What’s the Deal With Sibel Edmonds?

photo: Oorlagh George

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The latest rebuke to Sibel Edmonds, the former FBI translator who has been trying unsuccessfully to make public what she knows about the FBI’s 9-11-related operations, comes from the Supreme Court.

It has declined to hear her court case, thereby letting stand decisions of the lower courts that enforce a silence imposed upon her by the federal government.

The ACLU represented Edmonds. “Sibel Edmonds is a true patriot who deserved her day in court," said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson, in an official statement. "We are disappointed that the Supreme Court did not see the ongoing danger of allowing the FBI to hide its blunders behind the 'states secrets' privilege."

Even though its own inspector general has found much of what Edmonds has to say to be correct, the Justice Department--first under Attorney General Ashcroft and now under Attorney General Gonzalez--have invoked the arcane States Secrets law to shut her up. The department simply declared everything in her case secret, in the interest of national security.

Here are some of the revelations the government is trying to cover up, gleaned from earlier interviews:

  • When she was hired by the FBI as a translator after 9-11, Edmonds, a Turkish American born in Iran and fluent in Farsi and Turkish among other languages, discovered an odd network within the FBI where, among other things, relatives of foreign diplomats were working as interpreters. They were translating FBI wiretaps of foreign diplomats suspected of spying. As it turned out, these suspect family members were relatives of the translators--in other words moles working in the translation section.

  • Edmonds found her own initials forged on improper translations of documents--translations she had never seen before.

  • Edmonds was startled when what she considered ill-trained and incompetent interpreters were sent to Guantanamo Bay to translate detainee interviews. For example, one Turkish Kurd was dispatched to interpret Farsi, a language he did not speak.

  • Edmonds learned that a longtime reliable FBI asset who reported on Afghanistan, told FBI agents in April 2001 of al Qaeda’s plans to attack the U.S.

  • In the course of her work, Edmonds discovered Islamic terrorists might well have become entangled in ongoing international drug and money laundering. She suspects that this knowledge was one of the reasons the Justice Department classified everything in her case.

  • When Edmonds sought to protest these and other irregularities to her superiors in the FBI, she was called a “whore” by her supervising agent, who told her he would next see her in jail. She was dismissed and escorted out of the FBI building. Edmonds never got a hearing before the 9-11 Commission, though she did have a chance to tell her story, sort of, on the side. A recent federal appeals court hearing on her case was made secret in the interest of national security. All in all, she was cast out as an enemy of the state. To fight back, she has launched a new organization to protect other government whistleblowers.

    Sponsor Content


    All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

    • Top Stories


    All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

    Sign Up >

    No Thanks!

    Remind Me Later >