9-11 Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds Sues Ashcroft

Edmonds told us "The Senate Judiciary Committee and the 911 Commission have heard me testify for lengthy periods of time (3 hours) about very specific plots, dates, airplanes used as weapons, and specific individuals and activities."

Tom Flocco
9-11 whistleblower Sibel Edmonds sues Ashcroft
Wed Jun 23, 2004 21:35

Sibel Edmonds sues Ashcroft again for actions tied to 9-11 evidence

FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds sues Ashcroft and DOJ again, asserting that re-classification of her 9-11 allegations was illegal and unconstitutional

by Tom Flocco

Sibel Edmonds was fired for reporting information she uncovered in the FBI's translation unit in Washington. Attorney General Ashcroft said the national interests of the United States "would be seriously impaired" if Edmonds' findings were to be made available to the public; so he made the decision to classify public information still available on the Internet.

WASHINGTON -- June 24, 2004 2:45 pm -- Tom Flocco.com -- On behalf of former FBI contract linguist Sibel Edmonds, The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) sued Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Department of Justice (DOJ) today, seeking judicial reclassification of information that alleges corruption, incompetence and cover-ups in an FBI investigation unit.

POGO, a politically independent non-profit government watchdog, is challenging Ashcroft’s information reclassification and concomitant invocation of State Secret Privilege in the withholding of certain information that is widely available to the public.

The information is related to Sibel Edmonds’ allegations reported to her superiors concerning numerous instances of wrongdoing in the FBI translation unit--much of it closely linked to the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001.

Georgetown University Law Center professor David Vladeck and Public Citizen are representing POGO in the civil action.

Edmonds was fired for her assertions, but the information--unclassified at the time, was presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee and referenced in letters which were posted on the websites of U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA).

Subsequently, the letters were removed by the senators after Ashcroft reclassified the information via his State Secret Privilege invocation.

The group said in a complaint filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that "the reclassification of the information at issue was unlawful because defendants failed to comply with the requirements of Executive Order 12958, as amended by Executive Order 13292, and unconstitutional because it is a prior restraint that violated the First Amendment."

Danielle Brian, POGO’s executive director, said "We believe the Department of Justice reclassified the information to stifle congressional oversight of the department and shield it from legitimate public inquiry," adding, "it is absurd to reclassify information that has been in the public domain for so long. This is an entirely inappropriate use of the classification system."

Brian’s organization also said in a press release today that "the suit contends that the information is not reasonably recoverable [captured back from public knowledge] because it was posted on the Web and remains available on numerous Web sites. Further, the DOJ’s reclassification of the information was not reported promptly to the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office."

On March 24, TomFlocco.com broke the original story of Sibel Edmonds’ first public press conference online within 45 minutes after she appeared, summarizing her FBI wrongdoing allegations in front of some 40 reporters and 12 television cameras outside the Senate Hart Office Building hearing room just after the 9/11 Commission had heard the testimony of Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet.

The former FBI translator told TomFlocco.com that "translators before me had ongoing personal relationships with the subjects or targets of the FBI and DOJ pre 9-11 investigations--linked to intercepts and other intelligence--in June - July - August, just prior to the attacks."

Edmonds told us "The Senate Judiciary Committee and the 911 Commission have heard me testify for lengthy periods of time (3 hours) about very specific plots, dates, airplanes used as weapons, and specific individuals and activities."

At the press conference Edmonds also revealed that she was offered a raise and a full time job to encourage her not to go public that she had been asked by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to retranslate and adjust the translations of [terrorist] subject intercepts that had been received before September 11, 2001 by the FBI and CIA.

Later in another story--after an April 26 9-11 Commission hearing, we asked Edmonds about previously reported evidence she uncovered implicating espionage in the FBI and State Department, to which she replied, "As you know, I cannot say much about that; but why do you think Attorney General Ashcroft asserted State Secret Privilege in my case when I decided to go public with what I had found in the translations?"

We also asked Edmonds if she thought spies in the FBI and State Department contacted al Qaeda operatives--confirmed to be living in the United States--about ongoing plans for President Bush’s new government policy directive [signed on September 4, 2001] which would authorize tightened American security just prior to the attacks.

Edmonds told us, "You’ll have to ask the Attorney General about that," but she added somewhat cryptically, "I can say that Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has said that the information I have is ‘very credible.’ "

The original letters regarding unclassified briefings on June 17 and July 9, 2002 between the Senate Judiciary Committee and the FBI containing information posted on Grassley and Leahy’s websites have come under political and legal scrutiny of late.

Curiously, on May 13, after the March 24 and April 26 stories on TomFlocco.com and a number of other media outlets--particularly in the United Kingdom--were in full circulation, an email was sent to the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to information contained in the POGO/Edmonds complaint.

Within about ten days after our initial March 24 story was posted, Meet the Press host Tim Russert held up a Sibel Edmonds story from a UK media outlet and discussed the Sibel Edmonds case--apparently not wishing to credit independent and alternative media with bringing the issue to the public’s attention on the day of Sibel Edmonds' first public press conference.

The POGO complaint revealed that the Senate Judiciary Committee email said "the FBI considers some of the information from the two Judiciary Committee hearings to be classified, and warned staffers not to disseminate further the information."

It remains to be seen whether the email could have been interpreted as a legal threat to Grassley and Leahy’s staffers, but also whether allegations related to al Qaeda espionage in the FBI and State Department will reach widespread public awareness.

The complaint said that "in the wake of [Attorney General Ashcroft’s] decision to reclassify the information from the briefings, two letters from Senators Leahy and Grassley were removed from their websites, although they remain available from other Internet sources."

POGO also asserted that the DOJ has violated the group’s First Amendment Rights: "The reclassification of the documents has stifled public discussion regarding the adequacy of the FBI’s translation capabilities and Ms. Edmonds’ reports of problems in the translation unit."

"The reclassification of information that is so widely available to the public is a new step in John Ashcroft’s push for secrecy," said Michael Kirkpatrick, the Public Citizen attorney handling the case:

"We have been doing national security litigation for more that 30 years, and in our view, this is the most egregious misuse of the classification authority we’ve seen. Classification is to keep secret information that is sensitive. It is not to suppress debate over widely public information. Yet that is exactly what Ashcroft is doing."

Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Allan Duncan contributed additional research for this story.

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