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Seven months later, Rowley is still campaigning, albeit more warily. She talked to TIME, her first interview, with great trepidation. She is afraid of being fired and afraid of appearing self-serving. "I don't want to be famous," she says. "I will not stand up in front of people unless I have something important to say." Visiting FBI headquarters after the hearing, she was popular with clerks and secretaries. "I'd get elbows in my ribs and winks," she says. In the Capitol building, janitors and police darted across the hall to thank her.
But the tough Rowley--the Rowley who packs a gun and takes it everywhere, who moves coatless through Minnesota winters and runs triathlons, who made a habit of correcting her science teacher--has been stung by a nasty backlash within the FBI. In early June, an associate called to say high-level FBI agents in Washington had been overheard discussing possible criminal charges against her. Some fellow agents, retired ones in particular, crucified her. Charles George, then president of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, compared her to convicted spy Robert Hanssen, calling her behavior "unthinkable" in the society newsletter; instead of going to the Russians, she went to Congress.
And then there was the riff on loyalty from an old Elbert Hubbard essay, which Rowley received from a number of retired agents. A paraphrased version of Hub-bard's words used to hang on the walls of FBI headquarters while J. Edgar Hoover was director. It read, in part: "If you work for a man, in heaven's name work for him; speak well of him and stand by the institution he represents. Remember--an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness ... If you must growl, condemn, and eternally find fault, why--resign your position and when you are on the outside, damn to your heart's content." The copies she received had "resign your position" heavily underlined. "It wasn't even anonymous!" she says. "They signed their names! Even though that is not on the walls anymore, that is still in the hearts and minds."
The backlash bit. "I'm not the most sensitive female in the world," Rowley says. "And the people who are closest to you matter most. But you can't help having your feelings hurt when the retired agents are lumping [you] with Hanssen, who betrayed everything we stand for." She knows the culture of loyalty is a defense mechanism, but she does not excuse it. "Loyalty to who-ever you work for is extremely important. The only problem is, it's not the most important thing. And when it comes to not admitting mistakes, or covering up or not rectifying things only to save face, that's a problem."