WASHINGTON – A federal judge has ordered the FBI to expedite the release of information sought by a whistleblower who was fired after she raised allegations of security lapses in the FBI's translator program.
U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ordered the FBI to appear in court Friday and disclose when it will provide the sensitive documents sought by Sibel Edmonds, a former contract linguist with the agency.
The Justice Department's inspector general is investigating whether the FBI retaliated against Edmonds, who was fired last spring and subjected to a security review after she made allegations about security lapses. The bureau cited performance issues for the dismissal.
The Associated Press reported in June that Edmonds' allegations range from shoddy transcriptions by unqualified translators to suggestions that one interpreter with a relative who works at a foreign embassy may have compromised national security.
The translator program has played a significant role in interpreting interviews and intercepts of Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network since Sept. 11.
After her firing, Edmonds filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act seeking records about herself, her personnel file and her whistleblower allegations. She asked that the request be expedited, but the FBI refused, arguing that "the documents that she seeks have nothing to do with any wider concerns of the American public."
But in a ruling Dec. 3, Huvelle cited reports by the AP, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and television news programs in concluding that Edmonds had offered ample evidence of media interest in her allegations. The judge said Edmonds' charges "call into question the integrity" of the FBI and public confidence in the agency.
"The real reason the FBI is fighting the release of these records is because they will show how poorly the FBI has performed in the aftermath of 9/11," said David K. Colapinto, a lawyer for Edmonds.
FBI officials have said they believe the agency's translator program is solid and secure. There have been some minor problems as a large number of translators, many of them Arabic speaking, were brought aboard after the Sept. 11 attacks, officials said.