WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI contract linguist who was terminated
in 2002 after becoming a whistleblower regarding the 9/11 tragedy, filed a lawsuit
today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under the Freedom
of Information and Privacy Acts (FOIPA). The complaint seeks to compel the release
of a secret investigative report, and related documents, compiled by the Department
of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Inspector General (OIG). The DOJ OIG investigated
Edmonds' allegations for more than two years and has failed to abide by repeated
promises – including those provided to Senators Charles Grassley (R, Iowa)
and Patrick Leahy (D, Vt.) in June 2002 – to complete its investigation
in a timely fashion and release its findings.
On July 21, 2004, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III notified the Senate Judiciary
Committee that the DOJ OIG had completed its investigation and concluded that
Edmonds' allegations "were at least a contributing factor" in her
firing. Additionally, DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine also concluded that the
FBI failed to "adequately pursue" Edmonds' allegations of espionage
against a coworker. Although the DOJ promised the Committee that a declassified
summary would be released, and notwithstanding the fact that Edmonds' FOIA request
was granted expedited processing by the government in July 2004, to date not
one page has been released.
"The Justice Department has continually sought to cover up the FBI's misconduct
with respect to Sibel Edmonds. When the documents are eventually released, they
will likely reveal that the government once again improperly abused the classification
process," said Edmonds' attorney Mark S. Zaid, who is the Managing Partner
of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Krieger & Zaid, PLLC, which specializes
in national security cases. Zaid added that the Justice Department's classification
assertions were primarily prompted by a desire to gain a litigation advantage
Edmonds' efforts to expose the FBI's misconduct and the retaliation she has
suffered has been plagued by the government's zealous and excessive classification
of information. Although Edmonds' specific allegations were the subject of several
unclassified congressional meetings held in 2002, the Justice Department refuses
to allow her to discuss the information. In June 2004, the FBI notified all
staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the information was now
considered classified. The FBI's move, allegedly at the behest of the Justice
Department, prompted Senators Grassley and Leahy to remove two of their letters
regarding Edmonds from their public Web sites. According to the e-mail notification,
the government took this action because of "civil litigation in which the
FBI is seeking to quash certain information."
"This report is no doubt the tip of the iceberg. The Justice Department
is ignoring numerous matters worthy of investigation. Rather than protecting
our interests, the government's actions are harming national security by withholding
this information from the public and the congress," said Sibel Edmonds.
Edmonds, who is Turkish-American, started working for the FBI immediately after
the 9/11 attacks as a translator in the FBI's Washington field office with top-secret
security clearance. She was summarily dismissed in March 2002 after alleging
that the FBI's translation services were plagued by incompetence, a lack of
urgency, numerous security breaches and intentional efforts by some FBI officials
to withhold information from investigators. The FBI ignored her repeated efforts
to raise these concerns with superiors. Earlier this year Edmonds provided closed-door
testimony to the 9/11 Commission, and she is cited in its final report.
In July 2004, a federal judge dismissed Edmonds' primary lawsuit against the
FBI on the basis of the rarely invoked "state secrets privilege."
The government also prevented Edmonds from being deposed by 9/11 family members
in their lawsuit against Saudi Arabia. A year earlier a different federal judge
dismissed Edmonds' FOIA case that sought release of her own FBI file on grounds
of national security. Both decisions are currently on appeal before the DC Circuit
Court of Appeals.
Copies of Edmonds' FOIPA complaint are available upon request.