by Luke Ryland
Luke’s blog post
January 28, 2008
In the last few weeks, UK’s Times has run a series of articles about the so-called ‘Sibel Edmonds case.’ (‘For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets, ‘FBI denies file exposing nuclear secrets theft‘ and ‘Tip-off thwarted nuclear spy ring probe‘)
Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds stumbled into a world of espionage, nuclear black market, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and corruption at the highest levels of the US government.
I interviewed Sibel yesterday regarding the current investigation and reporting by the Times, the failures of the US media, and last week’s decision by the Bush administration to legalize the sale of nuclear technology to Turkey, in an apparent to exonerate prior criminal activity by officials in his administration.
Sibel also has some urgent ‘action items’ so that we can stop these dangerous nuclear proliferation activities. I urge you to act on her suggestions.
Luke Ryland: What do you have to say about the recent work by the Insight journalists – Chris Gourlay, Jonathan Calvert, Joe Lauria – at the UK’s Times?
Sibel Edmonds: They’ve done good, solid reporting so far by doing what reporters are supposed to. They have been chasing sources and getting their hands on documents. It’s pretty simple. As you know, this story has been available to any journalist for six years now.
There’s been a lot of speculation in the last few weeks that American reporters haven’t touched this story because they are ‘corporate owned’ but it is wrong to exonerate these reporters so quickly. Many of them are too close to their official sources, and some are simply lazy. This Times team chases sources, and if they can’t reach them one way, they’ll try and try again, or they’ll seek out alternate sources, or find other ways to ensure that they get the story.
When I hear from US reporters, they say ‘Sibel, give us all the documents we’ll need, and you line up all the sources for us, and then maybe we’ll do a story’ and if one source doesn’t return their phone call, they simply give up. That’s not journalism!
Luke Ryland: Why has the US failed on this story so dramatically for 6 years?
Sibel Edmonds: It’s a combination of things, obviously. You need to consider that the entire US press corps has failed on this story; not only the regular print and TV media, but the alternative media has failed on this too.
Part of the reason is that journalists are simply too close to their official sources. Those sources might tell the journalist that there’s nothing to the story, and so the journalist gives up on it, or the official sources might ‘request’ that the journalist to stay away from the story, and the journalist is then concerned about losing access to the source in the future.
Another reason is the partisanship. With the foreign press, there is no partisanship, and that’s one reason why they have been more effective at covering this case, and I’m not just talking about the recent Times articles here. With the US media, it appears as though if there is no clear partisan angle, then there’s no story. As you know, this case is spread over two administrations, and that appears to make it difficult for the reporters to cover the story. Even within one news organization you might have one journalist who wants to use the story to indict Clinton, and another who wants to use the story to bash Bush, and in the end neither of them write about the story because it doesn’t fit their partisanship, their ‘narrative’, so they just drop it altogether.
I had such high hopes for the alternative press, and they do a lot of good work, but partisanship repeatedly gets in the way there too, on both sides.
The US media also suffers from a pack mentality. I was told by one executive that they weren’t doing the story because it was ‘old news’ because 60 Minutes did a single segment in October 2002, even though they only covered a tiny part of the case. This executive literally told me that he’d only cover the story if it was ‘hot and sexy.’ I often think that I’d need to be able to hire Britney Spears to be a spokesperson – and this is not just for my case, but for any of the many other solid, important cases at the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. Apparently this is what it would take to get any coverage.
Of course, given the pack mentality, if any of these stories does become ‘hot and sexy’ then all the journalists focus on the same issues and there’s no differentiation in their reporting.
The other major problem in the US is the focus on symptoms, rather than root causes. My case is a good example, but there are lots of others too. Look at the early reporting on my case in 2002, the Washington Post broke the story in July 2002 about the espionage in the translation bureau and then they dropped the story after two weeks. They stopped reporting on it when more important information came out and the State Secrets Privilege was invoked. To this day not a single US reporter has asked ‘Why was the State Secrets Privilege been invoked here? What is going on?’
Just this week I was approached by a major US outlet who wanted to do a story on Kevin Taskesen! [Ed note: Taskesen was an incompetent FBI translator who got his job because his wife worked in the administrative office] This is absolutely the most trivial element of the case, and it has already been reported at length. I told them that they could learn everything they needed to know by watching 60 Minutes, 2002. Again, the US media needs to start looking at the root causes of these problems, not the symptoms.
Luke Ryland: Will the US media start reporting on this now that it is ‘hot and sexy’ again?
Sibel Edmonds: It’s hard to know. After being told for years that they won’t cover it because it is ‘old news,’ now there are certain officials in the agencies quietly telling journalists to stay away from the story because I came across a highly sensitive covert national security operation.
Also, Turkey’s army of lobbyists in DC are very effective. The US press tends to stay away from any stories critical of Turkey, I would say even more than Israel.
There’s also the possible problem of ‘eating crow’ but I hope this isn’t an issue, this story is way too important for any of that. The information that has been published in the Times recently could have easily come out four years ago in the US press. We now need everyone to focus on the important issues.
I have one message for the US media: If they think this is over, it’s not over. Much more will come out. They won’t be able to ignore it any longer, and so I hope they get over any reluctance they might have.
Look at the positive press that the Times’ series has received since their first article ran. Do you think their editors haven’t noticed? The Times is adding more and more resources to the story, more journalists, bigger budgets, and more importantly, they are getting more and more sources coming forward to shed light on these illegal activities. As I have said from the beginning, this story is not about me, there are many sources who have been waiting for the right time to come forward, I’ve probably never even heard of most of them, and now they are coming forward. This will play out like Watergate played out, with the drip, drip, drip. So I say to everyone ‘Buckle up, there’s much more coming.’
So, hopefully American reporters will start to cover the story. I’m not particularly confident, but to a certain degree it doesn’t matter that much because the internet and the blogs can spread the reporting from the UK as soon as it hits the wires.
Luke Ryland: Two weeks after the first article in the Times about the involvement of high-level US officials being involved with Turkish and Israeli interests in supplying the nuclear black market, President Bush quietly announced that the US will start supplying nuclear technology to Turkey. Do you think that is a coincidence?
Sibel Edmonds: The timing is certainly very, very suspicious. The proposals that are being floated are very suspicious too. There are reports that Turkey will build an enrichment facility, and that Turkey will become the key supplier of nuclear fuel to other Muslim countries who want nuclear power plants. None of this makes any sense.
And again, the US media is nowhere to be seen on this issue. Where are the journalists? Do you remember the noise made a couple of years ago when the US announced that it would supply India with nuclear technology? So far, nearly a week after the announcement and not a single major US media outlet has even reported on the deal! Think of the hypocrisy, with all the saber-rattling at Iran over enrichment.
If it’s such a good idea to sell nuclear technology to Turkey, why isn’t the White House out there selling the idea? Where are the arguments in the press saying that this will be good for regional stability, or that it will help reduce demand for oil, or even that it is simply good business because US firms will be able to sell their hardware and knowledge? There’s nothing! Silence. What does that tell you?
Luke Ryland: What needs to be done?
Sibel Edmonds: The way they’ve structured this deal is that Congress has 90 days from the announcement, now 84 days, to block the ‘agreement’ otherwise it basically becomes law.
The first thing that we need to do is to make sure that this doesn’t ‘automatically’ become law. We need the journalists, the experts, and the bloggers to raise hell over this issue, and we need to make sure that Congress investigates this properly before rubber-stamping it. The clock is ticking and we need to act now.
As you know, and this was even published in the White House press release on this issue, certain ‘Turkish private entities’ have been involved ‘in certain activities directly relating to nuclear proliferation.’ This includes supplying the A.Q. Khan network – which built Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, and also supplied North Korea, Iran and other countries – but as the recent Times stories indicate, so much more as well.
The White House press release states that all these issues have been resolved; that the Turkish government has addressed these issues, that the US government has evaluated these actions and that the US government is satisfied, and that all of this is secret, classified!
Given the track record of this administration in abusing classification and distorting intelligence, why on earth would we trust them with this? What is in the report? Is it truthful? Why is it classified? We saw these exact same people do the same thing in the late 80s when they enabled Pakistan to get nuclear weapons. Richard Barlow did his best to stop them then, but if Congress doesn’t hold hearings this time around the same thing will happen again. We should have stopped Pakistan then, but unless this ‘classified’ report is made public and the contents publicly debated, then the Barlow of today won’t even get the chance to debunk whatever is in that ‘classified’ report. What conceivable logic is there in classifying the details of how Turkey has cleaned up its act regarding nuclear proliferation? If they have, they should be proud of it!
There are many great anti-proliferation organizations out there, we need to rally all of them, and all of the ‘pro-transparency’ organizations, to this cause. We need journalists to contact these experts for their opinion and expertise, and we need these experts to contact journalists to ensure that the story, and the issues, is covered, and covered thoroughly.
We also need to recruit bloggers and alternative media to keep the pressure on. Perhaps a ‘countdown clock’ as we count down the 90 days might help.
Luke Ryland: What are the next steps in the process?
Sibel Edmonds: I’m not exactly sure of the process at the moment, but it has been reported that this ‘automatically’ becomes law after the 90 days, somehow, unless Congress blocks or amends the legislation.
Apparently the approval process somehow includes convincing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee not to object, so those committees appear to be our first firewall.
(Ed note: Senate Foreign Relations Committee includes Joe Biden (Chair), Chris Dodd, John Kerry, Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer, Barack Obama and Jim Webb for the Democrats, and Richard Lugar, Chuck Hagel and George Voinovich for the minority. Hopefully one of them will stand up on this important issue. The House side looks more difficult, the Chairman is Tom Lantos who was listed in Sibel’s Rogue’s Gallery, which apparently identifies 18 of the guilty parties in her case, so that might be a problem. Ron Paul is also on that committee, he might be a prime target for this campaign.)
Luke Ryland: Is there anything else we can do?
Sibel Edmonds: There is one other hope. As last week’s White House press release states, Bill Clinton tried to pass this legislation in 2000 but “immediately after” Clinton tried to send it to Congress it was blocked because some people apparently highlighted Turkish involvement in the nuclear black market and, who knows, maybe threatened to blow the whistle. Those same individuals, and others like them, can stop this again, and they should do everything they can to make sure that this doesn’t happen. They should try to do it internally, and if they can’t do it internally, then they need reach out to journalists, either on or off the record. Hopefully some honest, dedicated people will try to block it again, but we can’t rely on that. We need to pressure congress to ensure that this doesn’t go through.
Time is running out, the countdown clock is ticking down, and we need to stop this now. We need the help of journalists, congress, nuclear proliferation experts, bloggers and those active citizens in the blogosphere and elsewhere.
Many thanks to Sibel, as always.
Please do what you can to help block this proposed legislation.
If you can create a ‘countdown clock’ please contact me, and we’ll offer it so that everyone can place it on their blogs and use it in their sigs etc.
Regarding alternative media, Sibel is particularly grateful to American Conservative and Antiwar.com for their objectivity and non-partisanship in covering this case. In particular, Phil Giraldi, Justin Raimondo, Joshua Frank and Scott Horton.
To reiterate Sibel’s emphasis on the importance of the internet to help get the story out, Daily Kos statistics for the week Jan 19-25 have been released. During a primary week when many were (rightly) complaining that campaign diaries made it almost impossible for other issues to get any attention, diaries related to Sibel’s case dominated the list. Sibel’s story was both #1 and $2 for the week, and filled 3 of the top 11, and 4 of the top 25 diaries. Statistics at Democratic Underground will demonstrate the same level of interest in the case. Thank you to all of you, and I ask that you continue to support the case, and I ask that journalists and bloggers pick up the story and support the great work done by the Times. It’s about time, no?