Jewish World Review August 6, 2004 / 19 Menachem-Av, 5764
These FBI employees suffered for having been
right about Islamic terror
Newly hired as a translator of Turkish and Farsi (the language spoken in
Iran), Sibel Edmonds was sitting at her desk in FBI headquarters in
Washington on Sep. 20, 2001, retranslating a communications intercept
headquarters had received some time before from an agent in Phoenix.
The intercept contained references to skyscrapers and to U.S. immigration
procedures, clues to the intentions of the 9/11 hijackers, clues overlooked
by the person who first translated the document.
Edmonds raced to her supervisor and asked to speak on a secure line to the
agent who had obtained the intercept, to tell him of the significance of
what she had found. The supervisor refused, Edmonds told Anne Kornblut of
the Boston Globe. Telling the agent what actually was in the intercept
would embarrass the person who had mis-translated it, her supervisor told
There was more to worry about than just sloppy translations. Edmonds became
alarmed when she learned that a fellow Turkish translator was a member of a
Middle Eastern group being investigated by the FBI. She brought this to the
attention of her supervisor.
But nothing was done, as Edmonds learned later when she and an agent working
with her discovered that the translator in question had withheld "17 pieces
of extremely specific and important information."
Frustrated by the FBI's refusal to look into her concerns, Edmonds took them
to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has oversight over the FBI.
Finally, the FBI took action. Edmonds was fired.
The FBI is the agency chiefly responsible for finding spies and terrorists
in our midst. The FBI does a lousy job.
Most of us recall how agents in Minneapolis wanted to examine the computer
of Zacarias Moussaoui, the "20th hijacker," but their superiors in
Washington wouldn't let them.
Some of us recall how those same superiors ignored reports from agents in
Phoenix and Oklahoma City that Islamists were attending flight schools
The FBI ought to have suspected al Qaida was planning to use airplanes as
weapons, argues Peter Lance in his chilling book, "1,000 Years for Revenge."
Ramzi Youssef, architect of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993,
and Abdul Hakim Murad were captured after a plot to hijack airliners in the
Pacific in 1995 went awry. They had discussed flying a hijacked airliner
into CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., Murad told interrogators.
Lance argues that the FBI could have captured Youssef and his
co-conspirators before the first World Trade Center bombing if they paid
attention to Special Agent Nancy Floyd and the agent she'd recruited who had
penetrated the cell. But Floyd's superiors forced her to cut her informant
loose, and then persecuted her.
We'd like to believe things have gotten better since the wake up call on
Sept. 11th, and perhaps they have. But the cases of Edmonds and Mike German
Mike German was an FBI agent who in the 1990s successfully infiltrated white
supremacist skinheads plotting to blow up a black church in Los Angeles, and
a militia group in Washington state that talked about attacking government
In 2002, German got word that a militia group in Tampa, Florida might be
plotting with an Islamic terror group. German proposed to his bosses that
he go undercover again.
But German says FBI officials sat on his request, botched the investigation,
falsified documents to discredit its own sources, then froze him out and
made him a pariah.
The 16-year veteran quit the FBI in June. "What's so frustrating for me is
that what I hear the FBI saying every day on TV when I get home, about how
its remaking itself to fight terrorism, is not the reality of what I saw
every day in the field," German told Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times.
German, Floyd, Edmonds and others in the FBI have suffered for having been
right about Islamic terror. But nothing bad has happened to the supervisors
whose negligence caused the intelligence failures.
The 9/11 Commission has proposed a massive restructuring of the intelligence
community, but said next to nothing about the FBI. Washington is all about
fixing what isn't broken, not what is.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
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