Sunday, January 28, 2007

National Security Whistle Blowers: The ‘Undead’?

* Jeff Stein has a good article in Congressional Quarterly about whistleblowers which quotes Kill the Messenger:
National Security Whistle Blowers: The ‘Undead’?
Sibel Edmonds

Take John M. Cole, a veteran FBI counterintelligence agent whose 18-year career took a nosedive when he came to the rescue of Sibel Edmonds.

Edmonds is the former FBI language specialist who surfaced in June 2002 with a strange tale of how she had been fired by the Bureau after telling supervisors that a foreign intelligence ring had penetrated the translators’ unit where she worked, among other sensitive issues.

Now why would they do that?

You can’t find out much, because then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft invoked a “state secrets privilege” to stop her suit against the FBI for wrongful dismissal.

A gag order prevents her from adding details to another of her sensational charges, that government eavesdroppers had intercepted the Sept. 11 hijackers plans.

Edmonds, born in Iran of Turkish origins, also claims she discovered unsavory links between U.S. defense and intelligence officials, weapons makers, Israel, and Ankara.

“I wanted to meet her because I wanted to help her,” says Cole, who resigned from the FBI after years of writing unanswered reports about lax security and mismanagement of the translations unit, which handles electronic intercepts of foreign spies, among other materials.

“I thought that I could be of some assistance to her,” Cole says in “Kill the Messenger,” a new documentary film about her case, “because I knew she was doing the right thing. I knew because she was right.”

Cole tells how he had “talked to people who had read her file, who had read the investigative report, and they were telling me a totally different story” than FBI officials, who had only perfunctorily investigated her allegations.

“They were telling me that Sibel Edmonds was a 100 percent accurate, that management knew that she was correct.”

But they buried it.

In 2004, after months of harassment by superiors for his defense of Edmonds, Cole resigned.

A year later, the Justice Department’s Inspector General concluded: “the evidence clearly corroborated Edmonds’ allegations.”

In response, the FBI said it was taking another look at the Edmonds case.

“That investigation is continuing,” it said on Jan. 14, 2005.

In response to a query on Friday afternoon, the FBI produced a 2005 press release on improvements in the translation unit. It was not able to provide further clarification by the end of the day.

Many More

Edmonds, meanwhile, had gone on to create something uniquely Washingtonian: a home for the national security undead.

Launched in 2004, her National Security Whistle Blowers Coalition now has over 60 members, disillusioned former CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, Pentagon, Homeland Security and State Department officials.

People like ex-FBI agents John Vincent and Robert Wright, who saw their careers go south after they blew the whistle on problems in the Bureau’s counterterrorism cases.

And Kevin Cleary, a U.S. Customs investigator whose nearly three decades in law enforcement went off the rails after he “uncovered and reported drug-related public corruption,” including “the compromise of a federal drug interdiction program,” according to his biography on the whistle blower Web site.

There’s Shawn Carpenter, the Sandia National Laboratory employee who was fired after telling the FBI that “hundreds of computer networks at major US defense contractors, military installations and government agencies were being systematically compromised, and sensitive information was being stolen by hackers.

Edmonds is not the easiest person to get along with, say some whistleblowers who have resigned from or declined to join her organization.

So a number of important whistle blowers remain outside the organization.”

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