CQ HOMELAND SECURITY - INTELLIGENCE
July 9, 2004 - 8:03 p.m.
FBI Classifies Report on Internal Investigation of Translation Unit By Justin Rood, CQ Staff
A long-awaited investigation into claims of malfeasance within the FBI's translation office has been completed, but the bureau has deemed the entire investigation report classified, barring its release to the public.
The claims, made by former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, included charges that translators working on terrorism-related communications purposely created a backlog of work to justify a higher budget and that her division had been compromised by employees who were also affiliated with groups who were targets of FBI surveillance.
Edmonds had sued the bureau for wrongfully terminating her after she made her allegations, although a federal judge dismissed that case last week, citing national security concerns.
It's called "State Secrets Privilege".
State Secrets Privilege is a cool weapon to use: it doesn't just "win" the case; it eliminates the case. No part of it may be discussed, not even the date of birth of the plaintiff.
Sibel Edmonds goes to work as a translator in the FBI, finds out that translations are deliberately not being done, and that one of her coworkers, the lady who is slowing down the work on terrorist-related translations, is involved with a target of an FBI investigation.
She reports it through the chain of command within the FBI. When they don't take action, she goes to Congress. For this, she gets fired. She files a wrongful termination lawsuit, and the lawsuit gets crushed by the government's invocation of State Secrets Privilege, so not one detail of the lawsuit can be heard -- nothing!
On July 9, the Justice Department inspector general's office said it had completed its investigation of Edmonds' allegations but could not release the report to the public.
"We completed our review of several of Ms. Edmonds' allegations late last week and sent copies of our report to the FBI, [the] Department of Justice, and the 9-11 Commission," IG spokesman Paul Martin wrote in an e-mail July 8. "In addition, we have alerted the Senate Judiciary Committee that our review is complete.
"Because the report is classified by the FBI as 'Secret,' at this time there is no publicly releasable document," Martin wrote.
The classification of an entire IG report is unusual, according to Justice Department observers.
The same people who went "nuke" in the courtroom must be involved in shutting down discussion of the Justice Department IG report, because no part of that report was available to the public.
"You can redact classified information from [a report], and disclose whatever's left over," said Kris Kolesnik, a former senior investigative aide to Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, and now head of the National Whistleblower Center.
In fact, the IG has issued numerous reports on FBI intelligence matters - most recently on wiretapping, information technology and problems with intelligence-sharing - portions of which have been made available in a redacted form.
Even the IG's top-secret August 2003 report on convicted mole Robert Hanssen - who was arrested in 2001 and was one of the most damaging spies in U.S. history - was released to the public in the form of a 31-page executive summary.
FBI spokeswoman Whitney Blake refused to comment on the matter or say why the bureau could not produce a redacted version of the report.
"Even the IG's top-secret August 2003 report on convicted mole Robert Hanssen - who was arrested in 2001 and was one of the most damaging spies in U.S. history - was released to the public in the form of a 31-page executive summary."
But the Justice Department IG report into Sibel Edmonds' complaints couldn't be released in an unclassified version -- it was that important!
"I must be the most important person as it relates to an intelligence issue in the country," Edmonds said in an interview July 8.
While her allegations were only classified "Secret", compared to "Top Secret" for the Hanssen matter, the content of those allegations and the investigation thereof, in their entirety, must be considered more important than "Top Secret" by someone.
In early 2002, after being dismissed from the FBI, Edmonds brought her case to the attention of the National Whistleblower Center - which represents FBI whistleblowers - and Sens. Grassley and Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., both of whom are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The senators wrote Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine that spring [link -- YD] requesting an investigation into Edmonds' claims, and have followed up with Fine's office repeatedly to inquire when the report would be completed.
The Senate Judiciary Committee was notified on July 7 that the report had been completed, said Tracy Schmaler, spokeswoman for the committee's Democrats.
On July 9, Leahy and Grassley sent a letter to Fine, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III requesting that they release public versions of the report.
The senators also requested public versions of other reports they say the IG has either completed or will soon complete. The reports include a survey of the FBI's translation bureau and a report on the FBI's handling of pre-9/1 1 terror intelligence, including the infamous "Phoenix memo" disclosing the existence of Middle Eastern students in American flight schools; information about the activities of Zacarias Moussaoui, accused of helping plan the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks; and other pieces of intelligence.
The United States Senate -- from both sides of the aisle -- can't even get an answer out of these guys.
Full Court Press
Neither Edmonds nor her attorney, Mark Zaid, was told the report had been completed until July 8. "I just found out ten minutes ago the IG report was released today, and the entire report is classified," Edmonds said by phone that afternoon.
Zaid filed suit the same day in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to compel the release of the report. He now says he will file a Freedom of Information Act request for the report, and then sue for its release.
On July 6, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Edmonds brought against the FBI in which she claimed she had been improperly dismissed from the bureau for blowing the whistle on improper activity.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton agreed with the Justice Department's assertion of the "state secret privilege," which allows the federal government to request that lawsuits be dismissed if they could compromise national security.
Edmonds said she plans to appeal that ruling.
What is Judge Walton thinking, that he goes along with the Justice Department's assertion that not even Sibel Edmonds' date of birth can be released without compromising national security?
Go to her website and look at her picture: she can't be that old...?
What are they hiding?
In May, the FBI retroactively classified information about Edmonds' claims provided to congressional staff more than two years ago, leading senators to remove previously public material from their Web sites and putting staff in danger of violating national security law by discussing information that previously had been in the public realm.
And now Congress, whose Constitutionally mandated job is to provide oversight of the Executive Branch, has been told by the Executive Branch to shut up -- and they do!
"Asserting the state secrets privilege, gagging Congress, quashing subpoenas -and now they're saying the entire report is classified? That's just outrageous," Edmonds said.
Outrageous? To say the least!
The National Whistleblower Center's Kolesnik said that the procedure of classifying information should ensure that the entire IG report does not get stamped "Secret," as it has been.
"They classify paragraph by paragraph," Kolesnik said. "They take out all the ones that have the 'S' at the beginning, indicating that it's secret, and whatever's left you disclose."
But not here! The people who think Sibel Edmonds' date of birth should be classified seem to be calling the shots, and those who are on the public payroll to provide oversight just shut up about it like they have been told to.
Even with a "secret" classification, the report can be read by Judiciary Committee staff with security clearances. But that is not the point, Kolesnik said.
"One of the biggest components of oversight - because you have to move an institution to comply with you - is to do it out in the open," said Kolesnik. "Very little gets done when it's behind the scenes like that, in classified mode. That's one of the reasons the CIA is all screwed up.
"If this isn't done in the court of public opinion," he said, "nothing's going to change."
Obviously, that's the desired result.
Martin, the Justice IG spokesman, would not say whether the FBI or the Justice Department is taking any action as a result of the investigation, or if their findings have triggered any new investigations.
"I can't comment," Martin said.
Justin Rood can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: CQ Homeland Security
(c) 2004 Congressional Quarterly Inc. All Rights Reserved
"I can't comment."
What does Sibel Edmonds know -- what did she see in those FBI documents and within the FBI -- that got confirmed by all these officials (including two United States Senators) who looked into it, that got investigated by the Justice Department Inspector General, but that everyone is now shutting up about?
Stay tuned to Stop Islamic Conquest as Patriot Games continues.