Whistleblower Sues for Release of 9/11 Info

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI contract linguist who was terminated in 2002 after becoming a whistleblower regarding the 9/11 tragedy, filed a lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts (FOIPA). The complaint seeks to compel the release of a secret investigative report, and related documents, compiled by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Inspector General (OIG). The DOJ OIG investigated Edmonds’ allegations for more than two years and has failed to abide by repeated promises – including those provided to Senators Charles Grassley (R, Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D, Vt.) in June 2002 – to complete its investigation in a timely fashion and release its findings.

On July 21, 2004, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III notified the Senate Judiciary Committee that the DOJ OIG had completed its investigation and concluded that Edmonds’ allegations “were at least a contributing factor” in her firing. Additionally, DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine also concluded that the FBI failed to “adequately pursue” Edmonds’ allegations of espionage against a coworker. Although the DOJ promised the Committee that a declassified summary would be released, and notwithstanding the fact that Edmonds’ FOIA request was granted expedited processing by the government in July 2004, to date not one page has been released.

“The Justice Department has continually sought to cover up the FBI’s misconduct with respect to Sibel Edmonds. When the documents are eventually released, they will likely reveal that the government once again improperly abused the classification process,” said Edmonds’ attorney Mark S. Zaid, who is the Managing Partner of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Krieger & Zaid, PLLC, which specializes in national security cases. Zaid added that the Justice Department’s classification assertions were primarily prompted by a desire to gain a litigation advantage against Edmonds.

Edmonds’ efforts to expose the FBI’s misconduct and the retaliation she has suffered has been plagued by the government’s zealous and excessive classification of information. Although Edmonds’ specific allegations were the subject of several unclassified congressional meetings held in 2002, the Justice Department refuses to allow her to discuss the information. In June 2004, the FBI notified all staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the information was now considered classified. The FBI’s move, allegedly at the behest of the Justice Department, prompted Senators Grassley and Leahy to remove two of their letters regarding Edmonds from their public Web sites. According to the e-mail notification, the government took this action because of “civil litigation in which the FBI is seeking to quash certain information.”

“This report is no doubt the tip of the iceberg. The Justice Department is ignoring numerous matters worthy of investigation. Rather than protecting our interests, the government’s actions are harming national security by withholding this information from the public and the congress,” said Sibel Edmonds.

Edmonds, who is Turkish-American, started working for the FBI immediately after the 9/11 attacks as a translator in the FBI’s Washington field office with top-secret security clearance. She was summarily dismissed in March 2002 after alleging that the FBI’s translation services were plagued by incompetence, a lack of urgency, numerous security breaches and intentional efforts by some FBI officials to withhold information from investigators. The FBI ignored her repeated efforts to raise these concerns with superiors. Earlier this year Edmonds provided closed-door testimony to the 9/11 Commission, and she is cited in its final report.

In July 2004, a federal judge dismissed Edmonds’ primary lawsuit against the FBI on the basis of the rarely invoked “state secrets privilege.” The government also prevented Edmonds from being deposed by 9/11 family members in their lawsuit against Saudi Arabia. A year earlier a different federal judge dismissed Edmonds’ FOIA case that sought release of her own FBI file on grounds of national security. Both decisions are currently on appeal before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

Copies of Edmonds’ FOIPA complaint are available upon request.