WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI contract linguist who was terminated in 2002 after becoming a whistleblower regarding the 9/11 tragedy, today filed the most detailed lawsuit to date outlining her allegations. The complaint, filed under the Federal Torts Claims Act (FTCA), reveals for the first time details surrounding Ms. Edmonds’ interactions with a former FBI colleague who raised suspicions by her perceived efforts to recruit the Edmonds into at least two Turkish organizations. Also disclosed are the names of those within the FBI who went out of their way to undercut Ms. Edmonds’ concerns.
“With Sibel’s prior litigation wrapped in secrecy by the government, this case will reveal for the first time the full extent of wrongdoing by the FBI, drawn entirely from its own internal investigation and unclassified sources,” said Roy W. Krieger, of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Krieger & Zaid, PLLC, which specializes in national security cases and represents Edmonds. Anticipating the government’s response, Krieger added that “the assertion of the state-secrets privilege in this case would be manifestly disingenuous because everything Sibel needs to prove in court in order to win is already stated in her complaint. Nothing is secret.”
Ms. Edmonds’ allegations of wrongdoing within the FBI translation unit were the subject of a two-year investigation by the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General (DOJ OIG). 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, Director Mueller noted that DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine also concluded that the FBI failed to “adequately pursue” Edmonds’ allegations of espionage against a co-worker. The 100-page report was classified secret in its entirety.
However, in January 2005, the Justice Department released an unclassified summary of its classified OIG report. Contrary to the statements issued by Director Mueller, the DOJ OIG conclusions were far more damning. Mr. Fine’s investigation found that many of Ms. Edmonds’ accusations “were supported, that the FBI did not take them seriously enough, and that her allegations were, in fact, the most significant factor in the FBI’s decision to terminate her services.”
“To date, not a single person in the FBI has been held accountable or criminally prosecuted despite public confirmation by the Inspector General’s Office and members of Congress that wrongdoing occurred. Unless, and until, those responsible are held accountable, no corrective action will be taken within the FBI, and the security of our nation will continue to suffer,” said Sibel Edmonds.
Edmonds’ efforts to expose the FBI’s misconduct and the retaliation she has suffered have 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 refused 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 to enhance the government’s legal position, 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.” The two letters were subsequently declassified.
“The FBI has done nothing but cover up its own incompetence and wrongdoing throughout its efforts to unconscionably and unlawfully silence Ms. Edmonds through excessive secrecy,” said Mark S. Zaid, who serves as co-counsel to Ms. Edmonds. Unfortunately, to date, the courts have been unwilling to challenge the executive branch’s actions, and it has become imperative for Congress to step up to the plate, added Zaid.
Edmonds, who speaks several foreign languages, 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. Edmonds, who recently testified before Congress, provided closed-door testimony to the 9/11 Commission and 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 case is presently on appeal before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and oral arguments are set for April 21, 2005. The American Civil Liberties Union serves as co-counsel in that case. This is the fourth lawsuit Ms. Edmonds has filed. In addition to the FTCA and termination cases, Ms. Edmonds has also filed two lawsuits under the Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts. Further information regarding Ms. Edmonds and the litigation can be reviewed at her Web site.