Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hopefully I'll soon have some video of Sibel's speech at the American Library Association conference earlier this week.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sibel Edmonds, Bandar Bush and BAe - similar but different.

It's been nearly impossible to get any attention to the case of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds. We can't even get Waxman to even comment on whether he'll hold hearings on the case as he has promised.

So, whenever I can, I try to piggy-back on other relevant stories that are getting attention - in this case, the bribery scandal involving Bandar Bush, the UK government, the Saudis and defense contractor BAe.

In this post, I'll highlight the similarities and the differences between the two cases (hint: Sibel's case is much worse).

Call Waxman. Demand public open hearings:
DC phone: (202) 225-3976
LA phone: 323 651-1040
fax: (202) 225-4099
Capitol switchboard phone: 800-828-0498

As I mentioned upstairs, it's been very difficult to bring any attention to Sibel's story, so I try to find a new angle where I can. I've tried emailing Dan Froomkin (who I really like) a few times to no avail. He was LiveOnline at WaPo so I asked him the following:

Australia: Hi Dan. Thanks for the column. Given the latest revelations about the payments to Bandar Bush in the BAE scandal, do you think Henry Waxman might hold hearings to see whether these payments may have influenced the foreign policy of Bush's White House?
He replied:
Dan Froomkin: A good question. There's been remarkably little in the coverage of this story about just how close and influential Bandar was with the Bushes for a long time.

My question was a little loaded.

Waxman refuses to hold hearings into Sibel's case, a case that is similar in some respects, and worse in others.

Military Industrial Complex
Both cases are about arms sales to our 'friends.' The BAe case involved fighter jets to Saudi Arabia. Sibel's case is about all sorts of arms trafficking - hardware, software, nuclear 'secrets' - involving a bunch of countries, Israel, Turkey, Pakistan and others.

Policy or freelancing?
The most important difference between the two cases is that the UK government knew all about the deal from inception. The deal was officially sanctioned at the highest levels of government, and although it was hidden, was presumably valid, or at least, justifiable. (We may find out otherwise at some later date.)

In Sibel's case, the perpetrators are freelancing. They are profiting, personally, from their activities. They aren't selling arms to 'quasi allies' as part of official policy. They're arming the highest bidder, regardless of official policy.

We know that Bandar Bush received $2 billion in bribes to facilitate the deal. So far as we know, so far, that $2 billion was a pure cash transfer, with no strings attached regarding subsequent disbursements etc.

In Sibel's case, we have the bribes flowing into the US, the selling country, presumably because the US taxpayer, literally and otherwise, pays the bills. These bribes flow through to congress people, in envelopes, suitcases and campaign contributions, and the inevitable blackmail.

The BAe investigation has uncovered secret payments of $25million to a former Defense advisor. (As far as I know, these payments are separate to the Bandar Bush deals)

In Sibel's case, (at least some of) the 'lobbyists' are publicly known, and (at least some of) the payments are public. We know who is, or has been, on the Turkish payroll. Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, fmr Dem Senator Stephen Solarz, fmr Defense Secretary William Cohen, fmr Dem House Minority Speaker Dick Gephardt, fmr Speaker Bob Livingston.

There's only one problem, we know where some of the money is going, but we don't know where it is coming from. As Phil Giraldi notes:
The money involved does not appear to come from the Turkish government, and FBI investigators are trying to determine its source and how it is distributed. Some of it may come from criminal activity, possibly drug trafficking, but much more might come from arms dealing. Contracts in the hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars provide considerable fat for those well placed to benefit.

As Laura Rozen says:
What's stunning about these reports that Bandar was funnelled $2 billion in bribes from an $80 billion UK-Saudi arms deal is that no one - not Tony Blair, who shut down the UK Serious Fraud Office investigation, not Bandar, not BAE -- is really denying it... No effort to deny that the truth is really ugly, and shows the British government at the highest levels going back to Thatcher authorizing open bribery.

Similarly, Sibel says:
"So you have this case which for the past five years has been confirmed by Congressional sources, and people familiar with my case, and the Department of Justice’s Inspector General’s Office, and has never been contradicted or denied by the Justice Department or the FBI, and still nothing has been done."

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has been hamstrung in its attempt to investigate the BAe deal for years, with Tony Blair completely shutting down the investigation last year.

In Sibel's case, which goes back to 1996, investigations were continually impeded. When FBI counter-intelligence agents found evidence of wrong-doing by guys like Perle, Feith, Hastert and Grossman, they were blocked from transferring the investigations to an 'actionable' unit, like counter-terrorism, or counter-narcotics.

In the BAe case, "the attorney general's office... said the SFO inquiry had been halted because of the "real and serious threat to national security"."

In Sibel's case, the attorney general, John Ashcroft, cited "Protecting Certain Foreign and Diplomatic Relations for National Security" and illegally gagged Congress by retroactively classifying information that had been all over the web for two years!

Hollow Justifications
In both cases, the invocation of 'national security' is bunk. In Sibel's case, they cite 'national security' in order to shut Sibel up because, otherwise, she could could send them to prison for criminal activity. The only thing that Sibel's case has to do with 'national security' is that the activities that she can/has exposed are detrimental to national security.

In the BAe case,
The Liberal Democrat deputy leader, Vince Cable, called for an urgent inquiry into the new disclosures last night.
"It increasingly looks as if the motives behind the decision to pull the SFO inquiry were less to do with UK national interests but more to do with the personal interests of one of two powerful Saudi ministers ... Tony Blair's claims that the government has been motivated by national security considerations look increasingly hollow."

Both Parties
As noted, both cases go back a decade or more, surviving multiple parties. In the UK case, as noted, at least the deal appears to have been officially sanctioned. In Sibel's case, successive governments have failed to act on this information. Bill Clinton tried to act on one small part of the story - the suitcases of cash delivered to Hastert - but was railroaded by the impeachment proceedings. Now the current Democratic Congress is blocking the hearings. The reason, apparently, is that our new Dem Congress is too scared to 'out' their own. While the UK situation includes coverups by both parties, the US situation includes participation by people in both parties.

We can't afford corruption from either party. We were forceful in denouncing 'cold cash' William Jefferson and the decision to allow him to keep his comittee positions. Why not in Sibel's case?

'Ongoing Investigations'
In the BAe case, there appears to be a bunch of activity in the UK despite the fact that the SFO officially closed down the investigation last year. It's front page news every day with new revelations, and new leak investigations, and now the Attorney General is beings summoned to talk the 'constitutional affairs committee'.

And the BAe case is even getting some investigative attention in the US, as Spencer Ackerman reports:

"Josh Meyer at the Los Angeles Times makes it official: the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into whether BAE Systems, the British defense corporation accused of bribing ex-Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, has violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Act is meant to prevent companies engaged in bribery from doing business in the United States. "

Sheesh. The US DoJ was happy to shut down a similar case, Sibel's case, to protect war-profiteers under the guise of 'national security' but now that BAe is encroaching on the market share of the US 'defense' contractors, the DoJ is interested all of a sudden. Funny how that works.

Compare and contrast. Sibel's case gets an eery silence from the media, and an eery silence in congress. Imagine what might happen if we were getting escalating attention into Sibel's case, like the BAe case, with new revelations every day.

In the real world, however, investigations have been shut down repeatedly, for years, and none of it sees the light of day.

I've put together a YouTube, 9 mins, called "Sibel Edmonds. Investigations Thwarted" which highlights some of the investigations that were blocked in her case.

My final point regarding 'Ongoing Investigations' is that the investigations into Sibel's case concluded long ago. And they all said that Sibel was "100% correct." Waxman could hold a hearing in a day or two simply by calling for the documents and a few witnesses. We know which documents we need, and we have agents willing to testify, under oath. And Waxman already knows the detail. His staff have been briefed repeatedly. He himself was 'outraged' and 'stunned.' So while the BAe case is very much an 'ongoing investigation', Sibel's case was closed, confirmed, years ago. Now we want accountability and justice.

As an aside, I put together another YouTube, 5 mins, "Sibel Edmonds. Everybody Knows." which (hopefully) highlights most of the people who know about Sibel's case and have done nothing about it.

And yes, the same was true in the UK. 'Everybody' in the UK knew what was going on, for years, but now the public knows. Imagine what it will be like if Sibel's case is front-page news, and the hearings imminent.

Call Waxman. Demand public open hearings:
DC phone: (202) 225-3976
LA phone: 323 651-1040
fax: (202) 225-4099
Capitol switchboard phone: 800-828-0498

(let me know if you want to be alerted whenever I post a new 'sibel edmonds' diary)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sibel Edmonds and Henry Waxman's Silence

At Let Sibel Edmonds Speak, we've been trying for months to get Henry Waxman to hold public open hearings into the case of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds.

Mike Mejia has penned a(nother) great piece called "The Silence of Henry Waxman" (below, in full). Mejia writes:
"Henry Waxman knows very well who Sibel Edmonds is; he can't plead ignorance. He has heard her testimony behind closed doors... But despite the shock and outrage that Waxman apparently expressed when he heard the full classified version of Edmonds' allegations, his answer to the former translator and her grassroots supporters has been silence. Absolute silence. "

Call Waxman. Demand public open hearings:
DC phone: (202) 225-3976
LA phone: 323 651-1040
fax: (202) 225-4099
Capitol switchboard phone: 800-828-0498

The Silence of Henry Waxman

By Mike Mejia

And so it was, that in November, 2006, the American people cried for change and reform, an end to the quagmire in Iraq, as well as to the open and crass corruption of Dennis Hastert, Tom Delay and their fellow Congressional Republicans. The Democrats were swept into power on a wave of disgust at the decadence and decay that had enveloped D.C., taking back both Houses of Congress in one fell swoop. A revolution, it seemed, had begun. The good guys were in charge now.

Thus, one could not blame prominent FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, who served as a Turkish language specialist from 2001-2002, for feeling a surge of optimism after the Democratic sweep. After all, it was the Bush Administration and Republicans in Congress who had done everything in their power to suppress her case, which revealed high-level U.S. Neoconservatives acting as Turkish spies (amongst other illegal activities.) And it was the Democrats that assured Ms. Edmonds behind the scenes from 2002 to 2005 that once they took over, she would have the full, open hearings she had been pushing for. Furthermore, the buzz on the Democratic blogs was that, since Henry Waxman was going to be in charge of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, all the buried scandals of the Bush years would now finally be uncovered. Surely Ms. Edmonds had reasons to feel the tide was turning.

Alas: The bad news is that the sweeping changes the people voted for last November have been severely watered down. The war in Iraq wages on, and Waxman is confining his 'oversight' to very safe scandals that reflect badly only on Republicans. He appears unwilling to take on messy scandals like the Edmonds case, which reflects well on neither Party. Edmonds and a coalition of civil liberties and good government groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Citizens for Reform and Ethics in Washington (CREW), presented Waxman with a petition containing over 15,000 signatures in March asking Waxman to hold hearings. But Waxman has to date refused to give any response.

Henry Waxman knows very well who Sibel Edmonds is; he can't plead ignorance. He has heard her testimony behind closed doors and has worked with her and her organization, the National Security Whistleblower's Coalition, in drafting whistleblower legislation. But despite the shock and outrage that Waxman apparently expressed when he heard the full classified version of Edmonds' allegations, his answer to the former translator and her grassroots supporters has been silence. Absolute silence.

For the record, the whistleblower's sources in Congress told her Waxman was initially disposed to hold hearings on the Edmonds case, but they were not going to be hearings that dug into the heart of the matter. They would not have exposed the darker machinations of the Turkish and Israeli lobbies, nor exposed an underground network of arms and drugs dealers with its tentacles reaching into U.S. agencies. Indeed, such hearings probably would not have allowed the words "Turkey" or "Israel" to be mentioned at all, much less named some of the U.S officials allegedly involved in passing classified information to these foreign powers. The hearings Waxman had planned, according to the grapevine, would have been the type of hearings to put even the most ardent Constitutional legal scholar to sleep for the night: they would have been sham discussions on the more arcane details of the 'state secrets privilege', with testimony limited to boring Bush hacks like FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Edmonds, a very strong-willed individual with a low tolerance for weak-kneed politicos, sent a clear message through her own channels: ‘no hearings’ were better than trumped up ones. Ms. Edmonds was not willing to let Waxman or any other politician grab the limelight and become "hero of the blogs for a day" unless they were really prepared to go to bat on this issue and defy John Ashcroft’s illegal retroactive classification. In the face of her principled stand, Waxman appears to have caved to the will of corrupt interests. His choice is logical from a political perspective, especially considering the Turkish lobby has now hired former Democratic House Minority leader Richard Gephardt. Waxman won't investigate these allegations because his current colleagues in the House and ex-colleagues like Dick Gephardt and Stephen Solarz do not want him to. He has everything to lose, and nothing to gain, from a political perspective: by digging up this can of worms, he risks exposing that corruption and bad foreign policy is not limited to the Bush Administration.

Should the grassroots be surprised that Waxman made a choice to snub Edmonds, the ACLU and CREW? Sure, Edmonds was declared 'credible' by conservative Senator Charles Grassley, and was largely backed up in her core allegations by the Department of Justice's own Inspector General Report. And, yes, Edmonds’ translations of Turkish counterintelligence wiretaps do not look good for hated conservatives like Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and Dennis Hastert. But these same wiretaps also do not look great for at least one Clinton appointee, former Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, or for at least two as of yet unnamed Democrats in Congress. Nor would they look good for the Turkish Lobby, the Israeli Lobby or defense contractors like Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, the beneficiaries of apparent corruption run out of the American Turkish Council. In Washington D.C., the only scandal that gets exposed is the scandal that implicates the other party and stays away from hurting vested groups that fund both Democrats and Republicans alike.

As former DEA agent and radio host Michael Levine noted in a recent interview (mp3) with Australian Luke Ryland, a blogger who has written the most extensive investigative reports on the Edmonds case, the U.S. Congress has rarely tackled thorny issues like this Turkish corruption case. Not only do the Democrats have no backbone, but many of their own are bought off by the same special interest groups as the GOP, especially in the areas that touch on the military industrial complex and foreign policy. Most of the progressive community have not yet caught on to this harsh reality, and instead is focused on the 2008 elections. More sound advice would be to forget about 2008 and start holding the Democratic Party to its campaign promises. Otherwise, the illegal Bush wars will grind on and the corruption will continue unabated- albeit the Democrats will be getting a greater share of the lobbyist largesse.

Here's a 9 minute YouTube video of an interview that Sibel gave a couple of months ago. In this snip, Sibel describes the process involving Waxman and asks that you call Waxman and demand public, open hearings.

It's important that the people specifically identified in Sibel's case are punished appropriately, but we also need to send a signal to those engaged in the very same crimes today. As Sibel noted in her fantastic 'Highjacking of a Nation series:
Foreign governments and foreign-owned private interests have long sought to influence U.S. public policy. Several have accomplished this goal; those who are able and willing to pay what it takes. Those who buy themselves a few strategic middlemen, commonly known as pimps, while in DC circles referred to as foreign registered agents and lobbyists, who facilitate and bring about desired transactions. These successful foreign entities have mastered the art of ‘covering all the bases’ when it comes to buying influence in Washington DC. They have the required recipe down pat: get yourself a few ‘Dime a Dozen Generals,’ bid high in the ‘former statesmen lobby auction’, and put in your pocket one or two ‘ex-congressmen turned lobbyists’ who know the ropes when it comes to pocketing a few dozen who still serve.

We know that Richard Perle and Doug Feith were lobbyists for Turkey. Former Speaker of the House, Robert Livingston was on the payroll. Former Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert was on the payroll. Ex Democratic Stephen Solarz in on the payroll. Clinton's former Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, is on the payroll. Former Democratic House Minority leader Richard Gephardt is on the payroll.

We need to break the cycle. As Mike says in the article above, we can't be satisfied with a slight re-allocation of 'lobbying' expenditure, otherwise the institutional rot will consume the Democrats too.

Call Waxman.

Demand public open hearings:
DC phone: (202) 225-3976
LA phone: 323 651-1040
fax: (202) 225-4099
Capitol switchboard phone: 800-828-0498

As an aside, here's another video (5 mins), it has Leonard Cohen's 'Everybody Knows' as a soundtrack and Sibel saying:
I am not the only one who knows about this.

Too many people know this!

The fraudulent 9/11 Commissioners, every single one of them knows about my case and the details, and the names, and all the specifics.

Several people within the U.S Congress do know.

Everybody in the FBI, involved, they know!

Everybody in Department of Justice, they know!

My goal has been exposing the criminal activities: money laundering, narcotic activities, and nuclear black market converging with terrorist activities.

Put out the tapes, put out the wiretaps!

Put out those documents! Put out the truth!

The truth is going to hurt them, the truth is going to set me free!

Another aside, if you are wondering whether or not to call Waxman, consider this from the Guardian today:
"The US department of justice is preparing to open a corruption investigation into the arms company BAE, the Guardian has learned. It would cover the alleged £1bn arms deal payments to Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia.

Washington sources familiar with the thinking of senior officials at the justice department said yesterday it was "99% certain" that a criminal inquiry would be opened under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Such an investigation would have potentially seismic consequences for BAE, which is trying to take over US arms companies and make the Pentagon its biggest customer."

Apparently the USG is only comfortable investigating foreign bribery in the Military Industrial Complex to maintain market share for their paymasters. There are significant similarities between Sibel's case and the BAe case, but the differences between the cases demonstrate that the issues in Sibel's case are much worse. I'll have a post about it in the next few days, but the main difference is that successive UK government have been officially aware of, and apparently sanctioned, the BAe deal the deal from the beginning. In other words, the deal was official, if secret, and thus presumably reflected official national security / foreign policy goals.

In Sibel's case, the perpetrators were freelancing, for personal profit, and the coverup is apparently an after-the-fact attempt to hide the criminality of certain individuals. Sibel often says that her case has nothing to do with national security, or policy. As Phil Giraldi says:
Sibel Edmonds, the Turkish FBI translator turned whistleblower who has been subjected to a gag order could provide a major insight into how neoconservatives distort US foreign policy and enrich themselves at the same time.

More on BAe/Sibel in a few days.

(Crossposted at Let Sibel Edmonds Speak.)

(Mejia's article posted with permission)