FBI 9/11 Whistleblower: Bureau Dropped The Ball On Tiller Case

We told you earlier about questions over whether the FBI responded aggressively enough to detailed information it got about Scott Roeder, who’s charged with killing Kansas doctor George Tiller.

And one prominent former bureau veteran says the answer is no.Colleen Rowley — who made the cover of Time magazine in 2002 after blowing the whistle on the FBI’s failure before 9/11 to follow up on information about the so-called “20th hijacker” — told TPMmuckraker that the Roeder case “should have been jumped on much more aggressively,” given Roeder’s prior record, and the information the FBI appears to have received about him in the days before Tiller’s murder.

A worker at an abortion clinic, Jeffrey Pederson (a pseudonym to protect his identity), has said that Roeder was seen twice in the week before the Tiller shooting trying to glue shut the clinic’s doors. Pederson reported both incidents to the FBI. And Roeder served jail time after being convicted in 1997 of having bomb-making parts in his car.

Rowley — who in 2004 retired from the bureau after a 24-year career, and in 2006 ran unsuccessfully for Congress from Minnesota as a Democrat — said that the vandalizing alone probably wasn’t enough for the bureau to prioritize the case. But she said the first thing that should have been done after the FBI received Pederson’s reports was to run a background check. This would have led them to the 1996 conviction. “The bombing in the background, even if it was years before, kind of ratchets it up,” in terms of the action the FBI could have taken at point. The conviction, she said, “adds quite a bit to probable cause, and adds to the specificity of the threat.”

Based on that information, and the fact that Roeder had twice in the last week tried to vandalize the clinic — a federal crime — they could have moved to try to stop a crime from occurring. “The agents can always take investigative action,” said Rowley.

Perhaps the most effective tactic they could have used, Rowley said, is a “knock and talk” — simply going to Roeder’s house, knocking on his door, and warning him that not to return to the clinic. Indeed, based on what Pederson has said, it appears that in 2000, the bureau successfully used exactly this approach to get Roeder to disappear from the clinic for several years.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.