An October Surprise for Bush and the FBI?

FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds talks about her case --and hints at a forthcoming scandal

Edmonds: No, but many pieces of the various information has been out. However, the dots to this date have not been really connected. That is, the issues I reported to the Inspector General's office in the Department of Justice, and also to the 9/11 Commission and to Congress, can be classified in three different categories. One had to do with intentional blocking of translations by certain translators for various reasons. The other had to do with just pure incompetence. Certain translators were hired through back doors, even though these individuals failed proficiency exams or background security checks. And the third, most important issue had to do with [the fact] that the state secrets privilege was invoked not to protect state secrets, but invoked--and this hopefully will be out before this election--to cover up some other issues that had nothing to do with national security or state secrets, but [with] intentional action, some of them criminal actions, by certain authorities here in the United States.

Again, these issues were reported; I reported them to the Congress, to the Inspector General, and the 9/11 Commission, along with evidence. And they have been sitting on it. Once this comes out, they are going to be liable, too, by not doing anything about these issues, and abiding by these gag orders, considering that the gag orders were illegal in the first place. Even the National Security Archives called it illegal. Because Ashcroft had to meet three criteria in order to retroactively classify these investigations, and he did not meet these three criteria.

CP: The ironic thing, of course, is that so much regarding the substance of your claims is easily accessible on the internet--it was even summarized pretty well on the front page of the New York Times a couple of months ago. So why the extraordinary lengths to prevent any congressional or court action, do you think?

The Ashcroft  Justice Department retroactively threw a veil of secrecy over Sibel Edmond's claims
Associated Press
The Ashcroft Justice Department retroactively threw a veil of secrecy over Sibel Edmond's claims

Edmonds: Because if they don't do that, the court proceedings would have gone on, and that would have exposed the issues they want to cover up. For example, thousands of websites contain these letters written by Senators Grassley and Leahy since 2002 about the unclassified meeting the Judiciary Committee had with FBI officials, during which the FBI officials confirmed all my allegations and denied none. Now, using this and using these letters that were written--these were public letters, and that puts the government at a disadvantage. They can't say, Well, this is secret, we can't talk about it, because they divulged this information during unclassified meetings themselves.

They are playing it both ways, but unfortunately no one is challenging that. Not the courts, especially this particular judge. Which is very interesting. My case went from one judge to another judge, mysteriously, without being provided any explanation on why, until it landed with this judge, Reggie Walton, who was recently appointed by President Bush. And it stayed in front of him. So neither the judges nor Congress is challenging these actions.

As far as the Congress goes, the whole attitude has been, they're afraid to be labeled unpatriotic. Or things such as, "Well, this is Ashcroft, and you don't mess with him. This guy's crazy." This is what the senators, even Republicans, are saying.

CP: Most of the other whistleblowers say the Bureau tried to destroy their reputations or portray them as mentally unstable. Did they seek to do that to you at any point?

Edmonds: Absolutely not. In fact, for two and a half years--and this surprised me, because it's rare--either with their briefings in front of the Senate, or when they talk off the record with other papers, they have not done that, because I think, in a way, they know that if they do it, then based on information, evidence, documents that I have, it's going to get worse for them. So they have refrained from doing any of these name-smearings. The worst thing they said, initially, which they backed off, was that Sibel Edmonds's contract was terminated purely for the government's convenience. That's the only reason they cited. Months later, the FBI leaked this information, actually inaccurate information, to the Associated Press, telling them that I was fired due to being disruptive with my whistleblowing and my allegations. Then later on, they backtracked on that.

CP: Tell me how the 9/11 families organization helped bring your story to light.

Edmonds: That's an interesting story. In May 2003, I wrote to 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean, sent a certified letter to his office, telling him that he needed to interview me because of the direct information I had about 9/11 issues. And also I knew of other witnesses I worked with who were willing to provide testimony to the 9/11 Commission if they were asked. They couldn't go voluntarily, because some of these witnesses are still working for the FBI, but they wanted the Commission to subpoena them so they could give this information.

Interestingly, after following up with them, they said no, the Commission had very limited time, and most of the witnesses with related information would not be interviewed. So I let it go, but months later I met with some of the 9/11 family members, and I told them about what happened, and I showed them the letter. They were outraged, because they had been promised by the Commission that no witness was going to be turned away. They were going to talk to everybody, and look at every single document.

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