Edmonds was hired, as a contractor, to work as an interpreter in the translations unit of the FBI in Washington on  13 September, 15 September, or 20 September Among her main roles was to translate covertly recorded conversations by Turkish diplomatic and political targets. In response, she claims that managers retaliated  against her, and she was fired on 22 March In June , the Associated Press and Washington Post reported that the FBI claimed Edmonds was dismissed because her actions were disruptive and breached security and that she performed poorly at her job. The session was closed and over three hours long, she said.
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She discovered corruption and reported it - and suffered reprisals. She kept fighting, taking the issue to the highest reaches of the US political and judicial system. The book Classified Woman is her story. If you have any trust in the US justice system, beware! This book shows such deep-seated dysfunction and corruption that any idea of working within the system for change seems forlorn.
There is, though, hope in the end. Edmonds grew up in Iran and Turkey. Her father, a physician, was outspoken in support of justice and paid the penalty, being arrested and tortured under the regime of the Shah of Iran. Edmonds came to the US, thrilled to finally live in a country where freedom meant something - or so she thought.
While studying at university, she applied for work at the FBI. After years of delay, suddenly she was urgently called to a job. The reason was the attacks of 9 September Translators were in high demand. The FBI had a huge backlog of intercepts and recorded conversations that needed translation and analysis.
Edmonds soon showed her exceptional skills and was called for numerous assignments. However, not everyone in the FBI welcomed her contributions. However, her boss did not want to know. Why not? So these cases were closed down. But it was worse than this.
Edmonds discovered that another translator in her area, Melek Can Dickerson, had negligible capacity to understand Turkish, yet was making crucial decisions about which files to ignore. This was despite well-publicised corruption in Turkey involving drug-running, money laundering and the nuclear black market.
Those involved had high-level connections in the US, and were paying them for protection. Dickerson was tied into these corrupt networks and apparently was using her position in the FBI to prevent investigations of key figures involved in criminal activities. On occasions, she came to the office to continue a crucial translation and discovered that lots of it had been lost or garbled, losing days of effort. She tried to find out how that had happened.
All trails led to her own supervisor. Then there were security breaches. You might imagine that, with all the secrecy involved, that the FBI followed protocols closely.
Quite the contrary. Files were not locked away like they were supposed to be, so they could just be put in a bag and taken away. Computers were unsecured, so they could easily be accessed or stolen. Many security rules were never enforced.
So what should Edmonds have done? She assumed that someone higher up in the FBI needed to know and would address the problem. This is where she went wrong, as do so many whistleblowers. She trusted the system and paid the penalty. She was warned repeatedly by others in the bureau who sympathised with her concerns but knew from their own experience that it was impossible to change the culture of the organisation.
She learned from them of more serious cover-ups. High-level figures in the FBI, the CIA and the Defense Department were doing everything possible to avoid responsibility, and this meant covering up the truth.
One of her superiors informed her in these words: You need to know a little about some policies that are followed religiously in the FBI. Policy one: one for all, all for one.
Policy two: problems and embarrassments are always swept under the rug - always. She felt it was her duty as a loyal employee and citizen to report the security risks she discovered - including external risks to the US and internal risks within the FBI - to higher authorities. Thus she began a journey travelled by many whistleblowers before her, one that can be labelled "the failure of official channels. Reporting problems to ever higher officials simply made her a marked woman.
Before long, reprisals began. She found that her phone was tapped. When meeting key figures outside bureau offices, for example in a restaurant, two agency figures would sit nearby and conspicuously listen to and video her, a transparent attempt at intimidation, to deter anyone else from joining Edmonds. The worst part was threats to her family members living in Turkey. Her co-worker Dickerson, whose work Edmonds had exposed as protecting criminals in Turkey, threatened Edmonds and apparently used connections to have them threatened.
FBI management instructed Edmonds to take a lie detector test, with the usual bind. If she went, the results could be fiddled and used to dismiss her; if she refused to go, she could be dismissed for disobeying instructions. Only with the support of astute advice was she able to take the test and ensure that the results were not manipulated. However, she was fired anyway. One big disappointment was the response of US watchdog bodies. The day after I was fired, I began looking for an attorney, which proved difficult.
As far as government watchdog and whistleblower organizations go, none of them call back unless you happen to be famous. It took me years to understand the game: high-profile cases are cash cows for many of these groups, who use the funds they raise to pay the salaries of their staffs, none of whom are whistleblowers.
She was persuaded to appear on national television, after which she was contacted by numerous other media, in the typical flurry of attention. A key spin-off was being contacted by numerous other whistleblowers from intelligence agencies.
The FBI began a media counter-offensive, leaking information to discredit Edmonds. Her reputation was especially damaged in Turkey, where she was denounced as a spy. Edmonds had been visiting her extended family in Turkey every year, but now she knew she could never again visit the country, because she would probably be arrested, imprisoned, tortured and killed.
Just in time, Edmonds was able to convince her sister to leave Turkey for the US. As Edmonds became well known, she was contacted by one of the watchdog bodies that had previously done nothing: the American Civil Liberties Union.
This is where the story becomes amazing. So determined was the government to prevent Edmonds from succeeding in court that it invoked a little-used law, state secrets privilege, to prevent the case from proceeding. The government pulled out its strongest techniques. The case was originally assigned to what seemed to be a fair judge.
Through behind-the-scenes pressure, it was reassigned to a judge who was a pawn of the Bush administration, and who would rule for the government no matter what the evidence. Appeals went up to the Supreme Court, unsuccessfully. The extraordinary part of this saga is that the government was able to retrospectively claim that certain information was classified, even though it was already in the public domain.
This absurd prohibition was a side-effect of the contortions required by the administration and courts as they tried to prevent the release of embarrassing information. Retrospectively classifying information as secret prevented action by the US Congress.
This result had nothing to do with national security; quite the contrary, it damaged security but protected incompetence, negligence and criminality within the national security apparatus. Edmonds felt she had to pursue the matter to the highest level - the Supreme Court, with the support of the ACLU - because otherwise the government would invoke state security privilege in other cases. She was right: this is exactly what the government subsequently did.
Laws designed for exceptional circumstances are now used in routine circumstances to prevent releasing information to the public because it is embarrassing to the government. She discovered others with important information were similarly given the cold shoulder.
Edmonds made contact and found they were allies in the struggle to raise the alarm about problems in the security system. The reason seems to be that too many members of Congress have links to the apparently respected government and business people in Turkey and elsewhere who would be exposed through a thorough investigation. Its report received saturation media coverage. According to Edmonds and the New Jersey activist widows, it was a whitewash. One of her earliest and most helpful allies was Daniel Ellsberg, who had leaked the Pentagon Papers, a history of US government involvement in the Vietnam war, back in the s.
Edmonds, having been contacted by numerous other whistleblowers, decided to set up an organisation, the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. Many former employees were willing to become involved in the coalition because the agencies had become more interested in money and power than in doing their jobs properly.
Edmonds continued to believe in official channels. If the courts had become tools of the system, she next put her hope in the political system, and organised lobbying of politicians. Some were supportive. Then came the election, when Barack Obama was elected. So much for putting trust in political reform. For years, Edmonds poured incredible energy into her campaigns, holding herself together by the hope of real change. Her husband was a pillar of strength through every crisis.
Eventually the disillusionments became too great, and she broke down, unable to do anything. It took a long time for her to recover and to forge a new path: running a blog and website, and writing her book Classified Woman. For some readers, the story Edmonds tells may be almost too confronting to believe.
Not every whistleblower proceeds this way, but enough of them do for the path to be well worn. There is another stage worth mentioning: going to the media.