Now that the 9-11 Commission has completed its report, it is abundantly clear that it left the most important questions about 9-11 unanswered. The commission’s ambition was to come up with a unanimous, bipartisan report, and in fulfilling that mission, they failed to address the most glaring questions, failures, and culpabilities in favor of what is essentially a whitewash and a lukewarm set of recommendations for the future–which Bush has failed to endorse, opting instead to pick and choose which recommmendations he will support.
To review these important questions that remain unanswered, see this article by the Philadelphia Daily News: “Why Don’t We Have Answers To These 9/11 Questions?”
How could the commission let this happen? How could these obvious smoking guns be ignored? How can the American people settle for this whitewash of the most heinous attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor?
Perhaps a clue can be found in the ongoing story of one courageous whistleblower’s attempt to daylight “a litany of errors and
cover-ups of those errors” within the FBI. The following article is better than most of the ones I’ve seen on the subject, but there is much more to be found if you want to Google it.
If our government really wanted to know the truth about 9-11, wouldn’t it have insisted on a full investigation, and done all that it could to support that investigation? Wouldn’t it have left no stone unturned, and faced unflinchingly every detected failure? Wouldn’t it have thought that America deserved to know what really happened?
Well, it’s clear that our government doesn’t feel that way at all. The Bush team stonewalled the 9-11 Commission the whole way, limiting its time and access to interviewees and documentation, even objecting to its creation. And now we know that the FBI is stonewalling and covering up as well. All we need wait for now is for recently-resigned CIA Director George Tenet to be subpoenaed.
As I said when I posted that Philly article almost one year ago, “No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I think you’ll agree that these questions deserve answers. We should tolerate nothing that will keep us from it, and I, for one, would hate to see this turn into another Kennedy assassination mystery. America deserves the truth about 9/11.”
Apparently, the 9-11 Commission, the FBI, and the White House do indeed intend to let it become an unanswered mystery, and to hide the truth from us.
Write your Congressmen. Tell them you won’t accept this whitewash. Demand that the FBI and the White House be held accountable for their actions, and that they put an end to the muzzling of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds.
Whistleblower explodes 9-11 Commission Report
By Ritt Goldstein
[Original source unknown]
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s own September 11 whistleblower has
done it again, this time taking aim at the 9-11 Commission itself.
Sibel Edmonds, an FBI translator who has in effect been silenced by the
bureau and the US Justice Department, said in an open letter to commission
chairman Thomas Kean that the FBI had suffered from a litany of errors and
cover-ups of those errors, which had been reported to the 9-11 Commission by
Edmonds and others, yet the commission report “contains zero information
regarding these systemic problems that led us to our failure in preventing the
[September 11, 2001] terrorist attacks”.
“In your report, there are no references to individuals responsible for
hindering past and current investigations, or those who are willing to
compromise our security and our lives for their career advancement and
security,” wrote Edmonds, a 33-year-old Turkish-American whose services as a
translator were terminated by the FBI after she claimed vast wrongdoing within
the bureau’s translation unit.
Edmonds’ open letter, while skirting around certain issues that she is
prohibited by gag orders from revealing, is chilling in its revelations that,
contrary to public claims by the administration of President George W Bush, the
FBI was in possession months before September 2001 of intelligence that Osama
bin Laden’s terrorist organization was planning a major attack on the United
States, using airplanes as a weapon.
These revelations are not new, though the open letter is remarkable in its
specificity and naming of names. Previously, while being careful not to violate
the legal silencing measures imposed on her by the FBI, the courts and the
Justice Department, she has leveled damning criticisms in the media of her
former employers and what she has termed the Bush administration’s
“anti-transparency, anti-accountability and their corrupt attitudes”.
“But that aside,” she told radio interviewer Jim Hogue in April, “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 counteracting this corruption, but they are
sitting there silent. And they are just an audience, just watching it happen.”
That interview took place before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
upon which the United States issued its final report on the September 11
attacks. Despite hours of testimony to the commission about what she knew of FBI
failures leading up to the attacks, nearly nothing of this was mentioned in the
“While FBI agents from various field offices were desperately seeking leads
and suspects, and completely depending on FBI HQ and its language units to
provide them with needed translated information, hundreds of translators were
being told by their administrative supervisors not to translate and to let the
work pile up,” Edmonds wrote in her letter. “I provided your investigators with
a detailed and specific account of this issue and the names of other witnesses
willing to corroborate this.
“Today, almost three years after [September 11], and more than two years
since this information has been confirmed and made available to our government,
the administrators in charge of language departments of the FBI remain in their
positions and in charge of the information front lines of the FBI’s
counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence efforts. Your report has omitted any
reference to this most serious issue …”
Specific charges made by Edmonds included the case of a Turkish translator,
whom she named, and who “for months … blocked all-important information
related to … semi-legit organizations and the individuals she and her husband
associated with … [The translator] and several FBI targets of investigation
hastily left the United States in 2002, and the case still remains
uninvestigated criminally. Not only does the supervisor facilitating these
criminal conducts remain in a supervisory position, he has been promoted to
supervising Arabic-language units of the FBI’s counter-terrorism and
Edmonds also spoke of a translator put in charge of sensitive operations who
not only could not speak English well enough to pass FBI proficiency tests, but
he also could not speak the languages he was in charge of translating. Despite
the fact that his case was made public on CBS television’s 60 Minutes, and
“after admitting that [he] was not qualified to perform the task of translating
sensitive intelligence and investigation of terrorist activities, the FBI still
keeps him in charge of translating highly sensitive documents and leads,”
But while Edmonds’ letter delivered a cascade of specific allegations,
perhaps the most explosive charge she makes concerns information the bureau was
said to have received four months prior to September 2001, information warning
of the September 11 plan. While both President Bush and National Security
Adviser Condoleezza Rice have repeatedly denied that there was any indication
that airplanes would be used as a terror weapon, Edmonds revealed that in April
2001 the bureau had information that bin Laden was “planning a major terrorist
attack in the United States targeting four to five major cities”; “the attack
was going to involve airplanes”; some of those involved were already “in the
United States”; and the attack would be “in a few months”. Edmonds states that
the information came from “a long-term FBI informant/asset” and that it was sent
to the “special agent in charge of counter-terrorism” in Washington. She also
charges that after September 11 “the agents and translators were told to ‘keep
quiet’ regarding this issue”.
Further to that, she writes, “The Phoenix Memo, received months prior to the
[September 11] attacks, specifically warned FBI HQ of pilot training and their
possible link to terrorist activities against the United States. Four months
prior to the terrorist attacks the Iranian asset provided the FBI with specific
information regarding the ‘use of airplanes’, ‘major US cities as targets’, and
‘Osama bin Laden issuing the order’ …
“All this information went to the same place: FBI Headquarters in Washington,
DC, and the FBI Washington Field Office, in Washington DC. Yet your report
claims that not having a central place where all intelligence could be gathered
as one of the main factors in our intelligence failure. Why did your report
choose to exclude the information regarding the Iranian asset and [translator]
Behrooz Sarshar from its timeline of missed opportunities? Why was this
significant incident not mentioned, despite the public confirmation by the FBI,
witnesses provided to your investigators, and briefings you received directly?
Why did you surprise even [FBI] director [Robert] Mueller by refraining from
asking him questions regarding this significant incident and lapse during your
hearing … ?”
Given the sweeping nature of Edmonds’ knowledge of intelligence failures in
the lead-up to September 11, it is probably not surprising that the US
government has used its legal clout to try to shut her up. In what the July 29
New York Times termed “an unusually broad veil of secrecy”, the Justice
Department ordered the details surrounding Edmonds’ allegations a matter of
“state secrets”. On May 13, Attorney General John Ashcroft had signed an order
forbidding her to testify in a case brought by the families of September 11
victims, invoking rarely used “state secrets” authority. Edmonds was also
broadly prohibited from discussing the facts surrounding her assertions.
It is unclear what personal consequences this latest whistleblowing may have
for Edmonds. But notably, none of her prior revelations have been determined
erroneous; rather, they have increasingly been found accurate.
A July 21 letter from FBI director Mueller to Utah Republican Senator Orrin
Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, notes that an inspector
general’s report found her whistleblowing “a contributing factor in why the FBI
terminated her services”. Mueller’s letter also noted that, based upon the
report’s findings, a new FBI determination to pursue “discipline of FBI
employees” and “additional investigation” of Edmonds’ allegations had yet to be
Mueller’s July 21 letter, of which Asia Times Online obtained a copy, also
pointedly outlined that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) “noted that Ms
Edmonds, as a contract employee, did not qualify for ‘whistleblower’
With her open letter to the 9-11 Commission providing what can only be termed
a damning mantra of revelation, on six separate occasions within the text
Edmonds identically questioned how huge budget increases and the creation of an
insulated “intelligence czar” could alleviate “systemic and departmental”
Mueller’s letter to Hatch outlined that the “OIG criticized the FBI’s failure
to adequately pursue Ms Edmonds’ allegations of espionage” regarding the
above-mentioned translator who “hastily left the United States in 2002″.
Again, the OIG’s report is known to have criticized the bureau’s conduct
regarding its pursuit of Edmonds’ claim of ongoing espionage, with Edmonds
presently revealing that “hundreds of pages of top-secret sensitive intelligence
documents” were taken outside the bureau to “unknown recipients” by her
co-worker in question.
Edmonds described the FBI’s perspective upon this as being “that it would not
look good for the bureau if this security breach and espionage case was
investigated and made public”, concurrently citing the blemish that the last FBI
spy scandal had left, that of Robert Hanssen.
Her letter is particularly noteworthy for its specific naming of those
involved in the wrongdoing she cites, and in providing corroboration of her
account, including such by those within the government. Notably, two key members
of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Iowa Republican Charles Grassley and Vermont
Democrat Patrick Leahy, had requested the OIG’s investigation of Edmonds’ FBI
allegations in 2002, Grassley terming her “very credible”.
On July 9, the two senators jointly wrote to Ashcroft, Mueller and Justice
Department Inspector General Glenn Fine requesting that the OIG’s pertinent
reports be made publicly available.
The senators’ letter specified three OIG reports: one on Sibel Edmonds,
another on the FBI translation program, and a third upon whether information
“obtained by the FBI and other federal law-enforcement agencies” preceding
September 11 “was not acted upon, or not acted on in the most effective and
efficient manner”. The senators requested that these documents either be
declassified or made available to the public via summary. Asia Times Online has
obtained a copy of this letter in which the senators highlight that they are
seeking “to understand how important clues were overlooked”, and that the
information in question is significant to both the “public interest” and
Leahy and Grassley emphasized that they “fear that the designation of
information as classified in some cases serves to protect the executive branch
against embarrassing revelations and full accountability”. They also observe
that a failure to provide the OIG’s findings “could damage the public’s
confidence not only in the government’s ability to protect the nation, but also
in the government’s ability to police itself”.
Again, from what has emerged from the classified OIG action, none of Edmonds’
accounts of FBI wrongdoing appear to have been found erroneous.
In what critics of the Bush administration have long seen as a contrast, a
March 22 Washington Post op-ed piece by Condoleezza Rice stated: “Despite what
some have suggested, we received no intelligence that terrorists were preparing
to attack the homeland using airplanes as missiles, though some analysts
speculated that terrorists might hijack planes to try and free US-held
terrorists.” And according to an April interview Edmonds gave to the United
Kingdom’s Independent newspaper, she termed Rice’s claim “an outrageous lie”,
saying, “I saw papers that show the US knew al-Qaeda would attack cities with
airplanes,” referring to the April information she has now written of.
Of particular note is that Edmonds did provide several hours of secret
testimony to the 9-11 Commission. Cutting to what she perceives as part of the
US government’s shortcomings, in her present letter Edmonds strongly emphasizes
an “unspoken policy of ‘protecting certain foreign business relations’ …
‘safeguarding certain diplomatic relations’”, as substantively contributing to
the general lack of candor she charges.
On July 22, 2002, Sibel Edmonds launched a civil suit in the US District
Court for the District of Columbia against the Justice Department. The suit
cited an FBI release of information that she was the “subject of a security
review”, that she had been retaliated against by the bureau for her
whistleblowing activity, and that there had been “interference” with her ability
to obtain future employment as well as a wrongful “termination” of her FBI
Asia Times Online has obtained a copy of the court’s recent decision, and in
its presentation of the case’s “Factual Background” – beyond the allegations
Edmonds widely made – it notes that Edmonds asserted that “the safety and
security of the Plaintiff (Edmonds) and her family has been jeopardized and that
a foreign country has targeted Plaintiff’s sister to be interrogated ‘and
taken/arrested by force’”. It also notes that on May 8, 2002, Senator Grassley
wrote to Mueller regarding what he perceived as the gravity of Edmonds’ charges,
urging Mueller to “emphasize to [FBI] officials … that retaliation against
current or former FBI employees is not acceptable, especially when retaliation
endangers a person’s family member”.
On July 6 the court decided Edmonds’ case, finding that “the plaintiff’s case
must be dismissed, albeit with great consternation, in the interests of national
security”, doing so as Ashcroft invoked the seldom-used “state secrets
privilege”, in effect precluding a trial.
(For the full text of Sibel Edmonds’ open letter to 9-11 Commission chairman
Thomas Kean, please click here: http://atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/FH05Aa01.html.)
Ritt Goldstein is an American investigative political journalist based in Stockholm. His work has appeared in broadsheets such as Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, Spain’s El Mundo and Denmark’s Politiken, as well as with the Inter Press Service (IPS), a global news agency.