Did Speaker Hastert Accept Turkish Bribes to Deny Armenian Genocide and
Approve Weapons Sales?
Wednesday, August 10th, 2005
Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds is accusing the FBI of covering up
improper contacts and financial dealings between certain Turkish
nationals and the office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert. We speak with
Sibel Edmonds and Vanity Fair journalist David Rose. [includes rush
Former FBI translator turned whistleblower, Sibel Edmonds is now
appealing her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In March 2002, she was
fired and she has been fighting now for nearly 3 years to blow the
whistle on US government failures prior to 9-11. She has faced fierce
opposition from the Bush administration, the FBI and some in Congress.
This week, she grabbed headlines again after Vanity Fair published a
major story about her. What is making news from that piece are
allegations surrounding Illinois congressman and Republican Speaker of
the House Dennis Hastert.
Vanity Fair alleges that Hastert may have been the recipient of tens of
thousands of dollars of secret payments from Turkish officials in
exchange for political favors and information. In the article, titled
“An Inconvenient Patriot,” Edmonds says that she gave confidential
testimony about the payments to congressional staffers, the Inspector
General and members of the 9/11 Commission. Edmonds says that she heard
of the payments while listening to FBI wiretaps of Turkish officials who
were under surveillance by the FBI.
Sibel Edmonds speaks Farsi, Turkish and Azerbaijani. She was hired after
September eleventh by the FBI to translate pre-9-11 intelligence
gathered by the agency. She has publicly accused the U.S of having
considerable evidence that Al Qaeda was planning to strike the United
States using airplanes as weapons.
Democracy Now contacted Congressman Hastert’s office and the Turkish
Embassy for comment. They did not return our phone calls.
* Sibel Edmonds, former FBI translator who was hired shortly after Sept.
11 to translate intelligence gathered over the previous related to the
9/11 attacks. She speaks fluent Farsi, Turkish and Azerbaijani.
* David Rose, investigative journalist and author of “An Inconvenient
Patriot” published in the September issue of Vanity Fair magazine.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined in our D.C. studio by Sibel Edmonds. We are
also joined on the telephone from Britain by David Rose, an
investigative reporter and author of the Vanity Fair article. David
Rose, let’s begin with you. Can you lay out your thesis in this Vanity
DAVID ROSE: Well, I try to tell the whole story of Sibel Edmonds’
treatment by the FBI and by the Department of Justice from the beginning
until the current time in rather more detail than before, but I suppose
what is the most striking feature is I tried to look at why the
government has invoked the State Secrets privilege in this case. As you
say, just as in the Maher Arar case, the government is saying that her
case against the authorities for having her fired can’t proceed because
to let any of the evidence about what lies behind it out in court, even
in a court which has been security cleared where the attorneys have top
secret clearance, would jeopardize the foreign policy and national
security interests of the United States. And, by the way, I think it’s
interesting that in his declaration about this, John Ashcroft, the
former Attorney General, uses that formulation: foreign policy and
national security interests.
So, as Ann Beeson, Sibel’s attorney from the ACLU, says in the article,
`Well, what could they be trying to hide?’ And that’s what I set out to
try to find out. And I think there is now considerable evidence that
what they may be trying to hide is not simply a national security
scandal, but something potentially much more explosive and embarrassing,
namely, evidence that some Turksih groups, some of them officials of the
government, some private individuals, perhaps associated or allegedly
associated with organized crime, have been making efforts to corrupt
elected American officials and also appointed government officials in
the United States, and one name that has cropped up in wiretaps, which
my informants tell me Sibel Edmonds translated, is that of the Speaker
of the House, Denny Hastert, as you say.
AMY GOODMAN: Sibel Edmonds, what did you learn about Dennis Hastert when
you were an FBI translator after 9/11, listening to these pre-9/11 wiretaps?
SIBEL EDMONDS: Good morning, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us.
SIBEL EDMONDS: Thank you. Thank you for having me back. Well, as you
know, I’m under several gag orders, and I have been for the past three,
three-and-a-half years. And as far as disclosing information that the
Americans have the right to know, I have already done that. I have done
that repeatedly for the past three years. And I have gone through the
appropriate channels. I have gone to the United States Congress. I have
gone to the 9/11 Commission. I disclosed information in secure
facilities in all of these channels, including the Inspector General’s
office for the Department of Justice. And to this date, as you know, we
have an Inspector General’s report that has come out and said my
allegations, my report have been supported by other witnesses, by other
documents, by other facts and evidence. Three years ago, you had two
senators coming out saying that the FBI during unclassified briefings
have confirmed all my allegations, and they have denied none. So,
whatever I have reported have already been confirmed.
It’s been three years, and the government still insists in invoking the
State Secret privilege. As you know, last year they went ahead and they
gagged the United States Congress, by the way, illegally. And according
to my attorneys, I am the most gagged American in the United States
history, and nobody is asking why. They aren’t saying, `Why is it that
the government is going to such length to invoke State Secret privilege,
to gag the Congress, to classify the Inspector General’s report, to stop
the 9/11 family members’ attorneys to subpoena my deposition?’ And the
answer to this question is it’s not to protect any national security. It
is not to protect any ongoing investigations, because to this day they
have never used that. Do you know why they have never used the fact
that, oh, maybe this is an ongoing investigation? Because the fact of it
is that’s why I blew the whistle. There are no investigations out there.
There is no investigation whatsoever, because they are not targeting the
true criminals. And they are not targeting those who truly masterminded
these terrible acts against the Americans and their best interest, their
AMY GOODMAN: Sibel Edmonds, we contacted Congress member Hastert’s
office, the Speaker of the House, as well as the Turkish embassy, for
comment, they did not return our phone calls. But what are you alleging
about the Speaker of the House?
SIBEL EDMONDS: As I said, Amy, I have been giving all the details to the
appropriate channels. And they have been confirmed. And what I have said
all along is the fact that as far as the 9/11 is concerned, September 11
is concerned, these departments — and when I say `these departments,’
the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and the Department
of Defense — have intentionally blocked the investigations of real —
the real criminals in this country. And we are talking about countries
involved. The Vanity Fair article points out to Turkey — countries. And
it’s very interesting. To this date, we are not hearing anything about
targeting, you know, certain Central Asian countries. They are not
speaking about the link between the narcotics and al Qaeda. Yes, we are
hearing about them coming down on some charities as the real funds
behind al Qaeda, but most of al Qaeda’s funding is not through these
charity organizations. It’s through narcotics. And have you heard
anything to this date, anything about these issues which we have had
information since 1997? And as I would again emphasize, we are talking
about countries. And they are blocking this information, and also the
fact that certain officials in this country are engaged in treason
against the United States and its interests and its national security,
be it the Department of State or certain elected officials.
AMY GOODMAN: Could you name names?
SIBEL EDMONDS: I have named names. I have given it to those people who
are supposed to be representing this country through the Congress. I
have given it to the Inspector General’s office, and the report doesn’t
name names because everything was classified, but they are saying that
my reports, my allegations, have been confirmed and have been supported
by other witnesses, documents and evidence. I have given it to the 9/11
Commissioners, and interestingly, the 9/11 Commissioners after having
the meetings with me, they went ahead and they had certain meetings and
decided to only refer to I.G. report and ask them to classify the I.G.
report so it wouldn’t come out before their report comes out. Now, we
have to ask the questions: Why are they going to this length, to such a
length to cover up and to gag and to classify and to invoke State Secret
privilege? What are they covering up?
AMY GOODMAN: Sibel Edmonds is our guest in Washington, D.C., former
F.B.I. translator challenging her firing from the F.B.I., and on the
line with us, David Rose from Britain, who wrote the Vanity Fair piece
called `An Inconvenient Patriot,’ the subtitle `Love of country led
Sibel Edmonds to become a translator for the F.B.I. following 9/11, but
everything changed when she accused a colleague of covering up illicit
activity involving Turkish nationals. Fired after sounding the alarm,
she’s now fighting for the ideals that made her an American and
threatening some very powerful people.’ David Rose, can you talk about
Sibel Edmonds’ colleague within the F.B.I., Melek Can Dickerson, the
relationship and –
DAVID ROSE: Sorry, I’ve got a very bad line.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you hear me?
DAVID ROSE: Yes, I can, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you — yeah —
DAVID ROSE: Hello?
AMY GOODMAN: Hi. Go ahead.
DAVID ROSE: Let me just — yes. I think there’s one very important new
development, which has not been reported, because it took place after
the magazine went to press, which is that in addition to making her
complaints against the F.B.I. and talking about the apparent evidence of
possible espionage, which she had discovered on the part of her
colleague, Melek Can Dickerson, at the F.B.I., and her husband, an Air
Force major, Douglas Dickerson. Back in 2002, Sibel Edmonds wrote to the
Office of Special Investigation and the Air Force Inspector General,
which conducted a very brief investigation in the summer of 2002 and in
September 2002, after less than three weeks, without interviewing Sibel
herself, the Air Force Inspector General wrote to Sibel Edmonds and her
then attorneys and said that the case was closed, that they were not
pursuing her allegations against the Dickersons, which I will go into in
just a moment.
But the new development is that just ten days ago, her attorney in
Washington, Mark Zaid, received a message from the Office of Special
Investigation at the Air Force saying that after this very long gap,
nearly three years, they were reopening the investigation into the
Dickersons, into Can Dickerson and her husband, Douglas, and might at
some near future date seek to interview Sibel. Now, it may or may not be
coincidental that, as part of the research for my article for Vanity
Fair, I had submitted about 150 different questions about the entire
case to the Air Force, to other parts of the Pentagon, to the D.O.J. and
the F.B.I., and none of these questions were answered, but they did, of
course, set out in enormous detail the various allegations that are
being raised. Following the receipt of those questions, the
investigation was formally reopened, which is, I think, perhaps significant.
So as to the substance of the allegations, in essence, it’s quite
simple. What Sibel Edmonds has alleged and has indeed been alleging now
since the end of 2001, beginning of 2002, is that towards the end of
2001, Can Dickerson, her fairly new colleague at the F.B.I., and her
husband Douglas, called unexpectedly at the home she shares with her
husband, Matthew, in Alexandria, Virginia. And over tea one Sunday
morning, the Dickersons suggested that Sibel and her husband might like
to join an organization called the American Turkish Council, which is
essentially a business group which exists to foster trade deals, mainly
of a military nature, between America and Turkey. And they suggested
that – according to Sibel and her husband, they suggested that if they
did this, they might become rich. And Sibel was particularly surprised
at this, because they also boasted that they knew an individual who had
close links with this organization, who was also an official of the
Turkish Embassy, and in fact, although she hadn’t said so in her
application to join the F.B.I., Can Dickerson had at one stage worked
for the American Turkish Council herself as an intern and clearly had
got a close relationship with this particular diplomat.
Well, after that – and this is all set out, by the way, in legal
filings, and much of it is now completely confirmed by the D.O.J.
Inspector General’s report into Sibel’s case, the unclassified part of
it – following that, Sibel says that Can Dickerson tried to stop Sibel
listening to wiretap conversations by this particular official, who was
a friend of the Dickersons and also conversations by others who appeared
to be involved in various illegal activity. So, she went to other
officials at the F.B.I., to a particular agent, Dennis Saccher, who was
in charge of counterintelligence and counterespionage regarding Turkey,
who immediately suspected that this was possibly some kind of
recruitment exercise, that she was being asked to participate in some
kind of illegal espionage operation and perhaps was being offered some
kind of inducement.
It was when she started to complain about this and took her complaints
up the ladder within the F.B.I., and eventually to the Congress, that
she was fired, and that’s the substance of the case. But clearly, given
that the D.O.J. Inspector General has now corroborated and supported her
allegations, and has said that many have bases in fact, and that the
F.B.I. fired her as an act of retaliation when it should have
investigated the claims much more seriously, the fact that the Air Force
is now again looking at Major Douglas Dickerson, Can Dickerson’s
husband, who remains on active duty in Europe, is clearly of some
AMY GOODMAN: And David Rose, the issue of the Speaker of the House,
Dennis Hastert, and conversations overheard that link his office with
improper dealings with Turkish nationals, can you talk about particular
DAVID ROSE: Well, there was – there were two things, I understand, which
those who were wiretapped, whose conversations were recorded and
translated, referred to. One was the controversial deal to sell
helicopters, attack helicopters, to Turkey, which was an issue of great
controversy in the late 1990s. At that point, Turkey was fighting a
pretty hot civil war with the Kurdish separatists in the east of the
country. There were allegations of human rights abuses and so forth, and
some in America thought it was wrong that Turkey should be sold several
billion dollars worth of attack helicopters in those circumstances. So
some of the calls allegedly referred to the hope that the Congress would
approve that very large weapons sale.
But the second occasion or second event which is allegedly referred to
in these wiretaps is the Armenian genocide resolution which came before
the House in 2000. Now, the Armenian lobby has made attempts with some
support — I mean, Senator Bob Dole was a very great supporter of this
back in the 1980s. The Armenians have tried to get the Congress to pass
a genocide resolution so that – which would basically state that the
mass murder of Armenians in Turkey that was carried out after 1915 was a
genocide, and some countries have indeed passed such resolutions. Some
states have in America. This resolution never really got anywhere until
in 2000, Dennis Hastert, as House Speaker, announced he would support it.
Now, at the time, analysts noted that there was a tight congressional
race in California, in which the Armenian community might just swing it
in favor of the Republican incumbent. But what is significant, the
resolution had passed the Human Rights Subcommittee of the House. It
passed the International Relations Committee, but on the eve of the
House vote, the full House vote, Dennis Hastert withdrew the resolution.
Now, at the time, he explained this by saying that he had had a letter
from President Clinton asking him to withdraw it, because it wouldn’t be
in America’s interests to have such a resolution, which, of course, was
bitterly resisted inside Turkey, pass through the House.
Well, it is slightly curious when you think about it. I mean, Dennis
Hastert was not known, as one of the authors of Clinton’s impeachment,
for deferring to his judgment on many occasions, but on this occasion,
he apparently did. Well, whether or not these allegations have substance
is not something that I am able to state with any knowledge, but it is
said that in the wiretaps that were translated by Sibel Edmonds,
reference was made to this very controversial question of the House
vote. One of the Turkish targets of these wiretaps claimed that the
price for getting Dennis Hastert to withdraw the resolution would be
$500,000. Now, I do emphasize there’s no evidence at all that he
received such a payment, but that is what is said to have been recorded
in one of the wiretaps.
AMY GOODMAN: We have to wrap up the discussion. We only have a few
seconds, but Sibel Edmonds, you are taking a challenge to your
dismissal, appealing your dismissal to the Supreme Court?
SIBEL EDMONDS: Yes, Amy. Last week, we filed our petition with the
Supreme Court, and in a few weeks there will be amicus filed in our
support by 9/11 family members and other government watchdog
organizations, and basically this is the last stop. This is the last
channel, because, as you know, we have never been given our day in
court, due to the State Secret privilege and the gag orders. And also I
am pursuing this still with the Congress and I will continue until these
issues come to light and until the Americans know what is going on in
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Sibel Edmonds and David Rose of Vanity Fair – Sibel
Edmonds, former F.B.I. translator, thanks very much for joining us.