Wednesday, July 14, 2004

You Have Just Been Classified 

James Ridgeway of the Village Voice here covers the Sibel Edmonds case in unusual detail -- unusual because those details are danged hard to come by. Edmonds is still under a gag order from the DoJ, and even the information she's already made public has been retroactively classified:
Edmonds is the translator hired by the FBI after 9-11 to help its woefully inadequate staff translate documents and wiretaps pertaining to the attacks in languages such as Farsi and Turkish. As she has told the Voice in past and recent interviews, she was given a top secret security clearance. She soon discovered that there were what she describes as two enemy moles with possible connections to 9-11 working both in the FBI and with the Air Force in weapons procurement for Central Asia, at one point. These were the Dickersons: Douglas with the Air Force and his Turkish-born wife, Melek Can Dickerson, with the FBI as a translator monitor. After they were subpoenaed for a court hearing, they left for Belgium in September 2002 and have not been heard from since.

Among other things Edmonds told her FBI superiors, she had discovered that Melek Can Dickerson affixed Edmonds's name to a printout of inaccurate translations. Properly translated, she says, these wiretaps revealed a Turkish intelligence operative in communication with his spies in both the Pentagon and the State Department . . . .

To shut her up, Ashcroft invoked the States Secrets Act, classifying everything she had said or was about to say, down to the most absurd detail: "She speaks languages which the FBI says are classified," explained Mark Zaid, her attorney, at a press conference in Washington last week. "But if anybody checks her résumé, they are of course listed. . . . She was born in Iran and grew up in Turkey. So you can guess what languages she speaks—and English, which, I guess, is a classified fact as well." Edmonds is not allowed to answer any substantive questions that might reveal, for instance, where she worked.

Then, on July 6, Reggie Walton, a federal district judge in D.C., dismissed Edmonds's case challenging the FBI for firing her. Around the same time, he ruled in another lawsuit, in which attorneys had wanted to depose Edmonds, by setting forth in detail what Edmonds could and could not say. Judge Walton said it was OK for her to answer when asked, "Please state your name." But she must not answer "When and where were you born?" She could respond to "When did you come to the United States?" as well as "Are you a resident of the United States?" But she was not to answer "Where did you go to school?"

Finally after two years, the Justice Department's Inspector General last week released his report on the Edmonds case—and it was immediately classified.
The 2002 letter from Sibel Edmonds's lawyers to the Justice Department requesting a formal probe of irregularities at the FBI is online here.

UPDATE (7/14): Read Sibel Edmonds's own take on the Walton decision here.

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