WASHINGTON, DC — The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) joined a broad cross-section of civil liberties, public policy and human rights groups today in calling on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in Congress to hold public hearings on the case of FBI Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds.
Edmonds, a former FBI Language Specialist, was fired from the FBI after reporting concerns about inferior translations relating to the 9-11 attacks and possible espionage within the agency. The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Inspector General would later confirm many of Edmonds’ assertions. However, the DOJ used the State Secrets Privilege to deny her legal recourse and prevent Congress from exploring the matter.
Civil Liberties advocates argue that Edmonds’ case is an example of other instances where whistleblowers, who tried to inform Congress and taxpayers about national security threats, were intimidated, silenced, and retaliated against.
A petition to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, signed by thirty prominent groups, including OMB Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Concerned Foreign Service Officers, Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington (CREW), Government Accountability Project (GAP), U.S.-Armenian Public Affairs Committee (USAPAC), Project on Government Oversight (POGO), and the ANCA, was delivered earlier today.
The full text of the petition is provided below.
The Sibel Edmonds Whistleblower case has received broad media attention, including a 10-page expose in the September 2005, issue of “Vanity Fair”. According to the article by contributing editor David Rose, Edmonds claimed that FBI wiretaps reveal that the Turkish government and its allies boasted of bribing – with as much as $500,000 the former Speaker of the House of Representatives as part of an alleged deal to stop consideration of the Armenian Genocide Resolution.
The article cites accounts by Edmonds regarding FBI wiretaps of the Turkish Embassy and Turkish groups such as the American Turkish Council (ATC) and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), including conversations concerning former Speaker Hastert’s dramatic reversal on legislation concerning the Armenian Genocide. In October 2000, despite overwhelming Congressional support, Speaker Hastert reversed his initial support and removed the Armenian Genocide resolution (H.Res.596) from the House docket just minutes before the resolution was scheduled for a vote, citing national security concerns by President Clinton.
The American Turkish Council and the ATAA have already registered their opposition to pending Armenian Genocide legislation (H.Res.106), which was introduced by Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), George Radanovich (R-CA), Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and currently has 179 cosponsors. In an interview published in “Today’s Zaman” newspaper on February 2, 2007, ATC President James H. Holmes stated that, “Our interest is seeing this resolution defeated, derailed, delayed. I don’t care what the formula is. We want it to fail.”
National Security Whistleblowers Coalition
To: The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
A Petition to require public hearings by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform into confirmed reports by FBI Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds of wrongdoing, criminal activities, cover-ups against the security and interests of the United States and its citizenry, and the erroneous use of the State Secrets Privilege to shut down all court proceedings in her case.
In March 2002 the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (DOJ-IG) began its investigation of Ms. Edmonds’ reports.
In June 2002, in at least two unclassified Senate briefings, FBI officials confirmed the validity of Ms. Edmonds reports; however, in May 2004 Attorney General John Ashcroft retroactively classified information from these briefings and gagged the Congress, preventing further investigation.
In October 2002 Attorney General Ashcroft invoked the ‘State Secrets Privilege’ to block all court proceedings in Edmonds’ case.
In July 2004 the DOJ-IG investigation into Edmonds’ dismissal was completed but was entirely classified.
In January 2005 the DOJ-IG released an unclassified summary report on Edmonds’ case which concluded that Edmonds was fired for reporting serious security breaches and misconduct in the agency’s translation program, and that many of her allegations were supported by other witnesses and documents.
The issues that were reported by Ms. Edmonds include:
** Cases of espionage activities within the FBI, DOD, and the Department of State.
** Cases of cover-up of information and leads pre and post 9/11, under the excuse of protecting certain diplomatic relations.
** Cases of intentional blocking and mistranslation of crucial intelligence by FBI translators and management.
** Cases of foreign entities bribing certain government officials and elected representatives.
Edmonds filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the Department of Justice, but the government successfully argued that the state secrets privilege was an absolute bar to her suit going forward. She was even barred from the courtroom during the argument of her appeal! The Supreme Court declined to review the case. The government’s invocation of the state secrets privilege in a motion to dismiss her case contradicts the core idea of judicial review and essentially allows the Executive Branch to dictate to the federal courts what cases they can and can’t hear.
Invoking the State Secrets Privilege is a tactic frequently used by the Executive Branch to stop potentially embarrassing lawsuits against the government. Many of these suits are brought by government employees, such as Ms. Edmonds, who allege fraud, mismanagement, or other unlawful conduct, and the state secrets privilege has successfully been invoked by the government to silence them. The state secrets provision has been used too frequently and with too little public protection.
Given the seriousness of Ms. Edmonds’ reports and in the best interests of the security of the country, it is incumbent upon the Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities and authority as representatives of the people of the United States, therefore:
We, the undersigned, now call upon the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in Congress to hold public hearings into the case of FBI Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, and the erroneous use of the State Secrets Privilege to shut down all court proceedings in her case.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Anthony Romero, National Director
National Coalition against Censorship
Joan E. Bertin, Executive Director
Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC)
Nancy Talanian, Director
Sean Moulton, Director
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director
National Security Whistleblowers Coalition
Bill Weaver, Board Member
Michael Ostrolenk, Co-founder & Director
National Whistleblower Center
Steve Kohn, Chair
Open the Government .Org
Patrice McDermott, Executive Director
U.S.-Armenia Public Affairs Committee (USAPAC)
Ross Vartian, Executive Director
Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Melanie Sloan, Director
Doug Bandow, Vice President of Policy
Concerned Foreign Service Officers
Daniel Hirsch, Board Member
People for the American Way
Ralph Neas, President
Fairfax County Privacy Council
Mike Stollenwerk, Director
Federal Hispanic Law Enforcement Officers Association
Sandalio Gonzalez, Director
Government Accountability Project (GAP)
Tom Devine, Legal Director
National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation
Gail Dunham, President
Ohio Taxpayers Association & OTA Foundation
Scott Pullins, Chairman & CEO
Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
Danielle Brian, Executive Director
September 11th Advocates
Mindy Kleinberg, Director
Veterans Affairs Whistleblowers Coalition (VAWBC)
Dr. Jeffrey Fudin, President
Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)
Aram Hamparian, Executive Director
U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation (USBOR)
Dane Von Breichenruchardt, President
Center for Financial Privacy & Human Rights
J. Bradley, Jansen, Director
Linda Sherry, Director
Linda Ackerman, Staff Counsel
The Multiracial Activists,
James Landrith, Founder
The New Grady Coalition
Ron Marshall, Director
Doctors for Open Government
Dr. Jim Murtagh, Director
Georgian for Open Government
Gwen Marshall, Director
Ethics in Government Group (EGG)
George Anderson, Director
Kevin Zeese, Executive Director