'I Saw Papers That Show US Knew al-Qa'ida Would Attack Cities With Airplanes'
Sibel Edmonds said she spent more than three hours in a closed session with the commission's investigators providing information that was circulating within the FBI in the spring and summer of 2001 suggesting that an attack using aircraft was just months away and the terrorists were in place. The Bush administration, meanwhile, has sought to silence her and has obtained a gagging order from a court by citing the rarely used "state secrets privilege".
The accusations from Mrs Edmonds, 33, a Turkish-American who speaks Azerbaijani, Farsi, Turkish and English, will reignite the controversy over whether the administration ignored warnings about al-Qa'ida. That controversy was sparked most recently by Richard Clarke, a former counter-terrorism official, who has accused the administration of ignoring his warnings.
The issue what the administration knew and when is central to the investigation by the 9/11 Commission, which has been hearing testimony in public and private from government officials, intelligence officials and secret sources. Earlier this week, the White House made a U-turn when it said that Ms Rice would appear in public before the commission to answer questions. Mr Bush and his deputy, Dick Cheney, will also be questioned in a closed-door session.
Mrs Edmonds, 33, says she gave her evidence to the commission in a specially constructed "secure" room at its offices in Washington on 11 February. She was hired as a translator for the FBI's Washington field office on 13 September 2001, just two days after the al-Qa'ida attacks. Her job was to translate documents and recordings from FBI wire-taps.
She said said it was clear there was sufficient information during the spring and summer of 2001 to indicate terrorists were planning an attack. "Most of what I told the commission 90 per cent of it related to the investigations that I was involved in or just from working in the department. Two hundred translators side by side, you get to see and hear a lot of other things as well."
May 07, 2004 Jim Hogue Interview with Sibel Edmonds
Former FBI Translator Sibel Edmonds Calls Current 9/11 Investigation Inadequate
JH: ... I have a question having to do with "mid-level" management at the FBI. Why do you think that mid-level FBI management would care enough to stop you from doing your job?
SE: This was mainly for the reason of accountability. As you know, and as the chairman for the 9/11 Commission [Thomas Kean] answered during Tim Russert's show: to this day, not a single person has been held accountable. And certain issues, yes, they were due to a certain level of incompetence. But there were certain other issues--you know they keep talking about this "wall," and not having communication. I beg to differ on that, because there are certain instances where the Bureau is being asked by the State Department not to pursue certain investigations or certain people or certain targets of an investigation--simply citing "diplomatic relations." And what happens is, instead of targeting those people who are directly related to these illegal terrorist activities, they just let them walk free.
JH: And they interrogate people who are trying to make voting safe.
SE: And that is hypocritical. I see people detained for simple INS violations. On the other hand I have seen several, several top targets for these investigations of these terrorist activities that were allowed to leave the country--I'm not talking about weeks, I'm talking about months after 9/11.
JH: And there were four major FBI investigations, not counting yours, that were squelched in Phoenix, Minneapolis, Chicago and New York.
JH: And yours was even outside of that.
JH: So, obviously, we have mid-level FBI people who have been told something. It was the mid-level FBI people who knew enough to squelch many of these investigations before they went further. So how did they know to do that? Can all of them have been incompetent?
SE: No. Absolutely not.
JH: So they got the word down from [Director] Mueller, probably.
SE: I cannot confirm that for sure, but I can tell you that there is so much involvement, that if they did let this information out, and if they were to hold real investigations--I'm not talking about this semi-investigation they're holding under this "Joint Inquiry"--the pure show of the 9/11 Commission that has been getting the mass media's attention. If they were to do real investigations we would see several significant high level criminal prosecutions in this country. And that is something that they are not going to let out. And, believe me; they will do everything to cover this up. And I am appalled. I am really surprised. I'm taken back by seeing the mass media's reaction to this. They are the window to our government's operation and what are they doing?
JH: We've been screaming about it for a long time. And it goes on.
SE: And you see many people just turning away from these channels of mass media, and they're just turning in to alternative providers, because they just see what's happening.
JH: I have another question: when the gag order was written, it had to do with "diplomatic relations." Right?
SE: That is what Attorney General Ashcroft cited.
JH: Are you allowed to say that it's the Saudis?
SE: I cannot name any country. And I would emphasize that it's plural. I understand the Saudis have been named because fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. However, the names of people from other countries, and semi-legit organizations from other countries, to this day, have not been made public.
JH: And the information that you have been gagged on has to do with that specifically.
SE: Correct. And specifically with that and their ties to people here in this country today.
JH: I understand why you can't say anything about this, but there are several books out about the Bush ties to the Saudis and the bin Ladens in particular. And in David Griffin's book, The New Pearl Harbor, there is a very good synopsis of the ISI, which is the Pakistani intelligence service. He shows the direct connections between the CIA, the ISI, and Mohamed Atta. He makes a very convincing case that the Pakistani ISI had been helping to plan 9/11 for a long time.
I don't imagine that you are allowed to say much about that.
SE: You are correct. But I can tell you that the issue, on one side, boils down to money--a lot of money. And it boils down to people and their connections with this money, and that's the portion that, even with this book, has not been mentioned to this day. Because then it starts touching some people in high places.
JH: Can you explain more about what money you are talking about?
SE: The most significant information that we were receiving did not come from counter-terrorism investigations, and I want to emphasize this. It came from counter-intelligence, and certain criminal investigations, and issues that have to do with money laundering operations.
You get to a point where it gets very complex, where you have money laundering activities, drug related activities, and terrorist support activities converging at certain points and becoming one. In certain points - and they [the intelligence community] are separating those portions from just the terrorist activities. And, as I said, they are citing "foreign relations" which is not the case, because we are not talking about only governmental levels. And I keep underlining semi-legit organizations and following the money. When you do that the picture gets grim. It gets really ugly.
. . .
SE: Even from people from whom I've been receiving support, so many times you run across people who say, "Yeah, it's terrible. I understand. And it's very courageous what you are doing." But you know how this thing is. It's a boat you can't rock. And that is what is allowing these people to take everything this far. We need to stop saying we can't rock this boat when it needs to be rocked. Listen, we pay for this boat. We elect this boat. It's our money that maintains this boat. And we are the ultimate boss here. If this boat or some section of it needs rocking, you bet we have the right and we have the power to do it. And we have the power to demand it. Otherwise we are making ourselves powerless.
JH: And if we don't do it, we don't deserve it.
I spent some time researching Sibel Edmonds recently. To me, she sounds very credible.
If she's not -- if she's a nutcase -- then that is proof that the FBI has hired at least one nutcase; where there is one, there may be more, so we need to hear what this witness has to say about the inner functioning of the FBI.
If the FBI is an honorable, credible, competent organization, then this woman, who was screened and ultimately hired by the FBI, must have been considered by this honorable, credible, competent organization to have been honorable, credible and competent herself, so we need to hear what this witness has to say about the inner functioning of the FBI.
There is no way around this. Sibel Edmonds needs to be heard.
The best our country has to offer are serving in uniform in distant, exotic lands, trying to defend our way of life. We not only dishonor, but negate their sacrifices by allowing this to continue.
Sibel Edmonds' Website: Just a Citizen
Background by the ACLU: Sibel Edmonds: A Patriot Silenced, Unjustly Fired but Fighting Back to Help Keep America Safe (1/26/2005)
Links regarding a petition to ungag Sibel Edmonds:
Important New Petition -Speak Out
Petition for open hearings into Sibel Edmonds' case & SSP
Congress Must Finally Hold Public Hearings on Edmonds Case
An Interview With Sibel Edmonds and James Bamford
"To Gag and Call it a Privilege"
Bamford, Sibel and Horton
Lost In Translation
James Bamford: 'I support Sibel Edmonds. You should too.'
BreakForNews.com: Sibel Edmonds
Sibel Edmonds: SourceWatch
National Whistleblower Center