View Full Version : Groups Support FBI Whistleblower's Appeal

01-23-2005, 02:17 PM
A coalition of nonprofit groups asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to give FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds her day in court.

The coalition filed an amicus brief supporting Edmonds' appeal of a federal district court's ruling last July that dismissed her lawsuit. The brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. It comes less than a week after the Justice Department's inspector general issued a summary report concluding that the FBI failed to properly investigate charges made by Edmonds that there were security breaches, mismanagement and possible espionage within the FBI's translation unit in late 2001 and early 2002. The report also concluded that the FBI fired Edmonds mainly for bringing forth the accusations.

The bulk of the IG report is classified by the FBI.

The American Civil Liberties Union also filed an amicus brief last week asking the appeals court to reinstate Edmonds' lawsuit.

Edmonds, who was born in Iran but is now a U.S. citizen, was hired as an FBI contract linguist immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to help translate backlogged material. She quickly became concerned about the activities of a fellow linguist. She alleged that the other linguist had an association and improper contacts with one or more targets of FBI investigations, and was suspected of leaking information to one or more targets to which she was assigned to perform translation services.

Edmonds was fired in March 2002 for "disruptive" behavior. Attorney General John Ashcroft asserted "state secrets privilege" over Edmonds, saying that information about her case would cause serious damage to the security and foreign policy interests of the United States if publicly disclosed. The gag order on Edmonds remains in effect.

Edmonds filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department but never got a hearing. Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed her case last July, ruling that she would be unable to pursue her claims against the government without disclosing privileged information.

At the time, Edmonds noted that the court heard the government's evidence in private, never giving her the ability to respond. Walton acknowledged that his ruling was "draconian," and "a drastic remedy that has rarely been invoked."

The legal brief filed Tuesday was submitted by 14 nonprofit groups that either advocate for open government or have an interest in obtaining information related to 9/11.

The brief argues that the lower court could have taken measures to give Edmonds a defense while protecting sensitive and classified information.

"The District Court's failure to determine whether the government's assertion of the state secrets privilege was a false alarm not only served to unfairly deny Ms. Edmonds her day in court, it countenanced a wave of unnecessary secrecy that denies the public access to government information concerning one of the most significant events in our nation's modern history," the brief states.

The brief charges that the government used state secrets privilege "as a litigation tactic to deprive Ms. Edmonds of the right to prove in court what the inspector general has found."

The appeals court will hear arguments on Edmonds' appeal on April 21. The groups plan to hold a press conference in Washington on Jan. 26.

The FBI issued a short statement in response to the IG report, outlining management improvements that have been made in its Language Services Program. The bureau said it continues to investigate Edmonds' allegations against the fellow linguist.

An FBI spokeswoman had no additional comment.

The inspector general concluded that many allegations made by Edmonds were supported, but not all of them, such as a claim that linguists were directed to slow the pace of their work so that material to be translated would pile up, giving the FBI a basis to request more translators.

The IG added, however, that the FBI still has yet to properly investigate whether espionage was occurring within the translation program.

"The majority of the allegations raised by Edmonds related to the actions of a co-worker," the IG said. "The allegations raised serious concerns that, if true, could potentially have extremely damaging consequences for the FBI. These allegations warranted a thorough and careful review by the FBI. Our investigation concluded that the FBI did not, and still has not, adequately investigated these allegations."

Edmonds also alleged that the FBI possessed documents that clearly showed the 9/11 hijackers were in the country and plotting to use airplanes as missiles to carry out an attack in a major city several months before the attacks occurred. She said the documents included information relating to terrorist financial activities.

The IG report said Edmonds never raised those allegations with its office and, therefore, they were not investigated.

http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0105/011905c1.htm Let us hope these 12 groups will get behind our Complaint to the NY AG (and soon the Manhattan DA) in addition to this effort to get a response at the Federal level.