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Melek Can Dickerson...took hundreds of pages of top-secret sensitive intelligence documents outside the FBI to unknown recipients.
August 2, 2004 4:16 PM   Subscribe

a letter to Thomas Kean, Chair of the 9/11 Commission from Sibel Edmonds: Unfortunately, I find your report seriously flawed in its failure to address serious intelligence issues that I am aware of, which have been confirmed, and which as a witness to the commission, I made you aware of. Thus, I must assume that other serious issues that I am not aware of were in the same manner omitted from your report. These omissions cast doubt on the validity of your report and therefore on its conclusions and recommendations. Considering what is at stake, our national security, we are entitled to demand answers to unanswered questions, and to ask for clarification of issues that were ignored and/or omitted from the report. A solid letter detailing many disturbing things reported to the Commission, yet not in the report. More on Edmonds here.
posted by amberglow (19 comments total)

 


Prior to 9-11, if you asked the typical American on the street if the US was about to be attacked, their assumption would probably be that it was a foreign government, and that we would immediately respond, militarily, against a country. That's what we expected and what we were oriented towards.
Terrorists were like the guy who blew up bombs at abortion clinics, not an organized group that would simultaneously hijack several airplanes to attack several different major targets. How absurd! What paranoid crackpot would imagine that?
And the government, like the public, was oriented in the same way. So who do you blame? Why blame?

And that is the problem I have with this "whistleblower". So she singlehandedly knew what was going to happen before it happened, because she translated intercepts of other people's conversations. Do you know what the value of a translator's opinion is, in the greater scheme of things?

The US has a vast array of communications monitoring and decryption and translation personnel. The National Security Agency is so enormous, it has at least a dozen of its own satellites. They sift through voluminous amounts of data, dozens of tons of paper on a daily basis. And from that, they funnel a tiny amount to the President's National Security Council. The NSC probably boils it down to a one page daily security brief for the President.

So a translator discovers something. One person out of 20,000? 50,000? If you add the Eschelon system, maybe 100,000 people.

I assume that she is right. I assume that she did know what was coming. And, I imagine that they told her to change her testimony, too. And it doesn't matter.

The entire system, while immensely powerful, can only do so much. It is not the fault of the system how it is oriented, or what its priorities are: they are only educated guesses. Once it knows what to look for, it usually does a superlative job, but it cannot watch for everything.

The 9-11 commission knows these things, and acts accordingly, despite the woman's outrage at still being ignored. They will not embarass the people who are doing their jobs, nor will they throw wrenches into the machine in the hope that it will work better in the future. The orientation has long since changed, for the better, and the problem has been solved before the 9-11 commission was even convened. It is a moot point.
posted by kablam at 6:16 PM on August 2, 2004


A moot point? That even tho they took her testimony and that of others, and that it's been corroborated, and that Ashcroft silenced her officially, it's a moot point? A moot point that this Dickerson person took secret info out of the office? Get real, kablam, and try reading the letter.
posted by amberglow at 6:30 PM on August 2, 2004


Wasn't the commision only concerned with things prior to the attacks? As bad as a cover-up is, it doesn't seem like it would be within their scope.
posted by smackfu at 6:59 PM on August 2, 2004


Why did she testify then?

Additionally, she and Daniel Ellsberg (of Pentagon Papers fame) are calling for other govt. workers to come forward, but i bet they're all afraid.
posted by amberglow at 7:16 PM on August 2, 2004


kablam, did you read homunculus' first link? I don't think she ever claimed she knew what would happen before it happened. Her claim is that after 9/11, she unearthed alot of badly translated (perhaps purposely mistranslated) documents containing info relevant to 9/11, reported them to her supervisor, and the supervisor did nothing. Then she found additional documents, never translated at all, in the files of a translator with possible ties to a terrorist organization, and reported those as well. And still nothing was done. And none of this was discussed in the 9/11 report.

Did you read any of the links, kablam? I think her complaint is about both the cover-up and about a need for an investigation into possible infiltration of operatives into our intelligence agencies. If you are right, smackfu, and the report concerned only actions occuring before the attacks, then the second of these complaints would still be relevant. (Unless I read the links too quickly.)
posted by onlyconnect at 7:20 PM on August 2, 2004


Oh, amberglow's link says Dickerson was hired after 9/11. Still seems like it would be very prudent to investigate hiring policies, though.
posted by onlyconnect at 7:40 PM on August 2, 2004


Nothing personal, kablam, but I'm pretty tired of the man-on-the-street-didn't-see-9/11-coming argument. The man on the street didn't have access to all the chatter and/or dossiers prepared by intelligence professionals for the express purpose of keeping track of what the threats to our country are. The man on the street wasn't paid a healthy salary to imagine possible scenarios, test hypotheses, and put diverse pieces of information together to see if anything was about to happen and if so how it could be stopped. The man on the street didn't stop flying commercial airlines in mid-July 2001. In short, whether "we" could imagine this happening is absolutely irrelevant to the job performance of those whose jobs were intrinsically connected to such an eventuality.
OK, back to Dickerson.
posted by soyjoy at 8:05 PM on August 2, 2004


Wasn't the commision only concerned with things prior to the attacks? As bad as a cover-up is, it doesn't seem like it would be within their scope.

Smackfu, did you read her letter? Nearly every example she cites is directly related to the attacks. People in the translation department behaving negligently, or with willful selfishness (possibly even corruption or double-agency), that compromised (1) our ability to detect the plan beforehand, (2) to followup on leads in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, and (3) understand evidence provided by those in the know. Her point is that those personnel still hold their positions, and the conditions that made it possible to do those things remain unchanged--and they will likely remain so since the commission's recommendations don't even touch the (corroborated) vulnerabilities she's raised.

Bah. The 9/11 Commission was more "security theater", a public relations exercise meant to pacify the masses rather than provide genuine security. It's served its purpose. Move along, nothing to see here over there where that woman is standing...
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 8:09 PM on August 2, 2004


(Dickerson was hired after 9/11, but Edmonds cites another translator hired before who was grossly mistranslating or not translating at all documents about relevant activities. Carry on.)
posted by onlyconnect at 8:31 PM on August 2, 2004


nakedcodemonkey: your last paragraph was dead on. A 9-11 commission was set up *only* because it was expected that the public demanded it be set up.

Now think about that. Its first implication is that the public wants to know something. But the public can digest only the broadest possible outline of such an immense undertaking. The public also wants reassurance that somebody is doing something.

The second implication is that the public wants its elected representatives to do something. People who are *not* experts, even if they are on the Intelligence Committees. The public wants them to ask *questions* of experts to determine something, and to offer reassurance.

But while this is ongoing, the agencies involved themselves are busily trying to figure out what went wrong, and how to fix it. While at the same time countering any ongoing scenarios *and* planning for future scenarios. On the whole, their success at this is far more important than what the public finds out about them and what they do.

Now, a whistleblower may have a point, and the system she is criticizing may need outside intervention to get it back on track. But these are serious, to the point problems. So *why* bring them up to a committee whose sole purpose, as you rightly pointed out, is to be a "security theater"?

She may have a legitimate beef that cannot be handled in her immediate chain of command. But that does not mean that they are the only people she can complain to, unless others have also looked at her accusations and disregarded them.

A rule of thumb for a defense attorney is, if the facts aren't on your side, and the jury and judge aren't on your side, then try to get the case tried in the court of public opinion.
I suspect that this may be a fitting analogy.
posted by kablam at 8:41 PM on August 2, 2004


"security theater"

Nice.
posted by rushmc at 9:09 PM on August 2, 2004


A rule of thumb for a defense attorney is, if the facts aren't on your side, and the jury and judge aren't on your side, then try to get the case tried in the court of public opinion.
I suspect that this may be a fitting analogy.

The facts are on her side, and have been corroborated. Ashcroft gagged her--what does that tell you? kablam, have you still not read the links?
posted by amberglow at 9:13 PM on August 2, 2004


we need mystery science security theater 3000.
posted by NationalKato at 9:54 PM on August 2, 2004


She may have a legitimate beef that cannot be handled in her immediate chain of command. But that does not mean that they are the only people she can complain to, unless others have also looked at her accusations and disregarded them.

Uh. You haven't followed her story at all, have you? She went to the agent in charge. She was told to shut up, translate slower. She went to immediate superiors, then a top agency official, then the FBI Inspector General, then DoJ and the congressional Judicial Committee. Still quietly. Yet the vulnerabilities she and others testified to continued to be ignored by the FBI. Edwards went public after all those private warnings remained unheeded and those responsible were kept in positions of authority or even promoted. Translators are gatekeepers; as long as they've got carte blanche to fuckup information, bury important leads, and mislead investigations, we've got our collective pants hanging down. If no one in power is willing to take action, public attention is the only way left to build pressure for corrective action.


Edmonds was fired after reporting her concerns to FBI officials. She told her story behind closed doors to investigators in Congress and to the Justice Department...

Edmonds put her concerns about the FBI's language department in writing to her immediate superiors and to a top official at the FBI. For months, she said she received no response. Then, she turned for help to the Justice Department's Inspector General and to Sen. Charles Grassley, whose committee, the Judiciary Committee, has direct oversight of the FBI.

“She's credible,” says Sen. Grassley. “And the reason I feel she's very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story.”...

...nobody at the FBI wanted to hear about it. Not even the assistant special agent in charge.

“He said ‘Do you realize what you are saying here in your allegations? Are you telling me that our security people are not doing their jobs? Is that what you're telling me? If you insist on this investigation, I'll make sure in no time it will turn around and become an investigation about you,’” says Edmonds...

Does the Sibel Edmonds case fall into any pattern of behavior, pattern of conduct on, on the part of the FBI?

“The usual pattern,” says Sen. Grassely. “Let me tell you, first of all, the embarrassing information comes out, the FBI reaction is to sweep it under the rug, and then eventually they shoot the messenger.”

Special agent John Roberts, a chief of the FBI's Internal Affairs Department, agrees. And while he is not permitted to discuss the Edmonds case, for the last 10 years he has been investigating misconduct by FBI employees. He says he is outraged by how little is ever done about it.

“I don't know of another person in the FBI who has done the internal investigations that I have and has seen what I have, and that knows what has occurred and what has been glossed over and what has, frankly, just disappeared, just vaporized, and no one disciplined for it,” says Roberts.

Despite a pledge from FBI Director Robert Mueller to overhaul the culture of the FBI in light of 9/11, and encourage bureau employees to come forward to report wrongdoing, Roberts says that in the rare instances when employees are disciplined, it's usually low-level employees like Edmonds who get punished and not their bosses.

“I think the double standard of discipline will continue no matter who comes in, no matter who tries to change,” says Roberts. “You, you have a certain, certain group that, that will continue to protect itself. That's just how it is.”

Has he found cases since Sept. 11 where people were involved in misconduct and were not, let alone reprimanded, but were even promoted? Roberts says yes.



...if the facts aren't on your side, and the jury and judge aren't on your side, then try to get the case tried in the court of public opinion. I suspect that this may be a fitting analogy.

No. Her charges have been investigated extensively. Most recently, this week it was revealed that the FBI's own classified investigation of Edwards (not her charges, mind you, her) further supports her credibility, and Directory Mueller now finally re-opened the investigation into her complaints (2+ years late) in response to his Inspector General's finding that the first review was poorly done.


An official with knowledge of the report who spoke on condition of anonymity said investigators confirmed some of Ms. Edmonds's allegations about translation problems to be true, but could not corroborate others because of a lack of evidence. None of her accusations were disproved, the official said. (NY Times reg req'd)


(Kablam, Edwards was hired after 9/11. She's never claimed to have advance knowledge. Her points relate to what we don't yet know, may never know, because of the many ways in which intelligence can be easily blocked, borrowed, or mis-translated by staffers who are willfully putting their own agenda before national security and while their colleagues pretend to turn a blind eye.)

(Rushmc, Bruce Schneier gets the credit for "security theater". Beyond Fear is a very thoughful, well-argued book.)
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:04 PM on August 2, 2004


"As a veteran agent chasing home-grown terrorist suspects for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mike German always had a knack for worming his way into places few other agents could go.

    In the early 1990's, he infiltrated a group of white supremacist skinheads plotting to blow up a black church in Los Angeles. A few years later, he joined a militia in Washington State that talked of attacking government buildings. Known to his fellow militia members as Rock, he tricked them into handcuffing themselves in a supposed training exercise so the authorities could arrest them.

    So in early 2002, when Mr. German got word that a group of Americans might be plotting support for an overseas Islamic terrorist group, he proposed to his bosses what he thought was an obvious plan: go undercover and infiltrate the group.

    But Mr. German says F.B.I. officials sat on his request, botched the investigation, falsified documents to discredit their own sources, then froze him out and made him a "pariah." He left the bureau in mid-June after 16 years and is now going public for the first time - the latest in a string of F.B.I. whistle-blowers who claim they were retaliated against after voicing concerns about how management problems had impeded terrorism investigations since the Sept. 11 attacks."
posted by troutfishing at 10:27 PM on August 2, 2004


The man on the street didn't stop flying commercial airlines in mid-July 2001

Soyjoy, what does that mean? Who stopped flying in mJ2001?
posted by bonaldi at 11:21 PM on August 2, 2004


John Ashcroft
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:30 PM on August 2, 2004


I assume that she is right. I assume that she did know what was coming. And, I imagine that they told her to change her testimony, too. And it doesn't matter.

In tandem with your comments about the torture in Abu Ghraib, you're painting quite a picture.
posted by The God Complex at 11:46 PM on August 2, 2004


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