a businessman, not a politician”. All good reasons for removing him for what he was try to do here…and stop the Russian investigation. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence and/or common sense knows what Trump was doing in his conversations to Comey, Coates or Rogers. The only thing that the press can do, in my opinion is hound and hound this charlatan and drag down the Republican brand accordingly until they make the decision themselves to rid themselves of him. I guess I’m not expecting much today because of all the ‘wealthy spin’ being all ready displayed to defend this doofus and the reluctance of certain key people to stand up for our Constitution and our country.