U.S. Marine Leandro Aragoncillo, a naturalized
U.S. citizen who worked in the vice president's office and later at the FBI
as an analyst, was arrested last month and accused of downloading classified
FBI reports and sending them to political figures in the Philippines.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has continued to make short shrift of personnel
security on the heels of the well-known Robert Hanssen Spy scandal, and in the
middle of a war on terrorism. Despite several IG reports, congressional inquiries,
and media reports on several other recent cases of alleged espionage activities,
the bureau's inability to secure even its own offices continues today. Here
is an agency that is in charge of defending our national security and protecting
our safety, but it has yet to prove it is capable of securing itself. The following
incidents are glaring examples of the FBI's failure to address its own security
vulnerabilities and its unwillingness to hold its management accountable.
FBI & Uninvestigated Espionage Cases
Report by Sibel D. Edmonds, Former Language Specialist; FBI:
Melek Can Dickerson, a Turkish Translator, was
hired by the FBI after September 11, and was placed in charge of translating
the most sensitive information related to terrorists and criminals under the
Bureau's investigation. She was granted Top Secret Clearance, which is supposed
to be granted only after conducting a thorough background investigation. However,
according to FBI officials, she had previously worked for semi-legit organizations
that were FBI's targets of investigation, and had on going relationships with
two individuals who were FBI's targets of investigation. For months she 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,"
and attempted to prevent others from translating these documents – important
to the FBI's investigations and our fight against terrorism. Further, she and
her husband attempted to recruit others, including myself, to work for the FBI
target under investigation.
Dickerson, with the assistance of her direct supervisor, Mike Feghali, took
hundreds of pages of top-secret sensitive intelligence documents outside the
FBI to unknown recipients. She, with the assistance of her direct supervisor,
forged signatures on top-secret documents related to certain 9/11 detainees.
Even after these incidents were confirmed and reported to FBI management, she
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 if this security breach and espionage
case was investigated and made public, especially after Robert Hanssen's case
(FBI spy scandal). The Dickerson case was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary
Committee (Please refer to Senator Leahy and Grassley's letters dated June
19 and August 13, 2002, and Senator Grassley's statement on CBS-60 Minutes in
October 2002), and received major coverage by the press. According to Director
Mueller, the Inspector General criticized the FBI for failing to adequately
pursue this espionage report regarding Dickerson (Please refer to DOJ-IG
report Re: Sibel Edmonds and FBI Translation).
Today, almost four years since the Dickerson incident was reported to the FBI,
and more than three years since this information was confirmed by the United
States Congress and reported by the press, the administrators in charge of FBI
personnel security and language departments in the FBI remain in their positions
and in charge of translation quality and translation departments' security.
Dickerson and several FBI targets of investigation hastily left the United States
in 2002, and the case still remains uninvestigated criminally. This case was
not referred to the FBI Counterespionage division, as it is required
by the FBI's own protocol. It needs to be investigated and criminally prosecuted
– it is a clear case of espionage. The translation of our intelligence is being
entrusted to individuals with loyalties to our enemies; important "chit-chats"
and "chatters" are being intentionally blocked.
Report by John M. Cole, Former Veteran Intelligence Operations
While assigned to the FBI's South East Asia counterintelligence
program I was asked to provide risk assessments on applicants applying for language
specialists' positions within the FBI. These applicants, all of whom were born
foreign nationals and naturalized U.S. citizens, applied for language specialist
positions within the FBI. One of these applicants, with the initials HR, was
an individual originally from Pakistan. In reviewing HR's application I suspected
that there were several areas that had not been fully investigated. Upon further
investigation, such as simply running name checks on HR's family members, this
suspicion was reinforced. When running HR's father's name through the FBI's
Automated Case System (ACS) several hits came up. Upon further review it was
determined that HR's father was a retired Pakistani general. What was more disturbing
was the fact that his name came up as having formerly been the defense military
attaché at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington D.C. Having worked the
Pakistani program it was well known that all Pakistani defense military attaches
were Pakistani intelligence officers. I wrote this all up and submitted it to
the FBI's Security Programs Division. In fact the personnel security specialist
that reviewed my findings thanked me and stated "I also reviewed this file
and felt there were major problems." A week later the security specialist
telephoned me to ask who in the Counterterrorism Division should also review
the applicants file. (One of the recommendations made was to have the FBI's
Counterterrorism Division also prepare a risk assessment on the applicant) I
gave the personnel security specialist the name of the Counterterrorism Specialist
at which time she stated "not that it matters because HR has been hired
and reported to work today." She went on to further state that HR has been
given a Top Secret clearance and access to sensitive compartmental information.
A few weeks later there was information that arrived from an FBI Field Division
that someone had provided the Pakistanis with classified information. The case
was open as an UNSUB (unknown subject) case.
Despite my findings on several of the risk assessments that I completed the
FBI continued to hire and provide top clearances and accesses to these individuals.
I had written letters regarding these security lapses to the Security programs
and up the FBI's Chain of Command to include Director Mueller. Unfortunately,
nothing was ever done. Instead FBI management decided to come after me, the
"kill the messenger" culture that exists in the FBI. I continued to
bring these security and mismanagement issues to management and to the Senate.
Due to my persistence FBI management decided to reorganize the programs. In
doing so they took the Southeast Asian program away from me and gave me the
Sub-Sahara African program. Needless to say there was not much going on in that
program. However, after reviewing the cases within the program an individual
brought me an espionage case involving the Sub-Sahara African area.
I began reviewing the case and realized that the case involved a former FBI
language specialist. The case was out of the FBI's Washington Field Division.
It seemed odd that the case was classified a preliminary inquiry instead of
a full investigation. I state this because there was overwhelming evidence to
justify a full investigation. In fact I believe there was sufficient evidence
to convict the subject. I state this for several reasons. The FBI had several
well-placed reliable sources that confirmed that the subject was working and
providing information to a foreign intelligence service. In fact, one source
informed the FBI that while he/she was in the presence of the foreign intelligence
officer, he/she was informed not to say anything while at the foreign mission.
When the source inquired why the intelligence officer informed him/her that
" the FBI is monitoring the mission and has it wired." When the source
asked the intelligence officer how he/she knew this the intelligence officer
stated "we know because we have a translator within the FBI that is working
for us." Despite this information and the confirmation of the name of the
FBI's language specialist nothing was ever done. When I inquired about the case
and asked why there was not a full investigation on the subject, why wasn't
the FBI Field division aggressively pursuing the case, etc. my supervisor took
the case away from me. After that I was relieved from my program responsibilities.
Report by Behrooz Sarshar, Former Language Specialist; FBI:
According to Behrooz Sarshar, Retired FBI Translator
for Farsi Language, in 2001 an Iranian translator working for the FBI-New York
Field Office was found to be working for the target(s) of FBI counterintelligence
and criminal investigations. This translator was providing the FBI targets with
tips/information, and was tampering with intelligence/information in Farsi gathered
by the FBI. The FBI asked this translator to resign and leave quietly. NO
criminal investigation and NO damage assessment were conducted.
In January 2002, Mr. Sarshar reported to the Department of Justice Inspector
General Office incidents involving a certain Middle-Eastern translator who regularly
removed Top Secret Documents/Audio Tapes and Laptop containing classified and
extremely sensitive intelligence from the FBI premises. This individual reportedly
shared these TS documents with foreign individuals outside the FBI. Mr. Sarshar
and Ms. Pari Pakravan (Former translator, FBI-WFO) repeatedly reported these
security breaches to the FBI management and security for several years (1997-2001),
but NO action was taken.
Reports by Special Agent Donald Levy & Special Agent
Robert Wright; FBI:
Donald Lavey, who worked in counterterrorism for
20 years at the FBI, said wiretap translations by Mideast-born agents should
have a "second opinion," because their backgrounds may "prejudice" their interpretation
"We are at war, and we need more than one translator for each subject under
electronic surveillance," he said. "We are relying too heavily on single Arab
translators for significant information, and worse yet, investigative guidance."
Levy recalls a problem with a former Arab translator in the FBI's Detroit office
who tried to back out of secretly recording a fellow Muslim suspected of terrorism
by claiming the subject had threatened his life. Levy also cites the more recent
case of Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, an immigrant Muslim, who twice refused on religious
grounds to tape-record Muslim terrorist suspects, hindering investigations of
a bin Laden family-financed bank in New Jersey and Florida professor Sami Al-Arian,
recently indicted for his ties to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group.
A fellow FBI agent, Robert Wright, said Abdel-Hafiz finally explained to him
that "a Muslim does not record another Muslim," after first claiming he feared
for his life. Other agents said he contacted Arab subjects under investigation
without disclosing the contacts to the agents running the cases. Despite his
divided loyalties, the FBI subsequently promoted Abdel-Hafiz by assigning him
to the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia, a critical post for intelligence-gathering.
Three-fourths of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudis. After Wright and another
agent blew the whistle in the media, he was put on administrative leave.
Reports by the Department of Justice Inspector General:
According to The Justice Department Inspector
General Report on November 15, 2002: " A language Specialist was dismissed
for unauthorized contacts with foreign officials and intelligence officers,
receipts of things of value from them, and lack of condor in his 'convoluted
and contradictory responses' to questions about his contacts." [DOJ-OIG
Report, November 15, 2002]. However, the report does not mention any criminal
investigation and/or prosecution regarding this case. Like all other cases mentioned
above, this case was not referred to the FBI-Counterespionage Division.
Also, according to the Justice Department Inspector General Report in August
2003: " In our review, we observed serious deficiencies in nearly every
aspect of the FBI's internal security program, from personnel security,
to computer security, document security, and security training and compliance."
The report includes 21 recommendations for the FBI aimed at improving its ability
to detect and investigate security breaches and potential espionage. "Some
of the most serious weaknesses still have not been fully remedied and
expose the FBI to the risk of serious compromises by other moles."
[DOJ-OIG Report, August 2003].
1) Letter from Senator Patrick Leahy on August 13, 2002: "Ms.
Edmonds alleged that a contract monitor once worked for an organization under
FBI's counter-intelligence investigation and that this monitor had contacts
with a foreign national who was a member of the target institution."
The letter states that even after verifying these allegations, "the
FBI downplayed the importance of this matter and seemed to imply that it ceased
to looking into the complaints as a security matter until after the Inspector
General finished their investigation." [See Attached, U.S. Senator
Patrick Leahy, the Letter to AG Ashcroft on August 13, 2002]
a)"Ms. Edmonds has alleged that this contract monitor in her unit 'chose'
not to translate important, intelligence-related information, instead limiting
her translations to unimportant and innocuous information. The FBI has verified
that this monitor indeed failed to translate certain material properly, but
has attributed the failure to a lack of training."
b)The subject translator continued to work for the FBI Washington Field Office
with full access to Top Secret intelligence information/documents for 6 months
after the start of IG investigation and after the FBI confirmed her ties to
the subjects of FBI investigation and her other security violations.
2) Letter From Senator Grassley and Senator Leahy on June 19, 2002:
"Ms. Edmonds has reported, and the FBI has confirmed, that another contract
linguist in the FBI Unit failed to translate at least two communications reflecting
a foreign official's handling of intelligence matters. The FBI has confirmed
that the contract linguist had "Unreported contacts" with that foreign
official." [See attached letter from Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator
Charles Grassley on June 19, 2002]
Cole, John M., Former Veteran Intelligence Operations Specialist, FBI
John M. Cole, Former Veteran Intelligence Operations Specialist worked for
18 years in the FBI's Counterintelligence Division as an Intelligence Operations
specialist. Beginning in 1999, he discovered and began reporting serious issues
of mismanagement, gross negligence, waste of government funds, security breaches,
cover-ups, and intentional blocking of intelligence that had national security
implications. He wrote these issues in several letters to FBI management, to
include Director Mueller to no avail. After he reported these acts to FBI management,
he was retaliated against, suspended and ultimately left the FBI in March 2004.