Friday, January 14, 2005

Safe at Home 

The mismanagement of the war on Iraq has been so spectacular, so massive in scope that it tends to obscure the Bush administration's relatively modest ineptitude in that other ongoing war, the one on terror:

1.) The Inspector General of the DoJ says Sibel Edmonds was right -- great news for that heroic whistleblower but gruesome news for the nation as a whole, because the picture she paints of our security apparatus is downright hair-raising:
The FBI never adequately investigated complaints by a fired contract linguist who alleged shoddy work and possible espionage inside the bureau's translator program, even though evidence and witnesses supported her, the Justice Department's senior oversight official said Friday.

The bureau's response to complaints by former translator Sibel Edmonds was ``significantly flawed,'' Inspector General Glenn Fine
said in a report that summarized a lengthy classified investigation into how the FBI handled the case. Fine said her claims ``raised substantial questions and were supported by various pieces of evidence.''

Edmonds maintains she was fired in March 2002 after she complained to FBI managers about shoddy wiretap translations and told them an interpreter with a relative at a foreign embassy might have compromised national security by blocking translations in some cases and notifying targets of FBI surveillance . . . .

Edmonds is described in the new report as an outspoken, distracting worker who irritated FBI supervisors and was ``not an easy employee to manage.'' Nevertheless, it concluded the FBI fired her largely because of her allegations, not her work habits.

``The FBI's failure to handle her allegations adequately contributed to Edmonds' increasingly vociferous complaints, which ultimately led to the termination of her services,'' the inspector general said.
From an ACLU press release:
Edmonds challenged her retaliatory dismissal by filing suit in federal court, but her case was dismissed last July after Attorney General John Ashcroft invoked the so-called "state secrets privilege," and retroactively classified briefings to Congress related to her case. The ACLU is representing Edmonds and filed a brief earlier this week urging the D.C. Court of Appeals to reinstate Edmonds’ case.

"The Inspector General report leaves no doubt that John Ashcroft hid behind the state secrets privilege to cover up serious wrongdoing within the FBI," said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson, who is representing Edmonds in her appeal. "The government’s drastic actions to deny Ms. Edmonds her right to a day in court make a mockery of national security and the Constitution. Government employees who risk their careers to expose breaches in national security or misconduct are true American patriots and should be applauded, not punished."
2.) Prior to 9/11, the FBI's computer database system was so primitive that it could not accommodate a multi-word search request. Now, more than three years after 9/11, it still can't:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is on the verge of scrapping a $170 million computer overhaul that is considered critical to the campaign against terrorism but has been riddled with technical and planning problems, F.B.I. officials said on Thursday . . . .

"It's immensely disappointing to learn of this type of failure," Lee H. Hamilton, the vice chairman of the Sept. 11 commission, said in an interview. "The F.B.I. cannot share information and manage their cases effectively without a top-flight computer system, and we on the commission got assurances again and again from the F.B.I. that they were getting on top of this problem. It's very, very disappointing to see that they're not."

While other intelligence agencies like the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency developed sophisticated and secure computer systems long ago, the bureau has been much maligned for years for its failure to develop a modern system. Members of Congress have joked that their grandchildren could send e-mail messages and search databases more easily than F.B.I. investigators could.
3.) Which group is scarier: A) queers, or B) terrorists? If you answered B) terrorists, the Pentagon begs to differ:
The number of Arabic linguists discharged from the military for violating its "don't ask, don't tell" policy is higher than previously reported, according to records obtained by a research group.

The group contends the records show that the military - at a time when it and U.S. intelligence agencies don't have enough Arabic speakers - is putting its anti-gay stance ahead of national security.

Between 1998 and 2004, the military discharged 20 Arabic and six Farsi speakers, according to Department of Defense data obtained by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military under a Freedom of Information Act request . . . .

"The military is placing homophobia well ahead of national security," said Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a nonprofit group that advocates for the rights of gay military members. "It's rather appalling that in the weeks leading up to 9/11 messages were coming in, waiting to be translated ... and at the same time they were firing people who could've done that job."

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