Sunday, July 30, 2006

sibel 911

As we know, Sibel says that the best published summary of her case is Giraldi's article in AmCon which puts the spotlight on defense contractors, Israel and Turkey, and the profiteering neocon enablers.

As I've noted before, there's nothing in that article about 911 - yet many people still cling to the hope that Sibel has the Holy Grail to 911.

I spoke to her recently and she again said that she doesn't hold any specific insight into 911 - but noted, again, that she wonders why the USG appears so determined to hide everything. She says that the August 04 letter she wrote to Tom Kean and the 911 Commission contains just about everything that she knows in relation to the attacks.

As Sibel notes in that letter:
However, your commission's hearings, 567-page report and recommendations do not include these serious issues, major incidents and systemic problems. Your report's coverage of FBI translation problems consists of a brief microscopic footnote (Footnote #25). Yet your commission is geared to start aggressively pressuring our government to hastily implement your measures and recommendations based upon an incomplete and deficient report.
In this post, I'll look at the specific claims that Sibel makes in her letter, and expand on them based on what we know now (bolded emphases in original)
Melek Can Dickerson, a Turkish translator, was hired by the FBI after Sept. 11 and placed in charge of translating the most sensitive information related to terrorists and criminals under the Bureau's investigation. Dickerson was granted top secret clearance, which can be granted only after conducting a thorough background investigation. Dickerson used to work for semi-legit organizations that were FBI targets of investigation. She had ongoing relationships with two individuals who were FBI targets of investigation. For months, Dickerson blocked all-important information related to these semi-legit organizations and the individuals she and her husband associated with. She stamped hundreds, if not thousands, of documents related to these targets as "not pertinent." Dickerson attempted to prevent others from translating these documents important to the FBI's investigations and our fight against terrorism. With the assistance of her direct supervisor, Mike Feghali, she took hundreds of pages of top-secret intelligence documents outside the FBI to unknown recipients. With Feghali's assistance, she forged signatures on top-secret documents related to 9/11 detainees. After all these incidents were confirmed and reported to FBI management, Melek Can Dickerson was allowed to remain in her position, to continue the translation of sensitive intelligence received by the FBI, and to maintain her top-secret clearance. Apparently bureaucratic mid-level FBI management and administrators decided that it would not look good for the Bureau to have this security breach and espionage case investigated and publicized, especially after the Robert Hanssen scandal. The Melek Can Dickerson case was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. It received major coverage by the press. According to Director Robert Mueller, the inspector general criticized the FBI for failing to adequately pursue the espionage report on Melek Can Dickerson.
I discussed Melek Can Dickerson in a recent post, so I won't delve too deeply into it here again. I will note however, that I suspect the FBI translation unit was compromised prior to 911 to the extent that the FBI didn't have any Turkish translators whatsoever. Apparently this arrangement wasn't an accident, and the targets of these investigations apparently presumed that they could talk freely on their phones. Sibel speaks of having translated damaging intercepts going back to 1996 or 1997, and I think that we need to keep that in mind when we consider the frenetic activity going on when Dickerson, an apparent mole, was shuffled into position in October 2001 and was immediately stealing some documents, burying others, and re-routing translation duties. Similarly, we have to presume that she was compromised before she applied for the position, and that her application was fast-tracked because she was compromised.

Back to the Kean letter:
Today, more than two years since the Dickerson incident was reported to the FBI, and more than two years since this information was confirmed by the United States Congress and reported by the press, the same people remain in charge of translation quality and security. Dickerson and several FBI targets of investigation hastily left the United States in 2002, and no criminal investigation has been opened. Not only does the supervisor who facilitated this criminal conduct remain in a supervisory position, he has been promoted to supervising Arabic language units of the FBI's counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations. Your report omits these significant incidents, and your recommendations do not address this serious security breach and likely espionage issue. This issue needs to be investigated and prosecuted. The translation of our intelligence is being entrusted to individuals with loyalties to our enemies. Important "chit-chats" and "chatters" are being intentionally blocked from translation.
That speaks for itself - and is really quite breathtaking. My heart goes out to the FBI agents who are trying to do a good job. They must all be aware that they can't trust the translation department. It must be very disheartening.

Back to the Kean letter:
More than four months prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, in April 2001, a long-term FBI informant/asset who had been providing the bureau with information since 1990, provided two FBI agents and a translator with specific information regarding a terrorist attack being planned by Osama bin Laden. This asset/informant was previously a high-level intelligence officer in Iran in charge of intelligence from Afghanistan. Through his contacts in Afghanistan, he received information that: 1) Osama bin Laden was planning a major terrorist attack in the United States targeting four or five major cities; 2) the attack was going to involve airplanes; 3) some of the individuals in charge of carrying out this attack were already in place in the United States; 4) the attack was going to be carried out soon, in a few months. The agents who received this information reported it to their superior, Special Agent in Charge of Counterterrorism Thomas Frields at the FBI Washington Field Office, by filing 302 forms, and the translator translated and documented this information. No action was taken by the special agent in charge, and after 9/11 the agents and the translators were told to "keep quiet" regarding this issue. The translator who was present during the session with the FBI informant, Mr. Behrooz Sarshar, reported this incident to Director Mueller in writing, and later to the Department of Justice Inspector General. The press reported this incident, and a report in the Chicago Tribune on July 21, 2004, stated that FBI officials had confirmed that this information was received in April 2001. Furthermore, the Chicago Tribune quoted an aide to Director Mueller saying that Mueller was surprised that the Commission never raised this particular issue with him during the hearing. Mr. Sarshar reported this issue to your investigators on Feb. 12, 2004, and provided them with specific dates, locations, witness names, and contact information for that particular Iranian asset and the two special agents who received the information (please refer to the tape-recorded testimony provided by Mr. Sarshar on February 12, 2004 and given to your investigators). I provided your investigators with a detailed and specific account of this issue, the names of other witnesses, and documents I had seen. Mr. Sarshar also provided the Department of Justice Inspector General with specific information regarding this issue.
[]
Four months prior to the terrorist attacks the Iranian asset provided the FBI with specific information regarding the ‘use of airplanes’, ‘major US cities as targets’, and ‘Osama Bin Laden issuing the order. ’
Again - it's hard to know where to start with this. I suspect very few Americans are even aware of this. This particular claim did make the front page (I think) of papers in the UK - eg see The Independent (April 04) Headline: "I Saw Papers That Show US Knew al-Qa'ida Would Attack Cities With Airplanes."

The news also reached the American media. See for example, para 35 (!) of this Chicago Tribune article (Headline: "As U.S. steps up investigation, Iran denies assisting Al Qaeda") 10 weeks after the Independent article. According to the ChiTrib article, the Sharsar information was not the source of the August 6 PDB "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." No wonder Richard Clarke and George Tenet were running around with their hair on fire.

Back to the Kean letter:
Why does your report exclude the information regarding the Iranian asset and Behrooz Sarshar from its timeline of missed opportunities? Why was this significant incident not mentioned, despite the public confirmation by the FBI, witnesses provided to your investigators, and briefings you received directly?
Indeed. It's quite unfathomable that a 500 page report into the deaths of 3000 Americans would fail to mention the fact that there was indeed such a specific warning. Unfathomable. It's no wonder Sibel questions the motivations of the 911 Commission.

Back to the Kean letter:
In October 2001, approximately one month after the Sept. 11 attack, an agent returned a certain document to the FBI Washington Field Office to have it re-translated. This special agent rightfully believed that, considering the suspect under surveillance and the issues involved, the original translation might have missed information that could prove valuable in the investigation of terrorist activities. After this document was received by the FBI Washington Field Office and re-translated verbatim, the field agent's hunch appeared to be correct. The new translation revealed certain information regarding blueprints, pictures and building material for skyscrapers being sent overseas. It also revealed illegal activities in obtaining visas from certain embassies in the Middle East through network contacts and bribery. However, after the re-translation was completed and the new significant information revealed, the unit supervisor in charge of certain Middle Eastern languages, Mike Feghali, decided NOT to send the re-translated information to the special agent who had requested it. Instead, Feghali sent the agent a note stating that the translation was reviewed and that the original translation was accurate. Feghali argued that sending the accurate translation would hurt the original translator and would cause problems for the FBI language department. The special agent never received an accurate translation of that document.
I can add some new detail to this part of the story. An Iranian guy was arrested on some narcotics charges and the FBI was concerned that he was involved in something more nefarious - and they had his prison phone wiretapped. As it happens, there are two types of FBI 'translations' - summary and verbatim. The FBI guys asked for a particular phone call to be translated and the (unknown) translator wrote a summary: "parties discussed real estate developments." As Sibel notes, given "the suspect under surveillance and the issues involved" the agent wanted a verbatim transcript of the conversation, and Sibel was given the task.

Sibel realised immediately that the agent's suspicions were correct and that the subject matter was explosive - blueprints, photos & details of the construction composites of skyscrapers that were at least a '100 stories tall.' According to this list, that includes Sears Tower, Empire State Building and the John Hancock Center.

Further, according to the wiretap, these blueprints et al were to be hand-delivered to a remote, remote border location in the Middle-East (not Turkey) where a 'real estate development' usually means setting up a tent for the night.

Even though Sibel hadn't completed the verbatim translation (which might take a few days), she immediately asked Feghali to get the agent to call her on a secure phone as soon as possible. After a few days, she hadn't heard from the agent and she approached Feghali again. As she notes, his response was that he told the agent that the original translation was accurate - justifying it by suggesting that it wouldn't be fair to the original translator, and that it might hurt the translation unit. Sibel thinks that this idea is absurd, even on its face, and independent of the fact that some skyscrapers had been blown outta the NYC sky just a few weeks earlier. Sibel explains that part of being an effective translator is understanding culture and geography and whatnot - and that it's more than possible that the original translator simply hadn't realised how absurd (pre-911) it was that architectural information about American skyscrapers were being sent to what we would call in Australia "the back of beyond."

To make matters worse, Sibel also translated other wiretaps from the same jailed Iranian guy - recorded a few days after 911 - in which he and an associate were congratulating each other about the attacks.

Why would Feghali obstruct the investigation into 911 when presented with all of this evidence?

Surely this is newsworthy.

Back to the Kean letter:
The public has still not been told of the intentional obstruction of intelligence. The public has not been told that certain information, despite its relevance to terrorist activities, is not shared with counterterrorism units. This was true prior to 9/11, and it remains true today. If counterintelligence receives information about terrorism that implicates certain nations, semi-legit organizations or the politically powerful in this country, then that information is not shared with counterterrorism, regardless of the consequences. In certain cases, frustrated FBI agents have cited "direct pressure by the State Department."
As I've previously mentioned, I have never really understood the distinctions, nor the significance, that Sibel makes when she talks about counter-intelligence (CI) and counter-terrorism (CT) and so on. Thankfully she explained it to me.

Counter-Intelligence regularly monitors groups - such as embassies, groups like AIPAC and ATC, and anywhere else that they think that they need to keep an eye on. If they find something nefarious, and they have jurisdiction (i.e. not embassies or foreign diplomats), then CI will refer the case to the relevant part of the FBI - be it narcotics, counter-terrorism, criminal etc.

In 97/98 - this ongoing Counter-Intelligence monitoring uncovered certain criminal activity - including the involvement of certain Americans - apparently a mix of both career officials and political appointees, the most senior appears to have been Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.

FBI CI notified FBI headquarters of the corruption that they had uncovered, and wanted the case transfered to the criminal division for prosecution. Janet Reno agreed to move ahead with the case - but it got held up with the impeachment, and then Bush's election 'victory'.

Here's how Sibel described it elsewhere:
“…what happened was, FBI had this information since 1997. In 1999, the Clinton Administration actually asked the Department of Justice to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate Hastert, and certain other elected officials that were not named in this (VF) article, to be investigated formally. And the Department of Justice actually went about appointing this prosecutor, but after the Administration changed they quashed that investigation and they closed it despite the fact they had all sorts of evidence, again I’m talking about wiretaps, documents- paper documents- that was highly explosive and could have been easily used to indict the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. That investigation was closed in 2001, and this was around the time I started reporting my cases to the Congress.”
Ashcroft first closed down the DC case, and then in January 2002, he closed down the Chicago case - apparently by pushing the cases back to CI (that is, basically just 'monitoring')

Back to the Kean letter:
After almost three years the American people still do not know that thousands of lives can be jeopardized under the unspoken policy of ‘ protecting certain foreign business relations.’ The victims family members still do not realize that information and answers they have sought relentlessly for over two years has been blocked due to the unspoken decisions made and disguised under ‘safeguarding certain diplomatic relations.’
It's interesting that she specifically uses the term "business relations" here. I recently wrote a post about her use of the term "certain foreign relations" - the 'business' component really helps clarify the situation. I'm not sure whether she is specifically referring to the fact, as told by Giraldi, that the generals in the Turkish military have financial stakes in the relevant companies, or perhaps the Bin Laden family's business associations with the Bush family and the Carlyle group that Larisa alluded to - or some other foreign business relations.

There are a few other things that Sibel knows are related to 911 that aren't covered in the Kean letter.

Firstly, Osama Bin Laden 'controls' a bank in Cyprus. I'm not exactly sure how this directly relates to 911 - perhaps this is where a lot of the non-hijacker participants of 911 received their financial payoffs? The four main banking / money-laundering areas that Sibel knows about are Cyprus, Dubai, Malta and the Cayman Islands. Incidentally, since Sibel started making a noise about The Livingston Group, they have removed the Cayman Islands from their Representative Client List on their website. (FYI - according to FARA, the other main lobbying company used by Cayman Islands is Sidley Austin Brown & Wood - pulling in approximately $500k per annum.)

Second, the FBI has direct, documented evidence of exactly who was involved in buying visas for more than one of the 911 hijackers - presumably including who asked for them, who they asked, how they were facilitated, and how much was paid. Again, this information came from counter-intelligence (and of course, we already know some of the groups that CI was monitoring), but the case was never moved to Counter-Terrorism - even after 911.

Thirdly, two weeks after 911, Sibel overheard two 'targets' of a CI monitoring program having a conversation. Apparently, three associates of these targets were arrested in New Jersey immediately after 911 - two Turkish guys and an Uzbeki. The targets were desperate to get their associates out of jail, and out of the country, so they called Marc Grossman who duly facilitated their release. (I've previously documented the NJ connection - home to Giza Technologies and a Brewster Jennings operation)

That should be enough to chew over for the moment. More later.

12 comments:

Miguel said...

Luke,
On Amy Goodman, Sibel did a joint interview with Ray McGovern one day after the release of the 9-11 Commission Report. In her last comment, she made a vague reference to a "Chicago cell" whose money laundering activities were directly related to 9-11.

This "Chicago cell" could be an oblique reference to the Turkish syndicate. I suspect that it is. So she seems to be saying she knows where the financing for some aspects of the attacks came from, but not necessarily any operational detail.

Kathleen said...

Marc Grossman is also the person who requested the State Dept Memo that contained the infamous 16 words about the uranium from Niger, which connects him to the Plame affair.

Osama Bin Laden runs a bank in Cyprus. Hmmm. Isn't that where we just evacuated a bunch of Americans vacationing in Lebanon to escape being bombed by our generosity to Israel?

Sibel is right, all investigations go back to the same central group.

Miguel said...

"Apparently this arrangement wasn't an accident, and the targets of these investigations apparently presumed that they could talk freely on their phones."

Luke, this doesn't make sense to me. Why go to all the trouble to wiretap someone's phone, then not hire a translator so you can understand what the person is saying.

I'm thinking it was more of a budgetary issue than a deliberate act- unless it was Fenghali himself on the payroll of the ATC. But from the Agents' perspective, it would have been a waste of their time to maintain all these recordings and just let them collect dust.

Miguel said...

"Sibel overheard two 'targets' of a CI monitoring program having a conversation. Apparently, three associates of these targets were arrested in New Jersey immediately after 911 - two Turkish guys and an Uzbeki. The targets were desperate to get their associates out of jail, and out of the country, so they called Marc Grossman who duly facilitated their release."

The $64k question is what did these Turkish/Uzbek guys do to land themselves in prison. It could be that they were just on an expired visa- but it seems unlikely Sibel would point to this incident if that were the case. The other possibility is that they were directly involved in moving money, drugs or weapons for al Qaeda.

damien said...

Thanks Miguel. Do you have any links on this stuff?

lukery said...

miguel - wasnt aware of that /McG / sibel interview - will try to track it down.

re "Luke, this doesn't make sense to me. Why go to all the trouble to wiretap someone's phone, then not hire a translator so you can understand what the person is saying."

very good question - the implications are quite astounding. let's look at what we know - we know that there werent (and still arent) any qualified turkish translators at the FBI. and we know that turkish 'officials' were talking freely on their embassy phones - odd, huh?

look at the recent giraldi interview - he wouldnt even think of talking about work at home because he knew the place was bugged. why would embassy folk think any different?

re 'why go to all the trouble' i suspect that the smartest place to infiltrate is the translation dept - given that they are obviously gatekeepers. if i was conducting nefarious business, i'd love to have feghali on my side... his behavior is certainly suspicious.

a budgetary issue to have zero turkish translators? there's an alternative interpretation which is makes more sense.

lukery said...

miguel - i apparently didnt make it clear in my post re the $64k question - i thought the facts would stand for themselves. yes - the implication was specifically that these 3 people were involved and needed to be moved outta the system. pronto.

at a minimum, we know that a) they were arrested for being related (somehow) and b) the people that were the targets of a CI program were worried.

that's gotta be a pretty small subset of people, right?

lukery said...

damien - which answers/links are you looking for?

Miguel said...

Damien,
Here's the link you might be looking for:
http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/07/23/1336253&mode=thread&tid=25

This is the quote I mean:
"There was no mentioning of the cell in Chicago and the activities that it brought about, and that were directly, these activities related to the 9/11 attack. As far as the money laundering is concerned.."

Miguel said...

"a budgetary issue to have zero turkish translators? there's an alternative interpretation which is makes more sense."

I love playing Devil's Advocate, so I will. The other thing we know from Sibel's case is that the FBI translation program, besides being penetrated by the ATC, was also rife with incompetence. Is it possible that Turkish translators just were not a priority, and there was a revolving door?

But I guess the wider point is: why were the targets of investigation talking so freely on the phone? And one point you're missing is that many of these targets had diplomatic passports. And when you have a diplomatic passport, there is zero chance you will be sent to jail. The most you risk is being kicked out of the country. So you may suspect your phone is being tapped- but then again, you might not worry all that much about it. In fact, knowing you have a "get out of jail free" card, you might get quite careless.

What do you think of that hypothesis?

lukery said...

fp'd

bathmate said...

I liked it.
Bathmate