Gov't Backs FBI Translator's Complaints

Evidence and other witnesses support complaints by a fired FBI contract linguist who alleged shoddy work and possible espionage within the bureau's translator program in the months after the September 2001 terror attacks, according to a report Friday by the senior oversight official at the Justice Department.

The department's inspector general, Glenn Fine (search), said the allegations by former translator Sibel Edmonds (search) "raised substantial questions and were supported by various pieces of evidence." Fine said the FBI still has not adequately investigated the sensational claims.

The government's report also revealed that Edmonds was fired for using her home computer to write one memorandum about her concerns that contained classified information, which the FBI deemed a security violation. The report released Friday was a 37-page, unclassified summary of a broader, 100-page internal review over Edmonds' case.

The report noted that Edmonds, who had been granted "Top Secret" clearance, had first obtained permission from an FBI supervisor to work on the memorandum at home. The supervisor, who wasn't identified, relayed Edmonds' allegations to FBI security officials but also reported Edmonds' own violation of FBI procedures for handling classified materials, the report said.

Edmonds maintains she was fired in March 2002 after she complained to FBI managers about shoddy wiretap translations and told them an interpreter with a relative at a foreign embassy might have compromised national security by blocking translations in some cases and notifying some targets of FBI investigations about U.S. surveillance of them.

Fine did not determine whether Edmonds' charges of espionage were true, which he said was beyond the scope of his investigation. But he criticized the FBI's review of the espionage accusations.

"We found that many of Edmonds' core allegations relating to the co-worker were supported by either documentary evidence or witnesses other than Edmonds," the report said. "Moreover, we concluded that, had the FBI performed a more careful investigation of Edmonds' allegations, it would have discovered evidence of significant omissions and inaccuracies by the co-worker related to these allegations."

The report did not identify Edmonds' co-worker, although Edmonds has publicly revealed her name in comments to journalists. The report said that while there could be innocent explanations for this coworker's behavior, "other explanations were not innocuous."

Edmonds filed a federal lawsuit seeking to retain her job, but last summer — in an unusual move — the judge threw out her case at the request of Attorney General John Ashcroft (search) and said her claims might expose government secrets that could damage national security. She is appealing that decision.

FBI Director Robert Mueller (search) previously disclosed that the investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general did not conclude the FBI retaliated against Edmonds. But Mueller also acknowledged in a letter to lawmakers in July that he was concerned by the inspector general's determination that Edmonds' allegations "were at least a contributing factor in why the FBI terminated her services."

The department's report concluded the FBI failed to adequately pursue Edmonds' allegation that her colleague committed espionage. Mueller told senators previously that the FBI conducted a "relevant investigation," but promised to review the case and conduct a further investigation if necessary.

Edmonds was born in Iran and raised in Turkey; she speaks English, Turkish, Azerbaijani and Farsi, and was hired as a contract linguist by the FBI in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Edmonds also had sued the Justice Department under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (search) to compel its inspector general to disclose results of his investigation into her firing. The complete report, classified at the "secret" level, has circulated among the FBI, Justice Department, the 911 Commission and some lawmakers on oversight committees.

Edmonds' lawyer, Mark Zaid, said the Justice Department has agreed to provide Edmonds as early as next month with an edited version of its 100-page classified report.