by Tom Flocco
Washington — Former FBI contract translator and whistleblower Sibel Edmonds and her attorneys were ordered removed from the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse so that a three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals panel could discuss her case in private with Bush administration lawyers.
The irrepressible Mr. Flocco’s take on the Perils of Sibel.
In an exclusive interview on Saturday, we asked Edmonds if she would deny that laundered drug money linked to the 911 attacks found its way into recent House, Senate and Presidential campaign war-chests, according to what she heard in intelligence intercepts she was asked to translate.
“I will not deny that statement; but I cannot comment further on it,” she told TomFlocco.com, in a non-denial denial.
Edmonds is appealing the Bush administration’s arcane use of “state secrets privilege,” invoked last year to throw out her U.S. District Court lawsuit alleging retaliation for telling FBI superiors about shoddy wiretap translations and allegations that wiretap information was passed to the target of an FBI investigation. Given our multiple reports and numerous other interviews, Edmonds heard much more–but enough to warrant public suppression of criminal evidence by a wholly Republican appeals court panel?
“Tom, I’m telling you that not a single newspaper covered what happened to me on Thursday when I went into court,” said the exasperated translator, adding, “[Judge David] Ginsberg kicked everyone out, cut off my lawyer’s arguments and told us ‘we have questions to ask the government’s attorneys that you cannot hear.’ ”
Criminal evidence in Edmonds’ explosive case is apparently getting too close to Washington officials, since the former contract linguist also told us she would not deny that “once this issue gets to be…investigated, you will be seeing certain [American] people that we know from this country standing trial; and they will be prosecuted criminally,” revealing the content of the FBI intercepts she heard indicates that recognizable, very high-profile American citizens are linked to the 911 attacks.
Edmonds implied that legislators and even lobbyists were benefiting from laundered narcotics proceeds in an earlier interview with the Baltimore Sun, “…this money travels. And you start trying to go to the root of it and it’s getting into somebody’s political campaign, and somebody’s lobbying. And people don’t want to be traced back to this money.”
So the Bush administration’s Department of Justice enlisted its taxpayer-funded lawyers to petition a Republican U.S. Appeals Court to suppress Sibel Edmonds’ criminal evidence allegations–linked to a 3,000 death mass murder–in the name of “state secrets.”
When we asked how many Americans were named in the intercepts, Edmonds said “There is direct evidence involving no more than ten American names that I recognized,” further revealing that “some are heads of government agencies or politicians–but I don’t want to go any further than that,” as we listened in stunned silence.
When asked in 2002 by CBS 60 Minutes co-host Ed Bradley, “did she seem credible to you? Did her story seem credible?” Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) said “Absolutely, she’s credible. And the reason I feel she’s very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story.”
Plaintiff and attorneys asked to leave courtroom
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said “the court orally instructed the clerk that the hearing would be open only to the attorneys involved in the case and Edmonds.”
During Thursday’s arguments, the volatility of Edmonds’ charges and the high officials it may criminally implicate prompted what looked to be a one-sided hearing, reminiscent of a medieval kangaroo court where rights and precepts of justice are ignored and the outcome is usually known beforehand.
All three judges who removed Edmonds and her attorneys are Republicans: Douglas Ginsburg and David Sentelle, having been appointed by Ronald Reagan, and Karen LeCraft Henderson who was tapped in 1990 by President George W. Bush’s father, former President George H. W. Bush.
“Judge Ginsberg said ‘I am asking the plaintiff and her attorneys to stand outside;’ then they had government officers standing at the door to prevent anyone from listening. And after about 25 minutes, they came out and said ‘we have finished questioning the government attorneys and we don’t need you anymore, so you are free to leave,’ ” said the crestfallen former translator.
“I cannot be present at my own hearing; and not a single paper was there Thursday to cover the story–even though all of my allegations were supported by the FBI Inspector General’s report and my case involves 911 and national security,” said Edmonds.
Assistant Director Dale Watson: FBI’s Mr. Fix-it?
Edmonds told another paper “I took [the allegations] to higher levels all the way up to [assistant FBI director] Dale Watson and Director [Robert] Mueller. And, again, I was asked not to take this any further and just let it be. And if I didn’t do that they would retaliate against me,” according to the Baltimore Sun.
Despite the court’s unprecedented actions, the Inspector General said Edmonds’ allegations to her superiors about a co-worker “raised serious concerns that, if true, could potentially have extremely damaging consequences for the FBI,” having also concluded that the Bureau did not adequately investigate the allegations and that Edmonds was retaliated against for speaking out to protect the United States.
The former FBI translator had already linked laundered illegal narcotics money and terrorism to recent U.S. political campaigns in an earlier statement made to the Baltimore paper, “…you have money laundering activities, drug related activities, and terrorist support activities converging at certain points and becoming one….they are citing ‘foreign relations’ which is not the case….we are not talking about only government levels. And I keep underlining semi-legit organizations and following the money.”
When we pressed Edmonds as to whether she would deny that FBI Assistant Director Dale Watson had prior knowledge of the 911 attacks, she quickly said, “no comment,” carefully adhering to her judicial gag order–and not revealing all she knows.
Watson came under scrutiny when we attended one of the 911 Commission Hearings when Richard Clarke, former Bush Administration National Coordinator for Counterterrorism for the National Security Council (NSC), was asked “Who gave the final approval for the bin Laden family to leave the country without being interviewed?”
Clarke answered that it could have been the “Inter-Agency Crisis Management Group, but most likely it was the White House Chief of Staff’s office or the State Department.” [according to this writer’s notes / Commission transcripts for March 23 – 24, 2004 are available at http://www.9-11commission.gov/archive/index.htm]
When Commissioner Tim Roemer asked “why the Saudis were allowed to leave the country, who was on the planes, how many, and why the decision was made,” Clarke said the government “feared for their lives…some of them were bin Laden family members, and the Saudi embassy requested their evacuation.”
During testimony Clarke told Roemer “I refused to approve the [Saudi] request. I passed it on to [FBI Asst. Director] Dale Watson and the flight was approved….I don’t think they were ever interviewed in this country.” Only subpoenaed transcripts and/or video would negate Clarke’s assertion.
Dale Watson, who Clarke intimated as the sponsor of the FBI-approved flights and the decision not to interview bin Laden family members and other Saudi royals or citizens, was the former FBI Executive Asst. Director for Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Intelligence.
Interestingly, Watson led controversial investigations of the first World Trade Center attack, Oklahoma City bombing, East Africa Embassy bombings, Khobar Towers bombings, USS Cole bombing, the September 11 attacks and the anthrax attacks, before retiring in 2002 to assume a position with Booz Allen Hamilton.
Democrats in Congress have been strangely silent regarding the actions of the Republican court toward Sibel Edmonds; and she won’t reveal which politicians and high government agency officials were named in the intercepts–potentially linked to laundered 911 drug money which was likely used in U.S. political campaigns.
Uncomplicated drug money laundering
“It’s so simple,” Edmonds told TomFlocco.com. “Nobody is looking at the Department of Defense aspect of the whole 911 cover-up. The FBI is citing two reasons for my gag order: to protect ‘sensitive’ diplomatic relations and to protect foreign U.S. business relationships.”
TomFlocco.com broke the story of Sibel Edmonds’ first public press conference on March 24, 2004, when over 50 reporters and 12 news cameras did not publish the story for days. This, despite Edmonds’ allegations that she was offered a substantial raise and a full-time job to encourage her not to go public that she had been asked by the Department of Justice to adjust translations of [terrorist] subject intercepts that had been received before September 11, 2001 by the FBI and CIA. Kristen Breitweiser, 911 family member and spokeswoman, arranged to have Ms. Edmonds address the media in a public press conference for the first time, right after Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet testified before the 911 Commission.
In attempting to let the American people how close the 911 cover-up comes to home, Edmonds told us, “I will say this: the FBI is only a mouthpiece for the State Department. The State Department is the main reason for the cover-up. It has to do with foreign business relationships and who they are…Pakistan, Turkey…espionage in the State Department…preventing an investigation.”
The former FBI translator has implicated everything “from drugs to money laundering to arms sales. And yes, there are certain convergences with all these activities and international terrorism,” adding “they don’t deal with 1 or 5 million dollars, but with hundreds of millions.”
In an interview with the website Antiwar, Edmonds cryptically pronounced “…as for the politicians, what I can say is that when you start talking about huge amounts of money, certain elected officials become automatically involved. And there are different kinds of campaign contributions–legal and illegal, declared and undeclared.”
Espionage and treason?
Edmonds has reported information about an FBI translator named Jan Dickerson whose husband, U.S. Air Force Major David Dickerson, belonged to a Turkish organization which was an investigative target of the FBI’s own counter-intelligence unit.
Edmonds said Major Dickerson told her husband that “all you have to do is tell them where your wife works and what she does, and they will let you in like that…They wanted to sell me for the information I could provide, basically.”
Jan Dickerson insisted to Edmonds that she be the only one to translate the FBI’s wiretaps of a Turkish official, according to CBS 60 Minutes, which added that Edmonds revealed that Jan Dickerson told her, “Why would you want to place your life and your family’s lives in danger by translating these tapes?”
CBS host Ed Bradley said Edmonds found that “Dickerson had left out information crucial to the FBI’s investigation; information that Edmonds says would have revealed that the Turkish intelligence officer had spies working for him inside both the U.S. State Department and the Department of Defense at the Pentagon.”
After reporting evidence of espionage in December, 2001–right after the 911 attacks, Edmonds told an FBI special agent who had also harbored suspicions about the Dickersons and they pursued the issue; but Bureau heads said they were never notified despite Edmonds’ proof to the contrary.
She said the FBI permitted other targets of the investigation, key people…foreign nationals based in the U.S….to flee the country “right up through January and February, 2002–five months after the 911 attacks.”
Edmonds has said in the past that “I reported some of the suspects’ names higher up as I came across them in our investigation. And you know what? Within two weeks, they had all left the country. Just vanished.”
Given the astonishing allegations, the strange actions of the appeals court and congressional silence on the current matter, questions can be raised as to who is on which team.
According to Edmonds, only two weeks after the Air Force convened a formal investigation, Jan and David Dickerson were permitted to leave the country on September 9, 2002–about a year after September 11.
Edmonds also said during the whole month the Dickersons were being subpoenaed, starting in June, 2002, Jan Dickerson continued to work in the FBI translations department–with a top-secret security clearance; and even though the Bureau admitted to a congressional committee that Jan Dickerson worked for the suspect organization in the past and had maintained ongoing relationships with at least two individuals under investigation, according to her interview with Antiwar.
Protecting high government officials
Special agent John Roberts, a chief of the FBI’s Internal Affairs Department told CBS 60 Minutes that “I don’t know of another person in the FBI who has done the internal investigation 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.”
When asked by Bradley whether he had found cases since 911 where people were involved in misconduct and were not, let alone reprimanded, but were even promoted, Roberts replied, “Oh, yes. Absolutely.”
In October, 2002, former Attorney General John Ashcroft asked the court to dismiss Edmonds’ case on grounds it would compromise national security; and the FBI declined to discuss the specifics of her case on grounds that it would harm national security.
911 insider trading subject to “national security” restrictions?
We also wanted to know whether Edmonds thought the three Republican appeals court judges were taking drastic steps to clothe their private talks with Bush administration attorneys in secrecy for the purpose of conspiring to shield members of the President’s hierarchy from criminal prosecution and possible treason linked to the events of September 11.
So we ended the interview with a question dealing with the only area of 911 evidence not subject to the standard but evasive invocation of “national security,” the secret “control list” of all stock trades–both puts and calls–and the master list of those individuals and entities making insider stock market trades prior to the 911 attacks about which the same FBI said “we didn’t find anything incriminating.”
While only a subpoena, testimony and questioning by non-political, career prosecutors will properly answer the insider trading question, we asked Sibel Edmonds the big question anyway–given the above FBI track record implicating espionage:
Do you deny that the FBI intercepts you translated indicated that financial arrangements were in place well before the 911 attacks to both fund and profit from the World Trade Center and Pentagon “terrorism” while also facilitating the laundering of drug money into recent congressional and presidential campaigns?
“I cannot comment on that, Tom. You know I’m under a gag order,” she said.
That should tell the American people all they need to know.