What if the FBI Hired Someone Honest to Look into 9-11?
By David Swanson
03/14/07 --ICH -- Edmonds discusses what she knows, whom it implicates, and what she's been through and what hope there is in the new Congress to start an investigation.
Here's the audio.
Swanson: This is David Swanson with Sibel Edmonds. It's great to talk with you, thanks for being here.
Edmonds: Thanks for asking me for this interview, David.
Swanson: So I should ask, I guess, before I start, are you under any gag order? Are there things that you can and cannot talk about?
Edmonds: Well - that's a very interesting question, David, because when the government invoked the State Secrets Privilege, it was specifically for the court procedures, so there won't be any court hearings, and as far as the courts are concerned, my case is gagged and classified.
Separately, they invoked the retroactive classification order on Congress and this was for the Senate Judiciary committee in May 2004 - and the way the imposed this gag order - and I have to emphasize that this gag order was illegal, because in order for them to retroactively classify congressional investigations,
But I've never had a gag order placed on me as far as the public statements, or any other investigative procedures are concerned, but as you know they have declared everything in my case, including my languages, and what I did for the FBI, classified. Now the question is whether this classification that they're using is even legal, or justified. As you know the executive branch has complete control over the classification.
Swanson: So you are not allowed to discuss what languages you speak? You're forbidden to say that?
Edmonds: Well - that's what they have ordered, and that's what the court has actually ruled in their favor - but the interesting this is if you were to go and just google my name, you will see everywhere that my language skills are all listed there - because it's public information. I mean, take a look at the implications of this, based on this classification,
They have been playing this game because they can get away with it in court, and Congress - but as you can see, this information is readily available - it's public. The same thing is true with my university degrees - the government specifically declared my Masters degrees, my undergraduate degrees, and the topics of those studies as classified! This is the Kafkaesque thing that I have been trying to point out to people, and we haven't had much media attention on this - when they can go, in this ridiculous way, in this ludicrous way, to invoke 'privilege' and classification - even on information that is readily available in public.
Swanson: For those who still don't know what your story is, and what you did, and why the government would be taking these sorts of actions, why don't we start at the beginning and just go very briefly, but maybe if I say a couple of things, tell me if I’m wrong...
You were hired by the FBI just after September 11 when they decided that it would be a good idea to hire translators who knew foreign languages - and the foreign languages that you were hired to work on were Turkish, Farsi, and Azerbaijani. And your background is one of having lived in Iran, Turkey and the US - and having had struggles in those previous countries with repressive governments and censorship and corruption and having thought, somewhat hopefully, about the US when you came here as being a country of freedom and transparent government. Am I on the right track?
Edmonds: Absolutely. I was a believer and I took my citizenship oath in 1995, I really took that oath, as you take any oath, seriously, and I was so proud to become a citizen of this country and have the constitution, and all the principles, and the bill of rights applying to me. As you know, those rights are non-existent in countries such as Turkey and Azerbaijan and Iran - in most places in the world, people are not even allowed to write about those rights, forget about even demanding them.
Swanson: What made you inclined to take a job with the FBI as a translator?
Edmonds: There needs to be a brief explanation - three years before I took that job, I was doing my studies in forensic science and criminal justice, and I had applied for an internship position with the FBI, not a full time or permanent job position, and at that point they were interested in my language skills, but they basically messed it up. I sent them the application, I took the polygraph test for that internship position for their language department, and somehow in 1999 they lost all that information - not only mine, but from 150 other applicants they had for language specialist positions. These documents, these files were lost within the FBI - or at least that's the explanation they gave to these applicants.
And then the 911 terrorist event took place and I'd turn on the TV and kept hearing the Director of the FBI pleading for language specialists - especially for the languages that I speak - because they were desperate for language specialists. And at that point it was a duty to go and say "Look - I have these skills, you need these skills for the nation, and I'm offering it to you." So I took this position as a contract language specialist for those languages and my top secret clearance was issued and I started working five days after 911.
Swanson: And they were in pretty bad shape, right? How many skilled translators of Turkish materials did they have at that point?
Edmonds: At that point they had no Turkish language specialists... In fact, they had an unofficial division for years, and they had people coming, on and off, from DOD, or the State Department on loan, and working on certain projects, but they did not even have a formal division for Turkish. They had a small division for Arabic language, and they also had a large division for Farsi - the language spoken in Iran.
As you know, because of the Cold War, most of the emphasis was placed on Russian languages - so they had a very large division for the Russian language. Since 1991, the need was not as great for those languages, and they never fortified the other divisions - so they had a lot of Russian translators, and a lot of Chinese translators, very few Arabic language specialists, and a mid-size Farsi department.
And more than the size, and this is quantity-vs.-qu
You know, a lot of people consider the language specialists as like a clerical job, but you need to realize, when the information comes and you’re looking at all sorts of intelligence, whether it's counter-intelli
Swanson: There's a saying in Italian "Traduttore traditore" which means "The translator is a traitor" - which is something that poets and authors think - and this gives new meaning to that phrase. If you have someone in that position who is not doing their job, who has other interests and loyalties, they're in a position of enormous power because no-one else has seen, or can understand the information that has come in.
So you took this job 5 days after 911 and you were not translating newspapers and public materials, so we can hope that someone at the State Department was doing that - you were translating wiretapped calls, transcripts and so forth, and by March of 2002 you were fired. Why were you fired? What happened in between?
Edmonds: Well - I'll try to answer that briefly, because so much information is already available on the net, in various publications that have come out that basically summarize the issues that I reported
Swanson: Ok - what's the best place for people to go?
Edmonds: They can go to my website - www.justacitize
But if I were to summarize the 3 or 4 general areas that I reported in terms of the serious problems... One had to do with, and this took place almost within the first two months I was there, that had to do with information related to counter-terrori
So they wanted to review a lot of things that took place even before 911. So you were not only dealing, after 911, with information that started coming in, or being obtained after the terrorist attack, but a lot of information that either was translated - verbatim or in many cases summary translations - or things that were maybe overlooked that were retrieved, again from the archives, and this was a decision made by the higher-ups, and for some of those materials to be reviewed again to see what was missed, or what was not translated correctly etc.
Swanson: But you clearly came upon things that the FBI did not want to see made public - would have found embarrassing. Things that you made public to the extent that you were able, that things were poorly translated, things were missed, things were done wrong, and you reported to higher-ups that you had colleagues who were not doing their work properly.
Edmonds: Correct - and, again, there were two categories involved. In some cases it was either intentional or unintentional, unintentional due to incompetence - certain information that was not translated before 911 or they were translated inaccurately. And I also emphasize intentional cases that I reported.
The second category (of things that I reported) was other information that was available and there were significant issues, significant cases, that were not pursued because of 'certain diplomatic relations' and this is something that a lot of people have a hard time understanding, and that is, selective selection of information. That is, let's say certain information came from, let me give you a hypothetical example, let's say it came from Iraq, or certain Iraqi individuals, you can bet that would be processed because of the Axis of Evil Doctrine by our President
Swanson: Whereas Saudi Arabia is 'less evil', for example?
Edmonds: Absolutely! Or you would have in certain cases, there were certain cases that you had several individuals or entities from different nations, let's say, Pakistan, or Turkey, or Israel - and that information, due to pressure by the State Department, they were not transferring that information from counter-intelli
So the agents were very frustrated because, another thing your listeners hopefully will grasp here, when we say 'the FBI' it's not the entire FBI. All the agents that I worked with, they were great individuals, they were patriotic, they were as frustrated as I was - and they were outraged that these layers from the Pentagon, and the State Department, that they were interfering with their investigations - because automatically they had the right, the obligation, to transfer that information that they obtained from counter-intelli
Swanson: And so when you ran up against these issues - facts that you thought important that were being covered over, you went higher and higher up, correct? And so you spoke with people like Deputy Assistant Attorney General, or the Director of the FBI - did you ever get anywhere? And how high did the problem go?
Edmonds: You are right on target, because again, there's this misconception out there. People think 'OK, a whistleblower sees some wrongdoing and they just jump out there and go to the media and leak the information.' I spent 3.5-4 months - first I went to my supervisors, but they were a part of the problem. Then I went above them, I went to the division chief, then I went to the FBI headquarters, I went all the way up to the Director - Director Mueller. And I filed these issues, and when I filed them, I filed them with the supporting documents. - it was not me saying 'This is what I think is happening.' Because it was within the FBI, I was presenting them - let's say there were certain forms, certain documents - to the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility - OPR - and the amazing thing that took place was, immediately I started seeing this reaction to it towards me.
First, the FBI management accused me of having gone to congress, and disclosing this information to congress, and I had not done so at that point. I didn't believe that I needed to go to Congress at that point. They did not believe me - they said 'we are suspicious that you have been communicating with congress on these classified issues and doing this via email communication' - so I had agents coming to my house and removing my home computer - my husbands computer - without a warrant! They took it, and then took it to pieces, and they didn’t find anything - and so I said 'OK - maybe it was a misunderstandin
The other important case (that I reported on), had to do with certain public officials, corruption cases, that the FBI had obtained - and again, this was the operation that was taking place between 1997 and 2002 - and I’m talking about solid evidence. And these officials are high-profile public officials.
Swanson: People as high as say Congressman Denny Hastert?
Edmonds: Well, that information has been public, with the Vanity Fair article, and he was only one of the people, at least from the elected officials side - one of several. And they had at least 2 or 3 people in the Pentagon, and they had at least one person in the State Department - and they had this documented information, evidence, on these people actually not serving the interests of the United States - and giving out extremely sensitive information to other...
Swanson: To Turkey.
Edmonds: Well, when you say "Turkey" - not necessarily the government of Turkey that we consider an ally, but to entities that who are driven by certain interests - many of them financial interests that have to do with the military industrial complex - and they had this information, and those same individuals - not the ones from Congress necessarily, but the ones from the State Dept and Pentagon.
They were not only doing it with one country - because that operation was the sister operation of another investigation that dealt with Israel, but the FBI was not translating these from counter-intelli
Swanson: Right! 'Business relations' as though the US is a business... It's amazing to me that you put one honest person in the FBI for a few months and they end up reporting a number of different scandals and failures, and it makes you wonder what goes on the rest of the time.
And the story of what happened, you sued, and they got it thrown out on grounds of 'State Secrets' - from what I've read there have been threats to your family, a suspect colleague of yours has left the country effectively with the result that they can't be called to testify, and I guess at least some of the allegations that you've made have been confirmed, if not made public, by the Inspector General at the Justice Dept who said that you were basically fired in retaliation - is that right?
Edmonds: Absolutely, and the most amazing aspect of it is, let's say you have a Justice Dept and the FBI who is willy-nilly invoking this privilege to cover-up criminal wrongdoings, but then you have these judges in the Federal Court, due to this fear of 'Oh, I'm going to be violating some classification and helping the terrorists' or for whatever reasons, going along with it, and this happened in the lower court, it happened in the appellate court.
I don't know if you remember this, but during the appellate court hearings, these three judges closed the court to the public and the media, and after we argued our case, when the ACLU was representing my case before the appellate court, and then it was the government's attorneys turn to argue their case, they asked us, the plaintiffs - my attorneys and I - to step out of the courtroom because we couldn’t even hear what argument the government had! I mean, how can you argue in court against something that you don't even know what it is? So this is the Kafkaesque aspect of it, and what our country has come down to.
Swanson: And you're not a prisoner in Guantanamo - you're an employee of the FBI! Not that they shouldn’t have these rights either. This is the throwing out of the right to stand and hear the evidence against you that's been part of American and British justice for hundreds of years.
Edmonds: It's more than that, David. They are doing it to an American citizen. What made me really outraged was the fact that nobody in the media really reported on this. Here is an American citizen, not a terrorism suspect - and yes, they are misusing that big time, and it's against all sorts of human-rights principles that we are supposed to have here - but the fact that they are doing it to an American citizen, not someone who is a suspect in a criminal case, or terrorism case, this is an American citizen who is being deprived of her due process and her Fourth Amendment, and nobody in the media picked it up. The implications of this, now they are doing it successfully, unfortunately, to American citizens. What does it say about where we are today as a nation? And the disregard they have to the Bill of Rights, and our constitution?
Swanson: And information that the FBI made public, or gave to Congress, they classified that retroactively right? They went back and decided we should make this stuff classified after it was out there! Is there any possible respectable explanation for that kind of secrecy?
Edmonds: Absolutely not. In fact, later on in court, and this is the Project on Government Oversight - POGO - they sued the Justice Dept and they said "No. This information was available for two years. More than 30,000 websites have already downloaded it. How could you classify something that has been out there for two years?" Later, the FBI conceded and they didn't go through the lawsuit, they said 'Fine - you can publicize it.'
Despite that fact, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the congress, still didn't put those documents back online, they are still afraid to put it out there. That is the part that is so mind-boggling - which brings us to another important point. I went to Congress, I went to the appropriate committees, the Senate Judiciary committee and later I went to Congressman Waxman's committee - that's the Government Reform Committee - and I observed the classification rules, I went inside the SCIFs - these are the secured facilities they have where they can receive classified information where you can present them with documents, and details, and file numbers etc. Initially, we had Senator Grassley and Senator Leahy, a Democrat and a Republican - this was in the summer of 2002. These two senators, together, came out publicly and they said 'We started investigating this case, we have already interviewed the FBI officials, they confirmed all her allegations to us, and she's 100% credible. We need to turn the FBI upside down' - and this comment that 'We need to turn the FBI upside down' was made by Senator Grassley on CBS 60 Minutes, with 5+ million people watching.
Swanson: And what was the follow through?
Edmonds: Nothing. Initially, they promised that there would be this major public hearing, they were going to bring these witnesses - because I'm not the only witness. Some of these people's names are not public because they haven't come out to blow the whistle publicly, but they have to congress and the Justice Dept Inspector General's office filing exactly the same reports that I filed. They started doing this in 2002 in April, May.
Swanson: Are some of them still employed?
Edmonds: Some of them are retired - and you're looking at veteran FBI agents who were in charge of these operations. They want to testify under oath, they want to testify publicly, and they have filed these reports. So we got the promise from Congress that there will be a hearing, these agents will testify, they will bring in the bad guys from the FBI and have them testify under oath - and then, nothing. A deafening silence.
Swanson: A lot of Americans expected that of the Republican Congress. We've now had 2.5 months of a Democratic Congress, with Senator Leahy now the Chairman. Now Senator Leahy can do more than just write letters and complain about Senator Grassley - what has the difference been? What change have you seen?
Edmonds: Well, we are hoping to see the change. Let me first do the distinction between the Senate and the House. With the Senate, even though we have had Democrats gaining the Majority, we haven't had almost any support from almost any Senate offices. Unfortunately, somebody like Senator Feingold, who I respect tremendously, he's not on the appropriate committee - but you're looking at Senator Leahy, you're looking at Senator Akaka, they are still acting as though they are being repressed there - and they don't want to touch these issues. And of course, you know, people like Senator Clinton - and there are so many of them, and again, it's mind-boggling how these people, after getting the voters who said 'We need change,' they're not doing what they were asked to do - the reason they got re-elected, or some of them who got elected.
In the House we have a little bit more positive situation because we have some great individuals, people who I respect tremendously, Chairman Conyers, and Chairman Waxman, who have already started fairly well, and again it remains to be seen with some of the issues. I'm still hoping that they will do more, but at least we have had some positive response. We’ve got a hearing for whistleblowers through congressman Waxman's office and congressman Waxman's committee - the Government Reform Committee - introduced one of the best, I would say the only good legislation to protect whistleblowers which will include national security whistleblowers - from the agencies like the FBI, NSA, CIA etc. We are so thankful for that - but when it comes to my case, because it is so controversial, because it is so packed with damning information, they have not been willing - and this is specifically congressman Waxman's office - the Government Reform Committee - to come out publicly and commit to this hearing.
And there is nothing, David, nothing that stops them - they have subpoena power, they don't even need to use it a lot because there are so many agents, and I have their names, and they are willing to go and testify under oath. We have been asking congressman Waxman to come out publicly and say 'We are going to hold this public hearing' - and I’m going to emphasize the word 'public' - I have had closed hearings which act like these black holes - you go there and you give the information and nothing happens. This information belongs to the American public and until that happens we won't find out about some unbelievable criminal activities that are taking place within our government agencies.
So last week we started this public action campaign that you're aware of, and I'm very thankful to your website because you published that and you have been one of the supporters and you have signed on to this petition. We have 30 organizations - and this is transpartisan, David. We have the ACLU, OMB Watch, Project on Government Oversight, GAP (Government Accountability Project), National Coalition against Censorship, OpenTheGovernme
And so far we have received no response, David. We have 15000 citizens who have signed this petition, we have 30 major organizations, we have had hundreds if not thousands of people calling in the past few days, and we are still waiting to hear from Chairman Waxman's office to publicly say that 'Yes, we are going to hold these public hearings,' and have these witnesses, these veteran agents, these high level FBI people who are willing to testify, to testify. We want to introduce these documents that have no information that is 'state secrets' or that will hurt our national security - but information that will let the public know that here we have appointed officials and elected officials who are out there engaged in treason!
Now, some people may consider the way I'm characterizing this as maybe outrageous, or an exaggeration, but I don't know what else to call it, David. When you have people, for greed, for money, selling out information, covering up cases, giving out our true State Secrets information to entities - whether or not they're allies, Israel or Turkey or Pakistan - these people are engaged in treason.
And these cases are documented, the files, the wiretaps, go back to 1997, 1998. They are documented, there are documents, there are witnesses and we need to expose these people and we need to see criminal indictments against these people - and it will (happen). All we need is for this hearing to take place, for people to testify, and for the documents to be introduced, then you're going to see criminal indictments against these people.
Swanson: That's extremely well said, and I think it's exactly right. This is the purpose that Congress serves - to hold public hearings, not to issue reports quietly from friendly witnesses, but to use the power of the subpoena, and putting people under oath, and in front of cameras - and this congress has not done this on the fraud that took us into this war, and has not done it on the mis-steps that allowed 911 to occur, and this is what we put a Democratic majority in the there for in hope of, and we have yet to see it.
If people want to get involved and help push for this to happen with your case, how can they do that?
Edmonds: The best thing they can do, and the time to do it is right now because we just released this petition, they were just served last week with this petition signed by 15,000 people and signed by 30 organizations, is for all your listeners to call Congressman Waxman's office, both the committee's office and his personal office, and demand - send letters, call, because calling is effective, send letters and emails, and say 'We want you to come out publicly and commit to his hearing, and have this public hearing take place' because they listen.
Unfortunately we don't have a good, independent mainstream media - otherwise we wouldn't be in this position in the first place, David. You mentioned Iraq, and the illegal war - with all these cases, unfortunately, our mainstream media acted as enablers. They sit in the middle there and they didn’t do what they were supposed to do, they're still not doing it, and they're leaving the public in the dark. So because we don't have the mainstream media we have people like you. We have websites like yours, we have some of these great organizations who are doing it on behalf of the public.
Swanson: And we have some very talented film-makers, I haven’t seen it yet, but who have made a documentary of your story, right?
Edmonds: Yes David - and it's ironic, because here it took these French producers, coming from France, on behalf of this Channel2 French network to put together for a year and a half, these directors and the producers worked on this case to document it. And they also did a lot of investigative work - but they had to come from France to put it in place here on a case, on an issue that implicates US officials, and has implications for the American public. And the Vanity Fair article that you mentioned, that was done by this great reporter, David Rose, who is British, he lives in England - he had to come and do a one year investigation to that piece out, and I don't know what our mainstream media reporters are doing, but we are depending on foreign nations, and other countries, to do what our own mainstream media should be doing here.
And again, as I said, that's why it's up to these organizations, activists like you and your listeners to take that two minutes, maybe less than two minutes, and call Chairman Waxman, and remind him that he's the Chairman, there's no obstacle.
This case is not allegation, it's not a case that needs to be investigated, that has already been done. Even the Dept of Justice's own Inspector General's Office has put out a report vindicating the case. We have had bipartisan congressional statements saying that this is credible, and absolutely confirming it. So this is not taking something that is unknown. He's the Chairman, he has the power, there's nothing that stands in his way, this is a confirmed case, let's see some justice and accountability.
I don't want anything my job, about why I was fired, about why they did these wrongdoings - yes, they did it to me, that is me personally being affected, and it also sends a chilling message to other whistleblowers - but that is secondary. The most important thing is there are individuals who are engaged in acts of treason, okay. People from the State Dept, people from the Pentagon - some of these individuals are already under some quasi-investiga
Swanson: It's an excellent question. All of those people and more need to be subpoenaed and put under oath, and on camera, and we need to get some information to the public, without which we're not going to have a democracy. So I would encourage everyone to take your suggestion, and call Congressman Henry Waxman, and ask for open, public hearings on this issue. And go to where? The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition website?
Edmonds: If you could publish the information - Luke Ryland has put together an action campaign page with all of that information with Congressman Waxman's office phone number, fax information, email etc. It's a very good website done by Luke Ryland, and I would appreciate it if you would add that information so your listeners can go to that website and also the phone numbers for Chairman Waxman so that they can call and contact, that would be great (see contact details below).
Swanson: We will do that, no question. Thank you very much for taking this time to open some eyes to what still needs to be looked into.
Edmonds: Thank you David, and thank you for everything you have been doing, because as I said, our only basically is you people, us, and those of us who are saying 'Let's defend our country against all enemies - not foreign,, but also domestic' - and that's what you have been doing so we are thankful for everything you have been doing. Thank you.
Congressman Henry Waxman (contact page)
In Washington, D.C.
2204 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-3976 (phone)
(202) 225-4099 (fax)
Ask for Michelle Ash ( Michelle.Ash@ma
In Los Angeles
8436 West Third Street, Suite 600
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 651-1040 (phone)
(818) 878-7400 (phone)
(310) 652-3095 (phone)
(323) 655-0502 (fax)
House Government Reform Committee ( contact page)
By Mail or Phone:
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives
2157 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Please also contact Congressman John Conyers, asking him to support hearings by Chairman Waxman.
2426 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-0072 Fax
Ask for Elliot Mintzberg.