Former FBI Translator Sibel Edmonds Calls Current 9/11 Investigation Inadequate
On April 30th, Sibel Edmonds was my guest for 50 minutes on WGDR radio. What follows is an edited transcript of the interview. The editing is for the sake of a more readable piece.
Sibel Edmonds is a former FBI translator. She blew the whistle on the cover-up of intelligence that names some of the culprits who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. These culprits are protected by the Justice Department, the State Department, the FBI, the White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee. They are foreign nationals and Americans. Ms. Edmonds is under two gag orders that forbid her to testify in court or mention the names of the people or the countries involved.
THE INTERVIEWJH: The people who have so far been interviewed on this program have all been authors and researchers, and here we have someone who, for the most part, has first-hand information. Ladies and Gentlemen, your guest is Sibel Edmonds, formerly of the FBI, a translator who joined the FBI shortly after 9/11.
Ms. Edmonds, what I'll do is invite you to tell us whatever you would like--your stint with the FBI--and what the brouhaha with Ashcroft and company is all about.
SE: I started working for the Bureau immediately after 9/11 and I was performing translations for several languages: Farsi, Turkish, and Azerbaijani. And I do have top-secret clearance. And after I started working for the Bureau, most of my translation duties included translations of documents and investigations that actually started way before 9/11. And certain documents were being sent that needed to be re-translated for various reasons, and of course certain documents had to be translated for the first time due to the backlog.
During my work there I came across some very significant issues that I started reporting in December of 2001 to the mid-level management within the FBI. They said to basically leave it alone, because if they were to get into those issues it would end up being a can of worms. And after I didn't see any response from this mid-level bureaucratic management I took it to higher levels all the way up to [assistant director] Dale Watson and Director Mueller. And, again, I was asked not to take this any further and just let it be. And if I didn't do that they would retaliate against me.
At that point, which would be around February 2002, they came and they confiscated my computer, because, they said, they were suspecting that I was communicating with certain Senate members and taking this issue outside the Bureau. And, at that point, I was not. They did not find anything in my computer after they confiscated it. And they asked me to take a polygraph as to the allegations and reports I'd made. I volunteered and I took the polygraph and passed it without a glitch. They have already confirmed this publicly.
In March 2002 I took this issue to the Senate Judiciary Committee and also I filed it with the Department of Justice Inspector General's office. And as per the Senate Judiciary Committee's request the IG started an expedited investigation on these serious issues; and they promised the Senate Judiciary Committee that their report for these investigations would be out by fall 2002 latest. And here we are in April 2004 and this report is not being made public, and they are citing "state privilege" and "national security" for not making this report public.
Three weeks after I went to the Senate Judiciary Committee the Bureau terminated my contract, and they cited "government's convenience." I started working with the Senate Judiciary Committee that was investigating this case, and I appeared before the Inspector General's office for their investigation several times, and I also requested documents regarding these reports under the Freedom of Information Act; and they blocked this by citing again the "state secret privilege" and "national security" refusing to make these documents public.
On October 18th 2002 Attorney General Ashcroft came out personally, in public, asserted this rare "state secret privilege" on everything that had to do with my case. And they cited "diplomatic relations" and certain "foreign relations" that would be "at stake" if I were to take this issue and make it public. And, since then, this has been acting as a gag on my case.
I testified before the [9/11] commission on February 11th 2004, and as I said, I have been waiting for this report that they [the Attorney General's office] have been blocking for a year and a half from becoming public. The information I requested under the Freedom of Information Act has been blocked for two years. And I have been campaigning for the past three months trying to get the Senate Judiciary Committee that has the oversight authority and responsibility to start its own public hearings. However, this request is again being blocked. Now they [AG] are citing this upcoming election as reason. And here I am.
SE: Senator Leahy, on April 8, 2004, sent a very strong letter to Attorney General Ashcroft, citing my case stating that he, Senator Leahy, has been asking questions, and has a lot of issues that have not been addressed, and asking AG Ashcroft to come and provide answers. And AG Ashcroft for the past two years has refused. So he [Leahy] is calling for a public hearing. However, Senator Hatch, who is the Republican Chairman of the Senate, has been a road block. And Senator Grassley [a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee] went on the record with New York Observer's Gail Sheehy and said that Senator Hatch is blocking this investigation from taking place and for this public hearing to be held by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
SE: Correct. And now it is becoming a partisan issue. However, I keep reminding them that this issue is not a new issue that has come out for this election. This issue has been in the courts for two years and two months now.
SE: We have to remind the people: Congress has the constitutional obligation and public responsibility to oversee these issues and the Department of Justice's operations. That's why they are elected. That's why they are there. That's what they are getting paid for.
SE: Well....as far as I see, Senator Leahy has been trying, and it's a strong letter that he issued a few weeks ago. [Ms. Edmonds refers here to the GPO's PDF (Senate--April 8, 2004; pages s4012-4014) regarding Ashcroft's appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2003. Senator Leahy describes the inaction of Attorney General Ashcroft since their first meeting on September 19th 2001 as a "flagrant avoidance of accountability."]
However, I'm very disappointed with Senator Grassley's office and his staff members. They initially were very supportive. But what I am getting from their office every time I call is, "Well this issue is under the Inspector General," and that their hands are tied. And then I press further and ask, "Well, what do you mean, 'our hands are tied'? Who's tying your hands? Untie it. Let's get it untied." They don't have any response. They say, "Well, this issue is very complex, and as you know, it is being investigated." And I'm not seeing any issue being investigated. What I'm seeing is that this issue is being covered up, and relentlessly being covered up, in consideration of "state privilege," which people are calling "the neutron bomb of all privilege."
SE: "National security" as a classification.
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.
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.
SE: No. Absolutely not.
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?
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.
SE: That is what Attorney General Ashcroft cited.
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.
SE: Correct. And specifically with that and their ties to people here in this country today.
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.
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: I cannot comment on that. But I can tell that once, and if, and when this issue gets to be, under real terms, investigated, you will be seeing certain people that we know from this country standing trial; and they will be prosecuted criminally.
SE: This is a very interesting and complex question. When you think of al-Qaeda, you are not thinking of al-Qaeda in terms of one particular country, or one particular organization. You are looking at this massive movement that stretches to tens and tens of countries. And it involves a lot of sub-organizations and sub-sub-organizations and branches and it's extremely complicated. So to just narrow it down and say al-Qaeda and the Saudis, or to say it's what they had at the camp in Afghanistan, is extremely misleading. And we don't hear the extent of the penetration that this organization and the sub-organizations have throughout the world, throughout their networks and throughout their various activities. It's extremely sophisticated. And then you involve a significant amount of money into this equation. Then things start getting a lot of overlap-- money laundering, and drugs and terrorist activities and their support networks converging in several points. That's what I'm trying to convey without being too specific. And this money travels. And you start trying to go to the root of it and it's getting into somebody's political campaign, and somebody's lobbying. And people don't want to be traced back to this money.
SE: Not many people are willing to do that.
SE: But people and your listeners have to go further than that. I understand this administration and their anti-transparency, anti-accountability and their corrupt attitudes. But that aside, we are not made of only one branch of government. We are supposed to have a system of checks and balances. And I am saying, how about the other two branches? And putting the pressure on our representatives in the Senate and the Congress, and the court system. They should be counter-acting this corruption, but they are sitting there silent. And they are just an audience, just watching it happen. Senators Leahy and Grassley and Hatch have the obligation to do that. It's not that they can choose not to do it. They don't have that luxury. This needs to be demanded of them. People need to pick up their phones. They need to write to these people and say, "You'd better fulfill your responsibilities."
SE: I saw a reporter the other day who had just spoken to Senator Leahy. And Senator Leahy said that, well...he doesn't know what the next step will be. And it came to the issue of the hearing, and investigating this case, and he basically ended the conversation. And I think that with a little more pressure from us, from you and from your listeners, we can change that.
SE: I've heard of it.
SE: Mr. Sarshar?
SE: He is another translator who worked in the same department as I did. Mr. Sarshar wanted to make this information public, however he just wanted to go to the Senate Judiciary Committee and receive their support and protection under the whistleblower protection act. And I facilitated this meeting, and several 9/11 family members and I took Mr. Sarshar to the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting in Senator Grassley's office. Mr. Sarshar provided them with detailed information, however, to this day Senator Grassley has not acted upon that, and he passed the buck to the 9/11 Commission. Next we arranged for a briefing between the 9/11 Commission and Mr. Sarshar, and he went there on February 12th, 2004 and he provided the investigators for the 9/11 Commission, for almost three hours with all the details of the investigation that had to do with the 9/11 terrorist attack. He gave them the names of certain assets used by the Bureau for at least twelve years. He gave them contact information for certain agents who were aware of these issues. And they, themselves, wanted to come and talk about it, but they needed certain protection. Mr. Sarshar provided them with all this information and where to look for these documents etc. and, to this day, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the 9/11 Commission have been passing this buck back and forth.
So, all this information has been sitting in front of them. They have not called any of those witnesses introduced by Mr. Sarshar to them. And during the 9/11 Commission hearing with [FBI] Director Mueller, none of these questions were asked. In fact they did not have any questions for Director Mueller, and they left it at that [except for the remark by Mr. Ben-Veniste that they should be addressing the translation issues behind closed doors.] And "behind closed doors" has become a black hole for me because I have been in these closed door sessions so many times within the Senate, within the Inspector General's office, within the 9/11 Commission. And whatever information you are providing them behind these closed doors, you know for sure that that information will stay there and will never get out.
That is why we are demanding to have public hearings with the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Senate floor and open to the public.
SE: I have read about her case. But there is another lawsuit: the Motley Rice legal firm that is representing over a thousand family members. They sent me a subpoena to provide them with a deposition. And one day before that deposition took place, the government attorneys intervened and asked the court for a hearing and they quashed this subpoena request. They sent eight heavyweight attorneys from the Department of Justice, and Mr. Ashcroft's right hand. And basically put on this show in front of the judge, saying, "Sibel Edmonds, if you were to provide this information, our national security and our state secret privilege and our foreign relations will be destroyed. Therefore, Your Honor, we want you to quash this subpoena." Motley Rice told the judge that they wanted to ask for information that has already been made public. The government maintained that even though the information was public, it was still classified. And Judge Walton granted their request.
Do you believe that 9/11 could have been stopped if information like yours had been properly handled?
SE: At the very least, as early as May/June 2001, we could have issued a red code alert to the public, and we would have issued this very urgent warning system, which would, in return, have increased our Airport and INS security. Could we have prevented in 100% certainty? I don't think anything is that certain. However, we would have had a very, very good chance for preventing it. And agent Smith and I, we crossed the same person, because my case has to do with Dale Watson too.
SE: Look, Jim, they had those four pieces you mentioned, and far more than that, believe me, far more than that. And that has not been made public. And for them to say that we did not have any specific information is just outrageous. Because what were they waiting for? An affidavit signed by bin Laden?
SE: And they have been backing off from that. About two weeks before Condoleezza Rice appeared before the 9/11 Commission she made the statement, "We had no specific information." And I told the press that that was an outrageous lie. That was printed on the front page of The Independent [UK] and several other papers here. And what she did during the hearing was very interesting. She corrected herself saying, "Well, I made a mistake. I should not have said 'we.' I should say that I personally did not have specific information." And that is exactly what I stated. "We" includes the FBI, and therefore I can tell you with 100% certainty that that is an outrageous lie.
Yet the Commission didn't ask, "Well, who is the rest of this 'we'?"
SE: No, they don't want to know. This is the heart of it. The attitude of the Senate members has been "See no evil. Hear no evil. Just let it go." And you can't let that happen. The only people I have seen who have been truly pushing for the truth are the family members. All they have asked for are three things. They want the truth, the facts, the real facts, the straightforward truth. They want accountability. And they want us to improve our security. That's it. They have no other agenda. And now they're smearing their names.
SE: I have been given a warning that my turn is coming. I have been waiting for this for two years and two months, Jim. And they have not done it to this day, and they have not even denied anything. But I have been told to expect something to occur soon.
[At this point we opened the lines for callers, as the scheduled time for the interview was drawing to a close.]
JH: That's it. That's what they're up to.
CALLER: The depth of that psychology is incredible. It goes from A to Z through our life cycle. It's so disempowering. It's so depressing. Well, thank you for being lunatics out there who are trying to get yourselves shot. [Laughter]
JH: That's okay. Anytime. Just for you. Bye bye.
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.
SE: I don't have direct knowledge of it. And I have been trying to stay within what exactly I know--the exact truth--not the conspiracy theories--no exaggerations--everything that I know, that I came across that is well documented where I can say, "Pull out this document; pull out this evidence. Make this document public; make that document public."
However, I have been working with other people who have been trying to address other aspects of this issue.
2nd CALLER: The issue of whether or not they new it was going to happen becomes somewhat moot when you look at the air force stand down. They new it was going to happen. Well, who did it then? There was a show on TUC [Time of Useful Consciousness] radio with....
JH: Michael Ruppert.
2nd CALLER: Yes. He went step-by-step of what actually happened with the Air Force stand-down. It's so obvious that we're in some sort of farcical dream, and what [the previous caller] said was quite relevant, that most people don't want to wake up from this. So I was just curious. I appreciate your work very much. And those are the two things that stand out to me--the Pentagon and the air force stand down. But what else can you really do at this point than just make a little noise? Anyway, thank you for doing what you are doing.
SE: He has a point there. There are so many questions that they don't want answered. And they remain unanswered. And I'm afraid they will not be answered unless we have a real investigation. And to this day there has been no real investigation. Without this, people cannot just let them wrap it up and say, "OK this is the report from the 9/11 Commission," where anything that has any value is redacted because it is top secret classified information.
JH: And pretty much all the shoes have dropped. The evidence at this point is overwhelming, and still nobody seems to be doing anything about it.
2nd CALLER: Right, but if you look at the Warren Commission--you look at the magic bullet theory--you know that's official! But who buys it? What can we do? This is going to happen. They're going to pull it off because the press won't report the truth.
SE: That goes to the heart of the matter: The media, as I said is the window to the government, and that window has turned into a wall.
JH: We can have a little more faith in the average person despite what [the two callers] say. I just did an informal survey in southern Virginia in a factory of over a hundred people, and I asked, "Would you be surprised to learn that the Bush Administration was complicit in the 9/11 attacks?" 100% responded, "No." So it's not like people are afraid to find out information. They go through life struggling, working eight hours a day at least. They don't believe anything the media or the government tells them any more. They are able to except the fact that Bush & Co was responsible for 9/11; and they don't care. They almost expect it.
2nd CALLER: I would have suspected the opposite. These are emotional issues where people don't want their bubble burst. They say, "Well, the government would never kill their own people." Psychopaths go oversees and kill people with war machines. They're over the notion of patriotism. And I think that for most people it's hard to make that step.
JH: I'm not saying they made or didn't make a step. I'm just saying that, for these workers, the machinations of government are beyond their concern. But Ms. Edmonds has to leave shortly....
2nd CALLER: OK I'll let you go. I appreciate very much what both of you have done, and thank you very much.
SE: Thank you very much. I'm honored to be on your show and I hope I'll be on again. And I hope you will able to get Senator Leahy. I'd like to be able to have a chat with him. [Laughter]
JH: Fat chance. He withers at the thought.
SE: We're going to still be pounding. I'm preparing this petition, and it's going to be signed by many, many people and I'm going to be wheeling it in personally to both Senators Leahy and Grassley. And it will have some level of coverage. And once they see the cameras and the people, suddenly their personalities change. It's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They become very sweet.
JH: If you see either one of those two [Leahy or Grassley], I'd be more than happy to have either one them on - with you. Let's see what we can do.
SE: Okay, let's hope. Thank you, Jim. Bye.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Hogue provided the following conclusion to this interview: "The facts reported by Sibel Edmonds and Behrooz Sarshar are incontrovertible. Result: Silence. And you must agree to be a part of this silence.The gag order permeates the White House, the Senate Judiciary Committee, all levels of the FBI, the CIA, the 9/11 Commission, the NSC, the Pentagon, the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and the mass media. The media and the White House will next assassinate Miss Edmond's character, as they have done to others who haven't rolled over and played dead. Never in the course of human events has so great a story been covered up by so many on the orders of so few.
The likes of Seymour Hersh, Bob Woodard and Judith Miller should put their tails between their legs and slink away, while the obscure academic, Dr. David Ray Griffin, while candidate John Buchanan, citizen Eric Hufschmid, author Gore Vidal, independent journalists Michael Ruppert and Christopher Bollyn, and the 9/11 families are recognized among those who kept open the window to Democracy.
Miss Edmonds has challenged us to do our jobs as citizens. It isn't often that a phone call could change the course of history. Now is such a time."
Jim Hogue, a retired high school teacher and professional actor, has been doing a Vermont-based listener-sponsored radio show each week for over 10 years. Prior to 9/11, the show was literary in nature, but since then Hogue's coverage has greatly expanded.
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This story was published on May 07, 2004.
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