Former FBI translator turned whistleblower, Sibel Edmonds is now appealing her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In March 2002, she was fired and she has been fighting now for nearly 3 years to blow the whistle on US government failures prior to 9-11. She has faced fierce opposition from the Bush administration, the FBI and some in Congress. This week, she grabbed headlines again after Vanity Fair published a major story about her. What is making news from that piece are allegations surrounding Illinois congressman and Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
Vanity Fair alleges that Hastert may have been the recipient of tens of thousands of dollars of secret payments from Turkish officials in exchange for political favors and information. In the article, titled "An Inconvenient Patriot," Edmonds says that she gave confidential testimony about the payments to congressional staffers, the Inspector General and members of the 9/11 Commission. Edmonds says that she heard of the payments while listening to FBI wiretaps of Turkish officials who were under surveillance by the FBI.
Sibel Edmonds speaks Farsi, Turkish and Azerbaijani. She was hired after September eleventh by the FBI to translate pre-9-11 intelligence gathered by the agency. She has publicly accused the U.S of having considerable evidence that Al Qaeda was planning to strike the United States using airplanes as weapons.
Democracy Now contacted Congressman Hastert's office and the Turkish Embassy for comment. They did not return our phone calls.
Of course they didn't.
AMY GOODMAN: We're joined in our D.C. studio by Sibel Edmonds. We are also joined on the telephone from Britain by David Rose, an investigative reporter and author of the Vanity Fair article. David Rose, let's begin with you. Can you lay out your thesis in this Vanity Fair piece?
DAVID ROSE: Well, I try to tell the whole story of Sibel Edmonds' treatment by the FBI and by the Department of Justice from the beginning until the current time in rather more detail than before, but I suppose what is the most striking feature is I tried to look at why the government has invoked the State Secrets privilege in this case. As you say, just as in the Maher Arar case, the government is saying that her case against the authorities for having her fired can't proceed because to let any of the evidence about what lies behind it out in court, even in a court which has been security cleared where the attorneys have top secret clearance, would jeopardize the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States. And, by the way, I think it's interesting that in his declaration about this, John Ashcroft, the former Attorney General, uses that formulation: foreign policy and national security interests.
What I find interesting is that this goes beyond compartmentalization and classification.
Not one detail of the case may be divulged by Edmonds, including the country where she was born, the date of her birth, the languages she speaks... nothing.
Edmonds is under a gag order: she may not discuss this case.
This is important to understand and keep in mind, because, as we shall see, the interviewer seems to have missed this point completely.
So, as Ann Beeson, Sibel's attorney from the ACLU, says in the article, ‘Well, what could they be trying to hide?’ And that's what I set out to try to find out. And I think there is now considerable evidence that what they may be trying to hide is not simply a national security scandal, but something potentially much more explosive and embarrassing, namely, evidence that some Turkish groups, some of them officials of the government, some private individuals, perhaps associated or allegedly associated with organized crime, have been making efforts to corrupt elected American officials and also appointed government officials in the United States, and one name that has cropped up in wiretaps, which my informants tell me Sibel Edmonds translated, is that of the Speaker of the House, Denny Hastert, as you say.
That goes a long way to explaining the Edmonds case: Turkish organized crime has infiltrated the Turkish government to such an extent that often it is difficult to determine where one ends and where the other begins. This resulting Turkish cartel has cultivated corrupt US figures in government and placed them on its payroll.
These corrupt US officials include both elected and appointed political leaders; they include members of the Bush Administration as well as members of Congress from both parties; they including key players in various US Government organizations, among which is the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
AMY GOODMAN: Sibel Edmonds, what did you learn about Dennis Hastert when you were an FBI translator after 9/11, listening to these pre-9/11 wiretaps?
Wasted question: Edmonds is under a gag order, and is not allowed to answer it.
SIBEL EDMONDS: Good morning, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us.
SIBEL EDMONDS: Thank you. Thank you for having me back. Well, as you know, I'm under several gag orders, and I have been for the past three, three-and-a-half years. And as far as disclosing information that the Americans have the right to know, I have already done that. I have done that repeatedly for the past three years.
In other words, what Sibel knows, 1) she is not allowed to say, now, due to the several gag orders, and, in any case, 2) she has already said, prior to being gagged.
And I have gone through the appropriate channels. I have gone to the United States Congress. I have gone to the 9/11 Commission. I disclosed information in secure facilities in all of these channels, including the Inspector General's office for the Department of Justice. And to this date, as you know, we have an Inspector General's report that has come out and said my allegations, my report have been supported by other witnesses, by other documents, by other facts and evidence. Three years ago, you had two senators coming out saying that the FBI during unclassified briefings have confirmed all my allegations, and they have denied none. So, whatever I have reported has already been confirmed.
Key points are made here.
Edmonds has spoken to all these people. The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General substantiated many of Edmonds' claims, and denied none. The US Senators she spoke to did so as well. (So did the 60 Minutes news team.) Still, the 9/11 Commission refused to address Edmonds' information about the blueprints of US skyscrapers that had been sent overseas to locations in the Middle East.
Given that Osama bin Laden attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, and did very little damage (relatively speaking), why would the 9/11 Commission not follow up on what may have been an attempt by bin Laden to learn more about his target as he prepares for his next attack?
It's been three years, and the government still insists in invoking the State Secret privilege. As you know, last year they went ahead and they gagged the United States Congress, by the way, illegally.
Did you catch that?
They gagged Congress!
Why don't they do that when Congress is trying to pass some stupid gun law? Or when Congress is agreeing to raise our taxes?
How can Congress be gagged, anyway?
There are three branches of government under our Constitution, and no one branch can gag another; no two branches can gag the third. Yet, Congress has shut up about it, as instructed. Why?
It makes sense if you understand that Edmonds claims to have seen evidence indicating that members of both parties in Congress are dirty -- they are taking bribes from foreign powers.
And, it affects both parties.
They can't agree on health care or abortion, but they can agree that they don't want this getting out -- it's that important!
And I think it affects more than a few of them. The allegations are that some members of Congress are on the take with certain Turkish quasi-governmental organizations. Those that aren't on the take with one Turkish organization may be on the take with another; and those that aren't on the take with Turks may be on the take with certain Israeli organizations -- AIPAC has been specifically mentioned in connection with the Edmonds case. And, though not alleged, the thought arises that anyone clean of both of those sources of bribery may be taking money from Saudi Arabia, or from Pakistan, or from who-knows-where.
That's why there is a critical mass of elected officials who do not want to question the gag order -- the Executive Branch, working through legal rulings of the Judicial, cannot gag the Legislative, unless the legislators themselves agree to go along with it. Now you tell me: why would Congress go along with it?
And according to my attorneys, I am the most gagged American in the United States history, and nobody is asking why. They aren’t saying, ‘Why is it that the government is going to such length to invoke State Secret privilege, to gag the Congress, to classify the Inspector General's report, to stop the 9/11 family members' attorneys to subpoena my deposition?’ And the answer to this question is it's not to protect any national security. It is not to protect any ongoing investigations, because to this day they have never used that. Do you know why they have never used the fact that, oh, maybe this is an ongoing investigation?
They are not coming back and saying that they have an investigation. Why don't they at least lie and say it's an investigation?
They have committed themselves to this idea that, if all other information regarding this case is redacted, leaving only the date and place of birth of Sibel Edmonds, that, if released, would jeopardize national security.
It is so absurdly incredible, that it defies description. And, the media, for the most part, is not looking into it.
Because the fact of it is that's why I blew the whistle. There are no investigations out there. There is no investigation whatsoever, because they are not targeting the true criminals. And they are not targeting those who truly masterminded these terrible acts against the Americans and their best interest, their national security.
Criminal elements are going uninvestigated. Foreign powers and organized crime have co-opted the US Government, including Congress, the Department of State and the Department of Justice; they have influenced foreign policy and law-making, and they have pre-empted counterintelligence and criminal investigations into the espionage and bribery.
AMY GOODMAN: Sibel Edmonds, we contacted Congress member Hastert's office, the Speaker of the House, as well as the Turkish embassy, for comment, they did not return our phone calls. But what are you alleging about the Speaker of the House?
Why didn't Hastert's office just say, "Hey, we can't say anything, we've been gagged!" -- ?
Wasted question on the interviewer's part: "What are you alleging...?" Edmonds has been gagged and can't say!
More to follow in Part Two!