by Luke Ryland
Luke’s blog post
Friday, January 25, 2008
Ex-CIA agent, Phil Giraldi, wrote a good piece earlier in the week for American Conservative magazine about the case of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds.
The entire transcript is below, but I wanted to highlight a couple of points that Giraldi makes.
One of the questions that some people have about the case is how could Sibel have come across if she was ‘just a translator,’ and there is a related concern about the fact that, as a translator, Sibel must have only seen just a few snippets of information and couldn’t possibly have seen the entire picture. These concerns stem from the fact that people apparently presume that translators are simply passive translators of material, isolated from the cases they are working on.
Giraldi, who is familiar with how these things work, says:
“(A)s a translator (she) would have worked very closely with the FBI supervising officers to try to figure out what these transcripts meant. So the argument that she only saw these ‘bits’ is not really true, she would have been very interactive in terms of the people running these operations and she would have found out a lot more.
Giraldi makes another good point. None of the guilty parties identified in the case have gone out of their way to exonerate their good names.
Quite honestly, if I were Marc Grossman, who allegedly is now making $3 million a year working for the Cohen Group, I would be kind of concerned about my personal reputation where people are saying that I was taking money, and I would want to straighten out the record and I would want to the FBI to produce a definitive statement about me, and he hasn’t demanded that. He hasn’t gone after than, and none of the other people in this case have gone after that, so I’m wondering why, if these people are innocent, they aren’t making a more serious effort to demonstrate that they are.
Giraldi also debunks the ‘she uncovered a sting operation’ idea that has started floating around lately, after 5 years.
And the other argument that keeps getting trotted out, is that Grossman and all these other people might have been part of some sting operation back in 2001, 2002. Well, first of all a sting operation back in 2001, 2002 that has been pretty much exposed in the media in the subsequent six years is not something that you would necessarily have to hide. You could say ‘Look, they were involved in doing the finest, highest level work for the US government’ – they could say something like that to make this story go away, but they haven’t done that. And I assure you, as a CIA officer, that the agency would never have used the number 3 person at State Dept as a person in a sting operation. The State Dept would never have permitted it, and the agency would never have even conceived of it, so the whole argument that this was some kind of sophisticated scam to sting the AQ Khan network or something like that is ridiculous.
Then there’s this:
See the point is that she’s been gagged, and think about what the gag means. The gag means that the government is trying to suppress classified information that she has. That means that they believe that what she is saying is true.
Here’s the full transcript.
SH: Alright everybody, it’s Phil Giraldi. He writes “Smoke and Mirrors” for Antiwar.com and is a contributing editor to the American Conservative magazine. His newest article is “Found in Translation. FBI Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds Spills Her Secrets.” (http://www.amconmag.com/2008/2008_01_28/article1.html) Now, you’re a former CIA covert operative who was stationed in Turkey in the 1980s, is that right?
PG: That’s correct.
SH: And so you have quite a bit of background in the area of the world in discussion in the Sibel Edmonds case. For those who aren’t familiar, can you just give us the basic outline of who Sibel Edmonds is and what happened? What’s the big deal?
PG: Sibel Edmonds is a woman born in Iran of Turkic parents. She was raised in Turkey, emigrated to the US in the 1980s. After 2001, she worked as a Turkish and Farsi language translator for the FBI. While she was there she handled a lot of documents that gave her cause for some concern. She complained about some irregularities that were going on with the FBI’s translation staff and was eventually fired. [She] went public with some of her claims to “60 Minutes,” and also to congress where she was found to be a very credible witness. Her claims basically involve high level US government officials being involved in corruption that has resulted in US nuclear secrets and other defense information, and defense equipment, being sold to the highest bidder with the collaboration of senior Turkish government officials and also Israeli government officials, with the collusion of people in the Pentagon who were linked to these organizations. That’s the essence of her claims.
SH: One of the things that she says is that her story is basically the same story as the Larry Franklin case, is at least related to the Valerie Plame case, that basically all the scandals of the neoconservatives are all tied in with her same story.
PG: Yeah, basically what she is saying is that it’s not necessarily the same story, but the same people, and the same people are involved in all these various subsets of money going here and there. I wrote an article about her back well over a year ago in which I said that this is basically a neoconservative… you know, the neoconservatives don’t have a 401K, they have schemes like this that enable them to make a lot of money in short time, and exploit these relationships, so you have people who work at the Pentagon and State Department essentially who were collaborating with people who were selling American secrets.
SH: Okay, now tell me about the American Turkish Council.
PG: The American Turkish Council was established, I believe, in the early nineties. It was set up with the assistance of AIPAC, and the reason why there’s an AIPAC connection is because the Israelis and Turks have had a strong defense relationship since that time, and many of the lobbying groups that support Israel have fostered the Turkish relationship.
SH: And of course, a lot of this is tied in with the arms manufacturers in this country, because when our government “gives” military hardware to the Turks and the Israelis, that’s just cash in the pocket of Northrop Grumman and Lockheed, and so we see them populating the Board of Directors and so forth of this group [the ATC], right?
PG: Yeah, many of these groups, and indeed the groups like the American Enterprise Institute, some of the neocon think tanks are heavily funded by defense contractors for obvious reasons. Defense contractors do very well when you’re fighting the whole world all the time, so there are a whole lot of interlocking relationships here, and what Sibel is saying, essentially, is that these people are all the same people, they’re involved in Israel, they’re involved in Turkey, they are corruptly exploiting their positions in the US government to make all this happen, and they’re getting rich off it.
SH: In the movie Kill The Messenger, you describe Richard Perle as “an agent of influence for Israel” – what exactly is an agent of influence?
PG: That’s basically someone who works for a government, but is working for the interests of another government through his US government position. So when Perle was at the Defense Department, which he has been intermittently at through the years, he exploited his position, his contacts, on behalf of Israel. That’s not my assessment, incidentally, that was an assessment made by the CIA. There have been a number of other people in the government, particularly at the Defense Dept who’ve also been alleged to be agents of influence for Israel.
SH: Wow. And is that CIA assessment classified? Can I get a copy of that?
PG: I don’t know how one would actually get a written copy of it, but it has been referred to in secondary texts a number of times. If you do a google, I think you’d find it.
SH: Okay, so he’s not exactly a spy where he’s just outright getting paid and working for the Mossad or anything, it’s just that he puts the interests of Israel first, even though he works, or worked, for the US government.
PG: Well, to a certain extent he is a spy. Recall that Richard Perle was overheard in a restaurant in Washington quite some time ago giving classified information to somebody who was working for Israeli embassy, so it depends how you define ’spy.’ The investigation was, as I understand, dropped, which it always is in these cases strangely enough, but you know, there have been similar cases with Doug Feith and others also at the Pentagon.
SH: And now bringing up Doug Feith, what’s this International Advisors Inc? He had a lobbying firm that represented Turkey in the 1990s?
PG: That’s right, he had a lobbying firm, and Richard Perle worked for him as one of his consultants, so these people have had a long term relationship, both with Israel and with Turkey, and obviously that’s kind of the nexus, and now we’re discovering, if Sibel is correct in what she’s been saying, that the glue holding this all together is the sale of US nuclear and other military technology.
SH: And for those who don’t remember, Richard Perle was the Chairman of the Defense Policy Board during the run up to the Iraq war, and his buddy Douglas Feith was the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Policy.
PG: That’s correct, yes.
SH: So that’s quite a position to be in, I guess, if you’re a foreign agent of influence.
PG: Well, look, the friends of Israel would argue that the strategic interests of Israel and the US are absolutely identical. Now, anyone with half a brain knows that that is not true, and that it could never be true in relationships between two countries, and yet that is, I think, how they are able to sleep at night. That’s the fiction that they pursue.
SH: Now what exactly are Sibel Edmonds’ accusations against Richard Perle and Douglas Feith?
PG: Well the accusations against Perle and Feith have never been spelled out. She claims that high officials in the Pentagon were part of this process of the sale of nuclear and other military technology. She has not named them. What she has done, is she has a website on which she has kind of a rogues gallery of pictures, and you go through the pictures and you find out basically who are the names – this is my interpretation of what I’m seeing – you put the names onto the pictures and you assume that these are the people that, at least at this time, she doesn’t feel comfortable enough to name. And Richard Perle’s picture is there, as is Doug Feith’s, as is Feith’s replacement at the Pentagon, who is currently there and is also a former ambassador to Turkey, Eric Edelman.
SH: And what about Larry Franklin?
PG: Larry Franklin is, according to her, also involved in this process, that AIPAC and the connections with AIPAC and with Turks and everything – but again, these are areas where she has revealed some things, but she hasn’t been very explicit, because she has a gag order.
SH: Because she could go to prison.
PG: Yeah. The areas where she has been extremely explicit, and this was the point of my article in the American Conservative, there are very specific charges against one former senior State Department officer, Marc Grossman, and she claims that he was taking money, that he was expediting people from Turkey and Israel, getting into the US Defense establishment, and a number of charges like that. One of the more interesting charges was that she says that she reviewed the transcript of a conversation in which Grossman warned the Turks that Brewster Jennings, the CIA cover company that Valerie Plame worked for, was “government” – you know, a code word for the Agency, and this apparently took place in late 2001, so it was way before Robert Novak outed Valerie Plame and her cover company. In this case, it went to the Turks, and the FBI was listening in on the Turks, when they called the Pakistanis and informed Pakistani intelligence about this.
SH: Wow. So that’s a felony, right?
PG: Yeah, I believe it is. And you kind of wonder why the US govt has been reluctant to follow up on this. Again, the point in my article is that we don’t know whether all of this stuff that Sibel is saying is true. We don’t. You haven’t seen the papers, I haven’t seen the papers, she claims to have seen papers.
PG: And she claims that there are FBI files that back up what she is claiming, and in one case, an anonymous whistleblower who appears to be an FBI officer, sent in a message that I got a copy of, which actually gives the file number that all of this information is contained in. So, her claim is very specific, of illegal, criminal, possibly treasonous activity, and she is giving very specific information that she claims can be backed up by these files. My point of view is that I don’t know whether she’s telling the truth or not, but she certainly deserves a hearing.
SH: And this is the latest Sunday Times article that came out after your article, “FBI Denies File Exposing Nuclear Secrets Theft” and apparently they’ve been able to prove that the file does exist, and that the FBI is lying when they say that no such file even exists.
PG: That’s right. I’ve spoken to the journalist from the London Times and he claims to have written evidence proving that the file exists, even though the FBI claims it doesn’t. I think what the FBI did was that they took the file and they might have shredded it, but more likely the just refiled it under a different number, so they’re telling the truth when they say the file doesn’t exist (laughs).
SH: Right. They just spell all the keywords wrong so the search doesn’t work… Okay. In terms of the FBI, I’m trying to work out, when you have all these disparate pieces, you have the Larry Franklin investigation – again, he’s the guy who’s been convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for passing secrets to Israel, who worked for Douglas Feith in the Pentagon – you have the investigation o the Valerie Plame thing, which obviously is a separate issue, the way that came up, but when it comes to Sibel Edmonds, the investigations that she was in on into Perle and Feith particularly and this group, is this all just one big investigation that goes back to 1996 and it just has its different branches? It’s hard to see because it’s all within the DoJ where I can’t really tell.
PG: Well, again, bear in mind that she has not named Feith and Perle. This is an assumption. I want to be careful about what we’re saying because there are things that we know and things that we don’t know here. The thrust of what she’s said is that yes, if you look at it, these are all parts of one big investigation that includes AIPAC, it includes the Turks, it includes the Israelis, it includes senior US government officials at both State Department and Pentagon, and that the FBI basically was investigating all these people, sometimes coming at it separately, but in the end, it’s all the same players doing all the same things.
SH: Now, on the issue of Sibel Edmonds’ credibility – because as you say, we don’t have the papers, she has a gag order, congress won’t do anything about it, we really don’t know – there’s been, I guess, quite a bit of criticism of Sibel Edmonds, she’s such a charismatic lady, that people, I guess, it turns people off, and they think that she’s said so much for a lady with a gag order that she must be over-reaching with some of this stuff, these are such outrageous charges. What do you make of the idea, for example, that she couldn’t possibly know the things that she claims to know?
PG: Well, that argument has a certain amount of credibility; here she is, a translator, she’s working with transcripts mostly, from what I gather, of telephone communications that have been intercepted by the FBI… There are a couple of arguments that suggest that when she made connections, she made connections because she as a translator would have worked very closely with the FBI supervising officers to try to figure out what these transcripts meant. So the argument that she only saw these ‘bits’ is not really true, she would have been very interactive in terms of the people running these operations and she would have found out a lot more. Another argument that she’s jumping the gun and putting things together, well, that might be true, but we won’t know the truth of this stuff until somebody does a serious investigation on her charges. Quite honestly, if I were Marc Grossman, who allegedly is now making $3 million a year working for the Cohen Group, I would be kind of concerned about my personal reputation where people are saying that I was taking money, and I would want to straighten out the record and I would want to the FBI to produce a definitive statement about me, and he hasn’t demanded that. He hasn’t gone after that, and none of the other people in this case have gone after that, so I’m wondering why, if these people are innocent, they aren’t making a more serious effort to demonstrate that they are.
SH: Well maybe it’s just because it’s a national security matter, State Secrets Privilege and all that, and they’re not really in a position to be able to defend themselves.
PG: Well, then they might be interested in saying that. They’re not saying that. See the point is that she’s been gagged, and think about what the gag means. The gag means that the government is trying to suppress classified information that she has. That means that they believe that what she is saying is true. And the other argument that keeps getting trotted out, is that Grossman and all these other people might have been part of some sting operation back in 2001, 2002… Well, first of all a sting operation back in 2001, 2002 that has been pretty much exposed in the media in the subsequent six years is not something that you would necessarily have to hide. You could say “Look, they were involved in doing the finest, highest level work for the US government” – they could say something like that to make this story go away, but they haven’t done that. And I assure you, as a CIA officer, that the agency would never have used the number 3 person at State Department as a person in a sting operation. The State Department would never have permitted it, and the agency would never have even conceived of it, so the whole argument that this was some kind of sophisticated scam to sting the AQ Khan network or something like that is ridiculous.
SH: Well now, what about the cover up? I mean, this is America, this isn’t a banana republic, at least not yet. What about separations of powers? Obviously Congress is inept, but can’t a Justice Department official make his name by convening a Grand Jury in this case and getting something done? Isn’t there supposed to be some sort of automatic checks and balances, separation of power thing that kicks in here that keeps traitors out of the State Department?
PG: Only if the Justice Department is being directed by the Attorney General to do precisely that. Do you honestly believe that this Attorney General will do that?
SH: Maybe if you waterboarded him.
PG: (laughs) Yes.
SH: See, this is the thing. It almost makes it seem like this treason, this crime ring, stealing and selling nuclear secrets to the Pakistanis through the Turks and all this criminality, it almost seems like it is just the government of the US doing it, not just people who work for the governmentt, if the entire government kicks in to help cover it up.
PG: You remember the scene in the movie The Godfather when Al Pacino was talking to his girlfriend, and she says “But, but, you know, congressmen and senators and people like that don’t go out and have people killed like you mafia people do” and Al Pacino’s response was “Now, who’s being naive here?”
PG: Corruption is as American as apple pie. Hopefully we have a strong enough democracy where we can fight it, but I think in the last six, what we have seen is this whole terrorist threat, and the way it’s been hyped, and the way it’s been used, a lot of our fundamental liberties and our fundamental sense of what we are as a people has been eroded, and this is precisely what I’m talking about. You get a Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, you get this guy Mukasey, these guys are not going to do anything that’s not in the interests of the Bush administration. And, hey, if we get a president Hillary Clinton somewhere around the corner, or even more terribly – and this is the buzz in Washington right now – that we’re looking at a McCain / Leiberman administration…
SH: Oh! PG: Yeah, think about who is going to be investigating any of these things. Nobody.
SH: Wow. What a way to wrap up an interview. There you go, everybody. It’s Philip Giraldi, he writes “Smoke and Mirrors” for Antiwar.com. He’s a partner in Cannistraro Associates, contributing editor at the American Conservative magazine and you can find his blog entries at Huffington Post. Thanks a lot, Phil.
PG: Thanks Scott.