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The Silencing of Sibel Edmonds

    By James Ridgeway

    The Village Voice 


Court won't let public hear what FBI whistleblower has to say.


 
    

Washington
, 
DC

 - The unsettling story of whistleblower Sibel 



Edmonds

 took another twist on Thursday, as the government continued its 

seemingly endless machinations to shut her up. The US Court of Appeals her 
denied pleas to open the former FBI translator's First Amendment case to the 
public, a day after taking the extraordinary step of ordering a secret hearing. 


 
    

Edmonds

 was hired after 9-11 to help the woefully staffed FBI's 

translation department with documents and wiretaps in such languages as 

Farsi and Turkish. She soon cried foul, saying the agency's was far from 
acceptable and perhaps even dangerous to national security. She was fired in 2002. 


 
    Ever since, the government has been trying to silence her, even 

classifying an interview she did with 60 Minutes. 


 
    Oral arguments in her suit against the federal government were 

scheduled for this morning, but yesterday the clerk of the appeals court unexpectedly 
and suddenly announced the hearing would be closed. Only attorneys and 

Edmonds

 
were allowed in. 


 
    No one thought the three-judge appeals court panel would be 

especially sympathetic to the 

Edmonds

 case. It consists of Douglas Ginsburg, 
who was once nominated for the US Supreme Court by President Reagan. He withdrew 
after it was revealed he had smoked pot as a college student; he later joined the appeals 
court. Another member, David Sentelle, was chair of the three-judge panel that appointed 
Ken Starr to be the special prosecutor investigating 

Clinton

. Karen LeCraft Henderson was 
appointed a federal judge during the Reagan period, then put on the appeals court by the 
elder President Bush. 


 
    In making a plea to open the 

Edmonds

 hearing, the ACLU noted 

appellate arguments normally are accessible to the public. 


 
    Taking her protests to Congress, she won support from the leaders 

of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who exchanged letters with the 

Justice Departmentís Inspector General's office, which said it was making an 
investigation. In the midst of all this, then attorney general John Ashcroft stepped in 
and threw down a gag order by invoking the arcane states secrets privilege, under 
which the government can classify whatever materials it wishes in the interests of 
national security. Last year, the 

Edmonds

 case was dismissed by a federal district 
court judge. The government had never even bothered to file an answer to her complaint. 


 
    The case that was argued this morning concerned a complaint by 



Edmonds

 that the government was denying her First Amendment rights. Only after she 
was fired did 

Edmonds

 go to the Congress. She is saying she played by the rules and 
was squashed by the government without cause or explanation. And when she went 
outside the official channel to reveal what was going on within the bureau, the government responded by 

classifying her previous attempts to speak out, including press accounts written before 
the classification came down. One of them was a 60 Minutes segment. 


 
    "The federal government is routinely retaliating against government 

employees who uncover weaknesses in our ability to prevent terrorist 

attacks or protect public safety," said Ann Beeson, associate legal 

director of the ACLU. "From firing whistleblowers to using special 

privileges to cover up mistakes, the government is taking extreme steps to shield itself 
from political embarrassment while gambling with our safety." 


 
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/printer_042305X.shtml