Whistleblower: FBI Should Have Stopped Roeder, Prevented Tiller Slaying

Illustration for article titled Whistleblower: FBI Should Have Stopped Roeder, Prevented Tiller Slaying

Colleen Rowley, who in 2002 criticized the FBI on its failure to follow up on would-be 9/11 hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui, now says the Bureau could have prevented George Tiller's assassination if it had investigated Scott Roeder more thoroughly.


Workers at Tiller's clinic had seen Roeder supergluing its locks a total of four times, beginning in 2000, and reported these incidents to the FBI. The FACE act, signed into law by President Clinton, makes it a federal crime to vandalize an abortion clinic. Roeder could have been prosecuted under this law, but the FBI told a clinic worker that it was unwilling to start proceedings against Roeder because this would require a grand jury and a warrant.

Rowley agrees, perhaps surprisingly, that the supergluing wasn't enough for the FBI to pay attention to Roeder. But, she says, they should have taken action once they realized that Roeder had already been arrested in 1996 with bomb-making materials in his car and the intent to blow up an abortion clinic. With this information, they could have visited Roeder's home and warned him not to come back to Tiller's clinic. Mild as this move seems, it apparently worked in 2000, keeping Roeder away from the clinic for years. It might have saved Tiller's life.

TPMmuckraker adds,

There's also a larger story here, which involves what appears to be a sharp drop off, during the Bush years, in efforts to enforce the FACE Act and otherwise to ensure the safety of abortion providers. Could the general turn by law enforcement in recent years toward a focus on Islamic and environmental terrorism, and away from right-wing terrorism, have played a role in what looks like the FBI's casual response? And is it time to rethink that shift? It's certainly worth asking.

Meanwhile, Scott Roeder awaits his trial. The man whom eyewitnesses saw shoot Tiller, and who was seen vandalizing Tiller's clinic on four occasions, and who was caught in 1996 with explosives in his car, says, ""I haven't been convicted of anything, and I am being treated as a criminal." He also says "I appreciate your prayers."


One thing he doesn't have to pray for is being spared the death penalty. That's already off the table, because his crime doesn't include any of the seven special circumstances required for the death penalty under Kansas law. While it's hard to see why killing a man so many women in need depended on is less heinous than, say, a contract killing (one of the circumstances), we should think hard before we wish death on Roeder. One of the most upsetting inconsistencies in American politics is that those who trumpet the sanctity of life also often support the death penalty. Now is an important time to show that being pro-choice doesn't mean being pro-death, and that abortion rights are about the right of a woman to control her own body, not about a callous attitude toward human life. Just because you believe that a woman should be able to choose to terminate her fetus doesn't necessarily mean you also have to believe that the government should be able to kill a born, living human being.

FBI 9/11 Whistleblower: Bureau Dropped The Ball On Tiller Case [TPMmuckraker]
Abortion Doctor Slay Suspect Chides Media [CBS]
Why Kansas D.A. Can't Seek The Death Penalty In Tiller case [AP, via Miami Herald]
Before Tiller Murder, FBI Got Detailed Info On Roeder's Illegal Activity [TPMmuckraker]
Freedom Of Access To Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act [National Abortion Federation]


Earlier: Dr. George Tiller's Assassin, Scott Roeder, Speaks
Man Charged In Murder Had Ties To Anti-Abortion, Anti-Government Organizations



We have a problem. We're fighting the fight all the wrong way. We act as if laws and the death penalty can ever act as a deterrent to those who are committed to mayhem. Roeder was going to do this — it was only a matter of time. Others will, because they are fueled and fired by the hypocritical rhetoric of people who place faith above law, the "sanctity of life" above those living, their view of morality above all others.

I wish I could smite them all, wish down the holy wrath of God on these hate-mongers. I can't. If the God they believe in exists, he can only be sorrowful that they have not learned the lessons for which he sacrificed his Son on the cross.

These people must be fought on ground of our own choosing: the plain of freedom, liberty, and truth. They must be refuted at every turn. If their rhetoric is loud, our reason must be quieter. If their actions are violent, our must be peaceful. We must define the issue in such terms, that to hold their viewpoint must seem as it is — a tissue of lies, half-truths, and contradictions, from which they cannot entangle themselves.

We must rise up now. We cannot stand silent. If they go to protest in front of a clinic, we must protest silently in front of them. If they go to pass laws to strip away our rights, we must fight those laws in the halls of power. We must prevail; we shall prevail, but it will take every one of us who is committed to the cause of justice.