by Tom Flocco
Tuesday, Apr 27, 2004
Link to Original
WASHINGTON — APRIL 27, 2004 01:30 ET — TomFlocco.com — Former FBI contract linguist Sibel Dinez Edmonds did not back down regarding reported evidence she uncovered implicating espionage in the FBI and State Department when we recently asked whether she thought the explosive information would ever see the light of day.
Sibel Edmonds will attend a court hearing today in Washington, DC where FBI lawyers will attempt to block a subpoena to have her deposed as a witness by attorney Ronald Motley who represents hundreds of 9-11 family members in a $1 trillion lawsuit regarding terrorism finance.
“As you know, I cannot say much about that; but why do you think Attorney General Ashcroft asserted State Secret Privilege in my case when I decided to go public with what I had found in the translations?” she said, as we walked down the circular marble staircase from the second floor 9-11 panel hearing room to the ground floor atrium in the Hart Senate office building. Justice Department lawyers at the request of FBI Director Robert Mueller invoked the arcane legal procedure which even allows the withholding of evidence documents from the judge.
We also asked Edmonds if she thought spies in the FBI and State Department contacted al Qaeda operatives–confirmed to be living in the United States–about ongoing plans for President Bush’s new government policy directive [signed on September 4, 2001] which would authorize tightened American security. This, but also whether espionage within the Bush administration may have played a part in accelerating the attacks which occurred just seven days later.
Edmonds, 33–fluent in English, Farsi, Turkish and Azerbaijani–who worked out of the Washington, DC FBI field office for six months, told TomFlocco.com, “You’ll have to ask the Attorney General about that,” but she added somewhat cryptically, “I can say that Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has said that the information I have is ‘very credible.’ “
Attorney General John Ashcroft testified that he flew on a private jet to Milwaukee on the morning of September 11. Earlier reports indicated that he changed from a commercial jet to a private one due to reported terrorism “threat assessments” which government officials refuse to make public simply by redacting the “sources and methods” used in obtaining the intelligence. Commission members failed to ask Ashcroft to explain the contents of the threat assessments and why they influenced his decision to use a private jet.
The translator alluded to additional but more volatile allegations in a phone call on Friday night to Kyle Hence, cofounder of 9-11 Citizens Watch, who said in a widely distributed email that Edmonds told him “if what she knows is revealed, it could lead to charges of treason being leveled against officials at top levels of the U.S. government.”
Hence added, “If that is the case, then all those who have been involved in keeping this information from getting to the public are complicit in this treason.”
Americans might not have to wait too long to find out. In a Washington, DC courtroom this morning, FBI attorneys will appear before Judge Reginald Walton in an attempt to block attorney Ronald Motley’s subpoena request to depose Edmonds as a witness for his $1 trillion lawsuit on behalf of 9-11 families to tell what she knows about prior warnings of the attacks.
Interestingly, this morning the Supreme Court will hear Judicial Watch attorney Paul J. Orfanedes–representing the legal watchdog group’s president, Thomas Fitton, with attorneys from the Sierra Club, argue an appeal to open the books on Vice President Richard Cheney’s energy task force meetings. Public access to the documents could have implications related to peak oil and future shortages, foreign finance supporting the September 11 terrorist attacks, and whether energy may have played a part in the onset of the Iraq War if executive privilege is overturned.
Missed Opportunity: Genoa and the G-8
All this followed on the heels of President Bush’s recent press conference where he said “we had intelligence from Genoa [July 20-22 G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy less than two months before the attacks],” adding that he had no idea that planes would be used as weapons to be flown into U.S. buildings.
However, the White House press corps never asked Bush about a London news report that said “The huge force of officers and equipment which has been assembled to deal with unrest has been spurred on by a warning that supporters of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden might attempt an air attack on some of the world leaders present.” (BBC 7/18/01)
According to the Los Angeles Times (9-27-2001) and a 7-22-2001 White House press release, “U.S. officials were warned that Islamic terrorists might attempt to crash an airliner” into the summit, prompting officials to “close the airspace over Genoa and station anti-aircraft guns at the city’s airport.
In July 2000, U.S. intelligence reported the spike in warnings related to the July 20-22 G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy. The reports included specific threats discovered by the head of Russia’s Federal Bodyguard Service that al-Qaeda would try to kill Bush while he attended the summit. (CNN, 3/02) The reports were taken so seriously that Bush stayed overnight on an aircraft carrier offshore, and other world leaders stayed on a luxury ship (CNN, 7/18/01), begging the question whether Mr. Bush and his secret service detail knew why anti-aircraft guns were set up around them and why airspace was being cleared. The press corps never asked.
Officials at the time stated that the warnings were “unsubstantiated” but after 9/11 claimed success in preventing an attack. The distortion of the Genoa information kept the public and the airlines uninformed about the seriousness of the terrorist threat.
Reporters never asked Bush whether the Genoa anti-aircraft guns surrounding the G-8 conference would have qualified as the presidential “inkling” he needed a few weeks later before September 11, to “move heaven and earth to protect the American people.”
The White House scribes also failed to question the contents of the still-secret Ashcroft “threat assessment” memos which caused the Attorney General to eschew a commercial flight to Milwaukee on 9-11, but also the July 5, 2001 intelligence memo cited by sources: “The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning.” (CIA Intelligence Report for White House, July 5, 2001 — 60+ days prior to 9/11 — Newsweek, 5-1-2003 / The Hill, 5-1-2003)
Given such intelligence warnings as July 5, a case could be made that the August 6 presidential briefing was declassified to divert attention away from potentially more damaging information.
Out of the television spotlight?
A March 24 online story broke the first news shortly after Edmonds’ first full-blown public press conference concluded around noon just outside the hearing room after CIA Director George Tenet finished his 9-11 Commission testimony.
It took a full day before more reports reached the public, even as Meet the Press host Tim Russert had to quote from the London Independent the following Sunday because major U.S. newspapers and television news stations had still not reported Edmonds’ new charges that Ashcroft had offered her a raise and a full-time job if she would not go public with her allegations. All this in front of a huge press contingent and multiple television cameras.
9-11 Commission member Richard Ben Veniste mentioned Sibel Edmonds by name at the last hearing during FBI Director Robert Mueller’s testimony; however, he did not question Mueller about Edmonds’ astonishing charges, saying “it would be inappropriate to address Edmonds’ allegations in public,” adding that they were nevertheless serious.
But Motley’s deposition subpoena may force the charges out into the open–something the FBI and the administration seem desperate to avert by appearing on Tuesday to block its implementation.
In a short interview immediately after her first press conference, Edmonds told TomFlocco.com “My translations of the pre 9-11 intercepts included [terrorist] money laundering, with detailed and date specific information enough to alert the American people.”
The former part-time Bureau linguist who was fired and gagged by a federal judge also told this writer that “translators before me had ongoing personal relationships with the subjects or targets of the FBI and Justice Department pre 9-11 investigations–linked to intercepts and other intelligence–in June – July – August, just prior to the attacks.”
In a Senate floor speech on April 8, 2004, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) revealed that “On June 19, 2002, Senator Grassley and I sent a letter to the Office of the Inspector General regarding allegations mad by an FBI whistleblower that posed several important questions about the problems in the FBI’s translator program that have never been addressed.”
FBI Director Robert Mueller asked Attorney General Ashcroft to invoke State Secret Privilege in order to block evidence documents in Sibel Edmonds’ lawsuit from the judge hearing her case but also from public access. The seldom-used executive privilege also effectively gagged Edmonds from publicly discussing what she discovered in the pre-9/11 intelligence wiretaps.
Leahy added “On March 2, 2004, I sent a letter to the Attorney General and FBI Director Mueller repeating some of what I asked before and asking about new issues that have since been raised. Needless to say, no answers have been forthcoming.” Leahy has not alluded thus far as to how he and Senator Grassley will handle the FBI and DOJ defiance.
On April 11, 2004 Edmonds sent a letter to Grassley and the Judiciary Committee–but also the 9-11 Commission–wherein she enumerated questions for FBI Director Mueller’s testimony, implying that the Bureau allowed several top targets of FBI [terrorist] investigations to leave the U.S. months after the attacks without questioning them.
She also raised a question directed to Mueller as to whether information from investigations concerning terrorists and their supporters’ activities was intentionally blocked and whether FBI field agents re-sent blocked or mistranslated information to the Washington field office to be checked again due to suspicions about original translations.
More explosively, however, was Edmonds’ question for Mueller as to whether it was true that administrative personnel, after becoming aware that [pre-9/11] translations were being intentionally blocked and mistranslated, engaged in cover-ups and never provided [FBI] field agents with accurate translations.
The former wiretap translator told Democracy Now in a radio interview, “The Inspector General’s Office report was supposed to be released in October, 2002; but my sources are telling me that they are going to seal this report, and it will never be made public,” adding “they are citing the reason is because this case would create substantial risks of disclosing classified and sensitive national security information that could cause serious damage to our country’s security.”
Edmonds continued, “They are citing that this privilege is very rare and is asserted to prevent certain information getting–becoming public or hurting diplomatic relations. I would underline this phrase, diplomatic relations several times.” Edmonds did not reveal the name of the subject-country in question.
Senator Grassley told CBS News “60 Minutes” in its FBI internal abuse segment in 2002 that “she is credible, and the reason I feel she’s very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story.”
Second linguist warned FBI: ‘planes and suicide operatives’
At the conclusion of Ashcroft’s recent testimony before the 9-11 panel, reporters listened intently as Sibel Edmonds approached Commissioner Jamie Gorelick to express concern that public testimony was needed from whistleblowers who have information they found in pre-attack intelligence wiretaps.
According to reports, former FBI linguist Behrooz Sarshar said that in April 2001 he told two counter-terrorism agents at Edmonds’ Washington FBI office that “al Qaeda planned to carry out terrorist attack in major U.S. cities, including New York, using planes and suicide operatives.” (World Net Daily, 3-28-2004 and 4-6-2004)
There was talk among some 9-11 family members after Mueller’s testimony that Sarshar may be considering leaving the country out of personal safety concerns.
Sarshar, a veteran Iranian intelligence officer stationed in Afghanistan who fled from Iran in the 80’s and has been on the FBI payroll for ten years, briefed both the 9-11 Commission and a Senate aide to Grassley and a lawyer representing Senator Leahy.
According to the reports, the former FBI linguist asked for immunity to testify about the April, 2001 warning he gave to two Bureau agents who took notes, and a case agent who filed a report with supervisor Thomas Frields. None of the FBI personnel have been called by the commission to testify about the explosive information–and the notes and report about Sarshar’s intelligence tip have also been kept under wraps.
Like Edmonds, Sarshar was also threatened with imprisonment: “If you talk about these things, you’ll be locked up,” leaving questions as to what the Bureau is so intent upon hiding.
During a recent Meet the Press segment, Commission Chairman Thomas Kean confirmed Edmonds’ and Sarshar’s private testimony: “We’ve had all her testimony and it’s under investigation,” while Vice-Chairman Lee Hamilton said “we talked to people she’s identified.”
By simply redacting the sources and methods used to obtain information and compelling public testimony under oath from Sibel Edmonds and Behrooz Sarshar, the Commission would ease public suspicion about the contents of key pre-attack intelligence documents and why the FBI and Justice Department are so intent upon covering up what the two translators know.