Skip to comments.Press ignores classified info scandal involving actual terrorists-(prison translators not cleared!)
Posted on 07/26/2005 4:13:57 PM PDT by CHARLITE
While the media has obsessed over two high-profile cases in recent months involving improper handling of classified information, communications involving terrorists have been getting translated by people without any security clearancesand theres been nary a whimper from most of the Washington press corps.
There are 119 inmates in the federal prison system with specific ties to international Islamic terrorist organizations, and almost all of them are able to communicate with the outside world through phone calls and letters. (Full disclosure: this journalist broke the story on the front page of the Washington Times two weeks ago.) Not only did the Bureau of Prisons have, until recently, no full-time Arabic translators, but the people they wereand still areusing have undergone no special background check beyond the pro forma one conducted on all federal employees.
To put it simply, the communications of 119 convicted and suspected terrorists housed in federal prisons are being handled by people who have no security clearances. They havent been put through a polygraph test, had their family histories thoroughly vetted, their character analyzed, or their neighbors interviewedall basic elements of investigations required before granting someone security clearances.
While the mainstream press has showed little appetite for a story with obvious national security implications, it has feasted on every morsel in the Karl Rove-Joe Wilson-Valerie Plame kerfuffle. Its true that the law may have been broken, but that is the job of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to determine. Yet the press corps has been playing judge and jury, analyzing what we do knowfrom every possible angle.
But as it stands now, it appears that no law was broken. Mike Isikoff at Newsweek has provided the most information, and his reporting on an e-mail written by Time reporter Matt Cooper suggests that the journalist brought up the topic of Wilson and that Rove mentioned neither Ms. Plames name nor her covert status. This doesnt necessarily mean no laws were broken, but it should at the least dampen the hyperbolic speculation.
Unfortunately, it hasnt.
Another recent scandal centered on classified information was also quite the rageuntil getting bumped by the now white-hot Plame game. Defense Department analyst Larry Franklin was charged with improper handling of classified information, allegedly discussing the administration's internal policy debates on Iran with lobbyists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Hundreds of stories were written on the topic, from the possibility that Franklin had committed espionageof which he was not eventually chargedto the possibility that the two AIPAC lobbyists would be indicted, which still looks likely. Just as with the Rove-Plame affair, the law could have been violated. But what is known thus far does not indicate any serious breach of national security.
Though there is no evidence that national security has been compromised by the Arabic translators used by the Bureau of Prisons, the possibility that it has cannot be ignored. And unlike the two cases the media drools over, the threat posed by BOPs procedures is ongoing.
Explains a veteran FBI agent, Anytime you have someone translating communications of a terrorist, of course that person should have been polygraphed [and have a security clearance]. Adds another federal law enforcement official, It goes without saying that people who translate for the USG [U.S. government] on any level or matter without a security clearance is absolutely preposterous and should not be tolerated.
Communications of the 119 imprisoned terrorists are apparently not classifiedwhich is why BOPs translators have no clearancesbut common sense dictates that they should be. What if one of BOPs translators has family in Yemen or Syria, or some other nation, and secretly harbors resentment for the United States? Or what if one of them learns something and sells his knowledge to the highest bidder?
Yet even if the 17 BOP employees who voluntarily do translations in addition to their full-time work (that is their system) are loyal Americans of unimpeachable integrityand they easily might beBOP has no idea how well any of them actually understand Arabic. BOP does not test its translators for fluency.
Even basic fluency, though, isnt always enough. Anything said or written by a terrorist, even if innocuous on its face, could have some larger meaning not detected by a layman. A colloquialism used by a Saudi, for example, might not be picked up by someone who primarily speaks the Egyptian dialect of Arabic.
Seemingly in response to inquiries from this journalist and from Capitol Hill, BOP has already made at least a surface improvement in hiring one full-time translator, with plans to hire one more. That was just from one article.
Imagine what could happen if just a fraction of the Rove-Plame media maelstrom could instead focus on the scandal involving terrorists.
Thanks good post
"...communications involving terrorists have been getting translated by people without any security clearancesand theres been nary a whimper from most of the Washington press corps."
Mowbray rules! His book on the State Department is one of the 5 most important books on America I know of published in recent years:
Dangerous Diplomacy, How the State Department Threatens America's Security, Joel Mowbray, Regenery Publishing, Inc., 2003
Thanks for the excellent post.
Thanks for your comment, and for mentioning Mowbray's book. This is very serious business.....the deterioration of the CIA and State Department over the past several decades. It is of great concern.......and worse, if what I've read and heard is correct........that Muslims have gradually weaseled their way into many of the high positions in our government. Are they "loyal Americans?"...or are they sleepers?
"Thanks for your comment, and for mentioning Mowbray's book. This is very serious business.....the deterioration of the CIA and State Department over the past several decades. It is of great concern..."
True. However, I think there may be very good news in regard to the CIA. Bush recently appointed a man named Goss to head the CIA. I heard he is quite good, and I read that many top employees were resigning amid much consternation.
"....that Muslims have gradually weaseled their way into many of the high positions in our government."
That's what I haven't heard about yet. Indeed, potentially a great concern.