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June 21, 2005

Where Is Accountability?


by Sibel Edmonds

Over four years ago, 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; and (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, Mr. Behrooz Sarshar, translated and documented this information. No action was taken by Frields, 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 in fact the report in the Chicago Tribune on July 21, 2004, stated that FBI officials had confirmed that this information was received in April 2001, and further, the Chicago Tribune quoted an aide to Director Mueller saying that Mueller was surprised the 9/11 Commission never raised this particular issue with him during the hearing. Mr. Sarshar reported this issue to the 9/11 Commission on Feb. 12, 2004, and provided them with specific dates, locations, witness names, and the contact information for that particular Iranian asset and the two special agents who received the information. I provided the 9/11 Commission 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 case.

For almost four years since Sept. 11, officials refused to admit to having specific information regarding the terrorists' plans to attack the United States. The Phoenix Memo, received months prior to the 9/11 attacks, specifically warned FBI HQ of pilot training and their possible link to terrorist activities against the United States. Four months prior to the terrorist attacks the Iranian asset provided the FBI with specific information regarding the "use of airplanes," "major U.S. cities as targets," and "Osama bin Laden issuing the order." Coleen Rowley likewise reported that specific information had been provided to FBI HQ. All this information went to the same place: FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the FBI Washington field office.

In October 2001, approximately one month after the Sept. 11 attacks, an agent from one field office (city name omitted) re-sent a certain document to the FBI Washington field office, so that it could be retranslated. This special agent, in light of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, rightfully believed that, considering the suspect under surveillance and the issues involved, the original translation might have missed certain information that could prove to be valuable in the investigation of terrorist activities. After this document was received by the FBI Washington field office and retranslated 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 (country name omitted). It also revealed certain 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 was revealed, the unit supervisor in charge of certain Middle Eastern languages, Mike Feghali, decided not to send the retranslated information to the special agent who had requested it. Instead, this supervisor decided to send this agent a note stating that the translation was reviewed and that the original translation was accurate. This supervisor, Mike Feghali, stated that sending the accurate translation would hurt the original translator and would cause problems for the FBI language department. The FBI agent requesting the retranslation never received the accurate translation of that document. I provided this information to the 9/11 Commission on Feb. 13, 2004, and to the Department of Justice inspector general in May 2002.

The latest buzz topic regarding intelligence is the problem of sharing information within and among intelligence agencies. To date, the public has not been told of intentional blocking of intelligence, and has not been told that certain information, despite its direct links to terrorist-related activities, is not given to or shared with counterterrorism units. This was the case prior to 9/11, and remained so after 9/11. If counterintelligence receives information that contains money-laundering, illegal arms sales, and illegal drug activities directly linked to terrorist activities, and if that information involves certain nations or semi-legit organizations, that information is not shared with counterterrorism, regardless of the possible severe consequences. In certain cases, frustrated FBI agents cited "direct pressure by the State Department" and in other cases "sensitive diplomatic relations." I provided the Department of Justice inspector general and the 9/11 Commission with detailed and specific information and evidence regarding this issue, the names of other witnesses willing to corroborate this, and the names of certain U.S. officials involved in these transactions and activities.

Now, after almost four years, we get to hear new bits and pieces: the Midhar case, the Abdel-Hafiz case, the Youssef case, Saudi planes leaving just days after 9/11 without having the passengers questioned… and the list goes on.

Today, nearly four years since 9/11, the American people still do not know that thousands of lives are jeopardized under the unspoken policy of protecting certain foreign business relations. The victims' family members still do not realize that answers they have sought relentlessly for almost four years have been blocked due to the unspoken decisions made and disguised under safeguarding certain diplomatic relations.

Where is the so-called congressional oversight? Why did the 9/11 Commission intentionally omit this info, although they've had it all along? Where is accountability?


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Sibel Edmonds began working for the FBI shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. Until the spring of 2002 she worked in the FBI's Washington field office translating top-secret documents pertaining to suspected terrorists. She first gained wide public attention in October of that year when she appeared on '60 Minutes' on CBS and charged that the FBI, State Department, and Pentagon had been infiltrated by agents of a Turkish intelligence officer suspected of ties to terrorism. She also accused members of the FBI's translation services of sabotage, intimidation, corruption and incompetence. On October 18, 2002, at the request of FBI Director Robert Mueller, Attorney General Ashcroft imposed a gag order on Ms. Edmonds, citing possible damage to diplomatic relations or national security.

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