For our November Readers' Review: “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” by Anne Tyler. As we prepare for holiday gatherings, join Diane and her guests to discuss this master work from the author who has made an art of exploring family love and dysfunction.
After the September eleventh attacks, President George W. Bush called for a war against terrorism. Some private U. S. citizens heard it as a personal call to arms. One such woman was a municipal judge and mother of three in rural Montana. She began studying Islamic culture and taught herself Arabic. Her goal became infiltrating online terror networks from her home computer. She joined forces with the F. B. I. and posed under dozens of aliases as an Islamic militant. Her work helped create online tactics now crucial in the government’s fight against terror. Diane’s conversation with one woman about her life-changing experience as a cyber spy.
- Shannen Rossmiller Cyber spy and former Montana municipal judge
Read an Excerpt
From “The Unexpected Patriot” by Shannen Rossmiller with Sue Carswell. Copyright 2011 by the authors and reprinted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. In 2004, U.S. Army Specialist Ryan Anderson was found guilty of seeking to aid the enemy and attempted espionage. His conviction marked a victory in the new field of cyber counter-terrorism. Working from her home computer, Montana judge, Shannen Rossmiller, helped bring about Anderson's capture. She's written a new book about her career as a cyber spy and what she's teaching the U.S. intelligence community.
MS. DIANE REHMHer book is titled "The Unexpected Patriot." Shannen Rossmiller is here in the studio and we will take your calls, 800-433-8850, send us your e-mail to email@example.com, join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to you, Shannen. Good to have you here.
MS. SHANNEN ROSSMILLERThank you. Thank you for having me.
REHMTell us where you were on 9/11 and your reactions to that event?
ROSSMILLERWell, on 9/11, it, you know, started out as a -- just a normal morning for me, just like everybody else. I had woken up and, of course, in Montana, we're two hours behind the East coast and so I had just turned on "The Today Show," which started at seven o'clock and just to see they were talking about a plane hitting the Trade Center. And I, you know, was just transfixed, thinking, I'd been to New York and been in the Trade Center and so I couldn't imagine how a plane could just the Trade Center.
ROSSMILLERAnd so I sat there for the morning, you know, watching the unfolding events and, you know, it -- of course, it captured my attention, but I eventually got the kids up and got myself to work and ended up having a TV brought into the court that day so we could watch as things were unfolding. And just like -- I'm sure, like, everybody else, you know, it was a very disturbing, but, you know, transfixing event.
ROSSMILLERAnd later that evening, I had an accident where I had fractured -- ended up having a hairline fracture in my pelvis that left me laid up for several weeks recovering and that's when I just got more and more engulfed in everything that happened with 9/11.
REHMDo you think that the fracture of the pelvis was perhaps stress related?
ROSSMILLERYou know, I don't know. It was really weird how it happened because I had went down into our bathroom, we'd just put in a Jacuzzi tub enclosure and I -- which had a ceramic tiling step up into it. And I just went down there to kind of just forget about what had happened for that day. And when I stepped out is when I fell on the edge of the step and that's how my pelvis cracked.
ROSSMILLERAnd so, you know, people have asked if -- wondered if I would've done all that I have done had I not been injured and laid up and had all this time to be really, you know, transformed and affected by 9/11. And there's no way to know, but I think that that really had -- it was, like, a calling card almost.
REHMTake us back before 9/11 and your life then.
ROSSMILLERYeah, on September 10, 2011 (laugh), I was a mother of three, a wife, I was a judge and I was, you know, perfectly content and happy with my life. I -- my career, at the time, I thought, was challenging. So, of course, you know, it fed all my -- all the needs that I had for, you know, academia and intelligence, but I never would've anticipated, had anyone asked me or told me that what I'd done after 9/11, I would've done. There's no way I could've, you know, really thought that my life would change like that.
REHMDo you think that George W. Bush's words actually inspired you?
ROSSMILLERI don't know that I would say so much. I mean, certainly there were things that were, you know, inspiring that, you know, speeches he gave, you know, after 9/11, but really, just, you know, the horror and just the pain and suffering and everything that resulted from 9/11 was really what pulled me in and has kept me.
REHMAnd your work with computers, up to that time, how would you describe?
ROSSMILLERI -- yeah, I knew how to get around on a computer and everything. I certainly had -- would never have anticipated that, you know, I would go on to do the -- you know, the depth of things I've done with computers, but, I mean, I used them for all my work purposes, for researching and writing and all that. And -- but after 9/11, that all changed and I kind of substituted the research and writing time for a lot of my pursuits online with the terrorism interests.
REHMTell me about the kinds of work you did in the courtroom, the kinds of cases that came before you as a judge.
ROSSMILLERYeah, the majority of the -- well, first of all, my court was primarily a criminal court. I did very limited civil things and would sometimes step in when courts were overloaded or backed up on the docket and step in for civil things. But primarily, everything I did was in a criminal context, whether that was for drug cases, assault cases, all the way down to simple things such as animal control.
REHMAnd then you moved into cyber spying. Tell me how that began.
ROSSMILLERWell, you know, it was a process. I -- being laid up, you know, and watching -- back then, there was so much. Almost every, you know, news channel had constant coverage of what was going on in those days. And so I was really trying to seek and understand how something like this could happen. Who are these people that would want to do this? And how could they have done this because, as an American, we kind of have this perceived invincibility and 9/11, for me, shattered all of that.
ROSSMILLERAnd so, I mean, I wanted to understand who these people were and what they were about. And that, I think, stemmed from my interest, going back into childhood, to criminal behavior and things like that.
REHMSo you went online, you began investigating.
ROSSMILLERYeah, well, I -- it started with -- I had seen a news report about terrorist chatter on websites and internet forms and I -- it just caught me and so I wrote down the website and I went online and that's the first time that I actually stepped into the Jihadi world online.
REHMAnd what did you see?
ROSSMILLER(laugh) Well, I didn't know anything about the Arabic language, so the website that I was viewing at the time was all in Arabic, but the things that I were looking at were, you know, disturbing pictures of, you know, body parts from car bombings and different things, all kinds of, you know, disturbing things like that. And so I wanted to understand what they were saying, so I purchased some translation software that kind of helped me stumble along in trying to understand the Arabic, but, of course, with translation software, you don't really get the context of what's being stated. But it helped me stumble onto kind of get a feel for what was going on in the websites.
REHMAnd what did you hear on those websites?
ROSSMILLEROh, you know, right after 9/11, there was, you know, a lot of praise for what had been done to here -- over here in America. And I really -- you know, the anger kept me. The anger and, you know, what I was feeling inside kept me there in wanting to, how do these people think this way? So the more I stepped into that world and tried to understand the culture, the mindset and all those different things, it was a process that started and has evolved to where I really am -- where I'm at today.
REHMAnd where are you at today?
ROSSMILLERWell, right now, I pretty much have stepped out of the active investigating, just for the simple fact that I prefer not to ever be in another high profile case. But what I'm doing is a lot of consulting with defense contractors and some non-profit organizations that are focused in the areas of counter-terrorism.
REHMTell us how you became involved in the Ryan Anderson case.
ROSSMILLERRight. Ryan Anderson was a Specialist in the Washington National Guard. And he had, after 9/11, converted to Islam. And after his conversion to Islam, he gradually continued -- or started gravitating toward the more radicalized elements. And in October of 2003, he stumbled into one of the Arabic message boards that I was working in, but he was, you know, talking in English, he was writing in English.
ROSSMILLERAnd so automatically, that caught my eye. And he -- obviously, he didn't know enough to, you know, mask his IP address and things like that, so I was, really early on, able to trace him and find that, you know, he was coming out of the state of Washington. And then by doing cross-reference tracing, I was able to find out that he was an Army National Guard soldier. So I spent some -- a couple days trying to see if he was just, you know, some silly, you know, misguided individual, just -- or, you know, if what his intentions seemed to be were real. And...
REHMWhat kinds of things was he saying?
ROSSMILLERHe -- he was indicating he was a person in a position of interest to al-Qaida and that he had -- he had -- you know, he was in a position to offer up secret and confidential things that would give them an advantage over in Iraq. And -- so that really, I wanted to know, well, what does he have to offer? And, you know, how serious could this be? And so that's where we started our dialogue.
REHMAnd what kind of names were you using at the time?
ROSSMILLERWell, he kind of controlled it, the case in this regard, which was actually to my benefit, but he called -- he went by the Islamic or Arabic name of Amir Abdul Rashid. And he had different -- several different, you know, e-mail address identities that he used. And so we gravitated back and forth between myself as -- who -- I was going under the identity of Abu Khadijah (sp?), and so between Abu Khadijah and Abdul Rashid, we went back and forth and then, over the course of the months, you know, variated our identities to Andy and George and a couple other variations.
REHMAnd how did you begin to understand that what he had in mind was serious and real?
ROSSMILLERWell, he didn't -- he kind of accepted, I think, for the fact that I was in that Arabic message board, that it was an al-Qaida affiliated one, that I was al-Qaida, for whatever reasons. I mean, if I were him, I wouldn't have thought that I was, but whatever -- you know, he believed that I was. And he started to provide me with troop locations, that started out with giving me troop locations over in Iraq and where, you know, after they -- his unit was deployed, where, you know, they were supposed to be outside of the Balad Airbase and so it started with that.
ROSSMILLERHe gradually moved toward exchanging schematics for the Abrams tanks and how to -- if someone were to put a bomb and bury it in the road and destroy the bottom of the tank, it could still be operable for al-Qaidas, you know, to come in and take it over. And so, I mean, there was a lot of things over the months that he -- but what the proper -- purpose was, was to, you know, determine what his intentions were.
REHMSharon -- Shannen Rossmiller, her new book is titled "The Unexpected Patriot." She works closely with the FBI to find and prosecute cyber terrorists.
REHMAnd welcome back. Shannen Rossmiller is here with me. She has a new book out, it's titled "The Unexpected Patriot: How an Ordinary American Mother is Bringing Terrorists to Justice." And we are going to open the phones, 800-433-8850, send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. When you talk about your work as a cyber snooper, which is certainly what it became, talk about your other role as wife, as mother...
REHM...as judge and how you were able to carry all this on.
ROSSMILLERYeah, when I started this, you know, I had three kids. They were all in school. My two oldest ones are now out of high school and in college, but, you know, the kids were active, they had their school activities and things like that, so I was, you know, active in that. I was active with my court and just, you know, being a busy family, just a normal, normal American, you know, family is what we were. And, you know, then 9/11 happened and everything really changed.
REHMTell me whether your husband knew of your activities.
ROSSMILLERWell, my former husband, he knew I had this interest and I was following and reading these things online, but I used to wake up every morning between 3:30 and 4:00, so I had a good, you know, three or four hours to myself every morning that I used to spend research and writing. And I quit that and started, you know, looking into all the -- you know, the terrorism things online and so he was aware I had an interest and I was following these things.
ROSSMILLERBut when I took the next step and started engaging, you know, individuals of interest in these websites and forums, you know, I didn't let on to that because I had a pretty good feeling that he would’ve discouraged me. And I didn't want that, so I kinda kept that secret until we had an incident where the computer crashed and I kinda had to tell him I was exchanging information and communicating with individuals on the websites in forums.
REHMWhen did you decide to turn to the FBI?
ROSSMILLERThe first time I had an instance where I had some information that I had no way to confirm the legitimacy or nature or whether or not, you know, it presented a legitimate threat happened in July, 2002. And what I ended up doing was an individual over in Karachi, Pakistan had -- he had indicated he had access to some leftover stinger missiles and parts and was offering them up for sale. And, of course, I didn't believe the guy. I mean, it was -- so there was back and forth between us and he ended up sending me digital photos of the crates that, you know, contained stock numbers and different things.
ROSSMILLERAnd so between that and the e-mail exchanges we had had I decided to submit this information to the FBI through their tip line. And so that was the first time I had any contact or interaction with any federal agency.
REHMWhat about local agencies?
ROSSMILLERYou know, when you're from Montana and you're sitting here with information that's related to terrorism, you know, in any fashion, who do you call? You know, I had no idea. I mean, I really -- when I started all this, I started it with an interest in wanting to understand and then wanting to see if I could communicate with these people. And so one step, you know, kinda led to another. And I didn't come into contact with local FBI until October, 2003 when the Anderson case happened.
REHMBut how did local FBI react?
ROSSMILLERWell, they were very skeptical and dismissive, but for the fact that an individual with homeland security had, you know, told the Great Falls office of the FBI that they needed to look at this information that I, you know, had said that I had, I think they probably wouldn't, you know, have given me the time of day. But it was until, you know, they realized the extent and nature of it and the fact that this individual was a confirmed member of the National Guard, that's when they started to look a little seriously at this. And at that point, I hadn't yet determined, you know, what Specialist Anderson's intentions really were.
ROSSMILLERBut the fact he was in the army (laugh)...
ROSSMILLER...and indicating these things was just disturbing of itself.
REHMDid you at any time suspect that Anderson might be doing the same thing you were doing, that is trying to glean information from others?
ROSSMILLERWell, certainly those thoughts cross your mind all the time...
ROSSMILLER...and they crossed my mind as well. But when he started giving me information that he would not otherwise have to give if he was supposed to be prodding me -- I wasn't giving him anything, that led me, you know, more in the direction of his intentions are not for the good.
REHMWhy did he give you that information?
ROSSMILLERHe -- early on, he stated that his intentions were to -- once he -- his unit had deployed to Iraq in February, 2004, his intention was to have done the process of defecting to al-Qaida so that the tank crew, the four tanks involved in his unit, the crew could be killed inside and the tanks taken over by al-Qaida and start there.
REHMAnd he said that...
REHM...to you online.
ROSSMILLEROh, yes, yes, yeah.
ROSSMILLERYeah. Yeah, I mean, it was one -- certainly the first time the hair on my back actually raised. I mean, you just don't believe what you're reading. You don't want to believe it. You don't want to believe it's real. And, you know, every time that we exchanged any communication, I always hoped it wasn't going to go further and he took it further and further every single time. And so up to the point where the day that he was arrested by the FBI, it was kind of touch and go, but, I mean, he had taken it that far and so from there forward, you know, were the consequences that he was served.
REHMSo from there, you took it to the FBI. What was the reaction once it got to National Headquarters?
ROSSMILLERIt became really serious. In December -- well, I'm going to say just after Thanksgiving, early -- late November, early December, 2003. And by that time, I was told that I needed to continue doing what I was doing while they were, you know, getting -- going through the process of finding undercover agents with the DIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, that would eventually encounter Anderson in person. And then, you know, still taking my online communications with him in person. And so that process took a while. It took almost a month before I was actually handed off the case officially.
REHMAnd how soon was he to be deployed?
ROSSMILLERHe was set to deploy, if I remember correctly, February 18 of 2004. So from the time we started communicating up until the time he was set to deploy was, you know, just a little over five months.
REHMYou must've been awfully worried.
ROSSMILLEROh, I was very worried. I knew he had converted to Islam, I knew that he was expressing not only to me radical intentions and, you know, the beliefs of the Jihad and the ideologies, he was not only telling me, but he was telling this and doing this in other internet sites. So I was matching up what he was saying with me with what he was saying in other places. And it was very disturbing. I mean, you just don't want to believe that anyone living in this country wearing the uniform of our military would want to harm their own. And for what?
REHMWhy do you think he wanted to do that?
ROSSMILLERWell, I didn't really know that until I sat through it and went through the whole process of the military prosecution and what it came down to -- that was an answer I wanted early on because I wanted closure and -- but I didn't get that. I didn't get that until the court martial was over. But what he -- he had indicated to me and other -- when the case was handed over to the agents in person, that he was tired of everybody in his life interfering with him attaining the greatness he believed that he deserved.
ROSSMILLERSo whether it be his family, whether it be the army, whether it be friends, he felt that everybody in his life was preventing him from attaining the greatness that he believed he deserved. And to me, that seemed like such a small need as compared to what he wanted to do.
REHMWhich was to…
ROSSMILLERTo kill -- take -- kill the tank crews and take over the tanks. And if you can imagine something like that, if that had happened, I mean, and given al-Qaida that advantage, I mean, things would've been quite different.
REHMDid you meet him in person?
ROSSMILLERI didn't -- we never formally met, you know, like, hi, how are you, shake hands or anything. I mean, can you imagine? But the first time I saw him was at his Article 32 hearing and that was in May of 2004.
REHMAnd you were there.
ROSSMILLERAnd I was there and I had to walk past him to get to the witness stand and I was trembling, just trembling, because I couldn't understand why, I'm a judge, my whole career has been the law, why am I scared to take the witness stand? And -- but looking at him sitting, you know, just a couple feet away was a very -- very almost paralyzing moment just because of the fact that we were online and now here we meet and it's a serious deal. It's a military prosecution.
REHMAnd did he, prior to that time, know that it was you with whom he had been communicating?
ROSSMILLERI was told he was informed that Abu Khadijah, me, that I was a woman in Montana. I was told that he was informed of that just before the Article 32 hearing. So prior to then, I don't know -- I really don't know what he thought. I assume, without knowing any differently, that he thought I was who I said I was.
REHMShannen Rossmiller, her new book about her experiences is titled "The Unexpected Patriot." One last question. You have certainly had some time feeling unsafe.
REHMTalk about those times.
ROSSMILLERThe first time I really -- the reality of any threat that came to me came immediately after the Article 32 hearing in the Anderson case, which was May, 2004. And that was because the undercover identities that I had used in that case were released to the media and printed in the newspaper. It wouldn't have been a problem if the identity I was using was only used in the Anderson case. It was used in other cases and so individuals I was following up in Toronto, Canada became aware that Abu Khadijah was not who they thought they were and so phone threats started following from there.
ROSSMILLERThen after that, I believe it was July, 2006, four individuals came across the Canadian border in a rental Ryder truck and actually had my -- my home address and the address of my court configured into their GPS. And if they had not wrecked their van and been injured, I don't know what would have happened if they had actually made it to Conrad and found me. But thankfully, whatever happened and intervened and they never made it.
REHMWere shots ever fired?
ROSSMILLERI had -- yeah, that's another one. My car in -- the day after my youngest daughter's birthday, December 5, 2004, my car was stolen out of our garage and they found it two counties away, buried in a ditch where there was five bullet holes that whoever had done it, they were never able to determine who it was, sent a message. Whether it was in relation to my position as a judge or whether it was in regard to the work I was doing in the terrorism, I don't have that answer.
REHMYou're still shaking.
ROSSMILLERYeah, reliving it and talking about it, it's hard. It's really hard. It's been a hard life to live the last couple years.
REHMShannen Rossmiller and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. First to Waterford, Virginia. Good morning, Owen, you're on the air.
OWENFirst of all, I'd like to say, just having heard that incredible story from your guest, wow. Thank you so much for all the work you've done and all the personal risks you've put yourself through. But my question was -- coming to this as an outsider, there's been a lot of cash (unintelligible) cases where individuals have -- FBI agents have tried to push individuals into admitting they're terrorists, talking about their terrorist information, making oaths, making promises.
OWENAnd as both a member of the legal profession and as someone who worked with the FBI on this case, what is your perception of the attitudes, the kind of thinking that prompts that and how it affects the prosecution of these cases?
ROSSMILLEROkay. I hope I understood. You kinda were cutting out a little bit, but I think how -- the mindset, you know, that comes -- the mindset that has to be understood of these individuals that take on the process of going down the path of, you know, Jihadist ideologies and terrorism is still a process that really isn't understood. I know that in the cases that I've done that have actually been prosecuted and, you know, resulted in a disposition of a conviction, the evidence that has to be presented is quite different in how it's received.
ROSSMILLERAnd just between, you know, if we were to have a normal conversation between two people talking about, you know, regular criminal activity. So I know that, for example, in a 2007 case that I did regarding an individual in Pennsylvania, we had this exact problem, but the rules of evidence will eventually catch up with everything that's going on with these kinds of prosecutions as more of these come to fruition.
REHMBut do you think -- as Owen is asking, do you think the FBI pushed these individuals to confess to these kinds of activities?
ROSSMILLERI don't -- that's a case with a personal, you know, experience. I don't know. I know that in the cases that I've been involved with, I don't know -- there hasn't been any activities like that. Pretty much the cases I've been involved in have been instances where their admissions come through their own words and their own writings and so I don't -- I mean, if that has happened, that's unfortunate, because that ultimately just compromises the case. And so I don't really have any personal knowledge of, you know, that type of incident, but I would hope that wouldn't take place.
REHMThanks for calling, Owen. How did you actually lose your cover? The FBI had promised you'd be covered.
ROSSMILLERRight. Well, one of the things we hadn't anticipated, and this happened as a result of the Anderson case, was the fact that the civilian courts and our rules of evidence and different things differ from that of the uniform court of military justice. And so I had always been told that I would, you know, provide information and continue doing these cases, but I would never find myself in a position I would have to testify. And that was important to me because I was a sitting judge at the time.
ROSSMILLERAnd though I had, you know, researched whether or not there was any ethical dilemma, when it turned out, I tried to fight having to appear in the Anderson case, but was ultimately compelled to because the military was not -- they did not have to follow the agreement I had with the FBI.
REHMSo once it moved to military justice, all promises were off.
ROSSMILLERAll promises were off the table...
ROSSMILLER...as it turned out. Yeah, so then it came down to, you know, do I do the right thing and hope for the best outcome? That was how I had to resolve that.
REHMShannen Rossmiller, "The Unexpected Patriot." Short break, we'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Just before the break, Shannen Rossmiller was talking about the fact that she had to testify at the case of an individual with whom she had been in contact and how her work being in contact with this individual meant that Army Specialist Ryan Anderson was found guilty of seeking to aid the enemy and attempted espionage. Here's an e-mail from Andy following up on that. He says, "How did they get your address? Weren't there ways you could have masked your real life identity?" I asked you whether you literally couldn't have worn a mask.
ROSSMILLERRight, right. Okay. How this process usually works is an individual under the U.S. Constitution, which it applies to the military justice code as well, is -- they're entitled to be able to confront their accuser in open court. And the process of compelling me to testify in open court, obviously, I wanted to avoid because of my position as a judge.
REHMAnd your position as...
ROSSMILLERA wife, a mother.
REHM...a wife, a mother.
ROSSMILLERYes, of course. I mean, I was willing to do the work I was doing, I just didn't wanna find myself in a court case and that's ultimately where I found myself. But I had to make the choice of, you know, doing the right thing and so for -- I did -- you know, I resolved to do the right thing and hoped for the best outcome.
REHMDid you ask...
REHM...to wear a mask?
ROSSMILLERWell, I didn't ask to wear a mask, but, I mean, for example, like in my court, you know, when you have an individual that is, like, a, let's say, an informant, in my cases, they would be -- you know, it would've been drug informants or, you know, things like that. Usually, you know, you'll be able to, you know, get the parties, prosecution and defense, to agree to be able to do it, you know, outside a public setting.
ROSSMILLEROr -- and in this case, that's where I was saying, okay, fine, I will comply, I will do the right, but let me testify outside of the public. And ultimately, Anderson's right to confront me as his accuser in open court prevailed.
REHMSo the prosecution and the defense together agreed that you had to confront him?
ROSSMILLERWell, no. There was -- one of the things I tried to do is I tried to push for an agreement for that to happen, but ultimately, the defense was not interested in allowing me to remain anonymous. And so beyond that, I just had to, you know, accept the realization that my life was going change.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Clarence in Alpine, Texas. Good morning to you.
CLARENCEGood morning and thank you for having me on. I love your show.
CLARENCEI'll make this quick. My question's a piggyback as well. It's how -- how do you distinguish between young people who are obviously upset over some of the things that America has done in its past and history at -- how do you distinguish between them expressing themselves literally as being upset to them going to court and being prosecuted?
ROSSMILLERYou know, thank you for that question. That's important. The whole process of -- you know, I can't tell you how many times I have engaged individuals in exactly these context. And it's a process of determining whether or not they present any threat and that isn't something that usually just pops up the first time.
ROSSMILLERSo, you know, there's plenty of times I've communicated with individuals who are, you know, just, you know, expressing their, you know, displeasure or disenfranchisement with whatever it is that they're upset about and, you know, but yet they don't have the intentions to take things any further, you know, that presents a threat. And so that whole process takes time to be able to weed out those from those that do present a threat.
REHMAnd you knew that Ryan Anderson presented a threat?
ROSSMILLERI had an -- you know, one of the reasons that, you know, we have, you know, due process and all this is because, you know, everyone has a right to, you know, free speech and all of this, but at every stage in my communications with Specialist Anderson, I kept hoping that, you know, he would back off and not take things further. So not having any way to confirm the nature of his threat myself, I had to have an agency partner to be able to do that.
REHMAnd we've got many e-mails saying that your work should be considered entrapment.
ROSSMILLERWell, you know, that's one of the things that I always get. But, first of all -- and that's one of the reasons I wanted to write this book was, you know, the perception of entrapment or vigilantly justice or anything like that. In any of the cases that have been taken to court here in the United States that I've been involved with, entrapment, you know, as a first rate defense, you know, affirmative defense, of course, you know, you expect that a defendant is going to plead that.
ROSSMILLERBut in each case, neither defendant was able to establish any entrapment defense and that is because I always have the -- knowing the rules of evidence and how, you know, statements will be admitted into court, whether, you know, they're in a hearsay context or whatever, you have to be able to not encourage, entrap or, you know, get people to say what they don't mean.
REHMSo what are the skills that you would use?
ROSSMILLERWell, I always take time. I always take my time and, you know, I don't just -- you know, like I might reply to my sister or my brother or anybody, I take my time. I realize what they're saying. I review that with whatever -- in context with whatever it is that we're talking about, you know, that might be threat related. And then any reply I would make, is -- I -- it's constructed very carefully.
ROSSMILLERAbsolutely. Absolutely. And what I have found that the individuals that are, you know, thirsty for Jihad and the radical ideologies that are presented under that, they don't need entrapping. They're looking for the vehicle for them to be able to take what they want to do to be done. And so every case that I've had go to court, I wouldn't have had these high convictions if there'd been any entrapment.
REHMAll right. To Baltimore, Md. Good morning, John.
JOHNGood morning, Diane. The question I have for Ms. Miller is particularly has she become more open to the Islamic community around her or is she still -- or does she have them at an arm's distance? And also, where'd she come up with the title for the book because it kinda sounds like something you might hear from the type of literature that comes out of the fans of Sarah Palin's kind of, you know, ideology?
ROSSMILLEROkay. First of all, to that last question, I didn't come up with the title, the publisher's came up with the title. I couldn’t come up with a title for the book and so I don't know of any, you know, flying the flags of Sarah Palin, you know, that resulted in the title, but it was -- I didn't pick the title myself. I think it just came out of the fact that there was references to patriotism and, you know, rising out of the ashes of what happened on 9/11 and I think that's where that came from.
REHMAnd what about the first part of his question, whether you came to have any understanding or sympathy for?
ROSSMILLERYou know, you would think that I might not have sympathy for, you know, Muslims, the Islamic faith, you know, but what I do have is I have a real understanding of the culture and the mindset. I know the caller mentioned the Islamic community around me. Well, in Montana, there are none. We have no Islamic or Muslim communities and so everything that I've had to learn and use and develop over the years has been through my own education online or through other materials.
ROSSMILLERAnd it's just -- you have to be able to really understand the nature of the individuals you're communicating with. Otherwise, there's that disconnect that always happens. And I think that really is what is presented exactly by the clash of cultures, which is what we have between the West and the Arab World.
REHMShannen, I think it's important our listeners know what happened to your family in the process of all of this.
ROSSMILLERWell, if you can imagine, one of the things that I had always, you know, told my husband was I relied on what, you know, I had agreed with the FBI was that, you know, I would never have to testify. And all of a sudden, everything that I had promised and said as, you know, I had to agreed to with the FBI was off the table. And, I mean, I have to -- I can understand where my husband came from on all this because, you know, he didn't expect it and he didn't want it and, you know, there was a lot of resentment that resulted because of it. And it's been hard. I mean, my marriage -- my marriage collapsed and it was just really hard, a really hard process.
REHMHow about the kids?
ROSSMILLERYou know, I -- my oldest -- my oldest son, because of his age and he's always been interested in current events, he had a good idea and understanding of what I was doing. And so -- but still, I tried to keep the kids at as much as an arm length as I could. I kept what I was doing to myself. And so -- but as far as my two youngest daughters, they could've cared less. It meant nothing to them. I think the only time that they really had any interest or were upset about anything was when the attempted attack happened in 2006.
REHMIndeed. And to Chris in Winter Garden, Fla. Good morning.
CHRISGood morning, Diane. I love the show.
CHRISMy question for your caller and I first want to echo the first caller and just -- or your guest and echo the first caller and say thank you for your immense public service. But my question is actually somewhat related to what you were just talking about. I'm a new parent myself and as you were going through this, I'm sure you were realizing the personal risk that you were undertaking when dealing with these types of people. How were you able to rationalize and justify continuing on to do this type of work knowing that the great harm that could come, not just to you, but to your husband and your children?
ROSSMILLERRight. You know, that's a really hard question because it's my reality and the work I was doing was, you know, challenging. It's more interesting than I could even explain. And yet at the same time, I kind of, you know, hoped that -- and I guess I was naïve, you know, to be honest, that, you know, things would die down and then it wouldn’t -- you know, it would just die away. It was one of those things we would get over.
ROSSMILLERBut I had already, by that time, gotten pretty involved in not just, you know, these two cases, you know, we've talked about, but in several others to the point where I -- and I'm not a quitter and that's the other part of it was I really honestly thought that I could carry the torch and do it all. And ultimately, I found out, you know, not long after that, that I wasn't able to do that.
REHMAre you currently working to train others in what you've learned?
ROSSMILLERYes. After the Reynolds case in 2007 and the deterioration of my health, I had to make a lot of choices. I had to decide if I was going to continue in a real active role in continuing and risk, you know, ending up in another court case or whether or not I was going to still, you know, be active in this area, in this field, and still be able to be effective. And so what I've done is spent time, you know, training through -- I have defense contractor partners that help training in the tactics and methods that I've developed and used over the years, so that's left me a way to be able to still continue what I'm doing, but have a less active role in it.
REHMShannen Rossmiller, the book is titled "The Unexpected Patriot." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Shannen, you mentioned health problems.
ROSSMILLERRight. Yeah, I eventually developed ulcer disease. I've had seven bleeding ulcers and related health issues, you know, and it's just been -- you know, I took on too much. I thought I could do it all and eventually, it culminated to the point where I just couldn't continue doing everything that I had been doing. The stress was -- you know, it's hard to explain, but when you live it and you're going through it, it's like a monkey on your back you just can't get off.
REHMAnd a caller, David, in St. Louis, Mo. Good morning.
DAVIDI'll add to the others that appreciate your work. Now, here's my question, though. I'm perplexed and always concerned about these things that are supposed to be clandestine and secret and then just like G. Gordon Liddy and the other, you know, people before you, to turn around and write about it, it's kinda like putting the recipe in the library for everybody on how to make an A-Bomb.
DAVIDI mean, I'm just a little bit, you know, concerned over people that publish and write about these things. I want you to stay clandestine and secret for a reason. I don't want them to realize that, gee, oh, now I have to mask my IP address, that's how she found me out. I think a lot of them don't even have a clue about that kinda thing.
DAVIDBut after they read it in a book, okay, we've got one more piece of information.
ROSSMILLERYeah, that's also a good question. You know, I didn't start giving immediate interviews until, you know, it was just I couldn't avoid it anymore. And so there was already so much out there about the work I was doing and how it was done, not only by myself and what I had, you know, been interviewed about, but others that knew me and knew the work I was doing.
ROSSMILLERAnd so you make a very good point in what you state about, you know, taking, you know, further risk of, you know, exposing myself or, you know having these different methods, you know, not remaining undercover, but I really -- I wanted to take the opportunity to write about the work I did, why I did it and explain to me, you know, exactly why, because I really hadn't had that opportunity in any of the media that had been done on me over the years.
REHMAre you going to be looking over your shoulder the rest of your life?
ROSSMILLERYou know, a couple of years ago, I thought that that's the way it was going to be, I really did. And the last couple years, you know, I have security in place and, like I indicated, I will just say that. I don't talk about any details of it other than I feel safer now in the last probably two years than I have since 2004, so I'm living a pretty quiet life in a place that is not published and not known. And, like I said, I feel comfortable. I feel like I can, you know, not have to look over my shoulder right now.
REHMHave you remarried?
ROSSMILLERNo, (laugh) no.
REHMAnd you don't intend to?
ROSSMILLEROh, never say never (laugh). You know, many years, you know, almost 18 years spent with an individual is hard and it's a hard thing to lose. And so recovering from that and, you know, establishing a life separate and apart from that is still a process I'm working through. So maybe again, maybe not, but never say never.
REHMAnd you will continue in one way or another to do the work you're doing?
ROSSMILLERYou know, I believe I will because I made the decision at the time when my health was starting to deteriorate and the stress was too much to leave my career in the law and, you know, make that midlife career change choice to go full-time and doing and focusing everything into counter-terrorism and intelligence. And so I've been able to do that. And it's such an interesting and ongoing process of learning all about this that I think I'll be doing it for quite some time.
REHMWell, Shannen Rossmiller, along with our callers, I thank you for what you've done.
ROSSMILLERThank you very much.
REHMHer new book is titled "The Unexpected Patriot." Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
The Food and Drug Administration will require movie theaters, chain restaurants and pizza parlors to include calorie counts for food and beverages – including alcohol. Please join us to discuss costs and benefits of the new rules.
Actress, model, and author Brooke Shields on her relationship with her mother and the childhood that made Shields the woman she is today.
After months of tension, a St. Louis County grand jury decides not to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown. Diane and her guests discuss reaction to the verdict from civil rights groups, protesters and law enforcement.