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Skip to comments.Arab Translators Cheered 911
Posted on 01/07/2004 9:30:38 AM PST by Leatherneck_MT
By Paul Sperry © 2004 WorldNetDaily.com
WASHINGTON In a shocking revelation, an FBI whistleblower claims some Arab-Americans translating Arabic intercepts for the FBI spoke approvingly of the terrorist attacks on America more than two years ago.
Former FBI translator Sibel D. Edmonds says translators of Middle Eastern origin working for the FBI's Washington field office maintain an "us"-versus-"them" attitude that's so strong it may be compromising al-Qaida investigations.
She cited examples of mistranslations and security breaches within the FBI's language division, where translators with Top Secret clearance interpret sensitive terror-related information for agents.
"The issues and problems within the FBI's translation units range from security failures to questions of loyalty to competence of translation personnel to systemic problems within their low-to-mid-level management practices," Edmonds said.
She made the explosive charges Monday in a letter to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, an independent panel investigating the 9-11 attacks and U.S. intelligence leading up to them. WorldNetDaily has obtained a copy of the 9-page letter.
Edmonds, a translator who worked closely with FBI counterterrorism and counterintelligence agents at an office within blocks of the Washington field office, said she overheard some translators express sympathy for the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
"During my work with the bureau, I was seriously taken aback by what I heard and witnessed within the translation department," she said. "There were those who openly divided the fronts as 'Us' the Middle-Easterners who shared certain views and 'Them' the Americans who were the outsiders [whose] arrogance was now 'leading to their own destruction.'"
Not long after the attacks, Edmonds said one translator said: "It is about time that they get a taste of what they have been giving to the rest of the Middle East."
She says the remark was made in front of the unit supervisor, also of Middle Eastern origin.
"These comments were neither rare nor made in a whisper," Edmonds said. "They were open and loud."
She says such attitudes call into question "the integrity and accuracy" of information Arabic translators are feeding agents.
Edmonds says agents who don't speak Arabic have no way of knowing whether the information they receive from translators is tainted.
"They simply have to trust the information given to them by translators," she said, "and based on that, decide to act or not act."
Decisions to release terrorist suspects taken into custody are also based on translations of interviews with those suspects, she argues.
Remarkably, agents don't even have direct security access to the translation unit, Edmonds says. They have to be escorted into the area by translators.
She says she caught a Turkish translator intentionally blocking intelligence from being translated by labeling it as "not pertinent." The translator also intentionally mistranslated documents and other information, she says. And she alleges the same linguist, Melek Can Dickerson, was granted security clearance by the FBI despite ties to targets of FBI investigations.
After she brought the alleged breaches to the attention of her supervisors, Edmonds was fired by the FBI. Her termination letter does not state a reason.
Edmonds filed a lawsuit, but Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller got a federal judge to block it by asserting the extremely rare claim of "State Secret Privilege."
And her lawyers say Justice's inspector general is slow-walking an internal review of her case, even though the office has criticized the FBI for security lapses in recent reports, some related to the language program. In fact, a Nov. 15, 2002, IG report states: "A language specialist was dismissed for unauthorized contacts with foreign officials and intelligence officers, receipts of things of value from them and lack of candor in his convoluted and contradictory responses to questions about his contacts."
Most of Edmonds' charges have been confirmed by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who have quizzed the FBI about her case. Edmonds sent a copy of her 9-page letter to Grassley, one of the FBI's biggest critics on the Hill.
The FBI blamed the security lapses on a chronic shortage of Arabic translators, which has forced it to hire mostly immigrants from the Middle East, which makes background checks more difficult.
The Washington field office did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.
But the chief of the FBI's language section, Margaret Gullota, has insisted in congressional testimony that the FBI hasn't loosened its standards in recruiting Arabic-speaking translators since 9-11.
Edmonds isn't the only one complaining, though.
John Cole, program manager for the FBI foreign intelligence investigations covering India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, told Congress about what he believed to be a security lapse regarding the screening and hiring of translators.
And Donald Lavey, who worked in counterterrorism for 20 years at the FBI, recalled loyalty issues with a former Arab translator in the FBI's Detroit office. He said wiretap translations by Mideast-born agents should have a "second opinion," because their backgrounds may "prejudice" their interpretation and analysis.
Such prejudice has been borne out at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where two Army translators have been arrested on suspicion of espionage. They were assigned to interpret information collected from al-Qaida and Taliban detainees.
Edmonds notes the FBI has sent an unqualified translator to Gitmo to translate interrogations of Turkish-speaking al-Qaida members captured after 9-11. She says the translator, Kevin Taskesen, failed a Turkish proficiency test and a basic English proficiency test. She says he previously worked as a busboy at a Middle Eastern restaurant.
Phone calls to Taskesen's FBI office were not immediately returned.
Both Lavey and Edmonds note translators often exclude large sections of Arabic dialogue as irrelevant to the investigation, when in fact, they may be relevant.
"There are thousands of translated documents/information and documents that were labeled as 'not pertinent to be translated' by certain translators before and after Sept. 11, that need to, and have to, be retranslated and re-examined," Edmonds wrote in her letter.
Also, she says some Arab-American translators, including a supervisor, threatened to sue the FBI for discrimination after complaints were filed against them.
"In one case, a certain individual ended up getting a supervisory position, even though initially he was refused due to his questionable past, incompetence and fraudulent invoices" for expenses, Edmonds said. She declined to reveal his name.
Edmonds says she is working with some families of 9-11 victims to lobby the 9-11 Commission to investigate the Arabic translation department at the FBI.
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