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Q & A - Bill Katovsky, Author of Patriots Act-Voices of Dissent


She also went on hunger strikes and marches to protest the sanctions and also to protest the run-up to the war. She sought to do everything in her own power to stop bombs falling and killing the innocent. In fact, she was in Baghdad during the initial shock and awe phase of the U.S. invasion.

When Coleen Rowley, the former legal counsel in the FBI Minneapolis office, wrote her famous memo questioning the FBI's version of pre-9/11 intelligence-gathering, she knew that she was taking a great risk by stepping forward with the truth.

She was bucking a bureaucracy that rewarded loyalty, not dissent. She wasn't seeking fame or publicity. She wanted to address serious shortcomings in national security that might have prevented 9/11. She felt a moral and patriotic duty.

As a whistleblower, she benefited that Time magazine wrote a cover story about her memo, because Rowley was no longer standing solo against the FBI which had denied that it had pre-9/11 intelligence that terrorists were planning to fly planes into buildings. She knew she was risking her career by coming forward.

Because of the memo, she was invited to speak on Capitol Hill, and she later was named Time's co-person of the year for her whistleblowing.

Now retired from the FBI, Rowley (who voted for Bush/Cheney in 2000) is running for Congress --as a Democrat--in her district in southern Minnesota. It's not that she decided to write a memo, get herself on the cover of Time, and then run for Congress. But, seen as a whole, it represents the personal journey of someone who is brave enough to stand up for what he or she believes in--regardless of the consequences.

Many now forget that when Rowley's memo first surfaced, there were those in the senior ranks of the FBI who wanted to prosecute her for "leaking" classified information--a charge that was completely bogus.

QUESTION, Deborah White of About.com - Who among those profiled particularly inspired or touched you? Why?

ANSWER, Author Bill Katovsky - Each person I interviewed moved me. Each had an inspirational message. With people like Daniel Ellsberg and Max Cleland, I felt like I was eavesdropping with history -- they are living legends.

With Ellsberg,I witnessed an amazing intellect in action, especially when he was dissecting Bush's policies in Iraq.

With former Senator Cleland, I was listening to a great articulate spokesperson describe the inherent hope and self-correcting aspect of our political system--yet, one in which he became a casualty--twice in his life, first as a triple amputee in Vietnam, and second, when he lost his re-election bid to the U.S. Senate because his opponent ran a dirty campaign.

The lowpoint was a television ad that compared Cleland with Osama and Saddam because he had voted against some amendments to the Homeland Security bill still being debated in committee. Now, there are several things wrong with this picture:
1.) Cleland is a great patriot; he served in Vietnam and he later was head of the Veterans Administration.
2.) his opponent, Saxby Chambliss, subscribed to Karl Rove and Ralph Reed's "smear and fear" type of campaigning. (For the record, Chambliss sat out the Vietnam war with a bum knee.).
3.) the Bush administration originally opposed the creation of Homeland Security.

In the end, Cleland lost his re-election. Which is a shame, a complete shame, because he represents the heart and soul of everything good in American democracy. As he told me, "There's no manners left in politics today."

QUESTION, Deborah White of About.com - It's a fine line between patriotic pundit and/or whistle-blower, and shrill partisan hack. Several interviewed in Patriots Act are passionately devoted to their partisan message and married to their brand of delivery, to the point that some might label them demagogues.

After interviewing these twenty people, how do you define that line between patriotism and partisanship?

ANSWER, Author Bill Katovsky - I realized from the outset that there are many different kinds of dissent and protest. I wanted to examine all these varieties.

I certainly don't agree with the viewpoints of every person profiled. But I wanted the book to be a mirror of society. I wanted these diverse voices to be heard.

Too often, any and all criticism of the Bush White House, especially before his poll numbers started their freefall, were labelled as unpatriotic or un-American. Why don't we ever hear liberals accusing the Republicans of being unpatriotic--of gutting the military, running up huge deficits, K street corruptions and special-interest lobbying scandals?

Why is this such a one-way street--and one in which the liberals and Democrats are always on the defensive?

During the 2004 presidential campaign, it was often said by GOP leaders and their right-wing talk-show disciples that a "vote for Kerry was a vote for Osama."

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