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Sibel Edmonds' new book, "Classified Woman," is like an FBI file on the FBI, only without the incompetence.
The experiences she recounts resemble K.'s trip to the castle, as told by Franz Kafka, only without the pleasantness and humanity.
I've read a million reviews of nonfiction books about our government that referred to them as "page-turners" and "gripping dramas," but I had never read a book that actually fit that description until now.
The F.B.I., the Justice Department, the White House, the Congress, the courts, the media, and the nonprofit industrial complex put Sibel Edmonds through hell. This book is her triumph over it all, and part of her contribution toward fixing the problems she uncovered and lived through.
Edmonds took a job as a translator at the FBI shortly after 9-11. She considered it her duty. Her goal was to prevent any more terrorist attacks. That's where her thinking was at the time, although it has now changed dramatically. It's rarely the people who sign up for a paycheck and healthcare who end up resisting or blowing a whistle.
Edmonds found at the FBI translation unit almost entirely two types of people. The first group was corrupt sociopaths, foreign spies, cheats and schemers indifferent to or working against U.S. national security. The second group was fearful bureaucrats unwilling to make waves. The ordinary competent person with good intentions who risks their job to "say something if you see something" is the rarest commodity. Hence the elite category that Edmonds found herself almost alone in: whistleblowers.
Reams of documents and audio files from before 9-11 had never been translated. Many more had never been competently or honestly translated. One afternoon in October 2001, Edmonds was asked to translate verbatim an audio file from July 2001 that had only been translated in summary form. She discovered that it contained a discussion of skyscraper construction, and in a section from September 12th a celebration of a successful mission. There was also discussion of possible future attacks. Edmonds was eager to inform the agents involved, but her supervisor Mike Feghali immediately put a halt to the project.
Two other translators, Behrooz Sarshar and Amin (no last name given), told Edmonds this was typical. They told her about an Iranian informant, a former head of SAVAK, the Iranian "intelligence" agency, who had been hired by the FBI in the early 1990s. He had warned these two interpreters in person in April 2001 of Osama bin Laden planning attacks on U.S. cities with airplanes, and had warned that some of the plotters were already in the United States. Sarshar and Amin had submitted a report marked VERY URGENT to Special Agent in Charge Thomas Frields, to no apparent effect. In the end of June they'd again met with the same informant and interpreted for FBI agents meeting with him. He'd emphatically warned that the attack would come within the next two months and urged them to tell the White House and the CIA. But the FBI agents, when pressed on this, told their interpreters that Frields was obliged to report everything, so the White House and other agencies no doubt already knew.
One has to wonder what U.S. public opinion would make of an Iranian having tried to prevent 9-11.
Next, a French translator named Mariana informed Edmonds that in late June 2001, French intelligence had contacted the FBI with a warning of the upcoming attacks by airplanes. The French even provided names of suspects. The translator had been sent to France, and believed her report had made it to both FBI headquarters and the White House.
Edmonds translated other materials that involved the selling of U.S. nuclear information to foreigners and spotted a connection to a previous case involving the purchase of such information. The FBI, under pressure from the State Department, Edmonds writes, prevented her from notifying the FBI field offices involved. Edmonds has testified in a court deposition, naming as part of a broad criminal conspiracy Representatives Dennis Hastert, Dan Burton, Roy Blunt, Bob Livingston, Stephen Solarz, and Tom Lantos, and the following high-ranking U.S. government officials: Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, and Marc Grossman.
When Edmonds was hired, she was the only fully qualified Turkish translator, and this remained the case. In November 2001, a woman named Melek Can Dickerson (referred to as "Jan") was hired. She did not score well on the English proficiency test, and so was not qualified to sign off on translations, as Edmonds was. Melek's husband Doug Dickerson worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency under the procurement logistics division at the Pentagon dealing with Turkey and Central Asia, and for the Office of Special Plans overseeing Central Asian policy. This couple attempted to recruit Edmonds and her husband into the American Turkish Council and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, offering large financial benefits. But these were organizations that the FBI was monitoring. Edmonds reported the Dickersons' proposal to Feghali, who dismissed it.
Then Edmonds discovered that Jan Dickerson had been forging her (Edmonds') signature on translations, with Feghali's approval. Then Edmonds' colleagues told her about Jan taking files out of other translators' desks and carrying them out of the building. Dickerson attempted to control the translation of all material from particular individuals. Dennis Saccher, who was above Feghali, discovered that Jan was marking every communication from one important person as being not important for translation. Saccher attempted to address the matter but was shut down by Feghali, by another supervisor named Stephanie Bryan, and by the head of "counterintelligence" for the FBI who said that the Pentagon, White House, State Department, and Congress would not allow an investigation.
Had Edmonds understood the truth of that statement, it might have saved her years of frustration and stress, but it would have denied us the bulk of the revelations in her book. Dickerson threatened Edmonds' life and those of her family. Edmonds lost her job, her reputation, her friends, and contact with most of her family members. She watched Congress cave in to the President. She watched the government protect the Dickersons by allowing them to flee the country. She listened to Congressman Henry Waxman and others in 2005 and 2006 promise a full investigation if the Democrats won a majority, a promise that was immediately broken when the Democrats took control of Congress in 2007. Edmonds was smeared in the media, and her story widely ignored when media outlets got parts of it right. The Justice Department claimed "States Secrets" and maneuvered for a cooperative judge (Reggie Walton) to have cases filed by Edmonds dismissed. The government classified as secret all materials related to Edmonds' case including what was already public. The Justice Department issued a gag order to the entire Congress.
And Congress bent over and shouted "Thank you, sir, may I have another?"
As less confrontational approaches failed, Edmonds became increasingly an activist and an independent media participant and creator. Her story and others she was familiar with were rejected and avoided by the 9-11 Commission. She worked with angry 9-11 widows and with other whistleblowers to expose the failures of that commission. Disgusted with whistleblower support groups that only offered to help her when she was in the news and never when she needed help most desperately, Edmonds started her own group, made up of whistleblowers, called the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. She started her own website called Boiling Frogs Post.
When an unclassified version of a report on Edmonds' case by the Justice Department's Inspector General was finally released, it vindicated her.
Coleen Rowley, another FBI whistleblower, one who was honored as a Time magazine person of the year along with two others, told me: "What I find so remarkable is Sibel's persistence in trying every avenue and possible outlet in trying to get the truth out. When going up the chain of command in the executive branch and Inspector General internal mechanisms for investigating fraud, waste, and abuse went nowhere, she sought judicial remedy by filing lawsuits only to be improperly gagged by 'state secrecy privilege'. Along the way she also sought congressional assistance, testified to the 9-11 Commission, and engaged with various media and other non-governmental organizations. It's somewhat ironic that Sibel herself demonstrated such enormous energy and passion throughout this decade quite the opposite of the 'boiling frog' idiom she uses for her website as a warning to others. If her book can inspire readers to summon even 1/100th of the determination and resolve she has modeled, there's hope for us!"
Yet, thus far, no branch of our government has lifted its little finger to fix the problem of secrecy and the corruption it breeds, which Edmonds argues has grown far worse under President Obama. That's why this book should be spread far and wide, and read aloud to our misrepresentatives in Congress if necessary. This book is a masterpiece that reveals both the details and the broader pattern of corruption and unaccountability in Washington, D.C. Edmonds has not exposed bad apples, but a rotten barrel of toxic waste that will sooner or later infect us all -- not just the whistleblowers like Sibel and the thousands of people in our government who see something and dare not say something for fear that we will not have their back.
Let's have their back.
By Susan Harman I just spent the day sitting in a small, unadorned, military courtroom watching one of Bradley Manning's many, many pre-trial hearings, which will stretch out through October. We began the day, 20 of us from the Bradley Manning Support Network, CodePink, Veterans for Peace, and others, holding signs at the busy entrance to Ft. Meade, MD, a huge, sprawling, country club-like campus pretty far from anywhere. Jeff Patterson, of the Support Network, handed out black t-shirts that said "TRUTH," and we put them on over our clothes. After an hour trying to get cars in this military community to honk in support, we went through two searches: first the cars (even under the hood), and then our persons, to get into the courtroom. Each of the military guys was polite and pleasant, as if nothing unusual was going on, when in fact our democracy's on trial. The courtroom was filled with men in dark blue uniforms with gold epaulettes and medals all over their chests, as well as some in camouflage. The judge was a blonde woman in the usual black robe. And there was Bradley Manning, live, the hero of our times, in the trial of the century. As we all know, he is a very young, cherubic, slight private first class, and today he, too, was in dress blues. It's a serious understatement to say I was immensely moved to be so close to this brave man. To Bradley's left sat the military lawyer he chose yesterday after firing two others, who said not one word aloud, but only conferred occasionally with Bradley, head to head. To his right sat David Coombs, the ex-military lawyer specializing in courts martial. Since I had communicated frequently with him when all this began, trying to get him whatever help he needed to carry this case, I was very happy to finally meet him. The other person that caught my attention arrived late and was instantly recognizable by his bleached-blond hair. He was David House, Bradley's friend and the only person, aside from his lawyers and maybe family, who'd visited him in prison. The hearing today was a review of several defense motions to dismiss various parts of the charges, and the proceedings were frequently at a level of detail and repetition that was numbing. We all agreed afterwards that Coombs did a very good job, and that the three prosecutors, who tag-teamed each other, were unprepared and fumbled the ball several times. After several hours of haggling over the distinctions among "classified, sensitive, and intelligence" (which isn't even grammatical), Coombs finally was able to use the need to clarify differing motives as an excuse to give the fictitious example of a soldier eager to give intelligence—not to "the enemy" (whoever that is)—but to us, to America. That was as close as we came to acknowledging the camo-clad elephant in the courtroom, which was thoroughly obscured by the frame of this trial's legitimacy. The formality, the uniforms and shiny medals, the interminable minutes of dead silence waiting for the judge to enter the room after the many recesses, the arguments over dancing angels, all conspire to create the illusion of legitimacy, making any questioning of it all seem at best rude and at worst criminal. The elephant, of course, is that Manning acted on the moral imperative to report massive war crimes committed by our country. The wrong party is on trial. When I realized how down the rabbit hole we were, I began to cry; not in sadness for the boy who has already spent two years in prison, and may spend the rest of his life there, but in frustration at the juxtaposition of the accused and accuser. We in the audience maintained our respectful silence until the judge called a recess for the day, and then someone shouted, "Thank you Bradley, for speaking the truth!" Someone else also thanked him, and I asked, "When will the military be on trial for war crimes?" When, indeed.
By Jeff Kaye, FireDogLake
Many bloggers and the press have reposted Tarek Mehanna’s impassioned speech to the court as he was sentenced to 17-1/2 years for supposedly providing “material support” to terrorists. (See here, here, here, and especially the ACLU’s Nancy Murray’s widely quoted article at the Boston Globe here.) But few have commented on Mehanna’s charges that he was set up by an undercover agent to participate in a terrorist plot, and that he refused the agent’s overtures.
These are the relevant portions of Mehanna’s statement at his sentencing hearing (bold emphases added):
Exactly four years ago this month I was finishing my work shift at a local hospital. As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The “easy“ way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it. Here I am, having spent the majority of the four years since then in a solitary cell the size of a small closet, in which I am locked down for 23 hours each day. The FBI and these prosecutors worked very hard — and the government spent millions of tax dollars — to put me in that cell, keep me there, put me on trial, and finally to have me stand here before you today to be sentenced to even more time in a cell….
It was made crystal clear at trial that I never, ever plotted to “kill Americans” at shopping malls or whatever the story was. The government’s own witnesses contradicted this claim, and we put expert after expert up on that stand, who spent hours dissecting my every written word, who explained my beliefs. Further, when I was free, the government sent an undercover agent to prod me into one of their little “terror plots,” but I refused to participate. Mysteriously, however, the jury never heard this.
By Charles M. Young
With hindsight gained by googling “MoveOn” and “co-opt” after the fact, I can’t claim that nobody tried to warn me. Many websites with left and even liberal politics had said in so many words, “Be wary of this organization called The 99% Spring. It is a Trojan horse for the Democrats.” I just didn’t read that anywhere in a timely fashion. I’ve had a lot of stuff on my plate lately. That’s my excuse. And in my ignorance, I responded to some spam about “nonviolent direct action training” organized by MoveOn and got invited to this 99% Spring thing on April 10 at the Goddard Riverside Community Center in Manhattan. Somebody even called me all the way from San Francisco to make sure I was a sincere seeker on the left and would be attending, along with 120,000 others in training sessions around the country.
By Dave Lindorff
If you want to know where the real government of the United States is located, just check out one of the documents received by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund in response to their Freedom of Information Act request to the Dept. of Homeland Security relating to surveillance of the Occupy Movement. That document, from the Secret Service, dated September 17, 2011, the day the Occupy movement began on Wall Street, from the US Secret Service Intelligence Division, titled Prism Demonstrations Abstract, list the location as “Wall Street Bull” -- a reference to the bronze statue of a bull on Wall Street in front of the
New York Stock Exchange, and the “protectee” as “The United States Government.”
Panetta says NATO or a coalition of nations deciding to attack someone is by definition legal.
By Dave Lindorff
If a bunch of street toughs decided to gang up and beat the crap out of some guy in the neighborhood because they feared he might be planning to buy a gun to protect his family, I think we’d all agree that the police would be right to bust that crew and charge them with conspiracy to commit the crime of assault and battery. If they went forward with their plan and actually did attack the guy, injuring or killing him in the process, we’d also all agree they should all be charged with assault and battery, attempted murder, or even first-degree murder if he died.
By Douglas A. Berg
Nancy Goodman Brinker, a pioneer of “cause marketing”, founded Susan G. Komen For the Cure in 1982, reportedly as the fulfillment of a deathbed promise made to her sister, a victim of breast cancer. In 1994, Brinker founded In Your Corner, Inc., a for-profit company that markets health products and information. In 1998, Brinker sold In Your Corner to AstraZeneca, the third largest pesticide manufacturer in the world, primarily through Syngenta, a giant global agribusiness company it owns jointly with Novartis.
The American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal court Wednesday to force the Obama administration to release legal and intelligence records related to the killing of three U.S. citizens in drone attacks in Yemen last year.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, charged the Justice and Defense departments and the CIA with illegally failing to respond to requests made in October under the Freedom of Information Act. It cited public comments made by President Obama, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and other officials in arguing that the government cannot credibly claim a secrecy defense.
“The government’s self-serving attitude toward transparency and disclosure is unacceptable,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Officials cannot be allowed to release bits of information about the targeted killing program when they think it will bolster their position, but refuse even to confirm [its] existence” when asked for information “in the service of real transparency and accountability.”
In addition to statements by Obama and Panetta, the lawsuit notes that “media reports about the targeted killing program routinely quote anonymous government officials describing details of the program.”
With no independent outside access to Pakistan’s tribal zones, the disconnect is near-absolute between those who charge the administration with unjustified killings and those in the administration who deny the allegations. On Dec. 2, a Pakistani lawyer backed by the British-based charity Reprieve notified Munter of plans to file murder charges in the deaths of Tariq Aziz, 16, and his cousin Waheed Rehman, 12, allegedly killed in an Oct. 31 drone strike on a vehicle in their home region of North Waziristan. According to Reprieve, its representatives had met with Tariq just days earlier in Islamabad to give him a camera to document drone deaths.
On Sunday night's 60 Minutes program, Scott Pelley opened an interview with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta with the question, "How many countries are we currently engaged in a shooting war?" Surprised by the question, Panetta, who laughed heartily as if Pelley had just told him a really humorous knock-knock joke that tickled his funny bone, responded 'that's a good question. I have to stop and think about that." Panetta proceeded to answer "we're going after al Qaeda wherever they're at.... Clearly, we're confronting al Qaeda in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, North Africa...." In case you're wondering, yes, Panetta confirmed that US troops are in Pakistan.
Pelley's question could not have been more clear just as Panetta's answer was unequivocal. What neither Pelley nor Panetta, who received a law degree from Santa Clara University Law School, mentioned was that for the US to be 'engaged in a shooting war,' not to mention more shooting wars than he could recount, without congressional approval is not only unconstitutional but is a clear violation of the War Powers Act of 1973.
After the debacle in Vietnam, with the American people dispirited and exhausted from a bloody, divisive war, the 93rd Session of Congress recognized the need to restore its Constitutional authority to declare war and oversight on national security and foreign policy issues with adoption of the War Powers Act of 1973. The Act, which was also intent on improving accountability requirements for the Executive Branch, necessitated a congressional override of President's Nixon's veto.
Not that Awlaki was never charged with any crime.
From Washington Post:
Investigators initially focused on the wrong man, then had to pay him a nearly $6 million settlement. In 2008, they accused another man, Bruce E. Ivins, who killed himself before he could go to trial.
Now, in the latest twist, the government has argued against itself.
In documents deep in the files of a recently settled Florida lawsuit, Justice Department civil attorneys contradicted their own department’s conclusion that Ivins was unquestionably the anthrax killer. The lawyers said the type of anthrax in Ivins’s lab was “radically different” from the deadly anthrax. They cited several witnesses who said Ivins was innocent, and they suggested that a private laboratory in Ohio could have been involved in the attacks.
A well-researched report here: PDF.
19 January 2012 - A North Carolina human rights group is calling on state officials to investigate and stop alleged CIA missions originating in Johnston County that involve illegal torture.
North Carolina Stop Torture Now delivered a University of North Carolina School of Law report Wednesday to the governor, attorney general and others that claims the Central Intelligence Agency relies on Smithfield-based Aero Contractors Ltd. to provide planes and pilots to transport prisoners overseas from the Johnston County Airport for secret interrogation using torture techniques.
U.S. Military Being Used Against U.S. Labor Unions -- This Would Be Used as Grounds for War on the U.S. If the U.S. Weren't the U.S.
For the first time, the British journalist and author of The Guantánamo Files will speak at events in New York, Washington, San Francisco and Chicago about his work uncovering the stories of the prisoners there. See his recent piece: An Extraordinary Interview with Former Guantánamo Child Prisoner Mohammed El-Gharani.
Too late to contain killer flu science, say experts
Attempts to censor details of controversial influenza experiments that created a highly infectious form of bird-flu virus are unlikely to stop the information from leaking out, according to scientists familiar with the research.
The US Government has asked the editors of two scientific journals to refrain from publishing key parts of research on the H5N1 strain of bird-flu in order to prevent the information falling into the hands of terrorists intent on recreating the same flu strain for use as a bioweapon.
However, scientists yesterday condemned the move. Some said that the decision comes too late because the information has already been shared widely among flu researchers, while others argued that the move could obstruct attempts to find new vaccines and drugs against an infectious form of human H5N1 if it appeared naturally.
Professor Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, said that the research, which was funded by the US Government, should never have been done without first assessing the risks and benefits.
“The work posed risks that outweighed benefits and that were clearly foreseeable before the work was performed,” Professor Ebright said.
And then consider this from Francis Boyle:
Biological Weapons Convention Conference Issues Final Document
“The Conference emphasizes that States must take all necessary safety and security measures to protect human populations and the environment, including animals and plants, when carrying out destruction and/or diversion of agents, toxins, weapons, equipment or means of delivery as prohibited by Article 1 of the Convention.”
This language from the Final Communiqué is truly bizarre. Under the terms of the BWC, those “agents, toxins, weapons, equipment or means of delivery” should not be there in the first in order to be “destroyed” or “diverted.” And where are they being “diverted”: to whom and by whom? The implications of this language is (1) that BWC contracting parties currently have “agents, toxins, weapons, equipment or means of delivery as prohibited by Article 1 of the Convention” and (2) that they are diverting them somewhere, which is also prohibited by the BWC.
Of course you can read this language to apply only to non-BWC States. But there are 165 BWC States Parties and 12 signatories. The only militarily significant hold outs are in the Middle East, for well known reasons that I will not go into here.
19 December 2011 - Almost two-thirds of countries asked by human rights groups about their involvement in extraordinary rendition flights have failed to comply with freedom of information requests – with European nations in particular accused of withholding evidence of the controversial CIA programme.
Was the Attack on Pakistani Outposts Deliberate?: How Far Will the US Go to Target Pakistan's Military?
By Shaukat Qadir
This past June I posted an article by Anatol Lieven on Facebook. For those who are not familiar with his name, Anatol is from the UK and numbers among the few journalists whom I always enjoy reading. I have met Anatol a few times and he is the kind of person who likes to get acquainted with the psycho-social environment of the people he writes about. Written in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s execution, Anatol’s article was critical of the US approach to the region, particularly Pakistan.