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National Security Watch: FBI whistle-blower petitions high court

by Danielle Knight
USNews.com (US News & World Report)
Friday, Aug 5, 2005
Link to Original

Lawyers for Sibel Edmonds, the former translator for the FBI, have petitioned the Supreme Court to hear her case. Edmonds claims that she was fired in retaliation for reporting security breaches and possible espionage within the bureau. The FBI hired Edmonds, who is fluent in Turkish, Farsi, and Azerbaijani, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. She was fired in 2002 and filed a lawsuit later that year arguing that her firing was in retaliation for blowing the whistle on other FBI officials.

In its defense, the Justice Department is using the "states secrets privilege," an argument that information related to Edmonds's case is highly classified and cannot be disclosed without endangering the nation's security. The states secrets privilege is an executive power that is not a law, but based on a series of legal precedents. In July 2004, a federal district court ruled in favor of the government's use of this privilege in Edmonds's case. In May 2005 the D.C. appeals court upheld the district court's opinion.

If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, the court's decision could influence the fate of several other lawsuits involving national security and intelligence in which the administration has used the states secrets argument. The government has relied on this argument in several high-profile federal cases, including that of Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen who claims the U.S. government interdicted him at JFK Airport in New York in 2002 and sent him to be interrogated in Syria, where he alleges he was tortured.

"We are urging the Supreme Court, which has not directly addressed this issue in 50 years, to rein in the government's misuse of this privilege," says Ann Beeson, associate legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, who is one of the lawyers representing Edmonds. The states secrets privilege, she says, "should be used as a shield for sensitive evidence, not a sword the government can use at will to cut off argument in a case before the evidence can be presented."

Edmonds told U.S. News that she and other whistle-blowers from the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency, and Department of Homeland Security are so furious with the lack of congressional oversight on intelligence and national security that they plan to launch an advertising campaign targeting government officials who have allegedly endangered national security. The newspaper ads, which could be launched as early as two months from now, would name officials, their titles, their salaries, where they work, and their alleged or documented wrongdoing, says Edmonds. The campaign would be funded by private donations and would be coordinated by the recently formed advocacy group she heads, the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition<\i> (http://www.nswbc.org/).

Edmonds is the subject of a 10-page story in September's Vanity Fair<\i> (see related story, below) released this week. The article reveals some new details of the wiretaps Edmonds translated that involved conversations by members of Turkish associations and the Turkish Consulate in Chicago as part of an FBI counterintelligence investigation. According to the wiretaps, the article claims that members of these Turkish groups had arranged for tens of thousands of dollars to be paid to the campaign funds of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, in small checks under $200, so they wouldn't have to be itemized in public campaign filings. Hastert's voice was never heard in the recordings, however, and his office denies knowing anything about this.

The article says that the wiretap recordings contained repeated reference to Hastert's flip-flop in 2000 on a congressional proposal to designate the killings of Armenians in Turkey between 1915 and 1923 a genocide. At first he supported the idea, but later he withdrew the proposal. Hastert explained that he changed his mind because President Bill Clinton was concerned about the resolution harming U.S. interests abroad. But the Chicago wiretaps, according to Vanity Fair, revealed that "a senior official at the Turkish Consulate is said to have claimed in one recording that the price for Hastert to withdraw the resolution would have been at least $500,000."

The article cautions, however, that "the reported content of the Chicago wiretaps may well have been sheer bravado, and there is no evidence that any payment was ever made to Hastert or his campaign." ====================

From PogoBlog (http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/)

Vanity Fair Profiles Sibel Edmonds<\b>

The September edition of Vanity Fair<\i> hits the news stands today in New York and Los Angeles. Although the media buzz centers on a cover story concerning Jennifer Aniston’s break up with Brad Pitt, deeper inside the magazine is an article more worthy of the public’s attention. Rumor has it that an article by reporter David Rose offers a groundbreaking description of disturbing events at the FBI’s translation unit as observed by former translator Sibel Edmonds. Rose’s sources appear to be among the many authorities to which Edmonds has appealed for help in her journey as a whistleblower. Of greatest concern is the article’s reporting that an FBI counterintelligence investigation into “attempts to bribe elected members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican” was redirected to focus instead on appointed officials.

The article also features other members of the newly formed National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, including Russ Tice and Mike German.

The ACLU filed a petition for cert with the U.S. Supreme Court today in attempt to overturn the most recent ruling affirming that the federal government can use the State Secrets privilege to deny Edmonds her day in court.

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