smoking gun anyone?
March 24, 2004 6:07 PM   Subscribe

DOJ Asked FBI Translator To Change Pre 9-11 Intercepts --- FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, was offered a substantial raise and a full time job in order to not go public that she had been asked by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to retranslate and adjust the translations of [terrorist] subject intercepts that had been received before September 11, 2001 by the FBI and CIA.  "My translations of the pre 9-11 intercepts included [terrorist] money laundering, detailed and date specific information enough to alert the American people, and other issues dating back to 1999 which I won't go into right now." Incredibly, Edmonds said "The senate Judiciary Committee, and the 911 Commission have heard me  testify for  lengthy periods of time time (3 hours) about very specific plots, dates, airplanes used as weopons, and specific idividuals and activities." Is this true? and OMFG
posted by amberglow (41 comments total)

I fear that the FBI and the Dept of Justice are long overdue for a major housecleaning. And this goes *way* beyond either political party, and reaches back decades.

Many state and local police will tell you that when the FBI arrives, they stomp in with a "We are the gods of Olympus" attitude--an attitude going back to J. Edgar Hoover. But what really set things crazy was the RICO law, essentially legalizing police seizures for profit, by whim. The ability to "arrest" property--property has no civil rights--without charging a person, was a license to steal.

Megalomania turned to insanity. Senior agents can and do act with impunity against anyone without money or power--even to the point of murder--without fear of retribution.
A terrible violation might, and has often enough, resulted in a commendation and promotion for the offender, in a convoluted and bizarre bureaucracy.

The other side of things is the willingness of the federal government, the congress and the president, to assign virtually every state and local crime to a redundant federal offense. No matter what law you now break, the FBI can, and sometimes is, sent in to deal with it.
So the agency is sent in a thousand directions, and agents themselves are used at the whim of those in power. Which is madness in its own right.

To help visualize this, back in WWI, Woodrow Wilson temporarily put the railroads under a national administrator. Within weeks, every bureaucrat had rationalized a personal need for his own rail car, to do with as he pleased. Each bureaucrat then ordered the railroads to deliver "his" rail car to the Washington area. The utter chaos in the system, and the logjam of rail cars on the East Coast took months, even years to unsnarl.

Today the FBI and the Justice department face a similar problem, far beyond their ability to deal with it. Reform begins with the recognition by the president and congress that the FBI and Justice department cannot be all things to all people.
posted by kablam at 6:36 PM on March 24, 2004

Last October, she told her story to Correspondent Ed Bradley.

So why are we only hearing about it five months later, Ed?
posted by ook at 6:37 PM on March 24, 2004

[rereads dateline. Feels stupid.]
posted by ook at 6:43 PM on March 24, 2004

I don't remember hearing anything about it either, ook, but that's probably because of the gag order, I think.
posted by amberglow at 6:48 PM on March 24, 2004

I remember reading this ages ago. Not that it isn't pertinent again now.

Quibble: That lede about being told to change translations isn't backed up. Being pressured not to go public about untranslated info that might have stopped 9/11 is bad enough. But don't lede with something even more explosive and then fail to back it up. It makes the whole story suspect.

/Journalism 101
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:49 PM on March 24, 2004

well, Cunning, do some journalism for us: Did she retranslate or just translate? Was this stuff never translated before? (dance, i say, dance!) : >
posted by amberglow at 6:56 PM on March 24, 2004

In fact, the supervisor who Sibel Edmonds says told her to slow down was promoted. Edmonds filed a whistleblower lawsuit to get her job back. A judge is currently considering the government's request to dismiss it on grounds it would compromise national [s]ecurity.

Lot of bizarre shit going down stateside these days...
posted by dash_slot- at 7:05 PM on March 24, 2004

PS: 9-11 family member, Jersey Girl, Kristen Breitweiser, arranged to have Ms. Edmonds address the gathered media right after the Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet testified.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:07 PM on March 24, 2004

Sorry Amber, I wasn't there today.

Here's the only current info I can find, from a far more sober correspondent in a mag I've never heard of (and what's with all the bloggers getting into the hearing? Hello CJR - story alert):

"A former FBI translator said Wednesday that the bureau had "real, specific" information relating to the Sept. 11 attacks before they happened. Sibel Edmonds worked for the agency working from Sept. 20, 2001 to March 2002.

"Edmonds said she was hired to retranslate material that was collected prior to Sept. 11 to determine if anything was missed in the translations that related to the plot. In her review, Edmonds said the documents clearly showed that the Sept. 11 hijackers were in the country and plotting to use airplanes as missiles. The documents also included information relating to their financial activities. Edmonds said she could not comment in detail because she has been under a Justice Department gag order since October 2002.

"Edmonds has testified before the Sept. 11 commission, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Select Intelligence Committee."
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:08 PM on March 24, 2004

OMFG,m this is serious. why haven't the major news outlets carried this?
posted by poopy at 7:12 PM on March 24, 2004

Interestingly, this transcript of the CBS interview was on the DOJ website but isn't anymore. That link is Google's cache.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:15 PM on March 24, 2004

Okay, never mind. It's still on the DOJ website elsewhere. I'm an idiot and will shut up now.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:18 PM on March 24, 2004

OMFG,m this is serious. why haven't the major news outlets carried this?

your first sentence answers your second.
but hey man, bobby brown's a deadbeat dad!

posted by quonsar at 7:42 PM on March 24, 2004

Good link re: B. Brown
posted by dash_slot- at 8:17 PM on March 24, 2004

At best these pricks might lose their jobs while any of us would do hard time for far less. I hate this.
posted by LouReedsSon at 8:24 PM on March 24, 2004

"February 13, 2001: UPI reporter Richard Sale, while covering a trial of bin Laden's al-Qaeda followers, reports that the NSA has broken bin Laden's encrypted communications. US officials say "codes were broken." [UPI, 2/13/01]ï¿1/2Presumably al-Qaeda changes its security after this time, but also the US government officials later claim that the planning for the 9/11 attack began in 1998 if not earlier (see also 1998). [New York Times, 10/14/01] FTW"


"March 4, 2001: Contradicting the later claim that no one could have envisioned the 9/11 attacks, a short-lived Fox TV program called The Lone Gunmen airs a pilot episode in which terrorists try to fly an airplane into the WTC. The heroes save the day and the airplane narrowly misses the building. There are no terrorists on board the aircraft; remote control technology is used to steer the plane. Ratings were good for the show, yet the eerie coincidence is barely mentioned after 9/11. Says one media columnist, "This seems to be collective amnesia of the highest order." [TV Guide, 6/21/02] The heroes also determine, "The terrorist group responsible was actually a faction of our own government. These malefactors were seeking to stimulate arms manufacturing in the lean years following the end of the Cold War by bringing down a plane in New York City and fomenting fears of terrorism." [Myers Report, 6/20/02]
" - Frikkin' bizzare. Here's an excerpt from the ""Meyers Report" - "The final act of the "Gunmen" pilot, which seemingly made no impact last year, now contains some of the most deeply disturbing images ever created for a scripted entertainment program. One of the Gunmen, John Byers, is actually aboard a crowded 747 that is under the control of a group of computer savvy terrorists who have accessed the plane's on-board navigation system and are steering it toward the towers. (The terrorists are on the ground, not in the plane.) In a sequence that now seems utterly unfathomable, Byers easily enters the cockpit to convey the troubling news and the pilots politely chastise him ú until they realize that he is right and that someone else is indeed controlling the plane. Chillingly, much of the Manhattan skyline later becomes visible through the cockpit window ú with the towers at dead center.

On the ground, Byers' two partners, also computer savvy, determine that the terrorists are steering the plane specifically toward the corner of Liberty and Washington Streets in lower Manhattan. They even access a detailed computerized flight path. With mere moments to spare, the Gunmen manage to override the terrorists, terminating their control of the plane. The pilots take over and pull the plane upward. As seen through the window of the cockpit,the airliner curves up the side of one of the towers. The plane is then shown skimming the top corner of the building, passing so closely that it scrapes a fence on its roof. It's a night flight, so the near miss seemingly goes unseen by everyone except Byers and the pilots.

The Gunmen, a crime fighting, government conspiracy-busting trio who were regulars on "The X-Files" and were unwisely killed off by Carter during one of that show's last episodes (eliminating possible appearances in upcoming "X-Files" feature films), determine that the terrorist group responsible was actually a faction of our own government. These malefactors were seeking to stimulate arms manufacturing in the lean years following the end of the Cold War by bringing down a plane in New York City and fomenting fears of terrorism. "


"March 7, 2001:ï¿1/2The Russian Permanent Mission at the United Nations secretly submits "an unprecedentedly detailed report" to the UN Security Council about bin Laden, his whereabouts, details of his al-Qaeda network, Afghan drug running, and Taliban connections in Pakistan.ï¿1/2The report provides "a listing of all bin Laden's bases, his government contacts and foreign advisors," and enough information to potentially kill him.ï¿1/2The US fails to act.ï¿1/2Alex Standish, the editor of the highly respected Jane's Intelligence Review, concludes that the attacks of 9/11 were less of an American intelligence failure and more the result of "a political decision not to act against bin Laden." [Jane's Intelligence Review, 10/5/01]"


"Spring 2001: The Sydney Morning Herald later reports, "The months preceding September 11 [see] a shifting of the US military's focus ... Over several months beginning in April [2001] a series of military and governmental policy documents [are] released that [seek] to legitimize the use of US military force in the pursuit of oil and gas." Michael Klare, an international security expert and author of Resource Wars, says the military has increasingly come to "define resource security as their primary mission." An article in the Army War College's journal by Jeffrey Record, a former staff member of the Senate armed services committee, argues for the legitimacy of "shooting in the Persian Gulf on behalf of lower gas prices." He also "advocate[s] the acceptability of presidential subterfuge in the promotion of a conflict" and "explicitly urge[s] painting over the US's actual reasons for warfare with a nobly high-minded veneer, seeing such as a necessity for mobilizing public support for a conflict." In April, Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces in the Persian Gulf/South Asia area, testifies to Congress in April that his command's key mission is "access to [the region's] energy resources." The next month US Central Command begins planning for war with Afghanistan, plans that are later used in the real war (see May 2001 (F)). [Sydney Morning Herald, 12/26/02] Other little noticed but influential documents reflect similar thinking (see September 2000 and April 2001 (D))."


"April 2001 (D): A report commissioned by former US Secretary of State James Baker and the Council on Foreign Relations entitled "Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century" is submitted to Vice President Cheney this month. "The report is linked to a veritable who's who of US hawks, oilmen and corporate bigwigs." The report says the "central dilemma" for the US administration is that "the American people continue to demand plentiful and cheap energy without sacrifice or inconvenience." It warns that the US is running out of oil, with a painful end to cheap fuel already in sight. It argues that "the United States remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma," and that one of the "consequences" of this is a "need for military intervention" to secure its oil supply. It argues that Iraq needs to be overthrown so the US can control its oil. [Sunday Herald, 10/5/02, Sydney Morning Herald, 12/26/02] In what may be a reference to a pipeline through Afghanistan, the report suggests the US should "Investigate whether any changes to US policy would quickly facilitate higher exports of oil from the Caspian Basin region... the exports from some oil discoveries in the Caspian Basin could be hastened if a secure, economical export route could be identified swiftly" (see also September 2000 and Spring 2001). [Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century, 4/01] Could the Bush administration have let 9/11 happen to get access to Central Asian oil, and gain support for a war with Iraq, amongst other reasons?"

Well, those are my idiosyncratic gleanings of the most striking entries (to me) from Paul Thompson's inimitable "Complete 9-11 Timeline" - just the merest morsel from Thompson's lavish timeline-feast of damning stories, from mainstream and highly respected news sources, that undercuts the official line on 9-11.
posted by troutfishing at 8:43 PM on March 24, 2004

Interestingly enough, as I went through high school in Canada one theory which was always held in high esteem while studying US History around the WW2 period was whether FDR allowed Pearl Harbor to happen so that the country would be stirred up by patriotic feelings into entering the war.

Of course most of us with some sense of current events back then probably wondered whether our teachers weren't Vietnam draft dodgers from back in the day with an axe to grind, but if one is willing to see things in that particular light then FDR's lack of action did indeed accomplish its goal, extraordinarily well even.

Sometimes one wonders whether a close study of history, particularly from those "alternate" viewpoints, might not shed light on current events.
posted by clevershark at 11:08 PM on March 24, 2004


Great point you bring up. I've had past group discussions in a class about the effect of tragedies on a large population, and historically, the most horrifying tragedies have in some way allowed (or paved the way for) further tragedy, mostly because mass emotion is stupid yet powerful. Someone probably said that much better than I.

A nation who experiences a disaster of some kind is a malleable nation. 9/11 allowed some things to happen which would never have been able to-- the American public wouldn't have tolerated it-- in absence of it. Had a president in a year marked by true economic growth, admirable reforms and lack of any out-of-the-ordinary disasters just suddenly said, "Hey, let's bomb this country. The leader is a bad, bad man," you could imagine the reaction.

So it does make you wonder.

...Whether or not, in the event that the investigations prove prior knowledge of 9/11, a lot of people are going to go to jail for a long, long, Bubba-lovin' time.
posted by precocious at 12:56 AM on March 25, 2004

precocious - and what is proof?

These new, hard-right spend-and-don't-tax Republicans now in power are Greek Skeptics - in the finest and most obfuscatory expression of that long tradition.

Imagine - We're inside a room, and I tell you - "Even though the World was there when we walked inside, as I shut the door the World blinked out of existence and now - if I should open that door - there would be a howling, empty void!"

"That's insane," you say.

"Can you prove it to me - through rational argument - without opening the door?" I ask, "Because - if you do open the door, we'll be sucked out into the vacuum and cold of space, and our blood will boil and our eyes pop out. So you mustn't open the door! But you should be able to convince me by the force of your arguments...."
posted by troutfishing at 6:34 AM on March 25, 2004

Globa Article worth mentioning

Worth a read. Gives some insight into the missed opportunities throughout the 90's right up to 2001.
posted by a3matrix at 7:15 AM on March 25, 2004

From the initial link:

When we asked her if it was really true that she had been bribed by the FBI and DOJ, Edmonds said "You can interpret it as that."

Heh. I love translator humor.

OK, back to the hand-wringing...
posted by soyjoy at 7:48 AM on March 25, 2004

your pearl harbor assertion is olde. any correlation with this, IMO, highly suspect story, is really ancillary to the real question.

-she speaks farsi and turkish, what did she know? OPPS, offical secret act and all.

but I'm sure trout has another time-warping mental exercise to spring on us.

Sometimes one wonders whether a close study of history, particularly from those "alternate" viewpoints, might not shed light on current events.

what light do you want shed. is there light to be shed? Who is covering the light? and why.

Shall we use Pearl as a model, a model for what, why mention it, why even type when you merely assert FDR's lack of action did indeed accomplish its goal, extraordinarily well even.

what lack of action?, it is obviuos hardly one of you knows what the fu&* they are talking about esp. trout with his television analogy.

Pearl harbor......FUCK.
posted by clavdivs at 8:25 AM on March 25, 2004

From the link provided by a3matrix

Top officials from both administrations defended their actions in seven hours of testimony before the commission yesterday. They raised doubts about whether military action would have prevented the 2001 attacks


Rumsfeld also insisted that the United States would not then have had enough international support to invade Afghanistan.

"How many countries would have joined in a coalition?" Rumsfeld asked. "Many? Any? Not likely. We likely would have heard objections to preemption similar to those voiced before the coalition launched Operation Iraqi Freedom."

WTF? Am I reading this right or did a terrorist taint my soda?

/BTW, I'd say that the level of international outrage against the Taliban pre-9/11 was much higher than against Saddam at any time post Gulf War I. And if I may venture a reason, I'd say that leaving him in power at the end of the first war kinda sent a (confusing?) message regarding the danger that he and his regime represented.
posted by magullo at 8:46 AM on March 25, 2004

Sometimes one wonders whether a close study of history, particularly from those "alternate" viewpoints, might not shed light on current events.

<cut to oval office, where a nervous, pacing president suddenly slaps his thigh>

"That's IT!!! That's the ticket! WTC was our Coventry! If I'd taken action beforehand the Islamofascists would have known we cracked Enigma!
posted by quonsar at 9:37 AM on March 25, 2004

er, Q, it was the brits whom cracked Enigma.
posted by clavdivs at 9:57 AM on March 25, 2004

A friend of mine CC'd the same link to me last night as heads this entry. Who the hell is this Tom Flocco guy? PHPNuke? Suscriber-only content on a consipiracy site? (no thanks) Copyright under the DMCA?

Has this guy been featured on "Coast To Coast" yet?

Googling for Edmunds brings up numerous claims against her former employer and the following discussion about how she got fired:

"Edmonds had been found to have breached security, FBI officials told Senate investigators. Edmonds said that two of those alleged breaches were related to specific instruction by a supervisor to prepare a report on the other translator on her home computer."

She alleges on 60 minutes that this same translator was part of a Turkish spy ring.

For real? Kook? You decide!!
posted by Ogre Lawless at 9:58 AM on March 25, 2004

er, q, it was the brits whom cracked enigma.

er, c, that was the Poles.

it is obviuos hardly one of you knows what the fu&* they are talking about

And that's irony.
posted by joaquim at 10:37 AM on March 25, 2004

Enigma: The Battle for the Code
by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore

good documents here, at the British Public Record Office (PRO) and the Historical Manuscripts Commission (HMC) site , and I quote:

We look back at the real story of the Enigma code-breakers using original documents from the period: from Turing's own handwritten papers to an intercepted message from Himmler in 1943 - the year featured in the film.
Throughout the Second World War, Bletchley Park, 50 miles North of London, was the headquarters of the Government Code and Cypher School and was the heart of the secret operation which eventually broke the Enigma-encoded German radio messages. The material they intercepted and decoded was known as Ultra and provided invaluable benefits to the war effort.
The Enigma machine was developed commercially in Germany in the 1920s. It was taken up by the German armed forces and was used widely throughout the war. The first developments in cracking the Enigma code systems were made by Polish intelligence from 1928 onwards. In 1938, encouraged by MI6, a Polish worker at the plant manufacturing the Enigma machines was able to make a wooden replica that gave the British the start in breaking the encoded messages which were sent using the machine throughout the war.
The machine had a typewriter keyboard, and using three and later four wheels chosen from a set of five, it scrambled each letter which was typed in. Later modifications included a plugboard which swapped up to 10 pairs of letters. Even the simplest three-wheeled Enigma had a potential of 150 million trillion different settings. The team at Bletchley Park consisted of mathematicians, scientists, the odd chess player and other academics backed by numerous civil servants and military men and women. It grew to over 12,000 by the end of the war. Early computers were developed to crack the codes. The first was the Bombe based on Polish designs. It was later supplemented by the Colossus machine built by telephone engineers at Dollis Hill, North West London.

comment on the Enigma movie's history value here:
However, lest the British critics get too self righteous about the fact that this film "finally sets the record straight", let me point out that this film also obscures the true role of some important and brilliant heroes of the story. In particular, upon reading the true history one learns that the first key steps in breaking the Enigma (involving bravery, brilliance and a bit of clever engineering) was done by some Polish mathematicians just before the Nazi invasion of Poland. It was only upon receiving help from them that the British first started making headway. Not only does the movie version Enigma not mention this part of the story, it vilifies the only Polish character in the film!

I remember a Mick Jagger interview (he developed and produced the Enigma movie project) where he described this hilarious (or appalling, you decide) meeting with Hollywood money men where they kept insisting: "We can't have the Brits cracking the code -- can't we change the script and have American characters and an American location?"
I also remember the same game with that submarine movie -- the Brits characters suddendly became American, rewriting history with a movie camera.

you can't disappoint those focus groups in Omaha, I guess.
posted by matteo at 10:56 AM on March 25, 2004

That's an interesting slant, Matteo. I think that's the first time I've ever seen the claim that MI6 had a mole in the Enigma factory. I've always seen stories similar to what David Kahn outlines in Seizing the Enigma and The Codebreakers.
posted by joaquim at 1:31 PM on March 25, 2004

"We can't have the Brits cracking the code -- can't we change the script and have American characters and an American location?"

That, I think, sums up Hollywood.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:37 PM on March 25, 2004

very good blog post at nmazca elaborating on this whole story, and with more links about it.
posted by amberglow at 3:47 PM on March 25, 2004

Salon article on Edmonds.
posted by homunculus at 8:27 PM on March 25, 2004's spreading--maybe actual TV news will pick it up?
posted by amberglow at 8:31 PM on March 25, 2004

Hmmm, nothing in that Salon piece about being ordered to change translations.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:06 AM on March 26, 2004

thanks jak-um.
like I said, the brits cracked enigma and the poles provided the first machine. Yes, the poles started but the brits cracked it.

now shall we talk about the purple machine and MAGIC.
posted by clavdivs at 8:01 AM on March 26, 2004

(ok, i broke rule 36# and that is not to argue with Q, but the clown clause was ineffective and...)

ok, i was going along with Q's timeline of Coventry bombing, late 1940. MISTAKE.

By this time ENIGMA was decrypting with Turings Bombe.

Because of the germans upgraded security, the machine was not yielding data so they turned it over to the brits. (39') The rational was they had the resources for a larger Bombe.

but the brits where not the first to crack the device, the british where the first to make the latest model work by the time the war was increasing.
1926 the Poles had a devise, 1931 it was operational. Then the French helped them out. 1932, they where getting data again. 1938 the idea for bombe was...
and in 39', a machine was turned over to the brits.
therefore i apologize.
dam you Q.
dam youuuuu.... {eyes everlastinggobbstopper}

posted by clavdivs at 1:17 PM on March 26, 2004

my second german teacher was named Joaquim and said to the class on the first day that none of us would know how to pronounce his name for which i took the bait and said "naturlich" because there about 40 variations on the name, perhaps more or less, whereas one of us may guess an mangeled version of one perhaps two but the real way is to call you on the telephone after class then inquire as to some meaningless business and ask in a polite tone "how do you say that professor....". Needless to say i dropped the class.
posted by clavdivs at 1:24 PM on March 26, 2004

posted by clavdivs at 1:24 PM on March 26, 2004

more from the Independent:
She said said it was clear there was sufficient information during the spring and summer of 2001 to indicate terrorists were planning an attack. .... "President Bush said they had no specific information about 11 September and that is accurate but only because he said 11 September," she said. There was, however, general information about the use of airplanes and that an attack was just months away.
posted by amberglow at 5:53 PM on April 1, 2004

and in the Observer, an article by Gail Sheehy
posted by amberglow at 12:42 PM on April 3, 2004

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