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Sibel Edmonds’s Secrets

Sibel Edmonds is no stranger to longtime TAC readers. I wrote an article [1] exploring some of her claims back in January 2008, a blog item [2] in August 2009, and Kara Hopkins and I did an interview [3] with her for the November 2009 issue of the magazine. It was featured on the cover as “Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds? [4]

Edmonds has recently written a book entitled Classified Woman [5] detailing her journey from FBI translator to whistleblower, finally emerging as an outspoken advocate of free speech and transparency in government through her founding of the National Security Whistleblowers’ Coalition and her always informative Boiling Frogs Post website.

As Edmonds ruefully notes, her tale of high level mendacity has always found a better reception [6] in the European and Asian media than in the United States, though her odyssey has included an appearance on “60 Minutes” in October 2002 and a feature article in Vanity Fair called “An Inconvenient Patriot” in September 2005. Two senators, Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy, became interested in her case early on and found her a credible witness, as did a U.S. Department of Justice IG’s report. She speculates that that her ostracism by the Fourth Estate, and also by congressmen who were ostensibly engaged in elevating government ethics, is due to the fact that both Republicans and Democrats were parties to the criminal behavior that she describes. In one particularly delicious account of high level shenanigans she recounts how an interview with Congressman Henry Waxman’s House Oversight and Government Reform staff was stopped abruptly when a staffer asked her if any Democrats were involved. “We have to stop here and not go any further. We don’t want to know,” he intoned after she confirmed that the malfeasance was not strictly GOP.

I will not even try to reconstruct all the twists and turns that Edmonds describes in her 341 pages, but rest assured that she has the ability to surprise one with new revelations, even for readers like myself who have been following her case. Edmonds’s tale is basically about high level incompetence at the FBI both before and after 9/11, including hiring translators who could not speak the language they were translating or who were former employees of the organizations being investigated, leading to deliberately falsified translations. The translators and their supervisors would engage in go-slows, sabotage of work already done, and padding of accounts within the department to create a backlog of work and red ink, thus encouraging budget increases and more resources to rectify the shortfalls. Laptops and files containing classified information regularly disappeared. Attempts to report security problems were routinely ignored as all levels within the bureau because no one wanted to make anyone look bad. One Edmonds supervisor described the translation department as “drowned in corruption, incompetence, nepotism, you name it…” but then proceeded to do nothing about it. Bear in mind that this was after 9/11, when the government was on high alert and allegedly fully focused on security issues.


Perhaps more disturbing, Edmonds describes a number of failures to appreciate significant intelligence that might have enabled the government to foil 9/11, all part and parcel of a pervasive underlying narrative of espionage and corruption by high level government officials, both appointed and elected. She names names at the bureau, in Congress, and also at the State Department and Pentagon, including Congressmen Dennis Hastert, Dan Burton, Roy Blunt, Bob Livingston, Stephen Solarz, and Tom Lantos. She also fingers Douglas Feith, who headed the Office of Special Plans at the Pentagon, and Marc Grossman, who was the third ranking official at the State Department. Per Edmonds, all were part of the vast criminal enterprise that stole U.S. defense secrets, diverted weapons sales through false end-user certificates, participated in drug trafficking, and engaged in money laundering and bribery. The epicenter of the activity was Turkey and its major affiliates in the U.S., the American Turkish Council and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, which were two of the targets that Edmonds worked on, but she also learned that there was a parallel organization in Israel which cooperated with the Turks, most particularly on illegal weapons sales and technology transfers. Chicago was a focal point for the Turkish efforts, apparently due to good access to then House Speaker Hastert. The Israelis and Turks between them operated a number of front companies and had agents reporting to them who provided information from inside top secret nuclear weapons labs. Most of the buyers for the technology and weapons were governments in Asia, though there was at least one non-state player that might have had connections with terrorist groups.

The government’s response to Edmonds’s claims has been to gag her through exercise of the State Secrets Privilege, which is designed to prevent the release of classified information, but which has been abused by both the Bush and Obama administrations to stop troublesome judicial proceedings without having to show cause. The first State Secrets Privilege invocation against her was followed up by a second order making the gag retroactive and extending it to any conversations or documents that Edmonds had shared with individual congressmen. And not only has she been forbidden to speak of what she learned at the FBI, her identity is also classified. She cannot tell anyone where she was born or when, what languages she speaks, where she was educated, or where she has worked. Today’s national security environment in which First Amendment rights are vanishing reaches its culmination in Sibel Edmonds, whose entire life has been apparently placed off limits.

Edmonds reports how the translation of a telephone intercept that she was reviewing for accuracy apparently referred to 9/11, though its importance had not been noted by her predecessor. The conversation took place in Pakistan in July 2001 involving two men talking about obtaining blueprints for buildings and bridges, clearly part of the planning for the actual attacks. One day after 9/11 the same men congratulated each other and started to plan for the next series of attacks “using young women between the ages of 18 and 24…” Edmonds’s attempts to get FBI to follow up and possibly identify some of the perpetrators after the fact failed to gain any traction as her superiors in the translations bureau felt they would look bad owing to their failure to correctly interpret the conversations first time around.

And then there was the case of an Iranian source who reported in the spring and summer of 2001 very specific information that Osama bin Laden was planning a major terrorist attack against the United States using planes. As the summer waned, he reported that the attack was imminent and asked, “Are they going to do something about it?” They didn’t, and then covered it up to conceal the failure. There were also French intelligence sources providing names of the terrorists preparing to stage the attacks and other reports that the Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, was somehow either involved or had knowledge of what was about to occur. There was no follow-up anywhere due to sheer incompetence, and subsequent attempts by Edmonds and some knowledgeable FBI officers to have the issues addressed by the 9/11 commission for inclusion in its report were rebuffed, meaning that the report that finally surfaced was a predictable more-or-less uncritical government review of what the government had or had not done, ascribing the failure to anticipate 9/11 to poor communications rather than to the egregious mishandling of available intelligence. A commission that had been established to establish accountability consequently did everything it could to avoid punishing anyone.

The increasingly kleptocratic attempts by the government to silence Edmonds were sometimes Kafkaesque. Instructed by a supervisor to secretly prepare a memo at home so no one might access it on her office computer she was later threatened by the same supervisor with possible criminal charges for doing classified work on an unsecured machine, which was subsequently confiscated. When Edmonds finally went to trial in a challenge to her gag order, the panel of three federal judges required her and her lawyers to leave the room while the government presented its case “due to the sensitivity and secrecy involved.” Not surprisingly, the court upheld the State Secrets Privilege and to this day Edmonds has never been informed of the actual charges against her.

Classified Woman relies on reconstructed conversations to tell its story, and one should accept that at least some of the dialogue might be based on recollections that could well be challenged due to the passage of time. But there should be little doubt that Sibel Edmond’s central thesis, that government incompetence and corruption are issues that politicians and state bureaucracies would rather discuss than do anything about, has been around for a while and is with us still.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

30 Comments (Open | Close)

30 Comments To "Sibel Edmonds’s Secrets"

#1 Comment By William Leach On November 23, 2012 @ 2:09 am

Interesting stuff, but Im not clear on how she is publishing this book if tge government is treating her as the article claims.

#2 Comment By geronimo On November 23, 2012 @ 5:43 am

she should flee to China or Russia, she would have more civil rights there, and i’m not being ironic nor sarcastic. Her problems only show that America is an imperial dictatorship, and the elites pulled a Julius Ceasar on us.

#3 Comment By Aditya Barot On November 23, 2012 @ 9:14 am

I agree. How is she publishing if she’s so oppressed?

#4 Comment By Carl Lowland On November 23, 2012 @ 9:35 am

I have the same confusion as Mr. Leach here, but I would add that I have serious doubt about Turkey being a national secrets spy.

#5 Comment By An Anachronistic Apostle On November 23, 2012 @ 9:51 am

Interesting stuff, but Im not clear on how she is publishing this book if tge government is treating her as the article claims.

Yes. That occurrence could indeed raise an eyebrow or two, initially.

However, the author of the interesting stuff has himself provided something of a lapel-grabbing explanation, within the body of the essay, which provides all the heaven-opening clarity one needs: “There was no follow-up anywhere due to sheer incompetence…”

#6 Comment By name On November 23, 2012 @ 10:13 am

@William Leach: See National Whistleblower’s Center: FBI Attempts to Hold Sibel Edmonds’ Book Hostage at [7]

Also listen to interview at [8]

#7 Comment By name On November 23, 2012 @ 10:17 am

Interview with Edmonds starts at 26:25

#8 Comment By Lorraine B. On November 23, 2012 @ 10:33 am

She is an American hero for braving the tyranny to make public these facts. I read her book a few months back and frankly, if she were living in, oh Pakistan, I would not be surprised if there was a drone with her name on it.

#9 Comment By Philip Giraldi On November 23, 2012 @ 10:49 am

William et al – I would not want to answer for Sibel, but I do know that when Kara Hopkins and I interviewed her in late 2009 she had decided to begin to speak out and was willing to face the consequences, whatever they might be. I do not know what the government has done to silence her since that time. To my mind, she has made some very specific and highly plausible claims about government malfeasance and incompetence that have not been responded to by either the Bureau or the Justice Department.

#10 Comment By Bill Bergman On November 23, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

Thanks for this, Philip, along with your earlier excellent interview with her for The American Conservative. This stuff still shocks the conscience, and calls for further investigations and justice in a few areas.

#11 Comment By Richard Steven Hack On November 23, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

I’ve been following Sibel’s story for some time. It’s probably THE most important story which no US media will ever touch.

Interested parties should also check out her Web site Boiling Frogs:

#12 Comment By Carl Lowland On November 23, 2012 @ 3:55 pm

“…she speculates…”

Whistleblower or tabloid journalism from a former employee of the CIA trying to place blame for 9/11 upon the FBI and our elected officials, (but not the CIA), both sides of the isle….to sell a book? It’s the JFK assassination conspiracy theories all over again. With the entire Higher echelon of the United States trying to shut her up and they can’t do it? I’m sorry, but I won’t be buying into this one.

#13 Comment By James Canning On November 23, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

Carl Lowland – – Your reasoning?

#14 Comment By Richard “Ishmael” Scott On November 23, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

As a one who was a member of the Naval Nuclear Weapons Program and a 30-year Telecommunications professional as well as an American who CAN trace his ancestry back to the Mayflower, I applaud Mr. Giraldi’s review and previous spotlight on Ms. Edmonds’ experiences. The term “kafkaesque” barely scratches the surface of what is, in the final analysis, a pattern of BI-PARTISAN governmental incompetence, mendacity and CYAism that not only boggles the mind but calls into serious question whether our two-party system of government ever truly CAN be reformed in it’s present structure. I have enormous respect for Edmonds’ and honor her struggle to hold the government to account and live up to it’s own high-blown rhetoric. That makes her As true a Patriot as Nathan Hale, John Dickinson or Patrick Henry.

#15 Comment By William Leach On November 23, 2012 @ 10:59 pm

Thank you for the helpful replies.

#16 Comment By Xicha On November 24, 2012 @ 4:20 am

Sibel has faced constant threat from the FBI regarding this book. She was told that she couldn’t publish one word of it by them. She and her lawyers have received regular threatening letters from them, saying she isn’t allowed to publish one word. They did not give her a redacted version.

Most publishing houses either didn’t want to go up against the FBI or didn’t like how both parties were included; she was even asked to remove the last chapters and stop with Bush. Too bad for them, and I’m sure they knew it (but were too scared), the writing is captivating, content is ground-breaking and necessary. They’ll end up on the wrong side of history, as they dwindle into irrelevance.

Also, some “anti-war” types, who ended up with egg on their face, were actually mad at the “timing” of the book (before the election) and the inclusion of Obama. Shame on them, they know who they are and how their decision to kowtow to the PTB, in the form of lesser-evil servile deference, also will put them on the wrong side of history, as they dwindle into irrelevance.

The brush fire has begun. Thank you TAC and Mr. Giraldi, for your courage and leadership.

#17 Comment By Tom On November 24, 2012 @ 8:42 am

Her allegations aren’t suprising since that is the way most Bureaucracies work. After all they don’t have to show a profit. Since they know the media is mostly going to ignore her claims anyway the agencies involved probably figure it will draw less attention to themselves than a campaign to silence her.

#18 Comment By Xicha On November 24, 2012 @ 10:53 am

To clarify, she self-published this book in defiance of threats from the FBI, and with no help from any publishing house.

Got spine?

My only criticism of this review is that it relies a little too much on the word “incompetence”. In my view, most of the incompetence described in this book is actually defined as “competence”. It’s just not legal and should not be tolerated by the public.

#19 Comment By Kevin Berger On November 24, 2012 @ 10:53 am

FWIW, and in a similar field of inquiries, I’d recommand the work of Daniel Hopsicker, on the organized crime (notably heroin smuggling)/intelligence/rightwing (saudis, lebanese, israelis, german, GOP,…) environment in which the 9/11 hijackers moved through in Florida.

While his findings do not fundamentally change the 9/11 paradigm (Mr. Hopsicker is no “truther”, BTW), they certainly lay waste to the official “narrative” of an isolated bunch of arab “lone nuts” striking at the USA like a lightning bolt out of a blue sky, from an afghan cave.

What he hints at is more like a morass of decades of corruption(s), on an international (supranational?) level : rightwing networks going back from the days of the Kennedy assassination, to the iran-contragate and its related chapters in iraq, lebanon, lybia,… afghan war-era muslim extremists, lebanese businessmen/defense contractors, high-ranking pakistanese or koweiti officers, saudi princes, “privatized” military-intelligence assets bankrolled by oil money, CIA planes smuggling heroin, mob-owned casino boats,…

Mind-boogling, not because there’s a “he did it” arrow pointing at this or that person… but because it shines a tentative light on what looks like an hidden (but not so much) underbelly of systemic corruption and we-are-above-the-law behaviors.

And the hijackers were part and parcel of it, though seemingly minor players – in which case, 9/11 is not “blowback” nor even “just” an inside job, flase-flag operation, etc, etc,… but a case of the rot, real, willing corruption and structural incompetence, coming to the surface.

FWIW, and with a critical mind, it’s “conspiracy theory”, or investigative journalism, as you see it, but still.

#20 Comment By Carl Lowland On November 24, 2012 @ 12:13 pm


Correction Tom. Bureaucracies don’t have to show a profit because it is illegal for American National Bureaucracies to make a profit. It’s time we stopped blaming government for not doing what it, by law, cannot do.

#21 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 24, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

Anyone who has had any dealings with any agency in which it’s motives and behavior’s can be called into question, are probably not surprised at the organization’s response — even so far as damaging an individual’s career, personal life and psyche’.

Spend time with government lawyers national, state and local, and you will discover that such tactics are policy to diminish or remove an employee whom they have wronged and now attempt to cover their tracks.

Several tears ago I used to listen to these stories with patient, and polite sympathy.

Not anymore. Fairness, ethics, integrity and truthfulness is not something bureacracies practice.

#22 Comment By Xicha On November 24, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

Some validation of her case by the government can be found here:

A review of the FBI’s actions in connection with allegations raised by contract linguist Sibel Edmonds: unclassified summary


@Carl Lowland: Please read the review again. She was not a CIA employee. And the government has done a lot of damage to her. She has been cut off from her family and basically can never return to Turkey. She has been gagged about basic aspects of her life. Her own privacy has been destroyed. She has been monitored. Went through lie detectors. Had her personal computers examined, etc., etc. Most people don’t have the guts. Do you have the guts to even read it? I think you’re more scared than perspicacious.

Let me put it another way. She has said these things under oath, where she could be put in jail for perjury. You can watch her deposition in the Krikorian v Schmitd case in 2009 here:


Now please think again about your uninformed gut reaction and have some respect for someone who has stood up against government corruption and suffered for it. Because it was the right thing to do.

#23 Comment By Jeffrey Orling RA On November 24, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

Corruption is as American as apple pie. People refuse to believe how deep it runs and the extent to which people in high places participate in lawlessness. They do it because… that is how America works. Democracy is a fig leaf.. which hides this unaccountable lawless corruption.

Most people can’t or will not take it on. The forces arrayed are so powerful. Ms Edmonds has managed to be protected because she was so public, ethical and non partisan. They are trying to punish her by ignoring her and demanding her silence. It’s not working. Thousands of people get it and will not allow any harsh punishment than the corner time she’s been sentenced too. People in her position (there are very few) don’t have the fight that she has… and she does it with the pen not the sword… which is way more powerful as we all know.

There is little chance that the present system can right itself. The hope is that it founders from the weight of its corruption… and then a more democratic and just society can arise. The present virtually neo fuedal proto fascist state we live in is unsustainable. It’s just a matter of time. And were getting to the finish line at an accelerating pace.

Thank you for the book Ms Edmonds and Mr. Giraldi for publishing the review.

#24 Comment By Bill Rattigan On November 25, 2012 @ 4:26 am

I have read the book and I believe every word. God Bless (and He will) all who bring this to the public.

#25 Comment By Jérôme On November 25, 2012 @ 7:11 am

In a related vein, Peter Lance put out a book on serial loserhood, bureaucratic infighting and CYA way before 9/11, resulting in dots not only being not connected but being ignored for political expedience. I don’t know how much of it pans out (he hints at links that may seem improbable, in particular to Tim McVeigh), but it sure looks well-researched and documented. It also brings back memories of the delirium of the Clinton administration.


#26 Comment By Jérôme On November 25, 2012 @ 8:07 am

@Carl Lowland says:

“Bureaucracies don’t have to show a profit because it is illegal for American National Bureaucracies to make a profit. It’s time we stopped blaming government for not doing what it, by law, cannot do.”

Correct. “Making profits” is in the interest of private actors. It gives a handy way to judge their effectiveness and to perform economically rational calculation.

If bureaucracies are in danger of having “surplus budget” at the end of the year they try to spend it ASAP lest their budget be reduced the next. More forward-looking organizations engineer “underfunding” from the get-go.

Achieving internal rigidity, increasing their size and finding make-work schemes (generally solving the problems they have themselves created) is in the interest of bureaucracies. They have far less interest in actually fulfilling the tasks they have been nominally created for (even if they are active in “the market”, see publicly-owned telecom operators).

#27 Comment By John Bamboo On November 25, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

I read the kindle book which is difficult to put down (switch off). I knew Sibel’s story from boilingfrogspost.com which I subscribe to and find one of the most believable sources of news on the internet, but the book fills in a lot of gaps.
To say the book is shocking is an understatement. It seems that in her battle with the PTB Sibel “stumbled” upon something which Anthony Sutton explains in his book on Skull and Bones;

” The intellectual world is still locked into a phony
verbal battle between “left” and “right,” whereas the real struggle is the battle between individual freedom and
the encroaching power of the absolute State. In the West the
choice is basically between a controlled “left-oriented” information and a controlled “right-oriented”
information. The conflict between the two controlled groups keeps an apparent informational conflict alive.
Unwelcome facts that fall into neither camp are conveniently forgotten. Books that fall into neither camp can be effectively neutralized because they will incur the wrath of both “right” and “left”.
In brief, any publication which points up the fallacy of the Left-Right dichotomy is ignored … and citizens
keep trooping down to the polling booths in the belief they have a “choice”.

Let’s hope that Sibel’s book is not ignored but spread to the 4 winds of heaven for everyone’s enlightenment.

#28 Comment By ed On November 25, 2012 @ 9:13 pm

Thank you Mr Giraldi for a great review of an absolutely essential read.

Based on the consistently high level of her work, both in its precision and her analysis (and its impact) of the documents she translated at the FBI- and this is from the field agents she worked with- I would put great credence in her reconstruction of conversations. The fact that Congress never followed up, or demanded that her testimony and submissions become unclassified, is also evidence of Congressional complicity in the wrongdoing she uncovered and reported to the requisite Congressional committees.

Apart from the book, she is to be greatly applauded for founding the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition which includes 200 or so respected former members of the CIA, FBI, DEA and other government agencies related to national security, and for publishing on her online site [13] which is entirely free of corporate financing, but is dependent upon the support of small donors. And, all of this, while enduring the harassment of the agency. Hopefully, the public will become aware of these efforts and will lend its support, financial and otherwise.

#29 Comment By ed On November 26, 2012 @ 1:51 am

To: William Leach, Aditya Barot and Carl Lowland, read the book and you’ll find your answers.
The harassment took many forms and has been confirmed by many other individuals and organizations, including the DOJ Office of Inspector General. She eventually published because she had the guts to assert her rights under her contractor agreement with the FBI, and had the help of a fine lawyer (Stephen Kohn of the National Whistleblowers Coalition).
Re: espionage by Turkey, including the theft of nuclear secrets, and even the bribery of a U.S. Ambassador- Amb. Marc Grossman (who later became an Under Secretary of State, who, though retired in 2005, has this past year served as the U.S. Special Envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan ), such espionage has been rampant, and subject to many active FBI investigations in the past, only to be squelched or covered up by higher ups in the Pentagon or State Department.

#30 Comment By Coleen Rowley On November 26, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

While I have no personal knowledge of the bulk of specific information contained in Sibel’s book–and I have not quite finished reading all of it myself–I can vouch from personal experience in general about the FBI’s language program’s incompetency and in general the FBI’s constant perceived need to pad time resources for purposes of budget. It wasn’t even considered fraud to manipulate the manhours being gathered for different crime and counter-intelligence programs depending upon what result was desired or necessary to project.

Omg, the true stories about language translators “going south” as we called it–not only not qualified in the language they were supposed to be translating, but sometimes going cahoots with the subjects! (I know of at least three instances like that.) An agent colleague I knew was assigned to monitor a foreign language for months that he/she had no proficiency in whatsoever!!

As a new employee, Sibel had not been “around the block” and slowly desensitized to the situation. Which is probably why the truth struck her so hard about some of the incompetence and cover-up.

Why? See my article “Secrecy Kills”: [14]

It had to be worse at the CIA and other agencies! Don’t forget that two CIA agents and two FBI agents (Ivan Nicholson, Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen and Earl Pitts all of them at least mid-management) were identified as USSR spies, but only after years and years of successfully operating. FBI supervisors also got desensitized to operating “top echelon” mafia bosses for decades who themselves were murderers and criminals (Whitey Bulger and Scarpa are the two publicly known ones) with their crimes were covered up by the FBI. What’s publicly been exposed was only the tip of the iceberg.