The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 may prove to be the most significant event to occur in American history since Pearl Harbor. The event has provided a pretext for military invasions and the rationale for creating a modern surveillance state. Yet, even after the investigation and report of the 9/11 Commission, most people are unaware of the facts surrounding the attacks.
It is likely that the facts will never be fully known. The President has refused to hold anyone accountable for the massive security failures that occured on 9/11. Questions remain about how the CIA, FBI, NSA, FAA, NORAD, and the military failed to prevent the attacks.
A CIA report which is said to assign blame for the failures remains classified. There continues to be debate on issues ranging from why the hijacked planes were not scrambled by the USAF to why WTC-7 collapsed when it was not hit (or filled with jet fuel).
Our leaders have told us repeatedly that everything changed on 9/11. President Bush told us that freedom was attacked on 9/11. Condoleeza Rice told us that nobody imagined that planes would ever be used as weapons. These simplistic and dishonest statements combined with the exploitation of the event for political purposes and the Bush administration's resistance to investigate the matter has fostered numerous conspiracy theories.
One issue that has remained uninvestigated is exactly what the Bush administration knew prior to 9/11. The 9/11 Commission Report, released nearly three years after the attacks, suggests the Bush administration knew more than they have publicly admitted.
Sibel Edmonds, a former translator for the FBI, claims the administration knew a great deal. Her allegations have taken on a life of their own as the government has sought to silence her. It is not likely that the government would choose the course it has taken if her allegations were mere conspiracy theories.
Sibel Edmonds was born about 35 years ago in Turkey and came to America in 1988. She went to college, got married, and became an American citizen. She applied for a job with the FBI and the bureau called her on September 14, 2001 and offered her a job in the translation unit because of her language skills. Sibel was fluent in four languages: Turkish, Farsi, Azerbaijani, and English.
Sibel took the job at the FBI and was given a security clearance. She worked translating intercepted communications looking for possible threats to national security and information related to terrorist activities. She discovered what she describes as incompetence and corruption in the FBI's translation department and she began making reports to mid-level management in December 2001 regarding these issues.
The FBI confiscated Sibel's computer in February 2002 and accused her of talking to Senators about the issues she had reported. She was given a polygraph test, which she passed. In March, she went to the Inspector General of the Department of Justice and the Senate Judiciary Committee with her allegations.
The FBI fired Sibel in the spring of 2002 for being disruptive and other unspecified reasons. She was escorted out of the workplace and her superiors threatened to have her jailed if she spoke with the press, Congress, or lawyers. She filed suit in June for wrongful termination.
During the summer of 2002, Senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy looked into Sibel's allegations and wrote letters to the Justice Department regarding the situation. The letters were made public and they indicated that the Senators considered Sibel to be credible. In October, Sibel went public and appeared on 60 Minutes with allegations of corruption in the FBI's translation unit.
Sibel revealed that she was instructed to work slowly so that work would build up, justifying more funding for the unit. She also alleged that a co-worker was linked to a suspect organization. At this point, she had not revealed her most serious allegations.
Attorney General John Ashcroft asserted a rare "state secret privilege" on October 18, 2002 which amounted to a gag order on Congress and Sibel Edmonds. This effectively prevented the Senate Judiciary Committee from conducting public hearings and Senator Orin Hatch blocked closed hearings on the matter. Ashcroft's gag order also prevented Sibel from testifying in her own suit against the FBI and other suits filed by 9/11 families and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).
Sibel Edmonds was not about to let Ashcroft's "state secret privilege" stand and she challenged the classification of her information. Nearly two years would pass before a judge would rule on the matter. In May 2004, Ashcroft reclassified the letters from Senators Grassley and Leahy - even though they had already been made public.
POGO has since filed suit over the reclassification of these documents. Later, the government's Information Security Oversight Office declared that Ashcroft violated their regulations when he reclassified the letters.
Sibel subsequently went public with her most serious allegations. Because of Ashcroft's gag order, she has only been able to speak about the general nature of her allegations without revealing specific details.
Sibel Edmonds has revealed in interviews that prior to 9/11, known "semi-legit" organizations, foreign nationals, and Americans (including some in the political arena) were involved in activities involving money laundering, drugs, and support of terrorists - all connected to 9/11. She has stated that this information did not come from counter-terrorism investigations.
Sibel says that significant information came from counter-intelligence and criminal investigations and from money laundering cases. On February 11, 2004, Sibel testified in private before the 9/11 Commission and provided evidence that prior to 9/11, senior administration officials knew of al Qaida's plans to target buildings within the United States with aircraft.
Judge Reggie Walton upheld Ashcroft's claim of a "state secret privilege" on July 6, 2004. Sibel Edmonds was not given the opportunity to present any evidence and there was no hearing. The government was allowed to present evidence to the judge in secret. Walton ruled in favor of Ashcroft to protect "certain diplomatic relations for national security" and he said that to explain further would expose sensitive secrets.
Sibel's attorney, Mark Zaid, said this was "another example of the executive branch's abuse of secrecy to prevent accountability". Sibel appealed this ruling and 14 groups have filed a brief in her support. The ACLU has since joined her case. Citizens Watch and Daniel Ellsberg have also given Sibel their support.
The Inspector General of the Department of Justice issued a report in July 2004 regarding Sibel's wrongful termination case and the report was immediately classified. On July 29, the New York Times reported that the Inspector General's investigation concluded that Sibel Edmonds was fired in part because she accused the FBI of ineptitude.
It was also reported that the investigation found that the FBI did not agressively investigate Sibel's claims of espionage by a co-worker. This news account was verified in January 2005 when the report was declassified after Sibel filed suit under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FOIPA) to release the report.
The 9/11 Commission released their report in August 2004 and Sibel's testimony was not mentioned. The report contained only a footnote related to problems in the FBI's translation unit. Sibel responded by writing an open letter to Chairman Thomas Kean asking why certain information had been omitted from the 9/11 Commission Report. The letter contains a number of issues that were not mentioned in the report.
On September 4, 2004, the same day Sibel filed the FOIPA suit to declassify the DOJ Inspector
General's report, the New York Times reported that the FBI's translation unit had 120,000 hours of untranslated tapes. According to an Associated Press article from February 25, 2005, FBI Director Mueller says the FBI has worked on the backlog and it is now minimal. Mueller did not provide any specific numbers.
The AP article confirms Sibel's early allegations of FBI ineptitude. An audit by the Justice Department Inspector General found that more than a third of al Qaida intercepts were not promptly reviewed. The article reports that over 123,000 hours of audio associated with terrorists had not been reviewed as of April 2004 and that more than 370,000 hours of audio associated with counter-intelligence had not been reviewed.
It was also reported that the audit revealed that the budget for FBI's language services has more than tripled to $70 million since 2001 and the number of Arabic linguists has tripled to more than 200 since 9/11.
The Sibel Edmonds case continues to take strange twists and turns. On February 22, 2005, UPI reported: The Department of Justice has abandoned its claim that allegations made by a fired FBI translator are secret, paving the way for a court case that will air embarrassing allegations about incompetence, poor security and possible espionage in the translation unit of the Bureau's Washington Field Office.
Four days later, the New York Times reported: The government has told a federal appeals court that a suit by an F.B.I. translator who was fired after accusing the bureau of ineptitude should not be allowed to proceed because it would cause "significant damage to the national security and foreign policy of the United States".
So, the government drops the obscure "state secrets privilege" roadblock and replaces it by invoking "national security". It is likely that Sibel Edmonds will appeal the case to the Supreme Court if the federal appeals court rules against her.
Whatever the outcome of her wrongful termination suit, it is obvious that the government and the press are not addressing Sibel's allegations that senior officials had prior knowledge of al Qaida attacks. Perhaps even more disturbing is the possibility that the Bush administration is preventing the prosecution of known individuals and groups for their roles in the 9/11 attacks.
That government officials are seeking to avoid accountability by keeping the identities of those involved a secret indicates that these officials may have some connection to those involved. If that is true, these government officials may be guilty of being accessories to the crime of 9/11, before and/or after the fact.
Assuming that the allegations made by Sibel Edmonds are true and government officials are covering up evidence, a serious breach of trust has taken place. Individuals or organizations that played a role in the 9/11 attacks should be immediately brought to justice and government officials attempting to obstruct justice should be thrown in prison.
UPDATE: On November 28, 2005, the Supreme Court declined to review the Sibel Edmonds case.
Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds
It is apparent that this administration confidently expects the American people to sign blank checks unquestioningly. It is obvious that they believe they are entitled to unchecked power, unlimited authority, and unquestioning citizens' support. To them, our Bill of Rights under the Constitution is nothing more than an inconvenient roadblock to overcome; our American system of checks and balances can be bypassed by overusing national security; and people's dissent is a problem that can be diverted away by a culture of fear and complete submission to government authority.
As I have stated many times previously, I will continue this fight, since in taking my citizenship oath I pledged that I would support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Therefore, as an American citizen, I have the right and the obligation to defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against John Ashcroft's assaults.