Monthly Archives: July 2014

“Janet my daughter, your prayers are going straight into my spam filter.”

From “The swift death of ReaganBook, the Facebook for patriots” by Colin Lecher:

The site requires no proof of identity (or semblance to reality) to log in, which becomes immediately obvious: everyone seems to be either using real names, the names of famous conservatives, or the names of famous conservatives paired with sex acts. Some are earnest; some are parody. Neither of these are instructive or valuable. The only worthwhile accounts are the ones that can’t be parsed. Someone with a Captain America avatar invites people to talk about guns; Margaret Thatcher leaves more than 700 comments on an innocuous status. There is an eagle crying, several photos of Jesus. Someone with the user name SATAN! SATAN! SATAN! pokes me. A photo of a monkey in a bubble bath is posted, and no one seems sure what side this person is on. Everyone is confused and angry with everyone else.

Janet Porter, president and founder of conservative group Faith2Action, started ReaganBook. Her posts began as quiet calls to arms for conservative causes, but as the situation spiraled out of control, she became frantic: “MY SINCERE APOLOGIES FOR THE VILE CONTENT. THIS WILL BE REMEDIED IN A MATTER OF MINUTES.” Below her, “Lord God” commented: “JANET MY DAUGHTER, YOUR PRAYERS ARE GOING STRAIGHT INTO MY SPAM FILTER. PLEASE TEXT ME FOR QUICKER RESPONSE.”

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Under the Skin: This Woman’s Work

(What follows contains SPOILERS for the movie and the novel on which it’s based, as well as Jonathan Glazer’s Birth. However, given that this is an in-depth discussion of the movie, no attempt is made to summarize the film’s plot. Some further edits need to be made, and will be done on the 27th of July. While writing this, I found the following to be insightful and helpful: “Under the Skin Takes the Horror Genre in Infectiously Strange New Directions” by David Edelstein, “Under the Skin” by Noel Murray, “Under The Skin’s Alien Seduction Will Get You Where It Hurts” by Charlie Jane Anders, “Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Under the Skin Review” by Tina Hassanmia, and “Under the Skin- Movie discussion including looking at the novel that inspired it”, a reddit thread by dalong75.)

There was a time I was one of a kind
Lost in the world out of me myself and I
Was lonely then like an alien
I tried but I never figured it out
Why I always felt like a stranger in a crowd
Ooh that was then, like an alien

“Alien” by Britney Spears

Jonathan Glazer’s movie is like a fable, like Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête), a children’s fable turned upside down, Cocteau in color. I make this identification, and I immediately hesitate if it’s entirely right. The mix of subject and the approach, a fable told from an adult perspective, but without discarding the surreal imagery of fables, makes me think of Cocteau; the movie itself, with its long takes and frequent stretches without dialogue, make me think of Robert Bresson. The obvious choice not taken here is Stanley Kubrick. The score by Mica Levi reminds one in many places of Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Dream of Jacob”, the early part features a breathing effect on the soundtrack that’s like the sound of 2001‘s David Bowman’s breathing in his spacesuit, and the sense of being alone with the movie, as if stranded in the arctic wilderness, suggests Kubrick as well – but his movies tend to hint at the epic, an enigmatic obelisk of larger significance. This story, on the other hand, is relatively straightforward, small in scale, the obvious focus this single character. The lengthy shots allow us the possibility to mine them for nuance, but there is nothing like a riddle we might feel compelled to solve.

We might easily speak of this fable in more traditional (or ancient) terms, to see its connections to the past: this is a story about a witch who lures men to her magical house, where they are transformed into food – just as the witch of Hansel and Gretel would bring in children and cook them into gingerbread. Though she wishes to cease playing the role of a witch, she cannot, and cannot be an ordinary woman either. When this witch abandons her home, she loses her power over men, and now she is vulnerable. She is attacked by a man, loses her human form, and like many witches before her, is burned alive. The images which, for me, most strongly link this fable with those of the past are the witch’s decaying, magical house and the end where she’s destroyed by fire.

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

The movie opens as an object, entirely dark except for a beacon light, moves to dock with a torus, the vast emptiness lit only by a single nearby star. We hear a voice over the soundtrack, the alien (Scarlett Johansson) learning english – except for a football player named Andy, there are no character names in the movie or the credits, but for ease of writing, I’ll give the alien the name she carries in the book, Isserley1. These objects conjoin while Isserley slowly learns this earth language, and then our perspective shifts. The movement of these objects in space becomes an eye, and we’re left uncertain if these two sets of images are separate or identical. The mechanics of the docking ship might imply the underlying mechanics of sight, or it may be more explicit than that – these objects are not in outer space at all, but the various parts of the mechanical eye in Isserley’s human mask locking into place. This entire sequence, ending with the camera pulling back from a tight focus on the pupil, ends with a smash cut of the title in black on white: UNDER THE SKIN. This is a movie about looking and its underlying mechanics. Seeing is a voyage across a distance, it is a mechanical sequence whose inner workings we are unconscious of, and yet there is an aspect that can be considered imprisoning. The cold darkness of space becomes the darkness of the pupil, and the men are lured to the witch’s haven by her looks, and she in turn traps them in a room of infinite blackness. Given this connecting point, we might see the areas of the eye reflected in the movie itself. Isserley first gets her clothes from a dead woman in a room that’s of endless white, like the eye’s sclera2. She is entirely unmoved by the dead body, her curiousity only roused by an insect’s motion, and we are given a close-up of the crawling ant; Isserley is a worker drone and a predatory insect as well. Isserley then goes out to hunt for men, the colored area that is the iris, and brings them home to the confining darkness, the pupil. Whether or not we see the union of the spaceship with the torus as a metaphor for sexual union, this movie is not just about looking, but the sexual gaze. Isserley slowly comes to grips with the sounds of english – “Ba-Ba- T- T- K- Kuh- Ch- Th- V- Th-” – in order to learn this new language while the ship docks and the camera pulls back from the eye; this movie is about learning to look again as if it were an unfamiliar tongue.

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Isserley is now dressed in the other woman’s clothes, and she goes to a mall to pick up a few other things, lipstick and a fur coat. We follow alongside her at waist level as her behind swishes back and forth. We are stalkers, we are hunters, vision is a kind of travel, and now we travel with her; vision is also a trap. She is the one who’ll be doing the hunting. Isserley starts talking up a series of men, and it’s these conversations that make up the overwhelming majority of the movie’s dialogue, and these conversations are entirely superfluous for the traditional purpose of learning something about Isserley or her victim. They are a simple flip of the predatory male who seeks out women for biological release, with the conversation only a tactic for getting to the main action. Isserley talks to a man, and her mouth is a warm and inviting smile; the man walks away, and her face shuts down and goes cold completely.

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

This is a movie where shots are held and held and held, designed so we might examine its multiplicities. Nothing is given away easily, nothing is given quickly, and any observations you make are perhaps uncertain and unresolved. Isserley’s eyes peek through the dark hair that falls over her eyes, and it’s like a sniper peeking out from a foxhole; she’s shot in the rearview mirror, her mouth blank and her eyes absent; she drives along, and her eyes give away nothing except the focused hunt for game; we catch her in the rearview mirror as light and shadow pass over, and her face conveys something, melancholy, regret, exhaustion, something. Isserley looks at her first victim, and there is something unsure in her come hither look, and it might be something like a girl trying out the unfamiliar, alien customs of adult seduction games. Isserley looks on a happy couple at the beach with loathing, and this could be an exile stranded far from home hating the possibilities she cannot have.

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

In the forest sequence at the movie’s end, Isserley moves like a woodland animal given human shape, and this sensibility guides her behavior throughout the first half of the film, an animal whose focus is entirely on hunting, and nothing else. Outside the circumstances in which she might engage her prey, she is suddenly fearful. She travels Glasgow at night, unworried of what might befall her, and on these journeys, she engages in conversations with strange men, indifferent to what will happen next. Yet when she finds herself amongst a group of women, she is suddenly scared. She doesn’t know how to act in these circumstances, she’s worried as if her true form will be found out. They drag her to a club, and the noise scares her, the man who wants to talk to her frightens her. When she realizes that he’s trying for that thing, she is abruptly at ease. This is familiar territory, she knows how to handle this, she’s handled this many times before.

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

In moments when we might expect any woman to feel some kind of fear, she is indifferent to threat. This film is often a horror movie in reverse. She meets The Nervous Man (Adam Pearson), who suffers from neurofibromatosis, and she asks him the kind of intimate questions, without feeling or empathy, that we might expect a man to ask a woman, especially a plain or ugly woman, as if no courtesy is owed. Together, they suggest a monster movie, the disfigured creature and the beautiful woman, though the monster in this movie is very much her. Isserley sits in her van and she sees a possible target up the street. We cut close to Isserley in the van and we have what should be a standard horror scare: suddenly another man appears, right by the driver’s side window. We are not, however, fearful for her, but for him. He turns out to be a group of hoodlums who smash at her car, trying to get in, and Isserley coolly starts up her engine and drives away, barely paying them mind; if you’re a woman, you may well envy and wish for her unflinching nerves in such situations. Yet there’s also a frightening absence in this Isserley. A man attempts to rescue a drowning couple, while Isserley stands by. This is the tradition we expect: the man acts, the woman watches. The man fails in his task, and we expect Isserley to give him a comforting hug and reassure him that it’s okay. She brains him with a rock. The next variation is the most horrific, and perhaps the most disturbing scene in the movie. She drags the man’s body, nothing self-conscious in her bent over figure, ignoring entirely the weeping of the baby nearby: this woman is without any maternal feeling whatsoever, and gender makes a definite difference here: we have become accustomed to this inhumanity from men, but not from women.

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

We are left to read these images however we can for some insight into Isserley, who is an uncompromisingly alien character. When we try to discern what’s there in a look of hers, there’s no possibility of thinking in terms of, say, her relation to her family, the great loves of her life, or her childhood, but exclusively that of an animal struggling to adapt – and yet without the pejorative quality in that word, animal. She has had like experiences, and yet they’re outside our ken, the experiences of alien life, an alien knowledge. She has been placed in a strange landscape of unknown life, and her experience mirrors ours as we watch this movie, lacking any comfort or intimacy we might have come to expect. This character remains distant enough, and this movie remains sufficiently opaque, that we might see these images as not simply connected to this specific character.

From “Director Jonathan Glazer on Under The Skin’s complex honesty” by Scott Tobias:

The Dissolve: This seems to be self-consciously playing with her [Scarlett Johansson’s] image. She’s an icon, like David Bowie is more than just an actor in The Man Who Fell To Earth. She has an otherworldly quality.

Glazer: Well, we use that for sure. We’re using how Scarlett’s objectified, the glamour of her image. And she’s using all of that as well. There’s a deconstruction going on.

In the novel, Isserley attempts to break away from her alien society, and she tries to consume various human foods, often without success. Here, we have Isserley breaking away and the first food she tries is a large slice of chocolate cake, which is given an endless close-up. She spits it out soon after trying the first piece, and this seems not just about Isserley, but a woman’s relationship to cake itself, a toxin that will annihilate her body, that will destroy her entirely. Isserley’s physical appearance is examined from every angle by her supervisor, The Bad Man (Jeremy McWilliams)3, and it’s like a colonel inspecting a recruit’s uniform for dust, or a Pygmalion overlooking his Galatea4. We can place endless Svengalis and Trilbys in these roles, idolmakers and their starlets made of clay. The men are beguiled by Isserley into her dark room, they follow as if in a trance, moving towards her as she undresses, as they sink step by step into a gelatinous liquid that’s like a quicksand. They lust at the sight of her, never actually touching the woman, and this sight entraps them. Isserley walks off, indifferent to their fate. They are kept alive and their bodies prepped and fattened, before their essence is drained, and the husk is left floating behind. We have a variation here on the serial killer who embalms his victims, but we also have a reversal of the starlet industry, where a woman briefly enraptures the world’s imagination, an idealization that is momentarily trapped in amber, and then she’s thrown away.

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

I add here what might be seen as a predecessor to these entrapments, one incongruous and ridiculous, and that’s Monty Python’s “Seduced Milkmen” sketch. There, a woman lures a milkman into her house, where he finds himself locked in a room with a group of other milkmen, some grown old, and one now dead. A brief description is on wikipedia, “Seduced Milkmen”, and the sketch can be found at the moment on youtube, “Monty Python – Milkman”:

Isserley’s questions which she asks without any interest in the answer, and are simply part of her routine to string the victim along, can be likened to those of any pick-up artist, but they also suggest the endless questions any celebrity is asked, which are given a calculated answer, and which seemingly give no sense or depth to the person. We might take some of the questions Isserley asks, and those asked of Scarlett Johansson at various interviews, and their banality blends together:

“Am I keeping you from something?” “Where are you going?” “Where are you from?” “You have family here?” “Do you have a special connection with your twin?” “So you live alone?” “How are you different now?” “And you love it?” “Where do you call home?” “What do you love about living alone?” “So you all go out in your sneakers?” “What about your friends?” “So you don’t have any friends?” “How about a girlfriend?” “Do you have a boyfriend?” “How old were you when you had your first real boyfriend?” “How old are you?” “What is the major difference between men and women?” “So don’t you get lonely then?” “You mean something fungal?” “Have you spoken to any skincare professionals about your interest in dermatology?”5

Isserley begins in the city and, after leaving behind her master, The Bad Man, goes to the country. This, I think, is obvious and necessary because the communion she seeks out is not with humanity, but what might be called the natural world, the untrammelled landscape outside humanity. She is already outside of humanity, for good and for ill: it’s why she walks by the wailing baby entirely indifferent, but it’s also why she doesn’t notice at all the disfigurement of The Nervous Man. She knows that there’s something which places this man outside of humanity as well, but she doesn’t know what exactly it is – the species is an undistinguished blur of strangeness to her. She brings The Nervous Man to her house, and she lets him sink into the pit. One of the aliens without his human covering (not The Bad Man, but one who will be part of the crew that will hunt down Isserley) is there at the pit, looking on. The alien blends with the image of Isserley, grouping her with them, and then she’s not with them at all. She walks down the stairs, and catches sight of herself in the mirror. We might guess she sees her alien surface, but also how alike she is to this man she just imprisoned. A fly buzzes against the glass, trapped, like the man in the pit. We see a close-up of her eye, something changes in her, and then the feet of Isserley and The Nervous Man together; she’s released him. She began in the white room, and now she is re-born in white, a long transitional moment in the fog.

Another man (Krystof Hadek) now gives her comfort and shelter. She leads men into a pit of liquid; when this man and Isserley reach a pool of water, he lifts her up and over it. They are on their way towards a castle, another touchstone of fables. They go back to his house to have sex, but something goes wrong: though Isserley is designed to attract men, she is not designed for actual sex, and her genitalia are for appearances only – there’s something missing. She flees into the forest, and where before we saw the dissolve which paired her with the alien, now an image blends her face with the trees. The Woodsman (Dave Acton) holds her down and starts to rape her, and Isserley looks up and finds consolation in the vast sky. The Woodsman sees the tear in her skin, and runs away. She holds her own head, entirely outside of her physical self, the beauty that is apart from her. This a movie where the human landscape is made alien, which moves further and further outside of human codes and judgements – the nude body of Scarlett Johansson becomes just one more nude body like that of the football player and The Nervous Man. The Woodsman returns and lights Isserley on fire. She began in a white room, was re-born in the white fog, and now she is re-born in the white snow-filled sky. This movie opens with a union, and in the closing moments, Isserley burns into ash, drifts into the sky, and unites with the pastoral world forever.

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

A HEART THAT’S FULL UP LIKE A LANDFILL

This is a movie that emphasises film’s power outside of language, on creating a world of sound and images where things have nothing of the explicitness that we associate with words. Jonathan Glazer’s movie before this was Birth, and that felt as if it wanted to move towards something closer to this, something smaller, more intimate, more cryptic. That movie opened with an upbeat whimsical theme as a man jogged in a park, then collapsed in death. What followed was a sick twist on the kind of romantic comedy that might accompany such a buoyant piece of music, a boy telling a woman he’s the reincarnation of her dead husband after he finds a pile of their old love letters. The boy later reveals that he lied, that it’s all a hoax, but the woman now believes in the idea obsessively. If the obvious subtext of Under the Skin are images and fantasies of women, then the obvious subtext of Birth is the impossible fantasy of Hollywood romance, and movies in general, where all that is required is for you to belive. Anna (Nicole Kidman), the dead man’s wife, does believe in her movie’s fantasy, more and more fervently, and we see her as a disturbed obsessive, unhinged from reality. That the boy, Sean (Cameron Bright), is from a background that is commonly described as “working class” while Anna and her husband are wealthy lawyers who live in a coveted skyscraper apartment, only gives further emphasis to the point: somehow belief in these impossible Hollywood dreams of wealth and happiness is sufficient to bring us into such a life. This is a common part of any get rich pitch in any self-empowerment seminar or infommercial: do you believe in getting rich? Can you see a future where you are massively wealthy? Do you believe enough?

The power of the fantasy is such that it overwhelms both Anna and Sean. By the movie’s end, she runs away from her wedding because of this better possibility, while he, knowing best of all that the story is entirely false, returns to believing in it; we hear his voiceover of a letter he writes her, and it doesn’t suggest someone who no longer believes, but someone who’s had to stop expressing belief out of practicality and under pressure: “I’ve been seeing an expert. They sure talk a lot. They say I’ve been imagining things…They said they still haven’t figured out what was wrong with me, but the good thing is, nothing really happened. Well, I guess I’ll see you in another lifetime.” The voiceover plays as he gets his school photo taken, a smiling pose, a posed artifice like so many movies. The issue is not whether there should be any more school photos or Hollywood movies, but how much we should consider them close to anything like the true essence of life.

As said, Birth seemed too big for what was at its heart, with too many characters (the enviable supporting cast included Ted Levine, Arliss Howard, and Lauren Bacall) hanging on its vital center. The movie felt as if there should have been a culminating third act, when there wasn’t. Under the Skin avoids all this, paring away any superfluous parts of its story, keeping the focus on its lead, and slowing the pace down so that the final act follows naturally from what came before. Under the Skin derives its power from prolonged shots where the audience must simply pause and look, rather than move on to the next event or plot point, and we see this approach already in Birth‘s most bravura moment, when the camera stays on a close up of Anna for a minute and forty five seconds (from 26:15 to 28:00 on my copy) a little while after Sean has revealed that he’s the reincarnation of her dead husband:

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

Under the Skin, the movie, makes the most of film as a non-verbal medium, something closer to painting or photography, something that too few films do, and making it a very different creature from Under the Skin, the novel by Michel Faber. The movie appears to take a lesson from Birth, viewing the obligations of narrative itself as an impediment to its effects, by extracting only a fragment of the book’s plot and growing it in a separate plot of soil. I think the book is a separate treasure that gets somewhat discounted in the reviews I’ve read of the movie. “The film is quite a departure from Michel Faber’s novel, which is grisly, chatty, borderline satirical,” is the description in David Edelstein’s Under the Skin Takes the Horror Genre in Infectiously Strange New Directions”, and I wish this gifted writer had included at least one adjective of praise. The book is science fiction and an easy read, so perhaps these things count against it, but its ease stems largely from being cleanly and clearly written, the narrative never weighed down by pretense. Isserley is enraptured by the beauty of the Scottish landscape, and its virtues are conveyed well, without faux lyricism. Where the movie is opaque, the book is explicit, but never head-thuddingly so, and though in other hands we might call the novel preachy, the story and characters are never contoured for the message and life is never made simpler than it is for the necessity of a thesis.

We might see the skill of the writing in the very first passages. Isserley appears to be looking for men, but she’s just looking for grades of meat. There’s a paragraph about the road that is especially well done – the hitchers are like the forest creatures run over by passing cars, thinking they are in a safe place, when they’re near nothing of the kind. An atmosphere is conveyed well of the Scottish countryside in the last paragraph (she hunts there, while the movie’s Isserley sticks to Glasgow), but it’s also the earth as seen by an alien, a primitive, uncivilized, newly born place:

Isserley always drove straight past a hitch-hiker when she first saw him, to give herself time to size him up. She was looking for big muscles: a hunk on legs. Puny, scrawny specimens were no use to her.

At first glance, though, it could be surprisingly difficult to tell the difference. You’d think a lone hitcher on a country road would stand out a mile, like a distant monument or a grain silo; you’d think you would be able to appraise him calmly as you drove, undress him and turn him over in your mind well in advance. But Isserley had found it didn’t happen that way.

Driving through the Highlands of Scotland was an absorbing task in itself; there was always more going on than picture postcards allowed. Even in the nacreous hush of a winter dawn, when the mists were still dossed down in the fields on either side, the A9 could not be trusted to stay empty for long. Furry carcasses of unidentifiable forest creatures littered the asphalt, fresh every morning, each of them a frozen moment in time when some living thing had mistaken the road for its natural habitat.

Isserley, too, often ventured out at hours of such prehistoric stillness that her vehicle might have been the first ever. It was as if she had been set down on a world so newly finished that the mountains might still have some shifting to do and the wooded valleys might yet be recast as seas.

The novel’s Isserley might be one of the best and most memorable fictional characters I’ve come across in a while. Her appearance is very different from that of the movie’s, as well as an example of the book’s expertise at working in several modes at once without abrasion or discomfort. The central idea of the movie remains the same, with Isserley luring men to her car so they might be processed as food for her species. One key difference is that in the book, Isserley’s species is not bipedal, but a furred race which navigates on all fours with a powerful tail. Various surgeries have been made on her so she might walk on two legs and have human form. She is in almost constant pain when upright – the swish swish walk on heels that the movie’s Isserley does in the mall would be impossible for the book’s. This Isserley regards her human form as a horrible, humilating disfigurement. Her appearance features two striking physical details. There are the massive eyes of her species which have not been corrected by surgery, so she must wear glasses several inches thick to make their size appear to be a distortion of the lens. The engineers have also been crude and direct about what might attract men, so her own breasts have been sheared off, and massive human teats been implanted. At the same time, neither she nor anyone else in her species has any astuteness about human fashion sense, so we have oversized glasses, rather dowdy clothes, and a blouse with a plunging neckline. Isserley is both a frightening serial killer and utterly ridiculous in appearance.

The book uses more practical mechanics for the capture of these men, nothing like the magical darkness of Isserley’s house in the movie. After she’s certain from their conversation that the hitcher has no family or mate that might notice they’ve gone missing, she flips a switch and needles in the seat jump up and pierce their body, injecting them with an alien sedative called icpathua, and then she takes them to a farm where others of her species process them into food. We get some sense of Isserley’s comical look from two good descriptions in the book from two different hitchers. Details that might need explaining are that her short legs are, of course, a result of being from a quadrupedal species, that she has to blast the heat in the car because her missing fur makes her feel the cold acutely, and that the bodies of her species sweat far more than ours do, something that Isserley’s always does excessively in her excitement in the moments before she injects her passengers with icpathua. Description one, from the first hitcher:

Fantastic tits on this one, but God, there wasn’t much of her otherwise. Tiny – like a kid peering up over the steering wheel. How tall would she be? Five foot one, maybe, standing up. Funny how a lot of women with the best tits were really really short. This girl obviously knew she had a couple of ripe ones, the way she had them sitting pretty on the scoop of a low-cut top. That’s why this car was heated like an oven, of course: so she could wear a skimpy black top and air her boobs for all to see – for him to see.

The rest of her was a funny shape, though. Long skinny arms with big knobbly elbows – no wonder her top was long sleeved. Knobbly wrists too, and big hands. Still, with tits like that …

They were really odd, actually, those hands. Bigger than you’d think they’d be, to look at the rest of her, but narrow too, like … chicken feet. And tough, like she’d done hard labour with them, maybe worked in a factory. He couldn’t see her legs properly, she was wearing those horrible flared seventies trousers that were back in fashion – shiny green, for Christ’s sake – and what looked like Doc Martens, but there was no disguising how short her legs were. Still, those tits … They were … like … they were like … He didn’t know what to compare them to. They looked pretty fucking good, nestled next to one another there, with the sun shining on them through the windscreen.

Never mind the tits, though: what about the face? Well, he couldn’t see it just now; she had to actually turn towards him for him to see it, because of her haircut. She had thick, fluffy hair, mouse-brown, hanging down straight so he couldn’t even see her cheeks when she was facing front. It was tempting to imagine a beautiful face hidden behind that hair, a face like a pop singer or an actress, but he knew different. In fact, when she’d turned towards him, her face had kind of shocked him. It was small and heart-shaped, like an elf in a kiddie’s book, with a perfect little nose and a fantastic big-lipped curvy mouth like a supermodel. But she had puffy cheeks and was also wearing the thickest glasses he’d seen in his life: they magnified her eyes so much they looked about twice normal size.

She was a weird one all right. Half Baywatch babe, half little old lady.

Description two, from the middle of the book:

Her hair was matted, with streaks of something that looked like axle grease slicked through it, and tufts sticking out at odd angles. Here was a woman who hadn’t looked at herself in a mirror for a while, that was for sure. She smelled – stank, really, if he could be so judgemental – of fermenting sweat and seawater.

Her clothes were filthy with dried mud. She’d fallen, maybe, or had some sort of accident. Should he ask her if she was all right? She might be offended if he commented on the state of her clothing. She might even think he was trying to harass her sexually. It was so hard to be friendly, in any genuinely human way, towards female strangers if you were a male. You could be courteous and pleasant, which wasn’t the same thing at all; it was the way you’d treat the staff at the Job Centre. You couldn’t tell a strange woman that you liked her earrings, or that her hair was beautiful – or ask her how she came to have mud on her clothes.

The more he looked at this girl, the weirder she appeared. Her green velveteen trousers were very seventies retro-chic, if you disregarded the muddy knees, but she definitely didn’t have the legs of a nightclub babe. Trembling slightly under the thin fabric, so short they barely reached the pedals, they might have been the legs of a cerebral palsy sufferer. He turned his head to glance through the space between his seat and hers, half expecting to see a foldable wheelchair wedged into the back. There was only an old anorak, a garment he could well imagine her wearing. Her boots were like Doc Martens, but even chunkier, like Boris Karloff clogs.

Strangest of all, though, was her skin. Every part of her flesh that he could see, except for her pale smooth breasts, had the same peculiar texture to it: a downy look, like the hide of a cat recently spayed, just beginning to grow back the fur. She had scars everywhere: along the edges of her hands, along her collarbones, and especially on her face. He couldn’t see her face now, hidden as it was behind the tangled mane of her hair, but he’d got a pretty good glimpse of it before, and there was scarring along the line of her jaw, her neck, her nose, under her eyes. And then the corrective lenses. They must have the biggest magnification known to optometry, for her eyes to look that big.

We have perhaps here the biggest difference from the movie, one perhaps impossible to transfer over. Each pick-up of a hitch-hiker has the same structure, with us first hearing the thoughts in Isserley’s head as she evaluates the new victim and gives him a lift, then we shift to the thoughts of the hitcher. As the conversations go on, some men are allowed to simply get off at their destination because they reveal a wife or girlfriend is waiting for them, and therefore they’ll be noticed when they go missing. There is no justice to this: easily the most sympathetic of the hitchers, the man who makes the observations in the second excerpt, is sedated even though he has a girlfriend – he doesn’t start talking to Isserley because he doesn’t want to cause her any fear. Another hitcher carries a knife with him and attempts to rape her, and this man has more of a chance of escaping than the kind, silent man. She picks up louts, but good men as well, a brutal dog trainer followed by a melancholy figure devoted to his dog; both end up at the farm. The reader is allowed no satisfaction that any rough justice is done.

That Isserley traps and sedates a series of men, often sympathetic, after which they’re held captive in inhuman conditions and eventually killed, should alienate the reader from her, but it doesn’t. One reason is that Faber never attempts to be sentimental, or plead sympathy for this protagonist, but simply presents her as she is. She is placed as part of a larger alien society that is briefly but sufficiently detailed, and the comic aspect is this: though Isserley has contempt for the primitives of earth, her culture mirrors entirely that of contemporary British society, now. On her own world, she was a beauty born to a low caste, and she’s still bitter about all the false promises made to her by higher born men, instead being left behind to work deep underground in the abysmal conditions of the oxygen factories of her home planet, her only escape this job for which she had to suffer such disfiguring surgeries:

What about all the men who’d promised to keep her safe as she neared the grading age? ‘The Estates? A beautiful girl like you? Just let them try, Iss, and I’ll have a word with my father.’ Spoilt little poseurs, the lot of them. Fuck them, fuck them all.

But then no linguist would ever have applied for her job, that was for sure. Only desperate people with no prospects except being dumped in the New Estates would have considered it.

And even then, only if they were out of their minds.

She had been totally crazy, looking back on it. Deliriously insane. But it had all turned out for the best, after all. The best decision she’d ever made. A very small personal sacrifice, really, if it avoided a lifetime buried in the Estates – a brutishly short lifetime, by all accounts.

In fact, whenever she found herself grieving over what had been done to her once-beautiful body in order for her to be sent here, she reminded herself what people who’d lived in the New Estates for any length of time looked like. Decay and disfigurement were obviously par for the course down there. Maybe it was the overcrowding, or the bad food or the bad air or the lack of medical care, or just the inevitable result of living underground. But there was an unmistakable ugliness about Estate trash, an almost subhuman taint.

Most crucially, Faber never has Isserley transcend her society’s perspectives. She despises the system she’s in, but she does not question it. She never stops seeing the sentient species of earth as primitives, and in one of the novel’s most insightful touches, Isserley and her species refer to themselves not by some alien name, but as human, and it’s the humans of earth who are given the alien name, vodsels. The following is one excerpt of Isserley’s observations:

The thing about vodsels was, people who knew nothing whatsoever about them were apt to misunderstand them terribly. There was always the tendency to anthropomorphize. A vodsel might do something which resembled a human action; it might make a sound analogous with human distress, or make a gesture analogous with human supplication, and that made the ignorant observer jump to conclusions.

In the end, though, vodsels couldn’t do any of the things that really defined a human being. They couldn’t siuwil, they couldn’t mesnishtil, they had no concept of slan. In their brutishness, they’d never evolved to use hunshur; their communities were so rudimentary that hississins did not exist; nor did these creatures seem to see any need for chail, or even chailsinn6.

The member of her society who has transcended its attitudes, who is able to offer a critical perspective, is Amlis Vess, the son of the head of the corporation that runs the meat processing operation. He visits the Scottish farm where the processing operation takes place, and she is very attracted to him – attracted to his rich fur, his regal stature, all the marks of privilege:

Like all of Isserley’s race (except Isserley and Esswis [a male alien on the farm who’s also had surgery in order to appear human], of course) he stood naked on all fours, his limbs exactly equal in length, all of them equally nimble. He also had a prehensile tail, which, if he needed his front hands free, he could use as another limb to balance on, tripod-style. His breast tapered seamlessly into a long neck, on which his head was positioned like a trophy. It came to three points: his long spearhead ears and his vulpine snout. His large eyes were perfectly round, positioned on the front of his face, which was covered in soft fur, like the rest of his body.

In all these things he was a normal, standard-issue human being, no different from the workman standing behind him, watching him nervously.

But he was different.

He was almost freakishly tall, for one thing. His head was at the level of her breast; were he to be surgically made vertical, as she had been, he would tower over her. Wealth and privilege must have excused him from the typically stunted growth of Estate males like the one who was guarding him now; he was like a giant, but slender with it, not massive or lumpish. His colouring was unusually varied (gossips sometimes suggested it wasn’t natural): dark brown on his back, shoulders and flanks, pure black on his face and legs, pure white on his breast. The fur was impossibly lustrous, too, especially on his chest, where it was thicker, almost straggly. In musculature he was lean, with just enough bulk to carry his large frame; his shoulder-blades were startlingly prominent under their satiny layer of fur. But it was his face that was most remarkable: of the males Isserley worked with, there was not one who didn’t have coarse hair, bald patches, discolorations and unsightly scarring on the face. Amlis Vess had a soft down of flawless black from the tips of his ears to the curve of his throat, as if lovingly tooled in black suede by an idealistic craftsman. Deeply set in this perfection of blackness, his tawny eyes shone like illuminated amber. He breathed, preparing to speak.

The book is about the objectification of women7, but it’s also about objectification itself. She is the only woman who is part of the processing operation at the farm and she looks upon the other men and a physical appearance marked by rough and poor living with revulsion, because these are markers of a lower caste, even as she is able to perceive the vast process which brought them all to this place. The vodsels are fodder for this industry, and they are fodder as well:

Isserley’s arrival in the dining hall caused much guttural murmuring among the men. They obviously hadn’t expected her to reappear so soon after her humiliation, but that was because they were stupid and understood nothing. Wouldn’t they just love to have had a bit longer to gossip about her! What a stir her breakdown and her expulsion from the Processing Hall must have made in their stagnant little world! How the legend would have grown if she’d hidden away for days in her cottage, paralysed with shame, until at last she was so weak with hunger she was forced to crawl down to them! Well, she refused to give them the satisfaction. She would tough it out, show them what she was made of.

She cast her eyes disdainfully over the entire herd of them. Compared to Amlis Vess, they were scabrous grotesques, pea-brained savages. She should never have felt shame about her own deformity; she was no uglier than they were, surely, and infinitely better bred.

Isserley looked down at him, as he grinned back at her with decayed teeth and a glisten of gravy on his snout. Yet despite her distaste, she understood all of a sudden that he was harmless, an impotent drudge, a slave, a disposable means to an end. Imprisoned underground, he was living out an existence scarcely better than what he would have known if he’d stayed in the Estates. To be brutally honest, all these men were falling apart, hair by hair and tooth by tooth, like over-used pieces of equipment, like tools bought cheap for a job that would outlast them. While Isserley roamed the airy spaces of her unrestricted domain, they remained trapped below the barns of Ablach, labouring mindlessly, grubbing in tungsten-lit gloom, breathing stale air, eating whatever offal was too gross to be of value to their masters. Amid much fanfare about escape and pioneering, Vess Incorporated had simply dug them out of one hole and buried them in another.

One of her co-workers has a skin condition, “he had some sort of disgusting skin ailment that made half his face look like mouldy fruit,” and Isserley refers to him forever afterwards as the mouldy man, the way a man in another novel might refer to a woman as french smalltits, or some such thing. When Vess suggests the possibility of looking beyond these things, she rejects it, one more opinion of Vess that he’s privileged to have, the way the wealthy can declare that money doesn’t matter:

‘Of course I can see what’s been done to you, but what I’m really interested in is the inner person,’ he pressed on.

‘Oh please, Amlis: spare me this shit,’ groaned Isserley, looking away from him as the tears squirmed out of her eyes and ran down one cheek to disappear inside the ugly stoma of her mutilated ear.

Isserley is drawn to Vess because he is high born, yet she is repelled by the know nothingness of her own life that this high born man has. Vess does not manage to persuade her to take his view, but rather she despises him for having the luxury of this opinion – only a scion from the wealthiest class has the ability to laze around and examine the system. Vess’s opinion is, of course, entirely right, and yet we identify utterly with Isserley and how his righteousness is so connected with a particular pet cause, rather than remedying the immediate realities of a life like hers. He has the privilege of not having to partake in the brutalities of the system, while she must, and she despises the fact that he cannot see that participation in the system has nothing to do with moral choices, and everything to do with practical need. He has the luxury of having the power to change the system, where she feels as if she is only a prisoner within it. “That meat you’re eating,” Amlis Vess says to her of the food they process, “is the body of a creature that lived and breathed just like you and me.”:

With Amlis’s words still ringing in her ears, Isserley took courage, as she had done last time, by focusing on his upper-class accent, his velvety diction groomed by wealth and privilege. Deliberately, she recalled being petted and then discarded by the Elite; she pictured the authorities who’d decided she would be more suited to a life in the Estates, men with accents just like Amlis Vess’s. She invited that accent in, listening to the sharp chord of resentment it struck deep inside her, letting it reverberate.

A few fragments from their conversations together:

‘I had to see for myself what’s going on here,’ he growled.

Isserley tried to raise herself again, and covered her failure with a sigh of condescension.

‘There’s nothing so unusual going on here,’ she said. ‘Just … supply and demand.’ She spoke these last words in a sing-song, as if they were an eternal, inseparable pairing like night and day, male and female.

‘Well, I’ve confirmed my worst fears,’ he went on, disregarding her claim. ‘This whole trade is based on terrible cruelty.’

‘You don’t know what cruelty is,’ she said, feeling all the places on and inside her body where she had been mutilated. How lucky this cosseted young man was, to have a ‘worst fear’ that concerned the welfare of exotic animals rather than any horrors he himself might have to face in the struggle for survival.

‘You know,’ he said, almost dreamily, ‘I sometimes think that the only things really worth talking about are the things people absolutely refuse to discuss.’

‘Yes,’ snapped Isserley, ‘Like why some people are born into a life of lazing around and philosophizing, and others are shoved into a hole and told to fucking get busy.’

The processing of the humans, or vodsels, is exactly like that of any factory farm. The reader is warned that the following passages involve content more disturbing than anything in the movie adaptation. The alien Unser is their butcher:

The Cradle, constructed from pieces of farm equipment, was a masterpiece of specialized design. Its base was the cannibalized mechanism of an earthmover, welded to a stainless-steel drinking trough. Mounted on top, chest-high to a human, was a two-metre segment of a grain chute, artfully beaten into an amended shape so that its sharp edges were curled harmlessly in on themselves. Gleaming and elegant like a giant gravy boat, the chute was being tilted mechanically on its unseen fulcrum, assuming a perfectly horizontal position.

The person adjusting the balance of the Cradle was Ensel, smug in his responsibility of personally assisting the Chief Processor; his two cronies were engaged in the less precise task of undressing the vodsel, lying nearby.

Real music, human music, was being piped into the hall by loudspeakers nestled in the walls. Soft singing and the strumming of instruments imparted a reassuring flavour of home, a pervasive smell of melodies half remembered from childhood. They hissed and hummed soothingly.

‘Careful, careful,’ muttered Unser as the men scrabbled clumsily at the vodsel’s ankles to remove tight woollen socks. An animal’s shanks were close to where its faeces would fall once it was in the pens; any lacerations would be liable to fester.

Isserley strained to see, but Unser’s big wrists and the twisting motion of his fingers obscured the view as he carved out the vodsel’s tongue. Blood began to gurgle out onto the vodsel’s cheeks as Unser turned to drop his tools on the tray with a clatter. Unhesitatingly he snatched up an electrical appliance resembling a large star-point screwdriver and, squinting with concentration, guided it into the vodsel’s mouth. Flashes of light glowed through the gaps in Unser’s nimble fingers as he searched out the incontinent blood vessels and fried them shut with a crackling buzz.

He was already busy sluicing out the vodsel’s mouth with a suction pump by the time the smell of burning flesh had permeated the air. The vodsel coughed: the first real evidence that, far from being dead, it was suffering from nothing more serious than icpathuasi.

‘That’saboy,’ murmured Unser, tickling the Adam’s apple to make the creature swallow. ‘Uhr-rhum.’

As soon as he was satisfied with the state of the animal’s mouth, Unser turned his attention to the genitals. Taking up a clean instrument, he sliced open the scrotal sac and, with rapid, delicate, almost trembling incisions of his scalpel, removed the testicles. It was a much more straightforward job than the tongue; it took perhaps thirty seconds. Before Isserley had registered what had happened, Unser had already cauterized the bleeding and was sewing the scrotum closed with an expert hand.

The experiences of Isserley do not make her more sympathetic to the brutal experiences of the vodsels, but less so. She enjoys being superior to them, and the anger she feels towards the system itself and what it’s done to her she channels against the vodsels. When a vodsel has his throat sliced in front of her, a sentimental type might expect Isserley to be aghast or scream in horror, but she cries out in joyful catharsis. That the powerless find the only pleasure they have in dominating those with even less power is not, to say the least, an uncommon theme in history:

So intently was the vodsel striving now to retrieve his memory of Isserley that he seemed not to notice something being lowered towards his forehead that resembled the nozzle of a petrol pump, attached to the base of the Cradle by a long flexible cable. Unser touched the metal tip of the instrument to the unwrinkled flesh of the vodsel’s brow, and squeezed the handle. There was an almost imperceptible dimming of the lights in the building. The vodsel’s eyes blinked just once as the current travelled through his brain and down the filament of his spine. A subtle plume of smoke curled up from a darkening smudge on his brow.

Unser yanked the chin up to expose the neck. With two graceful flicking motions of his wrist, he slashed open the arteries in the vodsel’s neck, then stood back as a jet of blood gushed out, steaming hot and startlingly red against the silvery trough.

‘Yes!’ screamed Isserley involuntarily. ‘Yes!’

That this is pleasure in a violence re-directed, that she wishes violence, unremittingly cruel violence, on those who have power over her, is made explicit in one of the last chapters, when she speaks of her surgeons:

She crawled out of bed, crippled as usual. What heaven it would be to get revenge on the surgeons who’d done this to her! She’d never even seen their faces: she’d been drugged into oblivion by the time they’d stuck their knives in. And now they were probably boasting to Vess Incorporated how much they’d learned from their mistakes, how there was no comparison between the miracles they could perform now and the crude experiments that had been Esswis [a male alien on the farm who’s also had surgery in order to appear human] and Isserley. In a fair world, she would be given the opportunity, before she died, to tie those surgeons to a slab and do a bit of experimenting of her own. They could watch, tongueless, as she carved their genitals away. To keep their noise down, she’d give them big chunks of their own severed tails to chew on. Their anuses would clench as she penetrated their spines with iron skewers. Their eyes would blink blood as she sculpted brave new faces for them.

There is no Nervous Man in the book, and it is not Isserley who releases any vodsels, but Amlis. In fact, it is Isserley who helps to hunt down these vodsels and kill them, and she takes pride in her ability to do so. That the gesture of freeing these vulnerable naked vodsels out into the open is an entirely futile one, is to be expected from privileged creatures like Amlis who have no practical sense, and who are enraptured by the virtuousness of their gestures. At the very same time, Isserley knows there is something unnecessarily brutal in this life, one lacking in an essential quality even though her own language may have no word for it. Amlis and Isserley visit the prison in which the various hitchers are kept before they are processed, and one of them writes something in the dirt:

‘Look!’ Amlis urged.

Isserley watched, disturbed, as the vodsel scrawled a five-letter word with great deliberation, even going to the trouble of fashioning each letter upside down, so that it would appear right-way-up for those on the other side of the mesh.

‘No-one told me they had a language,’ marvelled Amlis, too impressed, it seemed, to be angry. ‘My father always describes them as vegetables on legs.’

‘It depends on what you classify as language, I guess,’ said Isserley dismissively. The vodsel had slumped behind his handiwork, head bowed in submission, eyes wet and gleaming.

‘But what does it mean?’ persisted Amlis.

Isserley considered the message, which was M E R C Y. It was a word she’d rarely encountered in her reading, and never on television. For an instant she racked her brains for a translation, then realized that, by sheer chance, the word was untranslatable into her own tongue; it was a concept that just didn’t exist.

Isserley does not want to try to pronounce this word for Amlis, because she feels this act would debase her:

She considered trying to pronounce the strange word with a contortion of her lips and a frown on her brow, as if she were being asked to reproduce a chicken’s cackle or a cow’s moo. Then, if Amlis asked her what it meant, she could honestly say that there was no word for it in the language of human beings. She opened her lips to speak, but realized just in time that this would be a very stupid mistake. For her to speak the word at all dignified it with the status of being a word in the first place; Amlis would no doubt go into ecstasy over the vodsels’ ability to link a pattern of scrawled symbols with a specific sound, however guttural and unintelligible. At a stroke, she would be dignifying the vodsels, in his eyes, with both writing and speech.

Shortly afterwards, in perhaps the book’s most powerful scene, Isserley gives a ride to the hitchhiker who rapes her, and she pleads for this same concept. We have here again the book’s casual, expert use of a variety of tones, none of which undercut the other; the horror of the scene alongside the comic mispronunciation which is also a heartbreaking plea for some relief from not just this moment, but her whole existence:

Without warning, he grabbed her elbow and pulled it upwards. Isserley didn’t have time to tense her muscles into a characteristic vodsel shape, and her arm bent freely at several joints, a zig-zag of unmistakably human angles. The hitcher did not appear to notice. This, more than anything else so far, filled Isserley with nauseous terror.

Once she was standing, the hitcher nudged her further along the car until she was against the bonnet.

‘Turn around,’ he said.

She obeyed, and he immediately grasped her green velvety trousers and tore them down to her knees with a single jolt.

‘Jesus,’ he growled from behind her. ‘You been in a car accident?’

‘Yes,’ she whispered. ‘I’m sorry.’

For a heady moment she thought he was discouraged, but then she felt the flat of his hand on her back, pushing her forward onto the car’s bonnet.

Desperately, she searched for the right word, the word that might make him stop. It was a word she knew, but had only ever seen written – in fact, only this morning, a vodsel had spelled it out. She’d never heard it spoken.

‘Murky,’ she pleaded.

Isserley escapes this by knocking out the man’s eyes through the powerful distorted arms of her race, but there is no happy end for her. She and Amlis never draw close into anything like sexual union or love, and he returns to his home planet. Her work exhausts her, and though she does not acknowledge it, her work is slowly destroying her: again and again in the book, tears fall from her eyes, and she’s unable to account for why. She lives in a morally indifferent universe where the kindest of souls end up trapped in the cages of her farm, and yet the book’s perspective is not itself indifferent to the fates of its characters. We see the juxtaposition of the two in the book’s ending, where a gesture of consideration leads to her destruction. Isserley stops for a hitcher whose wife is pregnant and he urges her to speed up, and she does so, but she is as clumsy at driving as she is at other human behaviors, and the car swerves off the road into a tree. The hitcher is thrown from the wreck and badly injured, while the steering column slices into Isserley, destroying her human bosom:

She looked down. Her green velvet trousers were sprinkled with broken glass and saturated with dark blood, and a twisted wedge of metal was taking up all the space where she would have expected her knees to be. She felt very little pain, and she guessed this must be because her spine was shattered. The crescent of the steering wheel had penetrated her breasts, leaving her torso uninjured. Her neck, though, felt better than it had for years, and this realization jerked a hysterical sob of laughter and grief from her. Something warm and gelatinous, trapped inside her top and Pennington’s pullover, slid down her abdomen and into her lap. She shuddered in revulsion and fear.

The Isserleys of the novel and movie both have a devotion to the earth’s landscape, perhaps the only love they can feel deeply, the only one undamaged by malice or distrust for the book’s protagonist. She joins this world in the movie as her body burns to ash and drifts into the sky, and the novel’s Isserley achieves the same transcendence through self-annihilation in what is probably the book’s best moment, an ending for this essay which I cannot improve on:

Isserley removed the spectacles and dropped them into her lap, where they landed with a patter of windscreen glass. She blinked, wondering why things were still out of focus. Tears ran down her cheeks, and her view through the shattered windscreen cleared.

Isserley checked the top of the dashboard, where Yns [an engineer], at the same time as he’d set up the icpathua network, had installed the other little alteration to the car’s original design: the button for the aviir. Unlike the icpathua connections, which involved fragile electrics and hydraulics that had obviously been damaged in the accident, the connection between the dashboard button and the cylinder of aviir was one simple, sturdy tube, waiting only for a squirt of something foreign into the oily liquid.

The aviir would blow her car, herself, and a generous scoop of earth into the smallest conceivable particles. The explosion would leave a crater in the ground as big and deep as if a meteorite had fallen there.

And she? Where would she go?

The atoms that had been herself would mingle with the oxygen and nitrogen in the air. Instead of ending up buried in the ground, she would become part of the sky: that was the way to look at it. Her invisible remains would combine, over time, with all the wonders under the sun. When it snowed, she would be part of it, falling softly to earth, rising up again with the snow’s evaporation. When it rained, she would be there in the spectral arch that spanned from firth to ground. She would help to wreathe the fields in mists, and yet would always be transparent to the stars. She would live forever. All it took was the courage to press one button, and the faith that the connection had not been broken.

She reached forward a trembling hand.

‘Here I come,’ she said.

(All images from Under the Skin copyright A24 Films and associated producers; images from Birth copyright New Line Cinema.)

(On July 27, 2014, some edits for aesthetics, grammar, and clarity were made; footnote #4 was added, as was a new footnote #1, on the name of the film’s protagonist; the section on how Isserley sees her co-workers only in terms of their physicality was added as well. On August 25th, 2014, the section on Monty Python’s “Seduced Milkmen” was added.)

FOOTNOTES

1 Though it’s never said in the movie, a number of sources state the protagonist’s name as “Laura”, such as Grantland‘s “‘Skin’ Deep: Jonathan Glazer, Scarlett Johansson, and the Incurious State of Sci-Fi in Hollywood” by Sean Fennessey – “Glazer’s movie follows Laura, an alien played by a bewigged Scarlett Johansson” – and The Dissolve‘s review, “Under the Skin” by Scott Tobias: “Glazer’s main character—now named “Laura,” and played by Scarlett Johansson—reveals nothing of herself directly.”

2 Though I originally thought this first woman was simply a human The Bad Man had killed so they could use her clothes, I think this observation from SpaceMonkey23101 in “Under the Skin- Movie discussion including looking at the novel that inspired it”, a reddit thread by dalong75, is very solid, and in fact the best interpretation.

SpaceMonkey23101 (link):

I like to think that the first woman (who Scarlett gets her first set of clothes from) is her predecessor, and that she died by committing suicide. This is why she sheds a tear during the scene where Scarlett undresses her. She did it by drowning herself in the ocean, since she had seen so many men go into the black pool, and her limited intellect could only conceive of that as a method of suicide. She was driven to do this by her guilt for what she had done, luring so many innocent men to their deaths. It shows that she achieved the same sense of compassion that Scarlett does during the film. It basically turns the film into a much more optimistic story, since it suggests that the drones always develop empathy. This is what her supervisor (motor bike guy) is checking for when he’s staring at her so intently in her house. He is searching, in a strange alien way, for a sense of empathy or compassion within her. It’s almost as if the drones always fail because maybe living beings always grow towards compassion. It actually kind of suggests an ultimate – almost spiritual – morality and justice behind the film. Just a thought.

dalong75 (link):

Love it.

8th_Dynasty (link):

This is pretty close to my interpretation as well – however, and maybe it was just my eyesight, but I took the first girl to be “the same model Alien”, having the same skin. The Alien of our story that we watched was a sort of replicated replacement to pick up where the first one left off after she ultimately started to feel emotions. Sort of like a defective model that will work for a certain amount of time before breaking down and the Motorcycle Boss was constantly checking for signs of inevitable failure.

I feel like that first female character was also played by Scarlett [though there is a strong resemblance, the girl on the floor of the white room is played by Lynsey Taylor Mackay].

3 McWilliams is actually a “world champion motorcycle ace.” The short profile, “McWilliams is ‘bad man on mission for Scarlett Johansson'” details his background.

The name of this character as well as The Woodsman I got from “Under The Skin: Casting”, an interview with the movie’s casting director, Kathleen Crawford.

4 Again, “Under the Skin- Movie discussion including looking at the novel that inspired it”, a reddit thread by dalong75, contains valuable insights on this matter, from tesla86, EnsignMorituri, and dalong75.

tesla86 (link):

I was thinking about this movie for some time after seeing it, the affect of any momentous movie wether good or bad i might add.

I was particularly drawn to the ‘inspection’ scene, it was as though they (the aliens) are drone-like creatures, with the Motorcyclist as a soldier bee inspecting the worker bee (Johnansson) even the way ‘he’ articulates and postures around her is akin to their behaviour. Just a thought but the motorbikes themselves are quite bee/wasp like; driving handles = antennae , fuel tank = thorax, engine hums like wings etc

EnsignMorituri (link):

Absolutely. I think the closeup of the ant reflects the colony insect theme as well. To use a wasp or bee in that scene would have been too on the nose.

dalong75 (link):

Good point. I liked how mechanical it was. A simple four point inspection of her. Not at all how humans would inspect each other. Also perhaps looking for any breaks in her skin.

5 Questions were taken from “The Scarlett Johansson Interview” by Alex Bilmes, “Scarlett Johansson Interview” by Holly Millea, and “Scarlett Johansson 2.0: Glamour’s May Cover Star on Finally Knowing What She Needs in a Relationship” by Logan Hill.

6 These terms of alien vocabulary are never given an explanation.

7 The book is more explicit about this than the movie, as seen in these excerpts from a conversation Isserley has with one hitcher:

‘You know what gets me?’ he said, slightly more animated now.

‘No, what gets you?’ Isserley was sagging in relief, gratefully feeling the air grow less dense, the molecules moving more calmly.

‘Them supermodels,’ he said.

Isserley thought first of sophisticated automobiles, then thought he must mean the animated drawings which flickered on television early in the mornings: stylized females flying through space wearing elbow-length gloves and thigh-high boots. Just in time, as she opened her mouth to speak, she remembered the true meaning of the term: she’d glimpsed one of these extraordinary creatures on the news once.

‘What mystifies you?’ said Isserley, quite lost.

‘Where’s the tits on ’em, that’s what I want to know!’ he exclaimed, cupping one huge hand in front of his own chest. ‘Supermodels, and they got no tits! How’s that work?’

‘I don’t know who decides these things,’ conceded Isserley miserably, as the atmosphere in the cabin swarmed once more.

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An Attempt to Disconnect From Comcast / OK, Let’s Talk to Hell: A Transcript

The following transcript was made from audio discovered at “Sympathy for the Comcast Rep from Hell” by John Herman:

Above is eight solid minutes of empathic pain. It is a recording of a calm, polite caller, Ryan Block, attempting to cancel his Comcast service. The representative, by the time the recording starts, already sounds angry: He demands, again and again and again, to know why Block is leaving Comcast for a smaller provider, to know what it is that he—that Comcast—can’t supply that this other company, this obviously objectively inferior company, this loser company, can. Just tell him what he did wrong, he says. Just explain to him. Just make him understand this stupid mistake.

COMCAST REP
-eight hundred and five megabits per second internet, Astound will not give you that speed.

RYAN BLOCK
Okay, we’d like to disconnect. We’d like to disconnect. Please.

C.R.
So, why do you think you don’t want the faster speed? Help me understand why you don’t want faster internet.

R.B.
Help me understand why you can’t just disconnect us.

C.R.
Because my job is to have a conversation with you. About having- About dis- About keeping your service. About finding out why it is you’re looking to cancel the service.

R.B.
I don’t understand. Is this for-

C.R.
Okay, if you don’t want to talk to me, you can definitely go into the Comcast store, and disconnect your service there.

R.B.
We’re just asking to-

C.R.
-and kill two birds with one stone. You gotta return that cable card to the store anyways.

R.B.
We’re actually just going to mail the cable card in. But if you can just please cancel our service. That would be great. That’s all-

C.R.
We actually can’t-

R.B.
That’s all we want.

C.R.
We’re actually not able to return…a cable card by mail.

R.B.
Then I will send someone like, a taskrabbit, to go return the cable card for us. I don’t personally intend to go return the cable card. That’s why we’re probably not going to be canceling in store, that’s why I need you to cancel, by phone. So, can you cancel us by phone? The answer is yes, correct?

C.R.
It sounds like you don’t want to go over this information with me, I mean, if you don’t want to go over this information, okay, then that’s the easiest way to get your account disconnected.

R.B.
Uh, I am declining to state why we are leaving Comcast, because I don’t owe you an explanation…so, if you can please just go to-

C.R.
-the number one-

R.B.
Proceed to the next question. If you have to fill out your form, that’s fine. Please proceed to the next question. And we’ll attempt to answer that, if possible.

C.R.
Alright. So. I mean, being that we’re the number one provider of internet and TV service in the entire country…why is it that you’re not wanting to have the number one rated internet service? Number one rated TV service, available?

R.B.
I’m declining to state. We’re switching providers. Can you please go to the next question?

C.R.
Okay. So, what is it about Astound that’s making you want to change to them?

R.B.
I’m declining to state. Can you please go to the next question? So we can cancel our service?

C.R.
Okay. So. Okay. I mean. I’m just trying to figure out here what it is about Comcast services that you’re not liking? That you’re not wanting to keep? Why is it that you don’t want-

R.B.
This-

C.R.
-to keep our service?

R.B.
This phone call, actually, is a really amazing representative example of why I don’t want to stay with Comcast. So, can you please cancel our service?

C.R.
So, from- Okay. But, I’m trying to help you. K. Don’t worry.

R.B.
The way that you can help me, right now-

C.R.
-by declining answer, by doing all this.

R.B.
The way that you can help me is by disconnecting our service. That’s how you can help-

C.R.
But how is that helping you, though? How is that-

R.B.
Because that’s what I want.

C.R.
Remind me how that’s helping you.

R.B.
That’s what I want.

C.R.
Okay, so why is that what you want?

R.B.
Because that’s what I want.

C.R.
Okay, so, I mean, there has to be some sortof reason behind it. That’s what we’re trying to find out. We just want to find out what it is, that’s causing a customer, that’s been with us for a long time, to leave.

R.B.
Because that’s what we want.

C.R.
Okay. I mean, you’ve been with us since…October 2005. Nine years. You’ve been a Comcast customer, k, after a decade, okay? Clearly, the service is working great for you. You weren’t having any problems. But now all of a sudden you’re moving, k, you’ve kept this service at multiple addresses…all of a sudden you’re moving, and it’s making you want to change. What is it that’s making you want to change that?

R.B.
Because that’s what we want to do.

C.R.
K, why is that what you want to do?

R.B.
That’s none of your business. Your business is to disconnect us-

C.R.
As a company that is a cable internet provider. Primarily. K? It is our business. To know why our customers are leaving. Okay? If we don’t know why our customers are leaving, how are we supposed to make it a better experience for you next time? K? When Astound turns out not to-

R.B.
That’s a fantastic question, and something you can hire a firm to go figure out. For right now, I’m just a customer. Calling in. Attempting to disconnect service. That is something you can do, right?

C.R.
Yeah.

R.B.
You said that you can disconnect service…yes?

C.R.
Okay.

R.B.
Yes?

C.R.
I just don’t want to lose you as a customer!

R.B.
Is that something that you can do?

C.R.
-greatly, from transferring your service to your new address-

R.B.
Is that something that you can do?

C.R.
-offers-

R.B.
Can you disconnect us? By phone?

C.R.
-so-

R.B.
Can you disconnect our service? Yes or no?

C.R.
K. What I’m trying to find out-

R.B.
Yes or no?

C.R.
-same offer, or brand new-

R.B.
Can you disconnect our service?

C.R.
-faster internet than anyone can provide you. K? Why don’t you want services?

R.B.
Because I’m not interested in your services any longer. Can you-

C.R.
Okay. So you’re not interested in the fastest internet in the country?

R.B.
Nope. Not interested.

C.R.
K, why is that?

R.B.
Can you disconnect us? By phone? Are you capable, in your system, of disconnecting our service? Yes or no?

C.R.
Well, I’m just trying to get some information to find out why-

R.B.
Please answer my question. Are you capable, by phone, of disconnecting our service?

C.R.
It’s something we can do, I mean– Whether we do it-

R.B.
That’s something you can do, I would appreciate you now doing that.

C.R.
K. So.

R.B.
Please proceed in disconnecting our service.

C.R.
So, what is it about this other internet provider, this other TV provider? That’s making it sound so much better than the number one TV service available?

R.B.
I don’t know. It’s a totally arbitrary decision.

C.R.
K. So why not keep what you know works? When you’ve got a good service?

R.B.
Because. We’re not doing that. So, please proceed-

C.R.
Okay.

R.B.
-to disconnect-

C.R.
So, you’re saying you don’t want this service? You don’t want something that works?

R.B.
No. I guess I don’t want something that works.

C.R.
So, why don’t you want something that’s good service, and something that works?

R.B.
I mean, is this like a joke? Did we call- Is this- Are you punking us right now?

C.R.
I’m trying to get information. Okay? I’m trying to help our company be better. That’s my job.

R.B.
I can guarantee you, right now, you’re doing an incredibly good job at helping your company be worse.

C.R.
Okay. Well, you know what, I’m terribly sorry that it feels like I’m being- It sounds to you like it feels like I’m trying to argue, I’m just trying to help you out and get some information. We’ll just bypass all this information, I’ll go ahead and disconnect this service, okay-

R.B.
Fantastic. Thank you.

C.R.
It’s really a shame to see you go to something that can’t give you what we can.

R.B.
Okay, well if that winds up being the case-

C.R.
-that’s what I’m trying-

R.B.
-then we’ll call you guys back up, and reconnect.

C.R.
I mean, you’re not going to get the hundred thousand free on-demand titles. You’re not going to get hundred and five megabits per second for your internet. Guaranteed. Speed at a hundred and five. Okay. I mean, no one else can guarantee their speed like we can. Okay? So, I mean, we can definitely transfer this over to your new address, get you a lower rate, I can save you almost a hundred, actually, more than a hundred dollars per month. Over a hundred dollars per month. K? Doing that transfer. K? Get you internet that’s…five, six, times faster than anything any other company can provide you.

R.B.
Are you done?

C.R.
Get you the number one T.V. service available, okay? And, I mean, so…what about those savings? Those services, are you not wanting?

R.B.
Are you done?

C.R.
What makes you-

R.B.
-because-

C.R.
-not want that service?

R.B.
You literally, just a moment ago, said that you would go ahead and disconnect our service? And that’s what-

C.R.
Okay.

R.B.
-we’re gonna need to do. Can you go ahead and do that?

C.R.
I’m working on that process!

R.B.
Okay. Great. How much longer is that process going to take?

C.R.
I’m just asking some questions-

R.B.
Can you tell me how much longer-

C.R.
That’s all I’m doing.

R.B.
Can you tell me how much longer it’s gonna take?

C.R.
K, I’m just asking some questions. To do this process.

R.B.
I understand. Can you tell me how much longer-

C.R.
Okay? If you gave me a few more minutes-

R.B.
Can you tell me how much longer-

C.R.
A couple more minutes, here. Okay?

R.B.
Okay. A couple more minutes. K.

C.R.
Okay. So. I mean, what about the service is it, that is causing you to want to change? What is it about-

R.B.
I’m-

C.R.
-the offers that we have available to you-

R.B.
I’m good. I’m just going to wait until you can confirm that we’ve cancelled service. So, I’m just going to hang up here-

C.R.
Okay, you’re all set. You know, it’s disconnected. I’m really sorry to see you go to something that can’t give you what we can, but I’d like to thank you very much, for being a great part of Comcast, have a wonderful day.

R.B.
Uh- Can you give me a confirmation number for the cancellation of service?

C.R.
I- I don’t have a confirmation number.

R.B.
Well, how do I- How do I have confirmation that we-

C.R.
Okay. You’ll receive a final statement in about three weeks.

R.B.
A final statement in three weeks?

C.R.
Yes.

R.B.
Okay.

C.R.
Alright. Again, I want to thank you very much for…being a great part of Comcast, have a wonderful day.

R.B.
Okay, just so I can confirm, you said your name is [REDACTED FROM TAPE]?

C.R.
Correct.

R.B.
Okay. Cool. Thank you.

C.R.
Okay.

R.B.
Alright.

C.R.
You’re very welcome. Have a great day.

R.B.
You too.

A comment from “John Wantland@facebook”, at the original post (link):

Display common sense, lose your job. Try to keep your job, get hated on the Internet, and get punished anyway. Oh, and let’s not forget, not only do you lose your current job by displaying common sense, but hey, for getting fired, that makes you less desirable for any other company to hire you, on top of that. What do you want? What do you expect? Are you so willing to throw your career away because you’d rather be a polite homeless beggar than slightly annoy people and get to keep your house? I’m not saying it’s right, but the world we live in doesn’t allow for that kind of attitude, not really. If you have a job, you’re damn lucky to keep it. Look, I don’t like it any more than you, but I’ll put up with being slightly annoyed by a phone rep if the alternative is he loses his job. It’s not a defense of the system, but you do what you gotta do to survive, and until the day comes when all jobs are about cleaning up rainbow spills and unicorn poops, you just gotta suck it up and deal with the fact that no matter what you’re doing, once in a while you have to do something unpleasant, and maybe something you don’t agree with on a personal level, because it’s far better than sleeping in the gutter with your principles to keep you warm.

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The Secrets of Sibel Edmonds

Sibel Edmonds

I SPEAK FROM MY HEART
LISTEN TO YOUR HEART
IT’S YOUR INVISIBLE GOVERNMENT
ITS THE GOVERNMENT YOU CANT CONTROL,
IT’S THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE
IT SPEAKS THE TRUTH TO EVERYONE
FROM THE BABY TO THE CRIMINAL
WELCOME YOUR INVISIBLE GOVERNMENT
IT’S THE ONLY ONE THAT’S REAL

“I am the President” by Christopher Judges, via “Terry Richardson’s Prom Night and Punk Youth: Vintage Photos Unearthed” by Jessica Coen

THE INVISIBLE GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD

Occasionally, one runs into a character which exerts a force that distorts everything around them, the narrative in which they’re in breaks, or the reader wishes it to break, so they might take a station appropriate to their influence. This post was supposed to continue on the theme of Bruce Fein, further annotations to a podcast transcript (“Bruce Fein Interviewed by Ian Masters: A Transcript, With Interruptions”), but we are now waylaid by a character who commands our full attention. How I’ll get back to the story of Fein, I have no idea, and for the moment it’s not important.

There does, however, need to be some introductory space before we get to our new main character. In 2008, Ohio congresswoman Jean Schmidt would face off against David Krikorian in the Republican primary. During the race, Krikorian would distribute a flier claiming that Schmidt had been bribed with blood money for her opposition to a congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide – Krikorian is of Armenian descent. Schmidt won the primary, won her seat, filed a complaint against Krikorian with the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC), and then a $6.8 million lawsuit. She would win a ruling in her favor from the commission, and after four years of legal wrangling, would finally drop her defamation lawsuit1.

The fight before the OEC brought two old adversaries back against each other. Amongst Krikorian’s counsel was Mark Geragos, and among Schmidt’s was Bruce Fein. In his book Mistrial, Geragos had described Fein as “one of the most repulsive human beings I have ever had the mispleasure of meeting,” and Fein’s denials of the Armenian genocide in a courtroom in 2001 as the moment when he nearly lost faith in the justice system. Given Fein’s supposed antipathy of the Iraq war and the war state, Schmidt stood out as a client. In 2006, as the violent fissures of civil war broke out in Iraq, Schmidt cheerfully continued to believe. “There is enormous potential there,” she said. “the kind of potential that we saw in 1776.”2 On November 18, 2005, when John Murtha voted to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, the following ruckus broke out in the House (“Cowards cut and run, Marines never do”, on youtube):

Mr. Speaker, at this time, I now yield one minute to our newest member, the gentlewoman from Ohio.

JEAN SCHMIDT
Thank you. Yesterday, I stood at Arlington National Cemetery attending the funeral of a young marine in my district. He believed in what we were doing [sic] is the right thing and had the courage to lay his life on the line to do it. A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp, Ohio Representative from the 88th District in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do. (Angry shouting starts) Danny…and the rest…of America… (Angry shouting gets louder) AND THE WORLD… (Angry shouting continues at high volume, gavel starts pounding down) WANT THE ASSURANCE…(“Will the…” drowned out by shouting) FROM THIS BODY…(Angry shouting gets even louder, and stays at high pitch, “The house will…”, pounding gavel) WILL SEE THIS THROUGH. (gavel pounding)

SPEAKER
The house will be in order…(angry shouting) The house will be in order…(angry shouting, lower than before, but intense and sustained) The house will be in order! (someone on the floor: “Mr. Speaker!”) THE HOUSE WILL BE IN ORDER. THE HOUSE WILL BE IN ORDER. THE GENTLELADY WILL SUSPEND…(someone shouting on the floor)…AND THE CLERK WILL REPORT HER WORDS. (quieter now) All members will suspend. The gentleman from Arkansas has demanded that the gentlelady’s words be taken down, theclerkwillreportthegentleladyswords.

Fein worked without legal charge for Schmidt, his fees paid for by the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund. This would result in a complaint being filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) that Schmidt had received legal services valued at over a half a million dollars from a lobby group as a gift. Schmidt would end up being named one of the most corrupt members of Congress in a CREW report, the House Ethics Committee would rule the gift as impermissible and order Schmidt to re-pay it. Fein would be forbidden from further participating in the case3.

It was in August 2009, before the Ohio Election Commission, that our lead makes her appearance. Sibel Edmonds had been called in to testify to the links between the Turkish government and lobby groups such as the Turkish Coalition of America, to make the case that what was said in the Krikorian fliers, that the Turkish government itself had paid for Schmidt’s stance on the Armenian Genocide resolution, had some basis in fact. The reason Edmonds might be able to give relevant testimony in this area was because of her work as an FBI translator from September 2001 to March 2002. From “Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”, page 17:

Q
And how did it come to be that you were working for the FBI?

EDMONDS
Okay. I will try to summarize the story so it’s not — it won’t take too long. When I was studying for my Bachelor’s degree, criminal justice/psychology, I had applied for internship position with the FBI, and this would be around ’97, 1997, 1998, and they never responded to me and except that they were interested in my linguistic abilities because I spoke Turkish and Farsi. And then I didn’t hear back from them, and I was contacted around September 11, 2001, and they said they had obtained top secret clearance for me, and they needed my services for translation in Turkish and Farsi, and they wanted me to start immediately, and because I couldn’t work full time, I took the contractor’s position with the FBI for translation of those languages, and to a certain degree Azerbaijani.

Q
All right, and so can you describe what your job was with the FBI aside from translating those languages?

EDMONDS
I assisted Special Agents, both my — the primary supervisory Special Agents in Washington, D.C. field office, but also Special Agents in charge of various counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations around the country, and those were different FBI field offices.

Q
Now, when you refer to counterintelligence operations, can you just tell us what that means?

EDMONDS
Counterintelligence operations in the FBI had to do with collecting information, monitoring — and monitoring particular target foreign entities in the United States.

Edmonds would go on to testify that part of her translation work was of surveillance over a covert Turkish lobby, involved in intelligence operations in the United States, page 30 of the deposition:

Q
Okay. So when you talk about the covert Turkish lobby, what are you referring to there?

EDMONDS
Activities that would involve trying to obtain very sensitive, classified, highly classified U.S. intelligence information, weapons technology information, classified congressional records, recruiting — recruiting key U.S. individuals with access to highly sensitive information, blackmailing, bribery. These are some of the ones that just perhaps — and there are many others that I’m unable to think of.

This covert lobby was involved in numerous activities, including the secret campaign funding of various top level members of Congress, done via donations small enough that they didn’t need to be itemized in public filings. Those she accused of receiving such covert funding included Steve Solarz, congressman from New York, Bob Livingston of Louisiana, Dan Burton of Indiana, and then speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert:

Q
Can you tell me anything about what your concerns are about Mr. Hastert?

EDMONDS
This information has been public. The concerns, again would be several categories. The acceptance of large sums of bribery in forms of cash or laundered cash and laundering is to make it look legal for his campaigns, and also for his personal use, in order to do certain favors and call certain — call for certain actions, make certain things happen for foreign entities and foreign governments’ interests, Turkish government’s interest and Turkish business entities’ interests.

Q
Did you have reason to believe that Mr. Hastert, for example, killed one of the Armenian genocide resolutions in exchange for money —

MR. FEIN:
Leading question.

Q
— money from these Turkish organizations?

EDMONDS
Yes, I do.

Q
So if I were to say that a member of Congress — if I were to just walk out on the street and say, “Gee, I think members of Congress have taken money from these Turkish organizations in exchange for denying the Armenian genocide,” would that be an unreasonable assumption on my part?

MR. FEIN:
That’s pure conjecture. The individual —

THE WITNESS:
No.

MR. FEIN:
— is totally irrelevant.

Q
Are you aware of other members of Congress, other than Mr. Hastert, taking money from Turkish organizations in exchange for denying the Armenian genocide?

EDMONDS
Yes, and not only taking money, but other activities, too, including being blackmailed for various reasons.

Q
Stephen Solarz is on your gallery as well. I believe he’s a Representative from New York. Is that correct? I’m really guessing.

EDMONDS
He used to be.

Q
Was, right?

EDMONDS
Correct. He is a registered lobbyist for the — or was registered lobbyist for the government of Turkey.

Q
And Mr. Hastert is also a registered lobbyist for the government of Turkey now?

EDMONDS
That’s what I have read and it was announced, yes, he is.

Q
And why is Mr. Solarz in your gallery, if you can tell me?

EDMONDS
Mr. Solarz and certain others in the gallery, as lobbyists they also acted as conduits to deliver or launder contribution and other briberies to certain members of Congress, but also in pressuring outside Congress, and including blackmail, in certain members of Congress.

Q
And Mr. Solarz and others would be doing this on behalf of these Turkish organizations?

EDMONDS
And the Turkish government, correct, both.

There was even more. Edmonds would allege that this covert lobby was in alliance with other foreign powers in setting up a network to steal nuclear and technological secrets through the state department, universities, and the RAND Corporation:

Q
One of the things that it indicates in your biographical information is that you’ve made certain allegations. Some of them we’ve talked about a little bit, and I wanted to ask you about some of the others. One of the entries indicates nuclear secrets black market, and it says, “Edmonds alleges that in the course of her work for the government she found evidence that the FBI, State Department and Pentagon had been infiltrated by a Turkish and Israeli run intelligence network that paid high ranking American officials to steal nuclear weapons secrets,” and they have some footnotes for that, some cites. Is that correct that you’ve made those allegations?

EDMONDS
That information is correct, and if ever — you can get, I would say, those government organizations and others. There’s another place missing there. They list the State Department itself, but there is one other place that’s missing.

Q
And what is that place?

EDMONDS
That would be RAND Corporation.

Q
And can you tell me about the — give me some more information about the Turkish and Israeli run intelligence network that is referred to there?

EDMONDS
This information has been public, documenting methods of intelligence gathering. Yes. Through certain U.S. officials, executively appointed officials, foreign entities, not necessarily or not only government related; so if you say Israel and Turkey, not only government but other entities because it has multi-layers.

Q
All right.

EDMONDS
Their operations, and some of these layers sometimes they conduct their operations independently and with the sole purpose of obtaining a profit, and therefore, the information they obtain, let’s say, the nuclear or weapons technology, weapons technology related information doesn’t necessarily only go to Turkey or Israel, but they sell it to the highest bidder. That’s how they operate. They contact their people whether it’s in ISI, in Washington, D.C. part of the military attache for Pakistani intelligence, or the certain Saudi business people in Detroit may be contacted, and they say, okay, and talk about these Turkish entities. This is we have obtained this particular DVD containing this, and this person is willing to pay 500,000. Will you offer more because if you don’t, we will give it to this person. So what I’m trying to say is they do it both for governments, foreign governments, but some of those operatives, they also — they offer it in open market, and they have — they have individuals on their payroll on almost every major nuclear facility in the United States. RAND Corporation and various — in Midwest, various Air Force labs that develop certain weapons technology, which I am not very familiar with the technology itself.

Q
When you refer to the or when the article refers to the paid, high ranking American officials, can you identify who they are?

EDMONDS
That person has been identified by others.

Q
Okay.

EDMONDS
And he has been identified as Mr. Marc Grossman, who used to work for the State Department.

Q
Right, and Mr. Grossman, I think, was also in your gallery, correct?

EDMONDS
Yes.

Q
And I read somewhere that Mr. Grossman had some relationships with a Turkish organization, Turkish diplomats here in the United States.

EDMONDS
Yes. He had very, very close relationship with not only Turkish diplomatic communities and entities, but business and also some of these criminal layer operatives that I told you about. Currently, that he’s nor working; he actually is working for a Turkish company called Ihals Holding.

Q
Okay. Now, was Mr. Grossman the ambassador to Turkey at some

Q
Okay, and then what was his position at the State Department, if you recall?

EDMONDS
He had several different positions. I believe in 1999 or 2000, was European Affairs. That dealt a lot with NATO, and afterwards during early bush administration’s stage, he was the second or the third highest person in the State Department. I’m not sure about the title.

Q
Okay, and during that time — I’m sorry — during that time when he was the second or third highest ranking person in State, I’ve read somewhere that you’ve alleged that he actually warned the Turkish Embassy about a CIA front company that had been set up to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons.

EDMONDS
That would be summer 2001. Whatever title he held at that point, he, Mr. Grossman, informed a certain Turkish diplomatic entity who was also an independent operative of a company called Brewster Jennings because Brewster Jennings was frequenting the American Turkish Council as a consulting or analyst firm, and there were certain nuclear related operatives who wanted to hire Brewster Jennings and have it pose as a front company. So there were talks between those Turkish operatives and Brewster Jennings, and Mr. Grossman wanted those people to be warned that Brewster Jennings was a government front, front for government, and it was a front. It was not a company for the front for government, U.S. government, and for those Turkish individuals to be told to stay away from Brewster Jennings. But the person who received that information, the Turkish diplomatic but also operative, actually contacted the Pakistani military attache and discussed with the person who was there about this fact and also told them, warned them to stay away from Brewster Jennings.

From page 206 of the deposition:

Q
To your knowledge, do you have any information about the Turkish government sponsoring chairs at universities, like Princeton, University of Utah, and other places?

EDMONDS
Georgetown University, and not only that. Some of these academic experts also are recruited agents who actually steal U.S. military and intelligence related information because they have security clearances and they have obtained position in high level institutions, and one good example would be RAND Corporation, and Professor Sabri Sayari in Georgetown University who has stole [sic] tens of millions of dollars worth of secrets by actually recruiting people there that has been identified to him by his superiors, handlers, and he does it currently in — was doing it in 2002 with RAND Corporation, one of the individuals. That’s an example of academic expert that they recruit.

Q
And how do they recruit them? With money and other things?

EDMONDS
Money and in some cases combination of money and sexual related favors and information.

Furthermore, various members of Congress were also being bribed for access to nuclear technology, page 65 of the deposition:

Q
One of the other entries on your Wikipedia entry indicates that you had accused Mr. Hastert and other, quote, high ranking members of U.S. government of — let me make sure I’m reading this correctly. The entry says, “Edmonds also accuses Dennis Hastert of taking bribes.” I think we’ve talked about that; is that correct?

EDMONDS
Yes.

Q
And then it says, “And high ranking members of the U.S. government of selling nuclear secrets to Turkey and Pakistan.” Did you allege that high ranking members in the U.S. government had sold nuclear secrets to Turkey and Pakistan?

EDMONDS
They were involved in operations that were obtaining illegally U.S. weapons and nuclear related technology and sell it to foreign governments and also foreign independent operatives.

Burton, Hastert, Livingston, Solarz, were part of this secret network, but there were other politicians involved as well. Not all of them willingly, she pointed out in the most startling detail of the testimony. There was the possibility that Hastert was being blackmailed with compromising material, and there was a congresswoman who was definitely being blackmailed by the covert lobby, through compromising information of an affair this congresswoman had with one of the lobby’s own agents. From page 68 of the deposition:

EDMONDS
Tom Lantos is one of them.

Q
All right.

EDMONDS
I believe he passed away, and Tom Lantos’ office would be not only with the bribe, but also in disclosing highest level protected U.S. intelligence and weapons technology information both to Israel and to Turkey. His office was also involved with that. It was not only bribery, but it was other very serious criminal conduct. Roy Blunt is there. There have been individuals with a question mark there. The reason there’s a question mark is I lacked — I was terminated by April 2002, but this particular Congresswoman — the Turkish — these Turkish organizations and operatives, if they can’t do it by money, they do by blackmail. So they collect information on sexual lives and other information like that, and with this particular Congresswoman, it being 2000 until I left, they — this individual, this Congresswoman’s married with children, grown children, but she is bisexual. So they have sent Turkish female agents, and that Turkish female agents work for Turkish government, and have sexual relationship with this Congresswoman in her townhouse actually in this area, and the entire episodes of their sexual conduct was being filmed because the entire house, this Congressional woman’s house was bugged. So they have all that documented to be used for certain things that they wanted to request when I left. So I don’t know whether she — that Congresswoman complied and gave. That’s why I couldn’t use her name because I don’t — I meant her face because I don’t know if she did anything illegal afterwards. But she was — there are things; information was being collected for blackmail purposes, and her lesbian relationship, and they, the Turkish entities, wanted both congressional related favoritism from her, but also her husband was in a high position in the area in the state she was elected from, and these Turkish entities ran certain illegal operations, and they wanted her husband’s help. But I don’t know if she provided them with those. I left. I was terminated.

Q
And can you tell me how you know all that, everything you just told me?

EDMONDS
I can’t discuss the intelligence gathering method by the FBI, but in general terms, when foreign targets among themselves discuss how they were going to achieve certain goals, objectives, and if those communications are collected and recorded, not only do you have that communications, but in some cases they involved field office surveillance team to see that actually they completed. For example, if they say — somebody says at five o’clock they’re going to bug his house, the surveillance team would go out and see that he had (unintelligible). So there were various ways that things were collected.

Q
All right. So just to make sure I understand this, the Turkish entities were at least preparing to blackmail this Congresswoman.

EDMONDS
Correct.

Q
And is this Congresswoman still a sitting member of Congress?

EDMONDS
Yes.

Q
And why, if you know, would they want to blackmail this Congresswoman?

EDMONDS
I don’t know what reasons they had, why they just didn’t do money. They needed — I was trained as a language specialist by my agent for — to find personal information, and one of the things that we was taught in the FBI — everyone was taught in the counterintelligence — that the target U.S. persons, whether they are in Congress or executive branch or whatever, first go by foreign entities to what they refer to as hooking period, and it was very common; it’s a very common way of trying to find vulnerability, and that is sexual, financial, any other kinds of greeds, and it was — it was done a lot, was being done a lot, and in some cases certain people from Pentagon would send a list of individuals with access to sensitive data, whether weapons technology or nuclear technology, and this information would include all their sexual preference, how much they owed on their homes, if they have gambling issues, and the State Department, high level State Department person would provide it to these foreign operatives, and those foreign operatives then would go and hook those Pentagon people, whether they were at RAND or some other Air Force base. And then the hooking period would take some times. Sometimes it takes months, sometimes one year. They would ask for small favor, but eventually after they reviewed the targets that the U.S. person — some small favor, then they would go blackmail and that person would give them everything, nuclear related information, weapons related information. It always worked for them. So it was not always money.

Q
If you know, what was it that these Turkish entities wanted from this Congresswoman?

EDMONDS
I know for sure that Armenian genocide was one, but also where she came from, that city or the district where she came from is where certain Turkish operatives, lobby groups run illegal businesses for fund raising for themselves to generate money, and for laundering that money they needed her influence in that district where she is from and also her husband because he husband was also involved, had some high level position, not an elected person, with where she came from, and they had another Representative who was making it possible, but supposedly she at that point was kind of — was an obstacle. That’s all I know.

Q
In your experience, I mean, was this hooking technique used with other members of Congress by Turkish entities?

EDMONDS
Well, when I worked for the FBI, I work on operations that were not only current, but specific period of 1996 till 2000, 2001, December, 2003 January. So there were a lot of things that certain field office had provided me to go over, and some of that I didn’t complete, but one example would be with regard to Mr. Hastert. For example, he used the townhouse that was not his residence for certain not very morally accepted activities. Now, whether that was being used as blackmail I don’t know, but the fact that foreign entities knew about this, in fact, they sometimes participated in some of those not maybe morally well activities in that particular townhouse that was supposed to be an office, not a house, residence at certain hours, certain days, evenings of the week. So I can’t say if that was used as blackmail or not, but certain activities they would share. They were known.

None of this was speculation, all of it was certain, and said under oath, page 99:

Q
I assume that – -well, let me just ask you, and I’m not trying to put you on the spot. If you can’t answer, just tell me. Would you be prepared to tell me who the Congresswoman is that we’ve been talking about?

EDMONDS
I would have, and it wouldn’t be because of classification I don’t believe. I — if in case this congressional person did not bend under the pressure in case. I just don’t want somebody, innocent person’s reputation destroyed because I don’t know if this person complied with whatever she happened to be blackmailed later. I think I —

Q
All right. That’s fair enough. I take it then from what you’ve told me that the people you’ve identified, the people that you’ve talked about today you’re certain about.

EDMONDS
Yes.

Q
And what you’ve told me today about those people is not based on speculation.

EDMONDS
No.

A month later, Edmonds would be interviewed by Philip Giraldi in a cover story for The American Conservative, “Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”, where she would identify the congresswoman at the center of the blackmail as Jan Schakowsky of Illinois:

GIRALDI: This corruption wasn’t confined to the State Department and the Pentagon-it infected Congress as well. You’ve named people like former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, now a registered agent of the Turkish government. In your deposition, you describe the process of breaking foreign-originated contributions into small units, $200 or less, so that the source didn’t have to be reported. Was this the primary means of influencing congressmen, or did foreign agents exploit vulnerabilities to get what they wanted using something like blackmail?

EDMONDS: In early 1997, because of the information that the FBI was getting on the Turkish diplomatic community, the Justice Department had already started to investigate several Republican congressmen. The number-one congressman involved with the Turkish community, both in terms of providing information and doing favors, was Bob Livingston. Number-two after him was Dan Burton, and then he became number-one until Hastert became the speaker of the House. Bill Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, was briefed on the investigations, and since they were Republicans, she authorized that they be continued.

Well, as the FBI developed more information, Tom Lantos was added to this list, and then they got a lot on Douglas Feith and Richard Perle and Marc Grossman. At this point, the Justice Department said they wanted the FBI to only focus on Congress, leaving the executive branch people out of it. But the FBI agents involved wanted to continue pursuing Perle and Feith because the Israeli Embassy was also connected. Then the Monica Lewinsky scandal erupted, and everything was placed on the back burner.

But some of the agents continued to investigate the congressional connection. In 1999, they wiretapped the congressmen directly. (Prior to that point they were getting all their information secondhand through FISA, as their primary targets were foreigners.) The questionably legal wiretap gave the perfect excuse to the Justice Department. As soon as they found out, they refused permission to monitor the congressmen and Grossman as primary targets. But the inquiry was kept alive in Chicago because the FBI office there was pursuing its own investigation. The epicenter of a lot of the foreign espionage activity was Chicago.

GIRALDI: So the investigation stopped in Washington, but continued in Chicago?

EDMONDS: Yes, and in 2000, another representative was added to the list, Jan Schakowsky, the Democratic congresswoman from Illinois. Turkish agents started gathering information on her, and they found out that she was bisexual. So a Turkish agent struck up a relationship with her. When Jan Schakowsky’s mother died, the Turkish woman went to the funeral, hoping to exploit her vulnerability. They later were intimate in Schakowsky’s townhouse, which had been set up with recording devices and hidden cameras. They needed Schakowsky and her husband Robert Creamer to perform certain illegal operational facilitations for them in Illinois. They already had Hastert, the mayor, and several other Illinois state senators involved. I don’t know if Congresswoman Schakowsky ever was actually blackmailed or did anything for the Turkish woman.

I only came across this story recently, but I was not alone at my astonishment at the charges that Edmonds made here and elsewhere, though they did not travel far beyond the press fringes. “The old lesbian honeypot! Wow!” wrote Gawker‘s “Pareene” (Alex Pareene) in “Did This Congresswoman Have Lesbian Affair With a Turkish Spy?” [archive link]. “Anyway we can barely follow this insane story,” Pareene wrote, expressing the feelings of the multitude, “so who knows if you should be freaked out about the Turkish spy ring selling nuclear secrets or if their bribery and blackmail has thus far succeeded only in preventing Congress from officially recognizing this mass murder they perpetrated in 1915.” “Turkey’s influence over lawmakers surfaces in Ohio hearing” by Luke Rosiak at The Sunlight Foundation would also give coverage, while “U.S. Nuke Secrets for Sale? And What Was the Deal With that B-52 Stratofortress Again?” by Brian Doherty, in the libertarian magazine Reason, would link to a story in the Sunday Times on Edmonds’ accounts of the theft of nuclear secrets. Last year, Ron Unz, the publisher of The American Conservative would cite the Sibel Edmonds case as one of three major stories that a functioning, healthy press should be investigating, but which appeared to occasion no interest. From “Our American Pravda”:

For most Americans, reality is whatever our media organs tell us, and since these have largely ignored the facts and adverse consequences of our wars in recent years, the American people have similarly forgotten. Recent polls show that only half the public today believes that the Iraq War was a mistake.

Author James Bovard has described our society as an “attention deficit democracy,” and the speed with which important events are forgotten once the media loses interest might surprise George Orwell.

Edmonds had been hired by the FBI to translate wiretapped conversations of a suspected foreign spy ring under surveillance, and she had been disturbed to discover that many of these hundreds of phone calls explicitly discussed the sale of nuclear-weapons secrets to foreign intelligence organizations, including those linked to international terrorism, as well as the placement of agents at key American military research facilities. Most remarkably, some of the individuals involved in these operations were high-ranking government officials; the staffs of several influential members of Congress were also implicated. On one occasion, a senior State Department figure was reportedly recorded making arrangements to pick up a bag containing a large cash bribe from one of his contacts. Very specific details of names, dates, dollar amounts, purchasers, and military secrets were provided.

The investigation had been going on for years with no apparent action, and Edmonds was alarmed to discover that a fellow translator quietly maintained a close relationship with one of the key FBI targets. When she raised these issues, she was personally threatened, and after appealing to her supervisors, eventually fired.

Since that time, she has passed a polygraph test on her claims, testified under oath in a libel lawsuit, expanded her detailed charges in a 2009 TAC cover story also by Giraldi, and most recently published a book recounting her case. Judiciary Committee Senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy have publicly backed some of her charges, a Department of Justice inspector general’s report has found her allegations “credible” and “serious,” while various FBI officials have vouched for her reliability and privately confirmed many of her claims. But none of her detailed charges has ever appeared in any of America’s newspapers. According to Edmonds, one of the conspirators routinely made payments to various members of the media, and bragged to his fellow plotters that “We just fax to our people at the New York Times. They print it under their names.”

At times, Congressional Democratic staff members became interested in the scandal, and promised an investigation. But once they learned that senior members of their own party were also implicated, their interest faded.

These three stories-the anthrax evidence, the McCain/POW revelations, and the Sibel Edmonds charges-are the sort of major exposés that would surely be dominating the headlines of any country with a properly-functioning media. But almost no American has ever heard of them. Before the Internet broke the chokehold of our centralized flow of information, I would have remained just as ignorant myself, despite all the major newspapers and magazines I regularly read.

Am I absolutely sure that any or all of these stories are true? Certainly not, though I think they probably are, given their overwhelming weight of supporting evidence. But absent any willingness of our government or major media to properly investigate them, I cannot say more.

However, this material does conclusively establish something else, which has even greater significance. These dramatic, well-documented accounts have been ignored by our national media, rather than widely publicized. Whether this silence has been deliberate or is merely due to incompetence remains unclear, but the silence itself is proven fact.

The Edmonds story first broke in a big way on a 60 Minutes piece, “Lost in Translation” (link goes to video, program transcript is here), which featured a small fragment of her allegations. On that program, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley would famously vouch for her. “She’s credible,” he said. “And the reason I feel she’s very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story.” Vanity Fair would cover the Edmonds case in 2005 with “An Inconvenient Patriot” by David Rose, giving space to her allegations about Hastert, and portraying her, again, as an honest, credible witness. In 2006, she would win the “PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award” for her attempts to describe what took place in the FBI’s languages division despite gag orders. On a podcast hosted by Scott Horton, Edmonds would appear alongside James Bamford, the man thought to have written the definitive accounts of the NSA (such as Body of Secrets and The Puzzle Palace), and the title of the transcript carried this writer’s approval of her work: “James Bamford: ‘I support Sibel Edmonds. You should too.'” “Any final closing comments from either of you?” asked Horton. “I just want to supply my support to Sibel’s effort here,” replied Bamford. “I think she’s been doing a fantastic job of trying to get this out there, and all the listeners out there, I hope they join in with their support.” Daniel Ellsberg, a hero to millions for his work in publishing the Pentagon Papers, would offer his support as well, with “Covering Up the Coverage – The American Media’s Complicit Failure to Investigate and Report on the Sibel Edmonds Case”. Ellsberg chastised the press for ignoring the bombshell allegations of Sibel Edmonds, a “courageous and highly credible source”4. “Either Sibel Edmonds is one of the great actresses of our time,” said Joe Lauria, who wrote a Sunday Times piece (“For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets”, behind a paywall) on the theft of nuclear secrets with Edmonds as principal source, “or she has her finger on a story of immense proportions that is perhaps so immense that it is scaring the hell out of a lot of people. Either Sibel Edmonds is one of the great actresses of our time, or she has her finger on a story of immense proportions that is perhaps so immense that it is scaring the hell out of a lot of people.”5

What did I feel when I came across this story? I think I am possessed most of all by the storyteller’s ruthlessness, wanting a great, captivating narrative and indifferent to all else. I had come across, without hyperbole, what might potentially be the most important story of the new century. I do not doubt that what I felt was something like the happy captive state of writers like Philip Giraldi and Joe Lauria, where you ignore the small details that break the dream. I felt the kind of enthusiasm where I really might have surpassed any past foolishness by promoting this obscure story like a three alarm blaze. Then, the unsettling details gather in a concentrated point, and something like glass shatters. You are outside the dream, cold and unspelled, your quest now entirely different, to demonstrate how certain flaws in the reflecting light, so numerous as to be no coincidence or accident, make obvious that this is an illusion. If Ms. Edmonds is reading this, this is where she should feel a certain cold sense of dread of what comes next. I’m no Mace Windu, but I think I can call this party over.

THE EMPIRE OF ILLUSION

What I will first do is to compare multiple accounts of the time Sibel Edmonds spent as a translator at the FBI, from September 2001 to February 2002. What we will be focusing on are deviations from these accounts, not on small details but very large ones. I believe Edmonds to be more than a little careless about libel and deception, but I am not, so I am cautious about stating in definite terms what these deviations amount to. My principal sources will be the following: “Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”, the declassified Office of the Inspector General’s Report, A Review of the FBI’s Actions in Connection With Allegations Raised By Contract Linguist Sibel Edmonds (this is the non-pdf version), Edmonds’ own memoir Classified Woman, Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives have Penetrated Washington by Paul Sperry, a fearmongering book about the supposed Muslim takeover of the U.S. government for which Edmonds served as a source and in which she is frequently quoted, and David Rose’s “An Inconvenient Patriot” from Vanity Fair. Arguably, all of these tell Edmonds’ story from her perspective or in ways favorable to her. A Review of the FBI’s Actions is often cited as vindicating Edmonds, the memoir is her own, her allegations in the Sperry book are taken almost without qualifier or skepticism, and on a podcast with Brad Friedman (“Guest Hosting ‘Mike Malloy Show’ Scheduled Guests: Sibel Edmonds, David Swanson”), she spoke approvingly of the Vanity Fair piece as thoroughly researched, well-sourced journalism (from 26:00-27:40 on the audio):

FRIEDMAN
When Vanity Fair reported this, and it was an exhaustive exposé, frankly, I can’t remember how many thousands of words it was, but, it went into great detail. After the Vanity Fair story, did the other media, AP, New York Times, Washington Post, did they pick the story up in anyway to advance what he had to say? Just amongst the many remarkable things he had to say.

EDMONDS
Not one. Not one.

FRIEDMAN
And they were alleging that the Speaker of the House, at the time that he was Speaker of the House, and they were alleging that he was accepting tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars, from these Turkish foreign agents. Correct?

EDMONDS
And Brad, this was not based on my testimony, this article was written with really strict conditions on the author, on the investigative journalist, usually they require two to three sources. In this particular case, for this particular case, because the speaker of the House was involved, because of the case being high profile, they required more than four, five, sources. So, that’s what this reporter got. And you know how they usually do fact-checking, after the article is submitted, by the reporter, well in this case they did triple fact checking, they did it three times, going back to every single source. And so, they really did their homework. And again, this is not an alternative media outlet. We are looking at Vanity Fair. They have two million circulation number. And yet, not a single, not one newspaper, or network channel, or cable channel, nobody reported on it. There was this deafening silence.

What follows will focus very much on the details of Edmonds’ story, rather than make any attempt to re-tell her narrative. Those wanting that kind of succinct, well told arc which hews close to how Edmonds presents herself and wishes to be seen – someone who stumbles upon a network of criminality through her translation work and is unjustly punished for it – then I recommend Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”, which will also be helpful as a roadmap for the various events discussed here.

There is first the description of how she joins the FBI translation division. Joining this organization will have an extraordinary impact on her, and it was done in the days after September 11, the kind of national tragedy where people’s memories become hypervivid of the exact moments of what took place. These were the first deviations I noticed, and in some ways they’re small, but when I came across them I felt an unsettling, the first cracks in a collapsing structure. A Review of the FBI’s Actions gives a thorough and detailed description of what took place:

Edmonds applied to the FBI on March 10, 1997, for a linguist position. After she took the requisite language tests, by letter dated May 6, 1998, the FBI offered Edmonds a position as a CL [Contract Linguist]. The offer was contingent upon Edmonds receiving a Top Secret security clearance.

Pursuant to instructions in the offer letter, Edmonds completed, on June 4, 1998, an SF-86 Questionnaire for National Security Positions – the standard form used by the federal government to collect information for background investigations of persons applying for positions that require a security clearance. As part of the background investigation, Edmonds was polygraphed on December 4, 1998. The FBI also conducted a Personnel Security Interview (PSI) of Edmonds on December 16, 1998. Her security file does not reflect any activity on her background investigation during 1999. It appears that through a series of oversights and lack of follow through, the FBI did not take action on her background investigation, and therefore Edmonds did not begin work as a CL during this time period.

In February 2000, the FBI asked Edmonds to submit another SF-86. In April 2001, LSS [Languages Services Section] wrote a memorandum requesting that the PSI be updated, and asking that the necessary work be done to complete the background investigation. The FBI conducted supplemental PSIs of Edmonds on May 1, 2001, and July 19, 2001. On September 13, 2001, four years after she first submitted her application, the FBI granted Edmonds a “Top Secret” clearance. No job interview was conducted other than the PSIs.

Edmonds began working for the FBI on September 20, 2001, first as a Contract Monitor (CM), and shortly thereafter as a CL.

So, we have an application in 1997, questionnaire and interview in 1998, oversight in 1999 which led to delayed processing, the FBI asking Edmonds to re-submit in 2000, followed by interviews with Edmonds on May 1, 2001 and July 19, 2001. On September 13, 2001, perhaps in connection with what happened two days earlier, Edmonds gets a top secret clearance. Edmonds did not simply call up the FBI after September 11, and offer help, but had been pursuing work there and had been in touch with the bureau that year for two Personal Security Interviews.

I do not think there is anything wrong, suspect, or shameful in these events, yet Edmonds always omits the details that she was in touch with the FBI that year before September 11, actively pursuing this work.

In Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”, she contacts the FBI after September 11 because she is haunted by the fundamentalist takeover of Iran, which she saw up close as a child:

In 1978, when Sibel was eight and the Islamists’ violent prelude to the Iranian revolution was just beginning, a bomb went off in a movie theater next to her elementary school. “I can remember sitting in a car, seeing the rescuers pulling charred bodies and stumps out of the fire. Then, on September 11, to see this thing happening here, across the ocean-it brought it all back. They put out a call for translators, and I thought, Maybe I can help stop this from happening again.”

There is a slightly different take in this interview with David Swanson, “An Interview with Sibel Edmonds”; she applies to the FBI, they lose her files, and then she calls them up after September 11 to offer her help:

Swanson: What made you inclined to take a job with the FBI as a translator?

Edmonds: There needs to be a brief explanation – three years before I took that job, I was doing my studies in forensic science and criminal justice, and I had applied for an internship position with the FBI, not a full time or permanent job position, and at that point they were interested in my language skills, but they basically messed it up. I sent them the application, I took the polygraph test for that internship position for their language department, and somehow in 1999 they lost all that information – not only mine, but from 150 other applicants they had for language specialist positions. These documents, these files were lost within the FBI – or at least that’s the explanation they gave to these applicants.

And then the 911 terrorist event took place and I’d turn on the TV and kept hearing the Director of the FBI pleading for language specialists – especially for the languages that I speak – because they were desperate for language specialists. And at that point it was a duty to go and say “Look – I have these skills, you need these skills for the nation, and I’m offering it to you.” So I took this position as a contract language specialist for those languages and my top secret clearance was issued and I started working five days after 911.

In Classified Woman, Edmonds applies to the FBI in 1997, there is supposed to be follow-up in 1999 but there is none, and she is then contacted by the FBI after September 11. However, she says that she had no contact with the FBI since 2000, when A Review of the FBI’s Actions has her interviewed twice in 2001, and she says that she did not initially apply to be a translator while A Review has her applying for exactly that position. A Review has her completing her proficiency exams in 1998 (“After she took the requisite language tests, by letter dated May 6, 1998”), while Classified has her taking them in 1997, “After reviewing my application, someone at the bureau evidently found my linguistic abilities of interest and asked me to take proficiency tests in those languages and in English…I went ahead and took the intense and excruciating proficiency tests in the summer of 1997.”. From Classified:

I recalled an incident in Iran I had witnessed a few years later, when I was eight years old. I was in a minivan with six other girls, on my way home from school. We’d heard an explosion. Traffic stopped and we saw thick smoke rising in a column only a few yards away. Our driver got out and started talking with other drivers. I rolled down the window to hear one man explain, “… either a big fire or a bomb explosion in a building, probably the movie theater on the circle. I heard there were many people trapped inside …” As we passed the building, I leaned out the window and looked. The rescue teams, together with civilian volunteers, were removing charred bodies and stumps, dropping them on the sidewalk in front of the building. The driver, recovering as though from a trance, turned around and yelled, “Get down on the floor! You shouldn’t be looking at this!”

The 9/11 attack had brought back viscerally all that horror and trauma. Another casualty of that day was my newly shattered sense of security and optimism about a country I believed would never experience such horrors.

As depressing as things felt, we knew that together we would make it in the end. Our marriage, our true partnership for the past ten years, had made it through other difficult times and crises, the last being my father’s sudden death a year earlier; it would also make it through this one, I was sure.

After finishing our comfort soup and ordering our customary Vietnamese coffee, Matthew used his cell to check voice mail at home, jotting down the messages on a napkin. He slid it toward me and pointed to one. Someone from FBI Headquarters had left his number, urging me to call him back as soon as possible.

I wondered what this was about. The only connection I had with the FBI had to do with my application for a temporary part-time intern position I had sent them four years earlier, in 1997. I was interested in their department that dealt with crimes against children, having worked as a trained and certified advocate for the Alexandria Juvenile Court, where I investigated and represented child abuse cases for over two years. I had sent them my application for an internship (summer or a part-time position) relevant to the degree I was pursuing in criminal justice.

After reviewing my application, someone at the bureau evidently found my linguistic abilities of interest and asked me to take proficiency tests in those languages and in English. At first I was put off by the prospect of working as a translator but on second thought decided it could be a stepping-stone to where I wanted to be until I completed my degrees. I went ahead and took the intense and excruciating proficiency tests in the summer of 1997. Afterwards they said that all language specialists, whether full-time or contract, were required to obtain top-secret clearance (TSC), since they would be dealing with sensitive and classified intelligence and documents. The process of background checks and issuance of TSC could take anywhere from nine to fifteen months, I was told. They would then notify me and offer me options, such as contract or full-time employment.

Nine months passed; then another nine, and another. In 2000, I called FBI Headquarters to inquire about the status of the position I had applied for nearly four years earlier. Toward the end of that year I finally received a call from a woman from FBI Headquarters who told me with much sincerity and apologies that in 1999 the bureau had lost my entire information package and test results, together with those of over 150 other applicants. That package contained my bank account information, tax records, Social Security and private medical and family-related information. “What?!” I asked, incredulous. “… Do you realize what people can do with that information?”

She apologized again and said the bureau would conduct expedited background investigations and have the position ready for me in a year. “If you change your mind and decide to go ahead with it,” she told me, “the position will be ready and available for you.” That was the last I’d heard from the FBI-until then.

I grabbed the napkin and stepped outside to make the call. The HQ man came on and thanked me profusely for returning his call. He then went on to explain how badly the bureau was in need of translators in Middle Eastern and certain Asian languages: Farsi, Turkish, Arabic, Pashtun, Urdu, Uzbek, and so on. The bureau had tens of thousands of leads and evidence waiting to be translated into English before the agents could take any further action. They had thousands of pieces of raw intelligence pouring in daily, but they all were in foreign languages and could not be processed or assessed until translated. “Ms. Edmonds,” he concluded his pitch, “we need your skills badly. Your TS clearance came in last week and we would like you to start working for us immediately.”

According to “Lost in Translation” on 60 Minutes, from the very day she begins work, she is repeatedly told to slow down so that the translation department can get more money:

Edmonds says that to her amazement, from the day she started the job, she was told repeatedly by one of her supervisors that there was no urgency,- that she should take longer to translate documents so that the department would appear overworked and understaffed. That way, it would receive a larger budget for the next year.

“We were told by our supervisors that this was the great opportunity for asking for increased budget and asking for more translators,” says Edmonds. “And in order to do that, don’t do the work and let the documents pile up so we can show it and say that we need more translators and expand the department.”

Edmonds’ immediate supervisor was Mike Feghali, and in their first meeting in Classified Woman, she contrasts her sleek stylishness with his runt-like squalor:

That morning I had taken extra time to prepare. I was going to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and my attire had to reflect that-an assumption proven wrong within the first few days. I had chosen a black light wool pantsuit with a long-sleeved parliament blue shirt, black pumps, and a black suede briefcase; classic.

A few minutes later, I noticed a short man bustling toward me. He was bald and overweight by at least fifty pounds and clad in a shiny-gray polyester suit. His dark olive complexion glistened with oil and perspiration. He greeted me with a big forced smile and introduced himself as Mike Feghali. After checking the status of my entry card and ID badge (another two days for both), we took the elevator to the fourth floor, which housed the FBI’s largest and most important Language unit.

In Classified, it is Feghali who brings up the idea of slowing down work so they can get additional funds, but he does not do so on the day that Edmonds starts, or within days of her starting, but in early October:

One day in early October, I received such a call from a New Jersey field agent. I could hear his desperation. He suggested that to save time I should have the results faxed to him over an FBI-secured fax line immediately after I was finished. (Ordinarily, completed assignments from field offices had to be sent to HQ in hard copy; the administrators then would send it via secure mail to the requesting field agents. That slowed everything. Our Language unit could not or would not send anything electronically.)

I worked quickly until I finished the agent’s documents. Since I was not familiar with the secure fax, I went to Feghali’s office and asked him for instructions. He asked me to sit down. Feghali had something to tell me.

“I see you are working very hard and fast. That’s very good but you need to slow down a bit and take breaks during your work. You don’t want to burn out or collapse in exhaustion. We wouldn’t want that for you either; you have already become a very popular translator. Look what I have for you.”

He handed me a two-page document. It was from the special agent from Baltimore who had supervised my interrogation translation. The commendation letter praised my work, professional conduct, and insightful feedback I’d given them.

“He says he will request you in particular for anything else they may have in the future that deals with Farsi or Turkish. You see, you don’t have to kill yourself, work too hard, to be liked and admired.”

I assured him that I knew my limitations and wouldn’t exhaust myself.

Grinning and nodding to show that he understood, Feghali nevertheless went on to emphasize that it is not helpful to work fast; that doing so may in fact “end up hurting the department.”

I was baffled. I had no idea what he was getting at. Had someone complained?

“What do you mean?”

“Look,” he began (never a good sign), “for years and years the bureau, all these agents, treated us, the translators, as second-class citizens…. Now, thanks to the 9/11 terrorist attack, all that has changed; the terrorists and what they did put us translators on the map.” Feghali continued, “That’s why I say sometimes good things come out of bad things. Some may consider what happened on 9/11 terrible, but we, the translators, see it as a cause to celebrate. Look at these date cookies my wife baked yesterday: see, we are still celebrating the attack; this is our customary celebration cookie. Have some.” He extended the cookie bowl toward me.

I was sick to my stomach. I shook my head and refused. Perhaps I misunderstood; could he have possibly meant that the attack finally opened people’s eyes to the threats we all face? Could that have been it?

Yet Feghali continued in this same disgusting vein. “This is the time for us, for our department to flourish…. This November the FBI is going to present its budget request for our department, and to make the case, they have to show this huge backlog of untranslated material: the bigger the backlog, the more money and more translators for this department. Do you get the picture?”

“But we already have a huge backlog; hundreds of thousands of hours and pages, if you count all the languages.”

“I know, I know,” he said dismissively, “but still … for instance, you worked so hard and too fast to translate this agent’s document, and want to go the extra mile … You say this guy is desperate; well, sometimes desperation is a good thing. Better to have this guy complain to and pressure his bosses and HQ for not getting his translated documents than to make him satisfied and happy … and have him forget about it later. All I’m asking you is to be a better friend to your colleagues: accompany them to lunches and coffee breaks, take regular breaks, and do not work this fast, that’s all.”

This was hateful. I had to get out of his office, right away. I started out when he called me back. Now he held the cookie bowl only inches from my face. “Have a cookie. Don’t refuse my wife’s famous cookies.” I grabbed one and left.

As soon as I found my way clear of his office, I dumped the cookie in the nearest trashcan. Not on my life would I ever eat anything baked to celebrate 9/11. My first order of business was to fax this document to the agent in New Jersey. (I did, with Amin’s help [Amin was a fellow translator, in Farsi].) What happened in Feghali’s office was sickening. I well knew this was the second time I had defied him; I prayed it would be the last.

This lengthy excerpt provides, I think, a good sense of Edmonds’ sensibility in this book and why people should perhaps be a little cautious in trusting her accounts. In contrast with what we expect from office life, even the office life of a semi-secret agency, made up of banalities and drudgery, occasionally relieved by moments of intellectual excitement, challenge, and humor – the life of Sibel Edmonds is charged with the heroic and dramatic. She dumps a cookie made by the boss’s wife into the garbage and it’s not an instance of petty rebellion, but one moment in an epic struggle: Not on my life would I ever eat anything baked to celebrate 9/11. This concept of date cookies being eaten to celebrate 9/11, a ritual that she does not take part in and which utterly sickens her, recurs in a different variation in a very disturbing scene in the book Infiltration, a moment that would no doubt have stayed in the mind of anyone who witnessed it, but which is absent in every other account by Edmonds of her time in the language bureau. Infiltration, as said, is a reactionary book about a possible Muslim takeover of the U.S. government from the inside, and I think it can properly be classed in the genre of Paranoid Islamophobia. That this extraordinary scene occurs here, and nowhere else, made me wonder for the first time whether Edmonds manages to intuit what each listener wants to hear, and gives them that version. Paul Sperry wanted to hear about Muslims celebrating the destruction of the two towers, and she gave him exactly that. The celebration takes place on the very day she starts at the office (this section from Infiltration is currently available on Google Books, page 166):

CELEBRATING 9/11

When Edmonds showed up for her first day of work at the Washington field office, a week after the 9/11 attacks, she expected to find a somber atmosphere. Instead, she was offered cookies filled with dates form part bowls set out in the large open room where other Middle Eastern linguists with top-secret security clearance translate terror-related communications. (The highly secure language unit room is walled off from agents, who do not have badge access and must be escorted into the room.)

She knew the dessert is customarily served in the Middle East at weddings, births, and other celebrations and asked what the happy occasion was.

To her shock, she was told the Arabic linguists were celebrating the terrorist attacks on America, as if they were some joyous event. Right in front of a supervisor from the Middle East, one Arabic translator named Osama cheered, “It’s about time they got a taste of what they’ve been giving to the Middle East!”

Edmonds says her co-workers were not shy about making such hostile comments. “These statements were neither rare nor made in a whisper,” she says. “They were open and loud.”

She found out later that it was her supervisor Feghali’s wife – an Arabic linguist on loan from the National Security Agency – who brought the date filled cookies.

Edmonds was taken aback by the blatant display of anti-Americanism that day. But she soon found that it was more the rule than the exception. The language squad was rife with linguists with questionable loyalties, she says, all with top-security clearance.

“There were those who openly divided the fronts as ‘Us’ – the Middle Easterners who shared certain views – and ‘Them’ – the Americans who were the outsiders [bristling] with arrogance that was now ‘leading to their own destruction,'” she says.

Though all translators working for the FBI must be U.S. citizens, “citizenship doesn’t take care of it,” she says referring to loyalty.

“Wherever there’s a conversation about America or Americans, it’s always still ‘They’ or ‘Them,’ and not ‘Us,'” says Edmonds, who is not a practicing Muslim. “Whenever 9/11 is brought up, you know, it happened to Them.” She estimates that the roughly forty Arabic linguists there account for “easily more than 75 percent of the loyalty problems,” and yet they are the most indispensible to investigations of al-Qaida suspects.

A warning in advance of an encore al-Qaida attack more than likely will come in the form of a message or document in Arabic that will have to be translated. That message may go to an Arab or Muslim sympathizer within the language department, and it may never be translated in full, if at all, Edmonds warns.

“The translation of our intelligence is being entrusted to individuals with loyalties to our enemies,” she says. “Important [terrorist] chatter is being intentionally blocked.”

Another translator who worked in the Washington field office before his recent promotion to headquarters agrees with Edmonds up to a point. Middle Eastern translators on the Arabic desk “did express their displeasure with U.S. policy in the Middle East,” he says, ” but they never said they wanted to see the U.S. attacked so far as I heard.” He doubts their objection to U.S. foreign policy affects their loyalty.”

An incidental note about Infiltration: this book, and nowhere else, states that Edmonds has recently earned her Ph.D.6

This is not a case of Edmonds being selectively or manipulatively quoted by the writer of Infiltration. She made these claims in multiple places, according to the Office of the Inspector General’s report, though she somehow did not make those claims with the OIG, again according to the report: “According to some media accounts, Edmonds made additional allegations relating to the September 11 terrorist attacks and the allegedly inappropriate reaction by other FBI linguists to those attacks. However, Edmonds never raised those allegations to the OIG, and we did not investigate them in our review.”

Though A Review of the FBI’s Actions supposedly vindicates Edmonds in every respect, it finds no evidence for her allegations of deliberate work slowdowns:

A. Edmonds’ Initial Allegations

Edmonds alleged that shortly after she began work for the FBI, linguists were directed to slow the pace of their work so that the material to be translated would “pile up” and the FBI would have a basis to request more translators. Edmonds also said that she was reprimanded for working too quickly. Edmonds provided the OIG with the names of several linguists whom she believed had heard these instructions.

The persons supervising Edmonds denied ever telling Edmonds or any other linguist to slow down so that more linguists would be hired. Instructions to slow down, the OIG was told, only were given if a linguist’s pace was adversely affecting the quality of the linguist’s work. The OIG was told that such an instruction was never given to Edmonds because the quality of her work was good.

The OIG interviewed ten linguists who were either named by Edmonds in her allegations or were named by Edmonds as having information relevant to her allegations, including those whom Edmonds specifically stated could corroborate her allegation regarding the alleged instruction to slow down. Only three of these linguists stated that they recalled hearing about the alleged instruction to slow down. Two said they heard the allegation only from Edmonds. The third said that she had heard about the slow down instruction from others in addition to hearing about it from Edmonds, but said she could not recall who those others were. The other seven denied ever hearing about such an instruction.

We found insufficient evidence to substantiate Edmonds’ allegation that such time and attendance abuse was condoned or occurred. Moreover, given the backlog of translation work at the FBI, we do not believe the FBI would need to intentionally slow down the linguists’ work to support hiring additional translators.

Edmonds turns Feghali into a cartoon villain. He is a lazy bureaucratic slob who celebrates 9/11 because it might mean a budget increase, but someone who uses brute force, fraud, and petty litigation to move up in the workplace and who sells out the FBI’s secret informants, who might end up killed as a result. From Classified Woman:

Sarshar [Behrooz Sarshar, another interpreter] added, “Not only that, we’re stuck with the worst guy among the supervisors: Feghali. Do you know how he became supervisor here? Let me tell you …”

He then launched into the sordid history of a sordid man, a bureaucrat who clawed his way into his current position by using and stepping on people, committing fraud, abusing his authority (there were charges of sexual misconduct and other outstanding complaints against him), and threatening those who challenged him with phony discrimination lawsuits. Apparently, this last threat got the FBI’s attention and he was left alone-to continue his abuses. The managers all were wary of him.

I decided to hear Kevin [Kevin Taskesen, another interpreter] out before giving Feghali the memo. When I got to the coffeehouse, Kevin was already there, looking rattled.

“Do you know how only agents are allowed to know and maintain informants’ and assets’ identities, contact information?”

I shook my head no. During my work I had not come across anything that involved procedures concerning FBI informants’ information, and wondered what this had to do with Feghali or Dickerson [Melek Can Dickerson, a co-worker who soon becomes a major player in the story].

“Feghali has found a way to access that information,” Kevin continued. “I don’t know how. Also, according to Sarshar, Feghali has found a way to use and cash in on this information. Again, I don’t know how. I’m telling you what I’ve heard from several sources.” He went on to describe illegal transactions involving nepotism and other illicit activities, all of them disturbing. Kevin sounded afraid. He considered Feghali evil. “I won’t inform Saccher [Dennis Saccher, Edmonds’ other supervisor]. I want to stay away from this shit.”

I looked him in the eye and told him he didn’t have a choice, that if we didn’t report this, we would be co-conspirators. “Like it or not, you’ve been exposed to this; you are a witness.” I sighed. “I’ll call Saccher tomorrow morning. This information on informants can be huge. Think about it: he could be selling that information to the targets. Do you know how much he can get for that-for ratting out FBI informants? Do you know that this can get some of these informants killed?!”

As I got up to leave, Kevin said he wanted to wait a few minutes; he didn’t want us to be seen together by Feghali. What a paranoid chicken! I thought. That was then.

Perhaps the most pivotal event to take place in Edmonds’ time at the bureau was when another interpreter, “Helen” Melek Can Dickerson, and her husband, Major Douglas Dickerson, met Edmonds and her husband Matthew at Edmonds’ house for brunch. Edmonds believes that when Helen Dickerson invited her to join the American Turkish Council and the Turkish American Associations, it was in fact an invitation to spy on behalf of the Turkish government, passing them useful information and blocking any investigations into improprieties related to Turkey. Given that the version of the meeting in Classified Woman is doubtless the one closest to Edmonds’ perspective, I give her depiction in full:

On the first Saturday in December, Matthew and I spent the entire day preparing and decorating our house for Christmas. I was doing my best to recreate our traditional holiday mood, despite the sadness and melancholy; this would be the second Christmas without my father.

That evening, while I was busy making dinner, the phone rang. Matthew answered. “It’s for you,” he called from our upstairs office, “Jan Dickerson, from the FBI.” I was surprised. A few days earlier she had asked for my number in case of a work-related emergency. I picked up.

Dickerson apologized for calling us on a Saturday evening and asked us to brunch the following day.

I thought a moment before responding. “I have to check with Matthew. We don’t have any particular plans, but there are tons of things to do around the house and I have five final exams in less than two weeks.”

“Even an hour would do,” she insisted, and mentioned being homesick before breaking the news that she was pregnant. I congratulated her, after which she suggested, “How about this? We can come to your house and take care of the introductions there.” At first I was taken aback but recalled my manners. “Sure … in fact, I’ll prepare some Turkish delicacies and tea; instead of going to brunch, we’ll have something here.” She sounded delighted, and said they would come by our house at eleven the following morning. The Dickersons showed up right on time and Matthew went downstairs to greet them. By the time I came down, the first round of introductions had been made. Douglas Dickerson appeared to be in his late thirties or early forties. He was tall and wiry, with salt and pepper hair neatly cropped, and a pair of steely gray eyes framed by silver-rimmed glasses. He shook my hand and asked me to call him Doug, and his wife gave me an unexpected hug. We moved to the kitchen and I went to pour hot tea while they were being seated.

We sipped our drinks and made small talk for about fifteen minutes. “Doug” briefly talked about his background and current position with the U.S. Air Force and Defense Intelligence Agency, under the procurement logistics division at the Pentagon, which dealt with Turkey and Turkic-speaking Central Asian countries: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. And, he casually added, he was part of a team at the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans overseeing Central Asian policies and operations. I was surprised. His wife had told me he worked for the State Department, and that’s what I’d said to my husband. Without missing a beat, Matthew went ahead and asked, “I thought you were with the State Department?” Dickerson chuckled and said it didn’t make any difference which agency, since his activities involved the Pentagon, State Department, DIA, NATO and others. Well, it made sense.

I started serving the pie and cake while Matthew, always to the point, answered their questions about what kind of work he did. As we ate, the Dickersons talked about their life in Turkey and Germany, and their plan to retire in a few years and move to Turkey permanently, where they owned several properties. I thought Doug looked too young to retire anytime soon but attributed that to his joining the military at a very young age.

Doug asked whether we knew a lot of Turkish people, since so many of them lived in the Washington, DC, area. We didn’t. I told him that except for two brothers I had met in college and their family, we didn’t know any other Turkish people, and added that we visited Turkey at least once a year and that my family visited us here annually. He nodded and exchanged a look with his wife, who nodded back.

He followed that up with another question. “How about Turkish organizations here in the States? There are many of them, some very influential and powerful.”

Matthew shook his head and said no.

“Oh come on, how could you not?” he chided. “Some of these organizations are movers and shakers, both in the U.S. and Turkey. You mean you don’t know the American Turkish Council, ATC? Or the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, ATAA?”

I readjusted myself in my chair uncomfortably; I didn’t want to discuss those organizations. Of course I knew who they were and what they did-too well. They constituted a big chunk of what I worked on and monitored for Saccher’s department.

Matthew, oblivious to my evident discomfort and sudden silence, began by answering, “I know what ATC is, but they’re involved with companies and people who do business with Turkey or Turkish businesses that export to or work with the U.S.” Then he turned to me. “Honey, isn’t that right? In fact, when we had our business, we checked them out as a possible advertising venue for our IT services.”

I specifically avoided answering and asked if anyone wanted more tea. My transparent attempt to change the subject was ignored. Doug pressed harder. “Matthew, ATC is one of the most powerful organizations in the States. They have several hotshot lobbying firms working for them: the Livingston Group, run by the former Speaker of the House, Bob Livingston; the Cohen Group, headed by the former secretary of defense, and others. They deal with the highest-level people in the Pentagon, State Department and the White House. They’re able to secure hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. government contracts for Turkish companies every year, many of them for stuff in Central Asia; they rule Congress. Turkish companies, through ATC and ATAA, get most of the contract grants reserved for Central Asian countries and do tons of work for us; Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and the rest of them, those countries are our future bases and energy sources. Where have you been?”

Now it was Matthew’s turn to feel baffled and confused. “Okay, right, but as I said, they deal with those companies that are involved in those particular business areas. They don’t invite individuals, people like Sibel or me, to join. It’s a membership-based organization for Turkish and American businesses.” Doug smiled and said, almost as though he were spelling out each word, “Of course they will accept you, Matthew. In fact, they would love to have you join them. They will take care of setting up a business for you.” He extended his left arm forward and pointed his finger at me while he kept his eyes on Matthew. “All you have to do is tell them where Sibel works: what she does and who she listens to. You’ll get in “-he snapped his fingers-“just like that. They’ll make sure you’re set; you can retire in a few years and settle in Turkey. They’ll take care of everything. I can assure you. How do you think I’m retiring, my friend? I’m already set, ready to live the good life over there.”

I felt as if I’d been hit by a truck. Initially I was unable to move my body, even my head. I couldn’t swallow. I couldn’t sort out what was swirling so horribly inside me. When I finally managed to move, I turned around to look at Jan Dickerson. Was it possible that her husband, Doug, had no idea what she and I were doing at the bureau? Could that be? Or was this some sort of test, to see how the enemy camp might recruit me? Were these people sent by the bureau?

Jan locked eyes with me and smiled-no, it was a smirk: a lopsided, crooked grin. I realized then; they were trying to recruit me! They were here in my house, trying to purchase us. I thought, My God, this can’t be happening. How can this be? Matthew continued to listen to Doug’s pitch without a clue as to what was taking place.

Doug now pointed to his wife. “My wife worked for them, you know. Jan worked for ATAA and ATC. Before we came to the States, while in Germany, she worked for their sister organization in Germany. There are several Turkish-German organizations like that over there. I am very active with them and their Pentagon arm.”

I was seized by a panic attack. My heart was pounding; my hands were sweating and my mouth had gone dry. This was surreal. It couldn’t be real; maybe I was hallucinating. In fact, this was impossible. Melek Can Dickerson had been hired by the FBI and granted Top Secret Clearance after a thorough background check. No way in hell the bureau would hire her and give her clearance knowing that she worked for those organizations: they were our targets, housing high-level operatives and criminals.

Doug looked me in the eye. “Sibel, I’ll introduce you to our two best friends, our Turkish friends. One of them lives in McLean, Virginia. In fact, later today we’ll visit them. We visit their house at least once a week. Do you know the Mediterranean Bakery on Van Dorn? Jan shops for them there. We get them bread and Middle Eastern baked goods from there.” He paused and named the individual. “He is one of the key operators for the ATC, Colonel ______.” Doug named one of the FBI’s top counterintelligence targets; in fact, one of our top, primary targets.

He continued. “When Jan worked at ATAA and ATC, she was liaisoned to his office since we knew him from way back when, in Turkey and later in Germany. You guys would like him; we’ll introduce you to him. Also…” He went on to name others, detailing where they lived and what they did-two out of three being the FBI’s primary counterintelligence investigation targets. The names he dropped kept on, from Douglas Feith to Marc Grossman, from a division in the Pentagon to a special unit in the State Department.

I sprang to my feet and grabbed Matthew’s teacup, my hands badly shaking. Jan extended her cup to me. “More tea for me also. Aren’t you glad we finally got together?” I looked at her in disbelief and grabbed the teacup. I brought the refilled cups back to the table, and before sitting down said, “I have two term papers waiting for me. Sorry to cut this short.” Doug looked down at his watch. “Oh, I can’t believe we’ve been here for almost two hours.” Then to his wife, “Honey, we need to go also.” Jan dropped two sugar cubes into her cup and said, “I know; on the way we have to stop at the Mediterranean Bakery.”

I started clearing the table. Matthew shot me a quizzical look, sensing something was wrong-he just had no idea how wrong. A few minutes later, Matthew walked them to the door. I mumbled a cool good-bye and stayed in the kitchen, not bothering to see them out.

Matthew rushed into the kitchen as soon as he shut the door. “What the heck was that all about?”

I continued to empty plates, without looking up. “I know he gave you his number, but I don’t want you to ever call him, OK? If he calls, just hang up-OK? Let me know, but do not talk with either of them. They are dangerous; extremely dangerous.”

What is astonishing here is the way a malevolence is assumed of these organizations, as if they are well-known terrorist groups, rather than ethnic or national associations: “Of course I knew who they were and what they did-too well. They constituted a big chunk of what I worked on and monitored for Saccher’s department.” She later tells us explicitly why she thinks these organizations are so fearsome, though it’s a claim she never gives any proof for in the book, and which I’ve never seen any evidence of anywhere:

Melek Can Dickerson had worked for ATC, ATAA, and before that, with these organizations’ counterpart in Germany. Individuals and entities within these organizations, including certain Americans, were directly involved in global criminal activities: nuclear black market, narcotics, and military and industrial espionage. These organizations and their players are not driven by any ideology or nationalistic objectives. To them this is business, and the highest bidder, regardless of nationality or ideology, gets the goods.

This paranoid vision, never given any actual evidence or specifics, continues on at another moment in Classified Woman:

When it comes to criminal and shady global networks, most of us tend to envision either the Mafia, with its own rules and culture of omertà, knife-wielding, semiautomatic-toting Colombian or Mexican drug cartels, or ordinary street-level gangsters with guns. Contrary to these stereotypes, Turkish criminal networks consist mainly of respectable-looking businessmen (some of whom are among the top international CEOs), high-ranking military officers, diplomats, politicians and scholars. Their U.S. counterparts are equally respected and recognized: high-level bureaucrats within the State Department and Pentagon, elected officials, or combination of the two, who now have set up their own companies, NGOs and lobbying groups. When asked, people here in the States generally don’t name Turkey as threatening our national security in the fight against terrorism, nuclear proliferation, or international drug trafficking.

Curiously, despite highly publicized reports and acknowledgments of Turkey’s role in narcotics, the nuclear black market, terrorism and money laundering, Turkey continues to receive billions in aid and assistance annually from the United States. With its highly placed co-conspirators and connections within the Pentagon, the State Department and NATO, Turkey need never fear sanctions or meaningful scrutiny. The criminal Turkish networks continue their global activities right under the nose of their protector, the United States-and neither the 9/11 catastrophe nor their direct and indirect ties to this attack diminish their participation in the shady worlds of narcotics, money laundering and illegal arms transfers.

The “respectable” Turkish companies have bases in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and other former Soviet states. Many of these front companies and nonprofit organizations, disguised as construction and tourism entities and Islamic charter schools and mosques, receive millions in grants from the U.S. government to establish and operate criminal networks throughout the region. Among their networking partners are the mujahedeen and the Albanian Mafia. Clearly, having in their pocket high-level congressional representatives on the appropriate committees goes a long way to guarantee the flow of these grants. While the U.S. government painted Islamic charity organizations as the main financial source for Al Qaeda, they were hard at work covering up the terrorists’ true financial source: narcotics and illegal arms sales. Why?

Western Europe, followed by the United States, is the principal target of this massive trafficking operation. Yet most of these governments, including that of the United States, prefer to maintain a disturbing and perplexing silence on Turkey’s role and dealings in processing and distributing illegal drugs. Why is that the case?

There is also a strange difference between how this meeting comes about in Classified Woman and “Inconvenient Patriot”, the article which Edmonds tells us was thoroughly fact checked and sourced. I quote again how this meeting happens in Classified Woman; perhaps one of the most important meetings in Edmonds’ life, one where we might expect all the surrounding details to remain seared into her memory:

On the first Saturday in December, Matthew and I spent the entire day preparing and decorating our house for Christmas. I was doing my best to recreate our traditional holiday mood, despite the sadness and melancholy; this would be the second Christmas without my father.

That evening, while I was busy making dinner, the phone rang. Matthew answered. “It’s for you,” he called from our upstairs office, “Jan Dickerson, from the FBI.” I was surprised. A few days earlier she had asked for my number in case of a work-related emergency. I picked up.

Dickerson apologized for calling us on a Saturday evening and asked us to brunch the following day.

I thought a moment before responding. “I have to check with Matthew. We don’t have any particular plans, but there are tons of things to do around the house and I have five final exams in less than two weeks.”

“Even an hour would do,” she insisted, and mentioned being homesick before breaking the news that she was pregnant. I congratulated her, after which she suggested, “How about this? We can come to your house and take care of the introductions there.” At first I was taken aback but recalled my manners. “Sure … in fact, I’ll prepare some Turkish delicacies and tea; instead of going to brunch, we’ll have something here.” She sounded delighted, and said they would come by our house at eleven the following morning.

The call for the meeting takes place on a Saturday evening. She distinctly remembers decorating the house for Christmas. She is cooking dinner when the call comes. It’s understandable that all these distinct details would stay with her so many years later, given the importance of the call. Classified Woman was published in 2012; what follows is how the meeting comes about in Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot” published in 2005:

In Washington, D.C., and its suburbs, December 2, 2001, was fine but cool, the start of the slide into winter after a spell of unseasonable warmth. At 10 o’clock that morning, Sibel and Matthew Edmonds were still in their pajamas, sipping coffee in the kitchen of their waterfront town house in Alexandria, Virginia, and looking forward to a well-deserved lazy Sunday.

Since mid-September, nine days after the 9/11 attacks, Sibel had been exploiting her fluency in Turkish, Farsi, and Azerbaijani as a translator at the F.B.I. It was arduous, demanding work, and Edmonds-who had two bachelor’s degrees, was about to begin studying for a master’s, and had plans for a doctorate-could have been considered overqualified. But as a naturalized Turkish-American, she saw the job as her patriotic duty.

The Edmondses’ thoughts were turning to brunch when Matthew answered the telephone. The caller was a woman he barely knew-Melek Can Dickerson, who worked with Sibel at the F.B.I. “I’m in the area with my husband and I’d love you to meet him,” Dickerson said. “Is it O.K. if we come by?” Taken by surprise, Sibel and Matthew hurried to shower and dress. Their guests arrived 30 minutes later. Matthew, a big man with a fuzz of gray beard, who at 60 was nearly twice the age of his petite, vivacious wife, showed them into the kitchen. They sat at a round, faux-marble table while Sibel brewed tea.

Now, the phone call takes place on Sunday morning, the same morning as the brunch. Sibel and her husband are in their kitchen, in their pajamas, sipping coffee. Now the Dickersons arrive only a half hour later after the call. Again, the vividly recalled details suggest something that has never left Sibel’s memory – yet how could this be if the phone call in which Dickinson invites herself over takes place at such two distinctly different times? Again, this is Edmonds speaking to Friedman about the Rose article: “And you know how they usually do fact-checking, after the article is submitted, by the reporter, well in this case they did triple fact checking, they did it three times, going back to every single source. And so, they really did their homework.”

After this meeting, the next crisis point involves a meeting with Dennis Saccher, the F.B.I.’s special agent in charge of Turkish counter-intelligence, where it’s discovered that Melek Can Dickerson has been labeling conversations affecting counter-intelligence targets, such as the Colonel mentioned at the brunch meeting, as “not pertinent”. There are three depictions of this meeting and what leads up to it – Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”, Infiltration (page 162 in Google Books), Classified Woman – and they all adhere closely in the crucial details. Before this meeting, Dickerson had arranged that each Turkish translator – Dickerson, Edmonds, Kevin Taskesen – would translate material from a specific set of sources. The Colonel mentioned at brunch and other counterintelligence targets Dickerson reserved for herself, according to “Inconvenient Patriot”:

To monitor every call on every line at a large institution such as the Turkish Embassy in Washington would not be feasible. Inevitably, the F.B.I. listens more carefully to the phones used by its targets, such as the Dickersons’ purported friend. In the past, the assignment of lines to each translator had always been random: Edmonds might have found herself listening to a potentially significant conversation by a counter-intelligence target one minute and an innocuous discussion about some diplomatic party the next. Now, however, according to Edmonds, Dickerson suggested changing this system, so that each Turkish speaker would be permanently responsible for certain lines. She produced a list of names and numbers, together with her proposals for dividing them up. As Edmonds would later tell her F.B.I. bosses and congressional investigators, Dickerson had assigned the American-Turkish Council and three other “high-value” diplomatic targets, including her friend, to herself.

This is the description of the meeting with Saccher, again from Rose:

On the morning of January 14, Sibel says, Saccher asked Edmonds into his cramped cubicle on the fifth floor. On his desk were printouts from the F.B.I. language-department database. They showed that on numerous occasions Dickerson had marked calls involving her friend and other counter-intelligence targets as “not pertinent,” or had submitted only brief summaries stating that they contained nothing of interest. Some of these calls had a duration of more than 15 minutes. Saccher asked Edmonds why she was no longer working on these targets’ conversations. She explained the new division of labor, and went on to tell him about the Dickersons’ visit the previous month. Saccher was appalled, Edmonds says, telling her, “It sounds like espionage to me.”

There is one key difference between “Inconvenient Patriot” and Classified Woman. In “Patriot”, the meeting takes place on January 14. Classified requires us to deduce the meeting’s date. We are told that the day of the meeting on which Dickerson divides up the conversations between the three translators is January 3 – the bold is my own:

On the third day of January I was hard at work when Dickerson stopped by my desk holding a legal-size sheet of paper.

“I’ve been thinking,” she began. “We-the three of us, you and I and Kevin-have been randomly reviewing and translating the incoming intelligence related to these targets.” She placed the paper in front of me. “This is not the most efficient way. Instead of doing it this way, we should divide these targets into three groups, and have each group of targets assigned to one of us. This way we will each have a group of targets we regularly monitor and translate.”

Two pages later, it’s evening of the same day, January 3:

That evening, Kevin called. He had waited until 6:30, he said, but Feghali was still in his office with Dickerson when he left. “I even wiggled the doorknob; he had the door locked. I could hear them whispering inside…. What time will you be in tomorrow?” I told him I would be there by ten. The situation was getting out of control; I decided to contact Saccher if this continued.

In the next passage, it’s now the next morning, January 4:

The next morning I arrived at ten o’clock sharp. I always started off the day by going through my e-mails and phone messages. Almost immediately, Kevin appeared at my desk, with dark circles under his eyes. He looked as though he hadn’t slept at all.

As we talked, I glanced at my screen and scanned e-mails. There was one from Feghali, sent the previous evening at 6:41 p.m., addressed to Kevin, Dickerson and me. “After reviewing your workload and projects under Saccher’s Counterintelligence division,” it began, “I’ve decided to divide the targets among the three of you, permanently. This will increase the efficiency of processing these lines.” Beneath this he listed the target ID numbers and the name of the translators assigned to them. I unlocked my drawer and pulled out Dickerson’s handwritten instruction: Feghali’s division scheme was identical to it. As a postscript, Feghali added, “Please do NOT discuss this with Special Agent Dennis Saccher. This decision does not concern him and I forbid you to discuss this with anyone but me. Also, from this point on you shall not meet with SA Saccher without notifying me first.”

The same day, still January 4:

When I got to my desk, my phone light was blinking: voice mail. As if connected telepathically, Saccher had left a message, asking me to meet him about something urgent the following morning at nine sharp. Now that was Karma! I thought about Feghali’s warning, You are not allowed to meet with your case agent, Saccher, without notifying me first. I shrugged and mumbled to myself, “Screw you, Feghali; you and the Dickersons are about to be exposed.”

The page after, the next day, January 5:

The following morning, only one day after Feghali’s e-mail and before signing in, I stopped by to meet Saccher at his cubicle. He’d left a message that he wanted to see me on some urgent matter. I had no idea what it was about.

This is the same meeting mentioned in Rose, where Saccher and Edmonds discover that Helen Dickerson is shielding certain clients by classifying their conversations as “Not Pertinent”, and Saccher calls it espionage:

With every passing minute Saccher’s face grew darker; his pupils dilated and he was breathing hard. When I finished, he jumped to his feet. “Come on; let’s go upstairs to the security department. Let’s go and check if Feghali ever reported this shit. I also want to check Dickerson’s personnel file. Let’s go …”

We hastened to the eighth floor, which houses the FBI-WFO Personnel Security Division. Saccher had me wait in reception while he went inside.

About ten minutes later he came back extremely agitated, nearly yelling. “There is not a single damn thing in her entire file, Sibel! No report, no memo, no notice-nada! Feghali never reported this. Do you know what this is, Sibel? This is espionage. It smells like it, it sounds like it, and now it sure looks like espionage. This should have been reported to me right away. Oh Sibel, how could you be that stupid? You should have come to me a month ago!”

So, this meeting corresponds in almost all the details as that of “Inconvenient Patriot”, except that it somehow takes place ten days earlier, on January 5 instead of January 14. There’s also something unusual about this date – January 5, 2002 is a Saturday (taken from What Day of the Week for January 5, 2002).

After this meeting with Saccher in “Patriot”, Saccher arranges for Edmonds and the other Turkish translator, Kevin Taskasen, to go back over Dickerson’s work and meet on February 1:

Saccher asked Edmonds and a colleague, Kevin Taskasen, to go back into the F.B.I.’s digital wiretap archive and listen to some of the calls that Dickerson had marked “not pertinent,” and to re-translate as many as they could. Saccher suggested that they all meet with Feghali in a conference room on Friday, February 1. First, however, Edmonds and Taskasen should go to Saccher’s office for a short pre-meeting-to review their findings and to discuss how to handle Feghali.

In Classified Woman, it’s arranged that they meet on the Monday following this January 5, after which Edmonds works on translations for four days until the meeting on Friday. The Monday meeting, then, is on January 7, and the Friday meeting should be very far from February 1, on January 11.

I took the elevator back down to the fourth floor and noticed I was shaking. I went straight to Kevin’s station and told him to meet me in the coatroom in three minutes. When he got there, I quickly explained what happened. He was to meet me in Saccher’s office the following Monday at eight without raising any suspicions. Feghali and Dickerson specifically were not to know. Poor Kevin looked devastated.

The following Monday I got to Saccher’s unit a few minutes before eight. Kevin arrived moments later and the meeting began. Saccher had met with his boss and the unit chief for counterintelligence. He then explained briefly their decision to collect more evidence before transferring the Dickerson case to the FBI Counterespionage division. He had confirmed, via his sources and informants, that Dickerson indeed had worked for and with certain target entities; and that she and her husband appeared to be part of a larger operation, a global network. The players included U.S. officials-both elected and appointed-and certain Pakistani, Saudi and Israeli elements.

Dickerson’s success in penetrating our unit meant that all of the targets already had been tipped off and would no longer be of value. More important, though, was that Saccher’s unit had lost any chance of pursuing the U.S. officials under parallel criminal and espionage investigations. Nearly everything Dickerson had blocked dated back to 2000 and early 2001-before she had gotten inside.

Edmonds then tells us what she discovered over the course of four working days, between Monday and the Friday morning meeting. As stated already, this meeting should fall on the eleventh of January, given where we are on the calendar, yet somehow this meeting is also on February 1:

During my next four working days, I spent time going over Dickerson’s blocked communications. Among hundreds of pieces, in every ten or fifteen checked, I would come across a mother lode of hot intel that no translator, no matter how incompetent, would or could ever miss.

We were looking at people involved in sophisticated networks and operations geared to penetrate our nuclear and military technologies and intelligence-that were then sold to the highest bidder in the global black market. This could be a government entity, another network, a front organization, or individuals connected with a known terrorist group. This was not about any one ideology or nationalism; this was about power and money.

We were also dealing with a list of dirty joint CIA and Turkish operatives in Central Asia, Caucasus and the Balkans. As the FBI pursues foreign terrorists who target our nation, other agencies carry out equally bad or worse attacks overseas. Stunningly, some of these black operations employ the same groups accused of carrying out attacks against us.

Within a week I had identified four explosive pieces of communication blocked by Dickerson and was almost finished translating them verbatim. There were hundreds more, but I knew these four were enough for Saccher’s planned “blast” interrogation.

Meanwhile, Saccher called to let us know that he had set up the meeting with Feghali for the following Friday, February 1, at 9:30 a.m. I stayed off Feghali’s radar until then. I knew how easily he could be provoked; and now Feghali couldn’t stand the sight of me.

Kevin too, despite his linguistic shortcomings, discovered three important pieces of intelligence blocked by Dickerson, one of which dealt with the Pentagon’s own network of moles. Between the two of us, we were ready for the upcoming meeting.

The discoveries here dealing with nuclear technology, terrorism, and drug dealing that are made in these four days would become part of the secrets that Edmonds would reveal in her deposition and elsewhere. There are a number of striking things about this passage. For instance, that her discoveries accord entirely with her earlier assumptions of the secret activities of the ATC and the ATAA. There is also the extraordinarily short amount of time in which the discoveries are made. Apparently, the suspects are speaking openly on their phones with codes that are easily deciphered, or no codes at all, thus allowing this vast secretive network to be picked out in less than a week. That people were supposedly using codes in these surveilled calls, and expected their calls to be surveilled, is stated explicitly by Edmonds in Infiltration. This inspires the obvious question: given that Edmonds was simply a translator, without access to the higher level deciphering of people who’d spent considerable time on these investigations, how was she able to determine what these various code words meant on her own? From Infiltration (on googe books, page 173):

Bad guys planning an attack do not come right out and say it, even in Arabic. In fact, terrorist targets know the FBI is listening in now more than ever, and they “make fun of it on the phone,” Edmonds says. They throw out terms such as “melon” or “wedding” when they mean something else to try to throw off agents. They also invoke dates and events of special Islamic significance. Unfortunately, very few agents and even analysts in the bureau understand the culture and history of Islam and the Middle East to catch the hidden meanings behind certain words and phrases. They rely almost exclusively on the interpretation of the Arabic linguist from that region, whose loyalties are often suspect.

The other striking point is the incredible non-specificity of the source of these revelations. Most people who do investigative work will be able to pick out a moment when after days, weeks, months, years of digging (most of us are lacking in the luck and skill of Sibel Edmonds) we have a fortunate point of eureka, a criss-cross connecting disparate areas or excluding a possibility, and which remains distinct in memory. Edmonds has nothing of the kind in what may well be the unveiling of the single biggest trove of secrets in U.S. history. The reader might contrast this with an earlier moment, when Edmonds discovers a conversation which might relate to the planning of September 11. One may well question Edmonds’ interpretation here, but she does refer to an actual specific conversation whose content might be interpreted, whereas the cluster of conversations that are the motherlode of secrets are never given a discernible presence. From Classified Woman:

One afternoon toward the end of October 2001, slightly over a month after I began working for the bureau, Mike Feghali stopped by my desk to hand me a box containing tapes and a thin file of paper documents. He said an agent from one of the Nevada field offices had sent them. The operation dated back to July and August 2001, and the contents initially had been translated by a language specialist in summary format.

In light of the events of September eleven, on a hunch the agent decided to send it to us for review: he believed something had been overlooked or not translated correctly, and if true, he wanted to be informed immediately and have everything translated verbatim. The agent also included in the package information obtained post-9/11, up to October 1, 2001.

“I’m sure everything was OK the first time around,” Feghali commented. “Just go over these and see if anything significant was missed.” With that he dropped the file and the accompanying tapes on my desk and walked away.

After a short lunch break, I switched gears. I put aside what I had been working on and started the new assignment. I decided to give a quick listen to the tapes and skim the package before typing, to see if anything grabbed me. Later, I would go back and start over again, if necessary, the tedious, slow translation.

For the first few minutes I was having a hard time staying focused; boredom had set in. The target was in jail, talking to someone in a remote and underdeveloped border region of Pakistan and Iran (I knew from the accent and dialect where they were from). They chatted about some real estate and bridge projects; all the requirements they had to meet and the schedule they had to maintain. The very short, less than three-sentence-long original translation basically said that the subject discussed inconsequential matters and talked about some real estate development. I thought it more or less sufficient and accurate. Feghali’s observation seemed to be right-so far.

A few minutes passed before something made me sit up at once, with the force of an electric jolt. I thought I had heard something that didn’t fit, something that was out of place. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I felt spooked.

I rewound the tape and this time listened carefully. Oh my God-there it was! The target was going to send the blueprints and building composites for the project: those buildings had to be skyscrapers, a hundred floors or higher, to fit the specifications. I looked at the date: late July, 2001. The region to which these blueprints, building composites and bridge specifications were to be sent was as primitive as could be; they barely had mud huts. How could they be discussing the construction of skyscrapers in a nomadic village with huts? They specifically mentioned skyscrapers. Also, the blueprints and building composites were to be sent via human courier, not by mail, FedEx, or fax. Why would someone go to that much trouble to send simple blueprints, building and bridge plans and composites? Why was a “trusted source” to travel around the world to deliver it?

I believed the agent’s hunch was right on target. September eleven attacks and skyscrapers; blueprints and building composites of skyscrapers hand delivered to Iran; the date preceding the attacks by approximately two months.

Now I was awake and alert. I decided to go over a little bit more before notifying Feghali and the agent who’d sent the assignment. I fast-forwarded the tape to the first recorded date after September 11, 2001, to 11 a.m. September 12, 2001. I pushed the Start button and went over it. Bingo! First, the target and recipient congratulated themselves for this precious Eid. (Eid is a religious holiday in the Muslim world.) I knew all the dates for Eid that year: there were no religious holidays in September. These congratulations were given one day after the 9/11 attacks. Were they celebrating a successful operation? I jotted that down too.

Within the same communication, on September 12, the target warned that “using men would be dangerous, not wise, after this. The next round had to be women, young women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four.” There also was a brief discussion of “channels to obtain visas in return for money,” most of them in the United Arab Emirates. Their network included people with connections and contacts in U.S. embassies there.

At this meeting on the morning of February 1, Saccher is supposed to be there, but ends up canceling at the last minute. Instead, Edmonds and Taskasen meet with Feghali and Feghali’s colleague, translation-department supervisor Stephanie Bryan. In “Patriot”, this meeting has Bryan recommend that Edmonds write up a confidential memo, which she submits to Bryan on February 11. The following day, February 12, Edmonds is called to a meeting with Bryan, Feghali and Dickerson. Near the end of this meeting on February 12, Dickerson threatens her family in Turkey:

Instead, Edmonds was ushered into the windowless office of Feghali’s colleague, translation-department supervisor Stephanie Bryan. Investigating possible espionage was not a task for which Bryan had been trained or equipped.

Bryan heard Edmonds out and told her to set down her allegations in a confidential memo. Edmonds says that Bryan approved of her writing it at home. Edmonds gave the document to Bryan on Monday, February 11. Early the following afternoon, the supervisor summoned Edmonds. Waiting in a nearby office were two other people, Feghali and Melek Can Dickerson. In front of them were Edmonds’s translations of the wiretaps and her memo.

“Stephanie said that she’d taken my memo to the supervisory special agent, Tom Frields,” Edmonds says. “He apparently wouldn’t even look at it until Mike Feghali and Dickerson had seen it and been given a chance to comment. Stephanie said that, working for the government, there were certain things you didn’t do, and criticizing your colleagues’ work was one of them. She told me, ‘Do you realize what this means? If you were right, the people who did the background checks would have to be investigated. The whole translation department could be shaken up!’ Meanwhile, I was going to be investigated for a possible security breach-for putting classified information onto my home computer. I was told to go to the security department at three p.m.”

Before Edmonds left, Dickerson had time to sidle over to her desk. According to Edmonds, she made what sounded like a threat: “Why are you doing this, Sibel? Why don’t you just drop it? You know there could be serious consequences. Why put your family in Turkey in danger over this?”

In Classified Woman, Bryan and Feghali are at this February morning meeting – but so is Dickerson:

As we entered the conference room, the first thing I saw was Melek Can Dickerson seated at the table. At one end sat Bryan, and at the other end, Feghali. Kevin and I sat together facing Dickerson, with our notepads before us.

Stephanie spoke first. “I understand there are some personal problems between the Turkish translators, Sibel, Kevin, and Jan. This is normal. Whenever you have people, you’ll have conflicts, misunderstandings and problems. These issues can be resolved through open communication; through dialogue. That’s why we’re gathered here today …”

I could tell she had no idea what this meeting was about. After all, she’d been asked to participate only minutes earlier. I remained silent. With Dickerson present I was not about to say a word.

In “Patriot”, we are given one explanation why Saccher is not at the meeting he himself called:

Later, Edmonds says, she called Saccher on the internal phone. “Why the hell did you cancel?” she asked. Bewildered, he told her that immediately after she and Taskasen had left his office Feghali phoned him, saying that the conference room was already in use, and that the meeting would have to be postponed.

Edmonds says Saccher also told her that he had been ordered not to touch the case by his own superiors, who called it a “can of worms.” Despite his role as special agent in charge of Turkish counter-intelligence, he had even been forbidden to obtain copies of her translations. Saccher had two small children and a settled life in Washington. If he dared to complain, Edmonds says, he risked being assigned “to some fucked-up office in the land of tornadoes.”

In Classified Woman, we are given another. The following takes place right after Edmonds returns from the meeting:

As soon as I got to my desk, I dialed Saccher’s extension. He answered on the second ring.

“What in the world happened to you?” I asked.

“What do you mean? Feghali called me as soon as you and Kevin left and said that he had to cancel the meeting and reschedule it for the following week. He had something important on a counterterrorism case involving one of his translators.”

This was unbelievable. I told Saccher what Feghali told us: that he, Saccher, had canceled the meeting for a supposedly unexpected field operation.

Before I could even finish recounting, Saccher cut me off. “This is friggin’ nuts!” He was yelling. “That bastard … that sonuvabitch! I’m going to see him in jail. Meet me at the fire exit-the secondary stairway, on the sixth floor landing.”

“What? Why there?”

“We need to talk,” he said. “I’ll see you there in three minutes sharp.” He hung up. Why there? I thought, baffled. I started toward the unit exit; then took the stairs two at a time, and when I got there, Saccher was waiting.

He asked me to go over the entire episode, including Dickerson’s reactions and body language during the meeting, and tell him word for word what Stephanie had instructed me to do.

“I don’t know Stephanie Bryan well,” Saccher went on to explain. “I don’t know if she’s trustworthy or competent. This is not her area. She’s only an administrator; she doesn’t know a damn thing about this area, about counterespionage investigations. She can ruin the entire case. Don’t submit the translations to her,” he added. “Drag your feet; bring it to our unit by the end of the day.”

I was exhausted, confused, and getting exasperated. “Dennis, I cannot take this anymore. As of today, she is my admin supervisor. She specifically instructed me not to submit the translation to you. She ordered me to prepare a long memo containing everything that occurred and everything I reported to Feghali in writing and verbally.”

“Okay, let’s go.” Saccher, angry now, grabbed my arm and pulled me with him inside. “We’re taking this to my boss. I’ll ask him to issue a direct order to Stephanie and whoever else in there. I’m going to tell him about this nonsense she’s pulling.”

Outside the office, Saccher motioned me to wait. “Let me go first. I’ll go talk to him; then I’ll bring you in, OK?”

I rolled my eyes, but did as I was told. I could hear shouting, a heated exchange; fifteen minutes later, I was face to face with the head of Counterintelligence for the FBI, a man in his early thirties who introduced himself as “John.”

This boss then tells Edmonds directly that she should stay out of this case, and tells her directly that it’s a can of worms.

“Dennis told me what went on there, downstairs. Ms. Edmonds, I have no tolerance for twisted game playing by your administrative supervisors. For years, that department, the translation division, has caused us trouble and headache.”

“Sibel is caught in the middle of this shit,” Saccher broke in. “Come on, John, it’s Feghali and Bryan you should be saying this to-”

His boss didn’t let him finish. “It’s not only that, Dennis, you know that … Ms. Edmonds, the bureau is already under pressure regarding the Turkish operations. The targets, as you are now aware, are connected to people in high places: State Department, Pentagon, White House, Congress … The activities have too many beneficiaries in this country-the CIA, weapons companies, military, lobbying firms, Congress, you name it. Now,” he continued, “on top of this pressure, we appear to have a ‘real spy’ problem, the Dickersons.

I don’t think HQ executives want to know about this; they don’t want this to explode. They have made it very clear. Saccher and I tried, but we’re being prevented from pursuing this espionage case. They didn’t say it in so many words, but I know the lingo. They want this to go away …”

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even understand the meaning-the implications-of everything he was telling me.

“This is ridiculous!” Saccher was almost yelling now. “HQ’s attitude about this, the bullshit happening downstairs, Bryan asking her to keep translations out of our reach-”

“Drop it, Dennis,” John said sharply. “I have a bad feeling on this one, man; my gut feeling says this is going to be bad for all. On top of everything, I don’t want you to get dragged in the middle of the war zone in the translation department, you hear me?” He looked straight at me. “Ms. Edmonds, this is going to be a can of worms-a major disaster. I don’t want my good men, my agents, my unit caught in the middle of this shit storm.”

“Then what do you want me to do?” I meekly mumbled. “I’m being bombarded with instructions; which way do you want me to turn?”

“This is going to be a can of worms,” he repeated. “We’ll let HQ and the security division handle most of it. I’m willing to bring in Dickerson and put her under a ‘blast interrogation.’ That’s it. OK?”

I nodded, confused. Saccher looked like a bomb about to explode, jaw twitching, his face deep purple red. He shot John an angry look before escorting me out.

This is still February 1st in Classified Woman. The next chapter opens in the following week, on Thursday, with Edmonds dropping off the memo for Bryan. It’s the Thursday following the Friday February 1st meeting, so this takes place on February 7th, rather than Monday, February 11th in “Patriot” – “Edmonds gave the document to Bryan on Monday, February 11.” After submitting the memo, Bryan calls her in for a meeting:

The following week, on a bitter cold Thursday, I grabbed a yellow envelope that contained a small disc and two printed copies of the three-page memo and headed out. At work, I stopped by Bryan’s office to hand it over. She was on the phone; she nodded, took the package and waved. What a relief. They now had the facts, including incidents of intentional blocking of highly important intelligence and Dickerson’s role.

I turned on my computer and got to work. I had a lot to do: in addition to several counterterrorism investigations there was my ongoing Turkish counterintelligence project from Chicago and, of course, my ongoing Turkish Counterintelligence translation tasks involving DC. I put on my headset and began.

My desk phone rang about two hours later. It was Bryan, asking me to come to her office right away.

I turned off my computer, placed my folders inside the drawer and headed to her office. She pointed to a chair. Scattered across her desk was my three-page memo. Next to it was the pile I had turned over to her the previous week, containing selected translations of the top-secret intelligence blocked by Dickerson.

Bryan cleared her throat. “I read the memo. Thorough job, very disturbing; it’s worse than I expected. Great job. Thank you.”

I got straight to the point. “So, are you taking it to Frields today-right away? Have you sent the copies of the five translated documents to Saccher and his boss? They’ve been waiting.”

She cleared her throat again. “Sibel, you have never worked for the federal government before this job, is that right?”

I was at loss. “No, why?”

“Because things work differently in government. While private companies are concerned with efficiency, security and productivity, the government couldn’t care less. Of course, the jobs here come with other pluses: less work, more benefits, retirement …”

Bryan discourages her from pursuing any complaint. This is followed by an afternoon meeting with Bryan. She sees Feghali and Melek Can Dickerson in another office looking at her memo and various translations. Bryan says she will launch an investigation against Edmonds for producing the memo on her home computer:

After a long lunch, it was almost three by the time I got back to my desk. Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang. I picked up, hoping it was Saccher, but no such luck. It was Bryan. I was to report directly to her office. Now what?

On the way over I had to pass by Feghali’s office. His door was wide open. I stopped. There were Feghali, Dickerson, and Feghali’s daughter-a special agent in the white-collar crime division and an attorney-seated around the table. On top of it was the yellow manila envelope next to the stack of translated intelligence intentionally blocked by Dickerson. What the hell was going on? Saccher and his boss were supposed to set up a surprise interrogation of Dickerson in order to send the case to the counterespionage division. So now the suspect, Dickerson-the person under investigation-is given access to the entire case, the memo and translations?

Feghali saw me and nudged Dickerson. She turned and gave me a lopsided smile. I made tracks to Bryan’s office and pointed toward the meeting down the hall. “What the hell is that, Stephanie? What are they doing with my memo and the translated evidence?”

Bryan shrugged. “Oh, that. I took the stuff to Frields per your request. He said that since Feghali and Dickerson are involved and accused, to go ahead and give them the documents and have them review them. They have the right to review any allegations made against them, and respond. He will review the stuff, together with Dickerson’s response and also Feghali’s, all at one time. So … I gave them to Feghali and he’s reviewing them with Dickerson. His daughter is here because she’s an attorney. She will advise both Dickerson and her dad. I’m sure you understand their need for solid legal advice.”

This felt like “The Twilight Zone.” “Have you told Saccher? Have you notified him or his boss? This is their area. This is not how the counterespionage investigation is supposed to go. They specifically requested-both from you and me-that this be kept completely away from Dickerson. And what do you mean by his daughter being present as an attorney advising Dickerson and Feghali? This is not a court case, for God’s sake!”

Bryan waved her hand dismissively. “Anyway, I asked you to come here for a totally different matter. We have decided that by producing the memo, the one you gave me today, at home, on your home computer, you have violated the security rules of the FBI. The content of your memo involves top secret topics, names and issues. Your conduct needs to be investigated; it may be determined that it is a criminal act. I had to report you and your conduct involving a breach of security to the personnel security investigations office on the eighth floor. The agent investigating you is Melinda Tilton. She wants to interrogate you immediately, today.” She then jotted a few numbers on a yellow Post-It and handed it to me. “Call her immediately-right now. This is a very serious matter and cannot wait. As of this moment you are under investigation, Sibel.”

All of this takes place in “Patriot”, but rather than happening all on a Thursday, February 7th, it’s split between two days, February 11th and 12th:

Bryan heard Edmonds out and told her to set down her allegations in a confidential memo. Edmonds says that Bryan approved of her writing it at home. Edmonds gave the document to Bryan on Monday, February 11. Early the following afternoon, the supervisor summoned Edmonds. Waiting in a nearby office were two other people, Feghali and Melek Can Dickerson. In front of them were Edmonds’s translations of the wiretaps and her memo.

“Stephanie said that she’d taken my memo to the supervisory special agent, Tom Frields,” Edmonds says. “He apparently wouldn’t even look at it until Mike Feghali and Dickerson had seen it and been given a chance to comment. Stephanie said that, working for the government, there were certain things you didn’t do, and criticizing your colleagues’ work was one of them. She told me, ‘Do you realize what this means? If you were right, the people who did the background checks would have to be investigated. The whole translation department could be shaken up!’ Meanwhile, I was going to be investigated for a possible security breach-for putting classified information onto my home computer. I was told to go to the security department at three p.m.”

Before Edmonds left, Dickerson had time to sidle over to her desk. According to Edmonds, she made what sounded like a threat: “Why are you doing this, Sibel? Why don’t you just drop it? You know there could be serious consequences. Why put your family in Turkey in danger over this?”

This same threat also takes place in Classified Woman:

From the corner of my eye I spotted Dickerson, heading in my direction. She came straight up to me and hissed, “You asked for it. What did I tell you about the FBI not giving a damn about it, huh? This is nothing. The worst is yet to come-for your family in Turkey. You can blame yourself for what’s to come for them.” She then named both my sisters and the neighborhood in Turkey in which the middle one lived.

After receiving this threat in Classified Woman, Edmonds declares that she will from now on document all her office conversations, which makes the major discrepancy in dates here surprising:

Back at my computer, I opened a new file and word document noting the date, time and conversation; I also noted the name of the translator who witnessed the event and what she said she’d heard. I saved it; then I e-mailed both Bryan and Feghali an account of what had occurred with Dickerson. I clicked Send and off it went: I was on record. From that day on, from that moment, I made sure all my communications-everything that occurred at work-were documented and witnessed. This was a battle.

What happens next is one of the most astonishing discrepancies between “Patriot” and Classified Woman. Here is the passage describing what happens after Dickerson’s threat in “Patriot”. I bold what’s the crucial part in the text:

As soon as she had returned home from the February meeting where Dickerson allegedly cautioned her not to endanger her family in Turkey, Sibel called her mother and sister in Istanbul, even though it was the middle of the night there. Sibel is the oldest of three sisters. The youngest was studying in America and living with the Edmondses in Alexandria, but the middle sister-whose name Edmonds wishes to protect-was enjoying a successful career at an international travel company based in Istanbul. The 29-year-old was also engaged to be married. Within days of receiving Sibel’s call, she flew with her mother to Washington.

This is what takes place in Classified Woman. I bold what I think is the astonishing point:

That night, after dinner, I sat down with Matthew and told him everything-omitting only classified details related to names and specific criminal activities. I unloaded nonstop, barely taking time for breath. I’d bottled up so much that now it all came pouring out in a flood. By the time I finished I was exhausted.

Matthew listened intently without interrupting. Although he knew some of the issues, he was stunned by the extent of what had gone on and horrified at the implications. He started to pace. “I think you had better call your sister in Turkey and have her pack her stuff and come here immediately.”

“How can she? She has a job, a career! She is engaged to be married next year. What am I going to tell her? Pack and leave everything behind and come over here? What will she do here? How long will she stay? I-”

He cut me off, explaining the stark facts. My sister in Turkey had been named. “At least your other sister is here,” he pointed out, “and I’m glad you persuaded your mother not to go back…. You know what they can do to you over there; you know there are no laws and no protections over there for either you or your family.”

Infiltration gives us something closer to “Patriot”. Again, I bold the most crucial text (page 162 on Google Books):

THINLY VEILED THREAT

Edmonds says Dickerson had instructed her not to translate certain FBI wiretaps involving the Turkish subject, explaining that she knew him personally and was confident that there would be nothing important to translate concerning him. When Edmonds refused, she says Dickerson managed to get ahold of translations meant for Edmonds and forged her signature and initials, rendering the communications useless to the case agent.

Edmonds says in documents filed in federal court that “extremely sensitive and material information was deliberately withheld from translations,” and that her supervisor barred her from alerting the case agent about the serious matter. Ferghali decided not to send the retranslated information to Sacher who requested it, she says. Instead, Ferghali sent him a note stating that the translation was reviewed and the original translation was accurate. He explained to Edmonds that sending the revised translation would only hurt Dickerson and cause problems for the FBI language department.

Here the story takes a bizarre turn.

When Dickerson heard about her tea companion complaining about her translations, she made a thinly veiled threat for her to stop. “Why would you put your life and your family’s life in danger?” she allegedly told Edmonds, a petite brunette. Not long afterward, plainclothes agents with Turkish intelligence showed up at her younger sister’s apartment in Istanbul with an interrogation and arrest warrant. Luckily, Edmonds had already brought her sister, employed by a major airline, and mother to Washington in anticipation of such reprisals.

When this threat is made by Dickerson, is the mother of Sibel Edmonds in Turkey or the United States? In “Patriot”, she’s in Turkey with the sister. In Classified Woman, she’s already in the U.S. With Infiltration, she appears to have flown separately or together with Edmonds’ sister because of the harm that Dickerson might bring about.

As part of their investigation into Edmonds, the FBI would seize their computer. This takes places February 13 in “Patriot”:

On February 13, the day after her interview with the bureau security office, three agents came to her home and seized the computer she shared with her husband. “I hadn’t had time to back up the data, and I told them that most of my business was on that computer,” Matthew Edmonds says.

A Review has the incident take place on February 13 as well:

On February 13, with Edmonds’ consent, the FBI seized her home computer. That same day, Edmonds also wrote to a higher-level FBI official about her allegations and requested to meet with him regarding her concerns.

However, it takes place on February 14 in Classified Woman:

The lull ended the following week, on February 14, Valentine’s Day, with a phone call around noon. It was Agent Tilton [Melinda Tilton, the agent heading up the investigation of Edmonds]; she wanted me to go up and see her.

“Sibel,” she greeted me cordially. “I did my best to persuade headquarters and Bryan. They still insist on a full-blown investigation of you.”

“Actually you do. They want us to examine your computer-your PC.”

“My home computer?” I asked, incredulous.

She nodded. “Of course, you can demand a court-issued subpoena, but I recommend highly against that. We, the security department, know there will be nothing there, but others, as you know, insist.”

“That computer is not mine alone, my husband and I share it. He has his and his clients’ data on it. After I typed the memo, I put it on a disc and erased the file from the PC, just as Bryan instructed. I gave you guys the disc and the only printed copy.”

“I know,” she said. “It will take us only a few hours to check the PC and confirm that there is nothing there, then report to headquarters. Let’s get this over with ASAP. You don’t want this ridiculous investigation hovering over your head. Forcing us to get a subpoena will only aggravate everyone more, and will drag this out longer for you.”

I had to think. “When?”

“Today. In a couple of hours.”

That her computer was examined is without question. What is significant here is the sincere insistence that it took place a day later and a very specific day, on Valentine’s Day, a vision as real as what is in the other accounts.

Edmonds would make various appeals over the next month. No description of her actually working is given in Classified Woman until her very last day, on March 22:

On Friday, March 22, I started my work at ten in the morning. I spent the day working mainly on Chicago files. Of the counterintelligence cases I’d worked on, this was by far the most intriguing and contained the most explosive elements: well-known Chicago political figures-including certain Illinois representatives in Congress-who were directly involved with targeted Turkish operatives, some of whom were among Interpol’s most wanted fugitives. I had placed most of my focus on files dating from mid-1996 to January 2002, as well as ongoing DC counterintelligence-part of which I was still going through, auditing those that had been reviewed by Dickerson. Since no one specifically asked me to stop going over those documents, I chose to press on-assuming I was still under the same order.

I went through and documented each thoroughly. On this day too I spent a couple of hours going over Dickerson’s cover-up, in the middle of which I hit a new mother lode. Five or six pieces of additional audio communications-all stamped as not pertinent by Dickerson-contained information so volatile that I had to bite the bullet and report it to Saccher’s unit. The information included specific U.S. persons, facilities and payments, all involving U.S. nuclear secrets being passed to foreign entities who then offered them to the highest bidder. In one case, the highest bidder who purchased one of these illegally obtained, highly classified information sets happened to be a non-state group with highly likely ties to a Middle Eastern terrorist organization. The players involved high-profile Pentagon and State Department figures, congressional staff, academic and think-tank-based individuals. The penetration went as deep as top nuclear labs, U.S. Air Force nuclear weapons labs and research facilities, and the RAND Corporation.

We might note again the lack of specificity here, and once again her astonishing luck, uncovering an astonishing payload in an even shorter time period before. Then, she discovered a nuclear secret theft ring over the course of four days; now she finds a network connected to the State Department, the Pentagon, and various prestige universities in six hours of work, from ten in the morning to four in the afternoon.

A Review of the FBI’s Actions has Sibel allegedly working very little after February 22:

On March 8, Edmonds complained that work she had been asked to translate had not been loaded properly onto her computer, and that FBI Special Agents had been waiting for the translations for three weeks. The Language Supervisor [Mike Ferghali] responded that since February 22, 2002, Edmonds had only worked one day, on March 8, 2002.

Again, according to A Review, linguistic resources had been reallocated away from Edmonds. She’d received no new assignments, and no temporary assignments:

On March 15, the relationship between the Language Supervisor and Edmonds became even more tense. Edmonds asked the Language Supervisor why the Special Agent who she assisted had not been in contact with her in over a month. Edmonds also inquired about her work assignments. The Language Supervisor responded that he did not know why the Special Agent had not met with Edmonds and that, due to Edmonds’ limited work hours and the need to have certain work assignments completed, he had requested that linguistic resources be reallocated. In response, Edmonds stated that in the past few weeks, “coincidental” to her reports of wrongdoing, she had received no new assignment and no offers of temporary duty (TDY) assignments.

Having looked in detail at Edmonds’ own varied accounts of her brief period at the FBI, one might question whether she is as credible and honest a witness as others claim her to be. That her account has not received greater skepticism is due in part to the very power of secret information. In Hillaire Belloc’s “On a lost manuscript” (from On Nothing and Kindred Subjects), he invests a missing text with powers that are almost mystical, its very non-existence allowing it to claim such virtues: “Much depended upon it; it would have led you to a great and to a rapidly acquired fortune; but you must not ask for it. You must turn your mind away. It cannot be re-written, and all that can take its place is a sort of dirge for departed and irrecoverable things.” We might speak of the hidden information of Edmonds in the same manner. Because it is unknown, it must truly be something like a vast map of secret corruption, and because of misunderstandings, willful or otherwise, various writers and interviewers seem to think she is restricted from letting us know all.

There have been two restrictions that Edmonds has had to deal with since her case became public. The first has been the State Secrets privilege, which can be exercised by the executive to prevent someone from introducing into evidence, in court, any information that might have a secret classification. It was the state secrets privilege that halted her suit against the FBI for terminating her. However, it was not used when she testified at detailed length at the Ohio Election Commission hearing on Jean Schmidt’s complaint. The other constraint was an order by the Attorney General which reclassified some material that had been made public by the FBI in a Senate Judiciary hearing on Edmonds’ case. This re-classification was reversed in February 20057. There are no obstacles to Edmonds speaking in public about whatever she wants, as freely as she wants. She would admit as much in “An Interview with Sibel Edmonds”, her interview with David Swanson. I bold the most relevant part:

Swanson: So I should ask, I guess, before I start, are you under any gag order? Are there things that you can and cannot talk about?

Edmonds: Well – that’s a very interesting question, David, because when the government invoked the State Secrets Privilege, it was specifically for the court procedures, so there won’t be any court hearings, and as far as the courts are concerned, my case is gagged and classified.

Separately, they invoked the retroactive classification order on Congress and this was for the Senate Judiciary committee in May 2004 – and the way the imposed this gag order – and I have to emphasize that this gag order was illegal, because in order for them to retroactively classify congressional investigations, the Attorney General for the Justice Department had to meet three criteria and he did not. But even though the gag order was illegal, at that time in May 2004, the Senate Judiciary committee complied with it, they complied with an illegal gag order.

But I’ve never had a gag order placed on me as far as the public statements, or any other investigative procedures are concerned, but as you know they have declared everything in my case, including my languages, and what I did for the FBI, classified. Now the question is whether this classification that they’re using is even legal, or justified. As you know the executive branch has complete control over the classification.

We might see the way this classification is cited as a reason why she cannot tell her full story, and then just as easily ignored in a pair of interviews. From May 8, 2009, on a podcast hosted by Scott Horton (transcript taken from “Sibel Edmonds ” Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton”):

SH: Can you not get with your ACLU lawyers and just sit down and write a book and tell us every single incriminating thing you learned, classified or otherwise to whatever degree, and damn-the-consequences and bring-it-on? Come on, Sibel.

SE: Scott, believe me or not, I would do that whether the question of can-you-or can’t-you is answered or not. But you’ve got to find one organization, and find one mainstream media, and that includes a publishing house, who is willing to do it. Just find one for me and I tell you what, I’m going on the record right now here, I will do it.

SH: All I’ve got to do is find you a publishing house? I mean, that doesn’t seem impossible.

SE: Well, it’s not only a publishing house, because what happens is, regardless of the State Secrets Privilege, all these people who have worked for the FBI, anyone, the agents, the attorneys, the language specialists, as part of getting that job, you sign documents saying that in the future, if you ever write anything, whether there is the State Secrets Privilege or classification, you have to submit your work for pre-publication review.

I need to do that, OK, I have already gone through several law firms and said ‘Here it is, and they looked at it and said ‘Even the most innocent stuff there, you are facing 60-70% of this manuscript – which is ready! It has been ready for quite a while – which will be blacked out. Now once you get the blacked out version not a single person will publish it. What are you going to publish?’ Look at my Inspector General report – 90% of it is blacked out. Nobody is going to publish a blacked-out book! Then, you are in this position of going to court, and start fighting, line-by-line, everything that has been blacked out, saying this was not correct, this is not truly classification, and challenging it.

That’s why I’m telling you, find any organization that would be willing to represent this because they look at me and say ‘Sibel, this is impossible. Especially with your case, this is impossible. It is a fight that you won’t win.’

Now we have Sibel Edmonds in 2012, promoting Classified Woman, in an interview on RT with Abby Martin. She now can seemingly submit a book to the justice department, ignore the fact that they never give their approval, and publish it unredacted. From “US government needs to keep the fear factor alive” (0:55-2:26):

ABBY MARTIN
Sibel, there’s been a gag order on you for years, and you’ve decided to come out now, why?

EDMONDS
Well, it took several years. To be exact, five years. To fight this case, or try to fight this case, in courts. And through Congress. And through executive agencies such as the Inspector General’s office. And basically, at every turn, I was further classified, in fact, the government, and this is during the Bush Administration, the Attorney General at the time, John Ashcroft, ended up invoking a gag order on Congress. They retroactively classified everything Congress had investigated in my case. So, after those six years, I was exhausted. I went away for two years, came back in 2009, thinking that we were going to have a new administration, and that we were going to see hopefully, come kind of a change, and that didn’t take place, but I started writing this book. And I abided by the justice department’s own regulations, the law, I submitted it to them, they had thirty days to redact it and give it back to me, and they didn’t. And they kept sending letters for a year to my attorneys saying I cannot publish a single word in this book, but they would not give us a redacted version. We fulfilled our obligations, I have, I have constitution on my side, so I went ahead and finally published this book, so it’s out.

Despite this, her book gives us only generalities about the vast network which has its tentacles in the Pentagon, the State Department, Congress, and various universities.

Edmonds is equally arbitrary in what she can and cannot reveal with regards to the Jan Schakowsky case. In her deposition, there are things she cannot reveal because she supposedly doesn’t want an innocent person’s reputation destroyed. The “classification I don’t believe”, I guess refers to the re-classification that had been repealed four years before this deposition:

Q
I assume that – -well, let me just ask you, and I’m not trying to put you on the spot. If you can’t answer, just tell me. Would you be prepared to tell me who the Congresswoman is that we’ve been talking about?

EDMONDS
I would have, and it wouldn’t be because of classification I don’t believe. I — if in case this congressional person did not bend under the pressure in case. I just don’t want somebody, innocent person’s reputation destroyed because I don’t know if this person complied with whatever she happened to be blackmailed later. I think I —

Why exactly would a classification that had been repealed in 2005 affect her in 2009? That she was utterly indifferent to an innocent person’s reputation being destroyed is obvious because only a month later she would freely name this congresswoman as Jan Schakowsky in “Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”, her interview with Philip Giraldi:

GIRALDI: So the investigation stopped in Washington, but continued in Chicago?

EDMONDS: Yes, and in 2000, another representative was added to the list, Jan Schakowsky, the Democratic congresswoman from Illinois. Turkish agents started gathering information on her, and they found out that she was bisexual. So a Turkish agent struck up a relationship with her. When Jan Schakowsky’s mother died, the Turkish woman went to the funeral, hoping to exploit her vulnerability. They later were intimate in Schakowsky’s townhouse, which had been set up with recording devices and hidden cameras. They needed Schakowsky and her husband Robert Creamer to perform certain illegal operational facilitations for them in Illinois. They already had Hastert, the mayor, and several other Illinois state senators involved. I don’t know if Congresswoman Schakowsky ever was actually blackmailed or did anything for the Turkish woman.

Only a month earlier, in a podcast for her website Boiling Frogs, “Podcast Show #3”, Edmonds had said she could not get into the specifics of the Schakowsky case (32:55-34:20 in the podcast audio):

EDMONDS
You’re right, and you mentioned something else, you mentioned this process of hooking, and that’s exactly what they do. Now, the hooking can be via getting first some innocent information and then making that information level go higher and higher, money, and in some cases, just sexual stuff. In what case I had, I can’t talk about the specifics, it was this particular congresswoman, and she’s still a congresswoman, that this ATC and AIPAC related individuals, got dirt on her. They found out that even though she was married and she still is, and has a grown-up kid, she is also, she is bisexual. She also has interest in other women. And they use that. They actually provided a Turkish lady to go and have an affair with her, and they tape-recorded the entire relationship. Okay? Because in their initial attempt to hook this congresswoman for a particular objective they had, it did not work, had not worked, so they went to the next level, and said, okay, this is how we hook. So, there are various ways they go and hook people.

COLLINS
Any comment, Phil Giraldi?

GIRALDI
Well, no. That’s an interesting story.

Edmonds was able to get away with all this for so long because her eager listeners and supporters never considered any mistake or inconsistency to be a reason to question the whole edifice. After publicly naming Jan Schakowsky as the target of this blackmail plot, Schakowsky hit back hard, and made Edmonds look ridiculous. In “Schakowsky Responds to Edmonds Claim, Vehemently Denies Lesbian Tryst With Turkish Agent” by Brad Friedman, the Congresswoman would deny the allegations, writing that “A simple review of the facts would lead any responsible person to conclude that there is not a shred of truth to any aspect of this story.” Furthermore:

From the start, the fantasy is riddled with factual errors. It claims that an “intimate” relationship between a fictional female Turkish spy and the congresswoman began at the funeral of the congresswoman’s mother after 2000, however, Rep. Schakowsky’s mother died thirteen years earlier in 1987.

Furthermore, it is alleged that the “relationship” occurred in the congresswoman’s bugged town house even though she has never owned or lived in a town house in her life. Congresswoman Schakowsky shares a small apartment with her husband in a busy Washington, DC apartment building and owns a single-family home in Illinois.

You would think that such humiliating mistakes might cause Edmonds to reconsider her accusations, but this would be to underestimate Edmonds. That Edmonds’ allegations were horribly wrong was not the fault of Edmonds, but of Schakowsky. Edmonds’ letter of reply was quoted in full in “Edmonds Issues Formal Response to Schakowsky’s Denial of Lesbian Affair with Turkish Operative” by Brad Friedman. “It is an age-old tactic, when one cannot refute statements with facts,” wrote back Edmonds, “to attempt to discredit the witness.” This letter was titled, without irony, “In Pursuit of the Facts: Inviting Ms. Schakowsky to Join…” Edmonds’ letter suggested a child who carried a vast wealth of incriminating files in their head, which might be rendered real through sheer will – and Schakowsky’s rebuke was a rebuke of the power of imagination itself. It suggested as well a holy saint who had a choice of over a hundred ensembles picked out for her martyrdom.

A year later, when Friedman wrote “Sibel Edmonds: The Traitors Among Us” for Hustler Magazine (NSFW due to small ads on the side of the text), a plea for greater mainstream coverage of the revelations of Edmonds, you might think that he would mention Edmonds’ egregious failures in her knowledge of the most obvious facts of Schakowsky’s life, such as when her mother died or whether she ever owned a town house. This was to underestimate Brad Friedman as well. “Schakowsky’s office has vehemently denied the allegations,” Friedman wrote. “She has also refused Edmonds’s challenge to take a polygraph test and has not yet sued her for libel, as the whistleblower has challenged her to do.” If you don’t sue, and don’t take a polygraph, you could already be assumed guilty.

Edmonds was allowed to move her claims from the hazy intangible of possibility to firm certainty, through a lack of anything like a firm discipline of what was proven and unproven. A Review of the FBI’s Actions in Connection With Allegations Raised By Contract Linguist Sibel Edmonds, we are told, vindicates her completely, when it doesn’t. It finds a basis for the hiring of an unqualified translator (this is Kevin Taskesen) and a basis for one instance of abuse of travel voucher fraud. For other travel abuse allegations, charges of improper gifts, or an intentional work slowdown, it found no basis. The OIG report, it’s often implied, endorsed her most outlandish claims, when the scope of the report was very limited, as the report explicitly states: “Our review focused on the allegations made by Edmonds to the OIG, particularly Edmonds’ allegations regarding the FBI’s handling of the concerns about the co-worker, her allegations about inappropriate practices in the language program, and her allegation that the FBI retaliated against her for raising those allegations.” What the report has to say about the allegations against this co-worker, Melek Can Dickerson, is where there is a most conveniently selective reading. “With regard to some of Edmonds’ allegations,” the report says about Edmonds’ charges against Dickerson, “the OIG did not find evidence to support her allegation or the inferences that she drew from certain facts.” The report does stress that “Edmonds’ assertions regarding the co-worker, when viewed as a whole, raised substantial questions and were supported by various pieces of evidence. While there are potentially innocuous explanations for the co-worker’s conduct, other explanations were not innocuous.” The conclusion made by Edmonds and her adherents, but never made by the report itself, is that the explanations cannot be innocuous. The review would conclude that “many – although not all – of Edmonds’ allegations about the co-worker had some basis in fact.” This is the line that gives life to all of Edmonds’ later accusations, and it ignores the sentence which immediately follows it: “This evidence does not prove, and we are not suggesting, that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that espionage or any improper disclosures of FBI information occurred.”

There was the claim, heavily qualified, about Dennis Hastert based on Edmonds’ allegations of what she heard, which appeared in David Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”:

Some of the calls reportedly contained what sounded like references to large-scale drug shipments and other crimes. To a person who knew nothing about their context, the details were confusing, and it wasn’t always clear what might be significant. One name, however, apparently stood out-a man the Turkish callers often referred to by the nickname “Denny boy.” It was the Republican congressman from Illinois and Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. According to some of the wiretaps, the F.B.I.’s targets had arranged for tens of thousands of dollars to be paid to Hastert’s campaign funds in small checks. Under Federal Election Commission rules, donations of less than $200 are not required to be itemized in public filings.

Hastert himself was never heard in the recordings, Edmonds told investigators, and it is possible that the claims of covert payments were hollow boasts. Nevertheless, an examination of Hastert’s federal filings shows that the level of un-itemized payments his campaigns received over many years was relatively high. Between April 1996 and December 2002, un-itemized personal donations to the Hastert for Congress Committee amounted to $483,000. In contrast, un-itemized contributions in the same period to the committee run on behalf of the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, were only $99,000.

Edmonds reportedly added that the recordings also contained repeated references to Hastert’s flip-flop, in the fall of 2000, over an issue which remains of intense concern to the Turkish government-the continuing campaign to have Congress designate the killings of Armenians in Turkey between 1915 and 1923 a genocide. For many years, attempts had been made to get the House to pass a genocide resolution, but they never got anywhere until August 2000, when Hastert, as Speaker, announced that he would give it his backing and see that it received a full House vote. He had a clear political reason, as analysts noted at the time: a California Republican incumbent, locked in a tight congressional race, was looking to win over his district’s large Armenian community. Thanks to Hastert, the resolution, vehemently opposed by the Turks, passed the International Relations Committee by a large majority. Then, on October 19, minutes before the full House vote, Hastert withdrew it.

At the time, he explained his decision by saying that he had received a letter from President Clinton arguing that the genocide resolution, if passed, would harm U.S. interests8. Again, the reported content of the Chicago wiretaps may well have been sheer bravado, and there is no evidence that any payment was ever made to Hastert or his campaign. Nevertheless, a senior official at the Turkish Consulate is said to have claimed in one recording that the price for Hastert to withdraw the resolution would have been at least $500,000.

Hastert’s spokesman says the congressman withdrew the genocide resolution only because of the approach from Clinton, “and to insinuate anything else just doesn’t make any sense.” He adds that Hastert has no affiliation with the A.T.C. or other groups reportedly mentioned in the wiretaps: “He does not know these organizations.” Hastert is “unaware of Turkish interests making donations,” the spokesman says, and his staff has “not seen any pattern of donors with foreign names.”

Again, this is only based on what Edmonds alleges that she heard, and at no point does she even allege hearing Hastert. Yet when Edmonds was with Friedman on the Mike Malloy show, we had suddenly moved to unqualified certainty: “several FBI agents and DOJ officials, as sources, and some congressional people, confirmed to this reporter, David Rose, that at the time, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was a recipient of various briberies, and other illegal conduct.” There is no confirmation of any such kind in Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”. From “Guest Hosting ‘Mike Malloy Show’ (Wednesday)”, Part One (24:20-25:34):

FRIEDMAN
Yeah, and one of those folks is Dennis Hastert. The former speaker of the House, who has now gone to work for the Turkish government.

EDMONDS
Isn’t that amazing. Because as you know, in 2005, August 2005, Vanity Fair had a seven, six seven page article on this issue, and the fact that several FBI agents and DOJ officials, as sources, and some congressional people, confirmed to this reporter, David Rose, that at the time, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was a recipient of various briberies, and other illegal conduct. Let’s put it that way. And this came out. And Dennis Hastert didn’t do anything. He didn’t go and sue Vanity Fair. In fact, they didn’t really issue a real denial, and, as you know, he resigned a year later, and now he works actually for the Turkish lobby, that the Vanity Fair article named, as the place, one of the entities giving Mr. Hastert his bribes.

On a podcast on August 13, 2009, for Edmonds’ own site, Boiling Frogs, host Peter Collins and guest Philip Giraldi would also speak of the Hastert case in terms of certainties. “And some investigations have shown, that those small contributions that added up to a fairly significant amount of money were linked to Turkish interests,” says Collins, though no such links were established in the Rose article. “The fact is, it seems clear that Hastert was receiving large sums of money, in small bits, as you correctly describe it, from groups that were linked to the Turks,” says Giraldi, though no such thing had been made clear in the Rose piece or anywhere else. From “Podcast Show #3” (27:40-29:40):

COLLINS
Phil, next I’d like to ask you what you know about former Republican speaker Dennis Hastert. He was a congressman from Illinois, and after Newt Gingrich resigned, and then his replacement Livingston, had a short-lived speakership, because of a sex scandal of his own in the South, then Hastert was this compromise candidate. He ended up as speaker for a pretty long time, I think, seven or eight years, and something surfaced in his last re-election campaign, which is, that he received large amounts of money, but in very small, individual contributions that fell below the federal threshold requiring full disclosure on who the donors were. And some investigations have shown, that those small contributions that added up to a fairly significant amount of money were linked to Turkish interests. What more can you tell us about Dennis Hastert, and his relationships with both the American Turkish Council, the Turkish Government, and with AIPAC and Israel?

GIRALDI
Well certainly I’d defer to Sibel on this issue, because she’s really the expert on it. The fact is, it seems clear that Hastert was receiving large sums of money, in small bits, as you correctly describe it, from groups that were linked to the Turks. Hastert is now working for a lobbying firm in Washington, where he represents Turkish interests. So, basically this is the revolving door in Washington, where you engage in practices that are pretty shady while you’re a congressman and then you get out of Congress, and you sign up with a lobbying group, and you work for the same interest, but it’s all up front now, and you make a lot more money.

Giraldi would also seemingly try to reconcile Edmonds’ shifting claims, even when they were in sharp contrast with each other. In Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”, we have this passage about the American Turkish Council (ATC) and Brent Scowcroft:

Sibel also recalled hearing wiretaps indicating that Turkish Embassy targets frequently spoke to staff members at the A.T.C., one of the organizations the Dickersons allegedly wanted her and her husband to join. Sibel later told the O.I.G. she assumed that the A.T.C.’s board-which is chaired by Brent Scowcroft, President George H. W. Bush’s national-security adviser-knew nothing of the use to which it was being put. But the wiretaps suggested to her that the Washington office of the A.T.C. was being used as a front for criminal activity.

“Inconvenient Patriot” was published in 2005, and here Scowcroft is portrayed as a figure untouched by this vast scandal, an unwitting cover for the ATC. In “Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”, the interview with Philip Giraldi, Edmonds now claims that Scowcroft was working together with Turkish interests to wage war with Iraq before September 11, and split the country apart:

GIRALDI: So they were doing favors for other reasons. Both Feith and Perle were lobbyists for Turkey and also were involved with Israel on defense contracts, including some for Northrop Grumman, which Feith represented in Israel.

EDMONDS: They had arrangements with various companies, some of them members of the American Turkish Council. They had arrangements with Kissinger’s group, with Northrop Grumman, with former secretary of state James Baker’s group, and also with former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft.

The monitoring of the Turks picked up contacts with Feith, Wolfowitz, and Perle in the summer of 2001, four months before 9/11. They were discussing with the Turkish ambassador in Washington an arrangement whereby the U.S. would invade Iraq and divide the country. The UK would take the south, the rest would go to the U.S. They were negotiating what Turkey required in exchange for allowing an attack from Turkish soil. The Turks were very supportive, but wanted a three-part division of Iraq to include their own occupation of the Kurdish region. The three Defense Department officials said that would be more than they could agree to, but they continued daily communications to the ambassador and his defense attaché in an attempt to convince them to help.

Meanwhile Scowcroft, who was also the chairman of the American Turkish Council, Baker, Richard Armitage, and Grossman began negotiating separately for a possible Turkish protectorate. Nothing was decided, and then 9/11 took place.

Scowcroft was all for invading Iraq in 2001 and even wrote a paper for the Pentagon explaining why the Turkish northern front would be essential. I know Scowcroft came off as a hero to some for saying he was against the war, but he was very much for it until his client’s conditions were not met by the Bush administration.

Giraldi is then asked about this astonishing contradiction on Peter Horton’s podcast (the following is taken from “Gigantic Scandal!: The Sibel Edmonds Story”), and he cannot seem to answer it, so he dodges the question:

Horton: Now when it comes to Brent Scowcroft, this ties in I think with Greg Palast’s reporting that James Baker and them had a plan for what he called “a coup disguised as an invasion,” but basically: get rid of Hussein and his sons and replace them with the next “Ba’athist Mustache in line” I think is the way that Palast said it, and that then the neocons got more prominence and did their Iraq plan instead after September 11th. But on the issue of Scowcroft being tied with Baker and that kind of thing, that seems very plausible to me, but I reread David Rose’s piece from Vanity Fair in September, 2005, about Sibel last night, and he mentions there in context of Scowcroft, at least as Rose puts it in the article, that Sibel said that she assumed that Scowcroft didn’t have anything to do with this stuff, as far as all this criminality and espionage and so forth – that he was the Chair, or on the board or something like that, but that all this stuff was going on at the American Turkish Council on a much lower level, something like that. I wonder, Phil, do you think that her opinion has changed about that or that these discussions that Scowcroft had about Iraq and Turkey didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the low-level criminality stuff?

Giraldi: Well I think that we are talking about two different things here. I’m reading a little bit into the story but the fact is that what Scowcroft and Baker – being former Secretary of State – and these people were doing, is that they were negotiating at a very high level: nation to nation essentially, they were representing in a sense the U.S., even though they had no legal authority to do so. The other stuff, the basic level criminality, yeah I would be awfully surprised if Scowcroft and people like that would get their hands dirty with that sort of thing, so I think that we are looking at two different levels. There are a lot of people in ATC that were involved in this process who were implementers and who were kind of spear carriers, the Marc Grossmans, the people at the Pentagon, and then there were people like Scowcroft who were kind of above the fray.

In “For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets” (paywall) by Chris Gourlay, Jonathan Calvert, and Joe Lauria, Edmonds gives us the name of one member of the nuclear secrets ring who was actually indicted and convicted:

Edmonds says packages containing nuclear secrets were delivered by Turkish operatives, using their cover as members of the diplomatic and military community, to contacts at the Pakistani embassy in Washington.

Edmonds also claims that a number of senior officials in the Pentagon had helped Israeli and Turkish agents.

“The people provided lists of potential moles from Pentagon-related institutions who had access to databases concerning this information,” she said.

“The handlers, who were part of the diplomatic community, would then try to recruit those people to become moles for the network. The lists contained all their ‘hooking points’, which could be financial or sexual pressure points, their exact job in the Pentagon and what stuff they had access to.”

One of the Pentagon figures under investigation was Lawrence Franklin, a former Pentagon analyst, who was jailed in 2006 for passing US defence information to lobbyists and sharing classified information with an Israeli diplomat.

“He was one of the top people providing information and packages during 2000 and 2001,” she said.

Franklin is an interesting citation of someone who was passing nuclear secrets. Franklin was a Catholic and a slightly ridiculous man who apparently wanted the U.S. to focus on regime change in Iran, rather than Iraq, and decided to try to reach the head of the National Security Council, Elliot Abrams, via AIPAC. Franklin gave his account in Foreign Policy, with “My Secret Plan to Overthrow the Mullahs” and he would be profiled after prison in Forward, “Once Labeled An AIPAC Spy, Larry Franklin Tells His Story” by Nathan Guttman. He was not working in concert with Feith, but in opposition to his policy of a war with Iraq. That Franklin was trying to shift policy away from Iraq and towards Iran is stated in two stories before Franklin’s sentencing, “Pentagon Analyst Gets 12 Years for Disclosing Data” by David Johnston and “Pentagon Analyst Admits Sharing Secret Data” by Eric Lichtblau. If Franklin were a spy, he appears to be an incredibly incompetent one, who received no lavish compensation for his troubles, instead cleaning bathrooms in Roy Rodgers and parking cars after his prison stint. When Franklin showed the secret document to the AIPAC lobbyists (they read it, spoke to others about it, but were careful enough not to actually take it), it was part of an FBI sting of these lobbyists, and the document was a synthetic one, dealing not with nuclear secrets, but “a fake classified document alleging there was clear life-threatening danger posed to Israelis secretly operating in Iraq’s Kurdish region”, according to Guttman’s “Once Labeled An AIPAC Spy”. The information which the two lobbyists, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, were charged with disclosing had nothing to do with nuclear technology. “The indictment said,” according to “Disclosing Data”, that “the two men had disclosed classified information about a number of subjects, including American policy in Iran, terrorism in central Asia, Al Qaeda and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers apartment in Saudi Arabia, which killed 23 Americans, mainly members of the military.” There is no issue with disagreeing with Franklin or any of this reporting, but nothing in Lauria’s “West’s deadly nuclear secrets” even attempts to reconcile this image of a powerful nuclear secrets ring with the actual incompetent leaker Larry Franklin, supposedly “one of the top people providing information and packages during 2000 and 2001” according to Edmonds, who doesn’t even pass nuclear secrets.

When I write of a “network” which Sibel Edmonds uncovered, I do not think it does justice to the vastness of the entity that she unveiled, an entity which appeared to grow more and more vast with each year. In 2010, Edmonds would criticize Wikileaks in a post on her blog, “On Wikileaks Strategy: Too Many Hors D’oeuvres?” for not sharing their best material first: “Based on the well-established and well-known mainstream media attention curve, isn’t it self-defeating and damaging to begin the cables release with a jumble of highly inconsequential and insignificant documents with little or no implications? Why not use the peak media attention period for the most significant and highly explosive information with even greater implications?” One might ask the same question of Edmonds. Why did she not use her time on 60 Minutes – note that this was in 2002, before the Iraq war and before the re-classification order – to share the astonishing bombshell that in the summer of 2001 there were plans to invade Iraq? That Dennis Hastert was selling nuclear secrets? That Jan Schakowsky was the target of a blackmail attempt involving an affair with a female agent? Because, what, 60 Minutes would have no interest in a sex scandal?

What follows is a list of all the details of this octopus which Edmonds has so far revealed, alongside the source in which they were mentioned:

  • Mark Grossman, ambassador to Turkey (1994-1997), Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (1997-2001), Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs (2001-2002) did favors for the Turkish government and criminal groups while at the State Department, and was once paid off with $14,000 in cash for one of these favors. Grossman also helped maintain a network of moles in government labs and defense installations such as Los Alamos, in order to steal nuclear technology and nuclear material. Grossman also was a conduit for money and defense secrets between congress members and agents of foreign governments – Israel, Turkey, and Pakistan. Air Force Major Douglas Dickcerson (husband of Melek Can Dickerson) worked alongside Grossman in many of his ventures and had to leave Turkey due to the Susurluk scandal (an entry in wikipedia on the subject: “Susurluk scandal”), which had to do with government involvement in the heroin trade. Though she never gives the exact reason why, presumably Grossman and Dickerson had to leave Turkey due to their being active players in this controversy. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?” and “For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets” where the unnamed official who set up a network of moles is Grossman)
  • that Marc Grossman told Turkish diplomats that Brewster Jennings was a CIA front used to entrap those trying to buy nuclear secrets, and warned them away from any dealings with the company. Brewster Jennings was in fact used by Valerie Plame as part of her non-official cover. Though Jennings had revealed the identity of Brewster Jennings in the summer of 2001, Edmonds would make this revelation only years after Valerie Plame’s cover was broken and knowledge of Brewster Jennings was public. (Brewster Jennings and Marc Grossman are brought up on page 60 of “Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”, the exposure of Brewtser Jennings is discussed in “Leak of Agent’s Name Causes Exposure of CIA Front Firm” by Walter Pincus and Mike Allen, in pdf format as part of the inquiry into Scooter Libby)
  • that Marc Grossman led an operation where mujahideen fighters from East Turkestan were moved into Chechnya. This was done with the help of the Saudis, the Pakistanis, and the Bin Laden family. The other half of the operation involved moving drugs from Turkey into Belgium via NATO planes. Drugs were also flown into the United States from Belgium via military planes, and some drugs were transported in through Turkish diplomats carrying suitcases full of heroin. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • “We have been funding terrorist groups like Chechens. Any kind of activities that have been carried out, major ones, between 1996 and 2001, let’s say be major Chechen terrorists, were directly under our order, our funding, our arming, and our direction.” — Sibel Edmonds, on “US government needs to keep the fear factor alive” (6:25-6:43)
  • that Marc Grossman knew a journalist at the New York Times who would publish stories exactly according to what he and Turkey wanted. He would fax over a story and he would print it. An example was given of a story published in 2000 on helicopter sales to Turkey. I have found no such story. The closest that I was able to find was “U.S. Helicopter Sale to Turkey Hits Snag” by Raymond Bonner, from 1996. Bonner is an interesting choice for such a conduit, since he is not exactly a sycophantic lackey for U.S. foreign policy, having written Weakness & Deceit: U.S. Policy and El Salvador, which is highly critical of the savage government the U.S. supported in that country. (“Gigantic Scandal!: The Sibel Edmonds Story”, an interview with Joe Lauria and Philip Giraldi, conducted by Scott Horton)
  • that the State Department blocked investigations into individuals and entities connected with Israel, Pakistan, and Turkey (“Interview with Sibel Edmonds by David Swanson”)
  • that Dennis Hastert got covert campaign funding via the American Turkish Council and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, made through small donations that would not have to be itemized in public filings. In return, Hastert agreed to withdraw a resolution which designated the killing of Armenians in turkey between 1915 and 1923 as genocide. (“An Inconvenient Patriot”)
  • Tom Lantos, the late congressman from California was part of a circle in congress which passed on defense secrets, with Lantos giving away the most. Lantos would pass the information to Israeli agents, who would in turn pass it on to Turkey, which would pass on the leftovers to Pakistan. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • Dan Burton, Bob Livingston, Steve Solarz, along with Dennis Hastert, were also part of this circle. They received illegal campaign contributions from the Turkish lobby, they received bribes in return for favors, and they laundered money. (“Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”)
  • that Richard Perle and Douglas Feith would pass on information about employees in the Pentagon and the state department so these individuals might be manipulated or blackmailed for classified information. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • that there was a potential arrangement made in 2001 where the U.S. would invade Iraq and divide the country, with the U.K. taking the South and the U.S. getting the rest. Turkey was supportive, but wanted to be able to take over the Kurdish region. Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle had these discussions with the Turkish ambassador, while Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, Richard Armitage, and Mark Grossman negotiated the possibility of a Turkish protectorate. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • that Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky was seduced and blackmailed by a female Turkish spy. The seduction took place at the funeral for Schakowsky’s mother. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • that professor Sabri Sayari of Georgetown University has a network of recruits who provide him classified secrets. Sayari set up a similar network at the RAND Corporation. “Professor Sabri Sayari in Georgetown University who has stole[n] tens of millions of dollars worth of secrets by actually recruiting people there” (page 206 of “Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”)
  • that the FBI received in-depth information and advance warning of the 9/11 attacks from French intelligence, but chose to do nothing9. The FBI also received a warning from a reliable Iranian source, who in turn had source in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who passed on the information that Bin Laden was planning to attack American cities very soon, and using planes as weapons. Again, the FBI ignored this information10. (Classified Woman)
  • she would eventually explicitly state that she believed that 9/11 was allowed to happen by the federal government, for their own purposes. Q: “Do you think that the government purposefully ignored intelligence because they wanted 9/11 to happen?” Edmonds: “Absolutely. I would say certain elements within our government absolutely, intentionally, purposefully ignored and let it happen.”11
  • that her supervisor at the FBI, Mike Feghali, obtained his position through bullying and litigation, and sold the identities of FBI informants for cash (Classified Woman)

My intemperate reaction to these accusations, especially after seeing all the massive inconsistencies and discrepancies in the accounts of Sibel Edmonds of her time at the FBI, was astonishment, disgust, and a cold kind of anger. Do you realize, Ms. Edmonds, that if anyone had believed you that any one of these people had given away nuclear secrets that they might have gone to jail for about a century or so? That they would have faced a criminal prosecution that would make what you dealt with look like a lazy Sunday morning? That if anyone in the mainstream media had given credence to your charges that several lives would have been destroyed? Do you have any conscience at all?

At a more analytical remove, what we are seeing here is an undiluted paranoid vision, the paranoid sensibility animating all things. I write at a time when it is reasonable to think that Jews and Muslims will despise each other for all eternity, yet they found a happy elysium of co-operation in the imagination of Sibel Edmonds. In the book Infiltration, when Muslims aren’t enthusiastically celebrating September 11th, they’re secretly taking over the government. “Is Israel the Sole Determinant of US Presidential Elections?”, Edmonds asked on April 2011, and this piece was about how the other half of the pair was secretly taking over the country, referred to, without apology, as an usurping alien other:

It is pretty straightforward: Mr. President if you do A, we won’t let you get reelected, but if you do B, we will; yes, we have that much power and influence. The condition put on this one way negotiation has nothing to do with the topic I am discussing here. Period. In this case it is about Jonathan Pollard, the convicted Israeli spy who betrayed his nation and endangered lives. It could very well be about Iran: Mr. Obama you either attack or advocate for an attack on country X, and we’ll ensure you get reelected, or, stand against it, and lose your chance of getting reelected. Why? Because ‘we‘ have that power. Because ‘we‘ perceive country X as a threat to ‘us,’, and ‘we‘ want you to put your nation at war for ‘us.’ Now you may say, ‘hey, that’s a ludicrous empty threat! Give or take two percent of the voting population can’t carry that level of influence over a United States President!‘ And, you will be wrong; flat out wrong. It is true that the population of American adherents of Judaism was around 5 million, 1.7% of the total US population in 2007, and including those who identify themselves culturally as Jewish (but not necessarily religiously), around 2.2% as of 2008. But who ever claimed that these things are all about size, and that only size matters?!!! If you don’t have the size you go about compensating for it; don’t you? Well, that’s exactly what ‘they‘ have been doing, and doing successfully.

Good for them. Terrible for us whom I am directing this article to. This is about us, the American voters. You may say, ‘hey, I ain’t got the money, and I ain’t got the position or means necessary to influence the media. So I can neither buy politicians nor use the media marketing platform!

And my response to you is:  I am not asking you to. All I am doing here is letting you see what I see, and letting you know what is out there in front of us; that is, if you haven’t already seen and don’t already know. Then, I’ll let you decide for yourself: Do I sit back, buy the things the media is marketing and selling, and let ‘them‘ shape my vote easily? Or do I treat the media’s marketing campaign as I do Nike’s super performance ads when it comes to deciding on the candidate who will be getting my vote? Do I become enamored of the candidates with the glitziest and fanciest campaigns, or, do I direct my attention to the ones’ whose pockets have been left empty by foreign and special interests?

After all, it is your vote, and I am not going to spend more words or time trying to shape it, so please don’t let ‘them‘ either.

In the world described by Sibel Edmonds, there is an all powerful, near invisible octopus, which exists behind every facade, that is god-like in its power and god-like in its connection with belief. Tom Lantos was well known for his constant work to have Congress recognize the Armenian Genocide, yet somehow he is in the pay of the Turkish government – and though this very government is supposedly bribing other members of Congress to stop the Armenian Genocide resolution, they are indifferent on this matter with Lantos. To ask why is like asking in a theocracy why the planetary orbit calculations make no sense in a geocentric universe – in a theocracy, they must be made to make sense. If our prayers do not bring about rain or stop the flooding, the issue is not that prayer has no connection with these events, but that we have not prayed in the proper fashion. If Edmonds’ description of a blackmail plot involving Jan Schakowsky gets certain details laughably wrong, the problem is not that Sibel Edmonds has no idea of what she’s talking about, but that Schakowsky refuses to admit her complicity. That Edmonds continued to have listeners and believers after these mis-steps can be likened to a cult leader whose adherents find excuses and justifications for all the miracles that fail. Ron Unz wanted an investigation into the allegations of Sibel Edmonds. Well, Mr. Unz, you now have your answer. Sibel Edmonds appears to be a sociopathic fabulist. Did you ask because it was an answer, whatever the answer might be, you wanted, or did you ask because you wanted a specific one?

Sibel Edmonds told a fascinating story where agents were constantly detecting vulnerabilities in order to hook their prey. The essential vulnerability of the mark, as any conman – or conwoman – knows, is an obvious and powerful one. The essential vulnerability is their desire to believe, and keep believing. And the best conmen – and conwomen – are those who actually believe in their own lunatic schemes.

(Header image features stills copyright CBS Corporation.)

(Originally, this post said that Edmonds worked eight hours on her last day; this was edited on July 10, 2014, to make clear that she worked six hours, from ten to four, as she states in Classified Woman. In footnote #6, a link to a Times article on the original re-classification of material related to the Edmonds case was also added on July 10, 2014. The bullet point on Marc Grossman and Raymond Bonner was added on July 10, 2014 as well. On July 11, 2014, the following changes were made: the detail on the OIG report’s limited scope was added, as was the fact that Edmonds made the allegation that Muslim translators celebrated September 11 to multiple media sources, but not to the OIG; the point was added on the significance of Edmonds remembering February 14 as the date on which her computer was examined; the mention in Infiltration of Edmonds earning her Ph.D. along with supporting footnote #7; material from “Inconvenient Patriot” was added on the vote on the Armenian Genocide resolution, along with accompanying footnote #8; the section on surveilled targets using codes, according to Edmonds from the book Infiltration, was added; various spelling fixes were made. On July 12th, the bullet point on Edmonds’ statement that 9/11 involved a government cover-up, along with the accompanying footnote, was added.)

FOOTNOTES

1 These details on the Schmidt lawsuit are taken from “Jean Schmidt defamation suit in 3rd year” by Alex Isenstadt in Politico and “Schmidt Drops Lawsuit” by Kevin Osborne in Citybeat Cincinnati.

2 This quote is taken from “Ohio’s not-so-mean Jean Schmidt” by Walter Shapiro.

3 From “Jean Schmidt defamation suit in 3rd year” by Alex Isenstadt.

4 From “Covering Up the Coverage – The American Media’s Complicit Failure to Investigate and Report on the Sibel Edmonds Case” by Daniel Ellsberg:

For the last two weeks — one could say, for years — the major American media have been guilty of ignoring entirely the allegations of the courageous and highly credible source Sibel Edmonds, quoted in the London Times on January 6, 2008 in a front-page story that was front-page news in much of the rest of the world but was not reported in a single American newspaper or network. It is up to readers to demand that this culpable silent treatment end.

5 From “Gigantic Scandal!: The Sibel Edmonds Story”, a transcript of an interview with Joe Lauria and Philip Giraldi, conducted by Scott Horton:

Lauria: Well this is obviously the biggest question in this entire story: is this believable or not? And it wasn’t easy to corroborate that, it is very difficult to corroborate this, and this is probably one of the reasons the large publications – and I applaud the American Conservative for running this piece, and I think Phil did a terrific job in the editing of it is very tight, and I’ll talk a little more about that later – but I think one of the difficulties is corroborating what she is talking about. Either Sibel Edmonds is one of the great actresses of our time, or she has her finger on a story of immense proportions that is perhaps so immense that it is scaring the hell out of a lot of people. Not only the people involved, but people who might be dependent on people who are involved, or are, in all sorts of ways, tied to this activity, and lots of things that we may not even know about, that Sibel doesn’t even know about. This is one corner of perhaps a wide… who knows?… activities, similar activities that go on in our country.

6 From Infiltration, here is the mention of a recently earned Ph.D. (page 165):

Though her tale may sound like something out of a spy thriller, there’s nothing fictional about it, U.S. officials say. Grassley, a leading member of the Judiciary Committee and noted FBI watchdog calls Edmonds, who recently earned a Ph.D. and holds degrees in both criminal justice and public policy, “very credible…And the reason I feel she’s very credible is because the people in the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story” during closed-session hearings on the Hill.

From Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”:

Sibel enrolled at a college in Maryland, where she studied English and hotel management; later, she received bachelor’s degrees at George Washington University in criminal justice and psychology, and worked with juvenile offenders. In 1992, at age 22, she had married Matthew Edmonds, a divorced retail-technology consultant who had lived in Virginia all his life.

From the “About” page of her Boiling Frogs website:

Ms. Edmonds has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University, and AA degree in Science from NVCC. She is certified as a Court Appointed Special Advocate and as an instructor for the Women’s Domestic Violence Program. She is fluent in Turkish, Farsi and Azerbaijani.

7 From “Administration Blinks; Admits Retroactively Classified Information Not Harmful to National Security”, a press release from the ACLU:

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department admitted today that information it had retroactively classified could be released to the public and did not pose a threat to national security. The American Civil Liberties Union said the revelation could aid government whistleblowers in their efforts to fight unlawful dismissals.

“The Justice Department’s long-overdue admission goes to the core of the ACLU’s allegations that the government is going all out to silence whistleblowers to protect itself from political embarrassment,” said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson, who is representing former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds in a lawsuit challenging her termination. “This is hardly an isolated case, as numerous national security whistleblowers can attest. The government is taking extreme steps to shield itself while gambling with our safety.”

A piece on the original re-classification of the material is “Material Given to Congress in 2002 Is Now Classified” by Eric Lichtblau.

8 If anything this understates this explicit overt pressure against this resolution. Elizabeth Kolbert conveys this pressure well in the opening paragraph of “Dead Reckoning”:

On September 14, 2000, Representatives George Radanovich, Republican of California, and David Bonior, Democrat of Michigan, introduced a House resolution-later to be known as H.R. 596-on the slaughter of the Armenians. The measure urged the President, in dealing with the matter, to demonstrate “appropriate understanding and sensitivity.” It further instructed him on how to phrase his annual message on the Armenian Day of Remembrance: the President should refer to the atrocities as “genocide.” The bill was sent to the International Relations Committee and immediately came under attack. State Department officials reminded the committee that it was U.S. policy to “respect the Turkish government’s assertions that, although many ethnic Armenians died during World War I, no genocide took place.” Expanding on this theme, Secretary of Defense William Cohen, in a letter to Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the House, wrote that while he in no way wanted to “downplay the Armenian tragedy . . . passing judgment on this history through legislation could have a negative impact on Turkish-Armenian relations and on our security interests in the region.” After committee members voted, on October 3rd, to send H.R. 596 to the floor, Turkish officials warned that negotiations with an American defense contractor, Bell Textron, over four and a half billion dollars’ worth of attack helicopters were in jeopardy. On October 5th, the leaders of all five parties in the Turkish parliament issued a joint statement threatening to deny the U.S. access to an airbase in Incirlik, which it was using to patrol northern Iraq. Finally, on October 19th, just a few hours before H.R. 596 was scheduled to be debated in the House, Hastert pulled it from the agenda. He had, he said, been informed by President Clinton that passage of the resolution could “risk the lives of Americans.”

The letters from Bill Cohen and others from the state department can be found in “106-933 Affirmation Of The United States Record On The Armenian Genocide Resolution”:

Hon. J. DENNIS HASTERT,
Speaker, House of Representatives
Washington, DC.

DEAR MR. SPEAKER: I appreciated the opportunity to speak with you on H. Res. 398, the United States Training on and Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Resolution. As we discussed, I am concerned with the unintended harm passage of this Resolution could have on our efforts to build peace and stability in the region.

In no way do I mean to downplay the Armenian tragedy. In recognition of that suffering, the U.S. Government has a tradition of commemorating Armenian Remembrance Day each April 24, mourning the loss of innumerable Armenian lives and challenging all Americans to recommit themselves to ensuring that such events never again happen.

However, passing judgment on this history through legislation could have a negative impact on Turkish-Armenian relations and on our security interests in the region, H. Res. 398 would complicate our efforts to protect our interests in the region and sustain our positive relationship with Turkey; a strong and strategic ally.

Again, I appreciated the opportunity to talk with you about this important issue. Please let me know if I can provide any further information to you on this manner.

Sincerely,

BILL COHEN.

The letter from Bill Clinton can be found at the Armenian National Committee of America:

Dear Mr. Speaker:

I am writing to express my deep concern about H. Res. 596, dealing with the tragic events in eastern Anatolia under Ottoman rule in the years 1915-1923.

Every year on April 24, I have commemorated Armenian Remembrance Day, mourning the deportations and massacres of innocent Armenians during that era. And every year, I have challenged all Americans to recommit themselves to ensuring that such horrors never occur again.

However, I am deeply concerned that consideration of H. Res. 596 at this time could have far-reaching negative consequences for the United States.

We have significant interests in this troubled region of the world: containing the threat posed by East and Central Asia, stabilizing the Balkans, and developing new sources of energy. Consideration of the resolution at this sensitive time will negatively affect those interests and could undermine efforts to encourage improved relations between Armenia and Turkey — the very goal the sponsors of this Resolution seek to advance.

I fully understand how strongly both Turkey and Armenia feel about this issue. Ultimately, this painful matter can only be resolved by both sides examining the past together.

I urge you in the strongest terms not to bring this Resolution to the floor at this time.

Sincerely,

[signed]

Bill Clinton

9 From Classified Woman:

About half an hour later, Sarshar, Amin, and Mariana, a French translator in her early thirties, stopped by my desk. “Mariana here also has an interesting nine eleven story, a major case,” Sarshar began. “Come on, Marie, tell Sibel.”

Mariana didn’t seem too happy to be dragged into this. She rolled her eyes. “In late June-two thousand one, that is-the French Intelligence contacted us, the FBI, with a warning of upcoming attacks. They had intercepted intelligence that showed planning for attacks in the U.S. via airplanes. They also provided us with some names: suspects.” She sighed. “The FBI took it seriously; they sent me to France with a couple of CT [counterterrorism] and CI [counterintelligence] agents … The French were sharing everything; they gave us everything they had. Trust me, this was specific information. Later, somehow, FBI HQ chose to do nothing about it. As far as I know, it went up to the White House. It made it into one of their national security advisor’s briefings, but … nothing.”

I looked at her, then to Sarshar and Amin. “So … what you are going to do about this? We need to do something!”

Mariana shrugged. “It’s none of our business. I’m sorry I even talked about this case, I shouldn’t have. Nine eleven freaked me out. I couldn’t stop thinking about this.” She turned around and mumbled, “Just leave me out of this. The bureau may have its own reasons to close this case permanently.” Then she walked away.

These two major incidents were my first experiences with the FBI’s intentional cover-up and blocking of 9/11-related information, evidence and cases. During the next four months, I would stumble on other cases that involved similar blockings and cover-ups.

One such case involved a foreign network-from a so-called allied country-in the United States that was under FBI counterintelligence surveillance. Those communications I translated involved the selling of U.S. nuclear information, obtained by extortion and bribery, to two foreign individuals from another ally country. I knew, from a previous case, that the two individuals purchasing this information and material had connections to a particular terrorist financial institution with direct ties to 9/11 and certain Saudis. As the translator in both cases, I knew something that the agents in each separate case couldn’t possibly have seen. There was a connection they didn’t know about.

Despite my attempt to notify the two FBI field offices and the agents involved in both operations, the bureau, under pressure from the Department of State, prevented this or any such notification from taking place. Furthermore, they shut down one of the two operations to protect the so-called ally country.

10 From Classified Woman:

Sarshar [Behrooz Sarshar, a Farsi translator] got up and grabbed a file from his desk drawer, then came back and sat down. “Sit tight. What you will hear and see will blow your mind.”

Sarshar then began to tell me about the Iranian informant.

The story began in the early 1990s. The bureau hired an Iranian man who had been the head of SAVAK (Iran’s main intelligence agency) as a reliable source on its criminal, counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations and investigations. The man was very good at what he did and had established a large number of sources and informants in strategically important areas within Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Notably, he managed intelligence-gathering operations in Sistan and Baluchistan, two semi-independent regions on the border with Afghanistan.

Once on the payroll, he began providing extremely useful and reliable information. The bureau was so pleased with his performance that it began using him both as an informant and as an asset. On a regular basis, almost monthly, agents from the FBI HQ and WFO would meet with him in a location outside the bureau to obtain information and intel on various ongoing operations and investigations.

The agents needed an interpreter for these regular monthly meetings, Sarshar explained, which is where he and Amin came in. “Around the end of April, two thousand one,” he told me, “I was asked to accompany two special agents from the FBI-WFO … to a meeting arranged with this informant … We met in a park and spent nearly an hour discussing the case, asking detailed questions, and of course, with me translating back and forth. Once we were finished with the session and ready to head back to the WFO, the informant urged us to stay for a few minutes and listen to something very important and alarming he had recently received from his sources.”

According to Sarshar, the informant then proceeded to tell them, “Listen, I was recently contacted by two extremely reliable and long-term sources, one in Afghanistan, the other in Pakistan’s border region with Afghanistan. In the past, these guys had provided me with inside information and intelligence that was extremely hard to come by, considering the tightly based networks and groups they were able to enter and penetrate. They notified me that an active mujahideen group led by Bin Laden had issued an order to attack certain targets in the United States, and were planning the attack as we spoke.” Here, Sarshar explained, the agents seemed very alarmed, since their main unit of operation was under the WFO Counterterrorism division. All of them took notes.

The informant continued, “According to my guys, Bin Laden’s group is planning a massive terrorist attack in the United States. The order has been issued. They are targeting major cities, big metropolitan cities; they think four or five cities: New York City, Chicago, Washington, DC, and San Francisco; possibly Los Angeles or Las Vegas. They will use airplanes to carry out the attacks. They said that some of the individuals involved in carrying this out are already in the United States. They are here in the U.S., living among us, and I believe some in U.S. government already know about all of this.”

The informant was asked about specific dates, and whether they would use airplanes, bombs or hijacking; did he know?

“No specific dates,” came the reply, “not any that they were aware of. However, they said the general time frame was characterized as ‘very soon.’ They think within the next two or three months…. As far as how they are going to use the planes to attack, your guess is as good as mine. My bet, it will be bombs: planting bombs inside these planes, maybe the cargo, then have them blown up over the populated cities.”

Sarshar took notes in Farsi and later translated them verbatim. The informant urged them to report and act on this immediately, adding that Bin Laden had backing and experts. “If I were you guys, I’d take this extremely seriously. If I had the same position I had in SAVAK, I’d put all my men on this around the clock. I can vouch for my sources, their reliability. Make sure you put this in the hands of the top guys in Counterterrorism.”

The agents discussed the best person to whom they should submit this warning and decided on Special Agent in Charge Thomas Frields, who was in charge of the WFO Counterterrorism division.

Once back at the office, Sarshar completed his translation and the agents filled out the necessary 302 forms for their formal report. (The 302 forms are used to report information gathered from assets and informants.) Two sets of 302 forms were filed: one for the ongoing criminal case and the other on the warning, as information related to counterterrorism operations. Sarshar coordinated with the agents for the final report and kept his own set of records. They submitted the warning report to SAC Frields with a note on the top reading VERY URGENT.

Nobody heard back from Frields or the Counterterrorism division. No one asked for any follow-ups or additional information. Two months went by. Around the end of June 2001, Sarshar met with the agents and the Iranian informant again. When they had completed their business, the Iranian asked about the warning he had passed along to them, now two months old, whether it had been reported to the higher-ups. He was told it had been. The informant, now animated, explained that he’d heard back from his source, who “swore the attack was on its way; any time now, a month or two, max” and asked point-blank, “Are they going to do something about it?”

The agent’s response was, “I know, I hear what you’re saying, man, but doing something about this won’t be up to us. Plus, we don’t have enough information to take any action here. We don’t know when, how, or exactly where. The only thing we have is: Bin Laden, five cities, and airplanes. That ain’t enough.”

The informant went on, “I’ve been thinking about this, trying to make more sense out of it myself. The source mumbled something about tall buildings. Maybe they will blow up the plane over some tall buildings? I don’t know…. Maybe the FBI can get more specifics from the Pakistanis, ISI. Have they tried? After all, they are your guys; and they know all about this.”

The agents, exasperated and impatient, told him they reported it and now it would be up to those in charge. When they were leaving, the informant yelled in Farsi, “Why don’t you tell the CIA? Tell the White House! Don’t let them sit on this until it is too late …”

Sarshar asked one of the agents if he thought sharing this with other agencies might be a good idea. As Sarshar described it, the agent rolled his eyes. “Not up to us, Behrooz. As far as the White House goes, the HQ guys will include it in their briefings; I’m sure they’ve already done so. Frields is obligated to submit what he got, everything he gets under Counterterrorism, to the HQ guys in charge of White House national security briefings. He always does. So, the White House and other agencies have already heard about this. Let’s drop this, man, will ya?”

He told me, “That was the last time we ever discussed this case before the nine eleven attacks took place. The only other person I told this to and showed the 302 forms and the translation report to, before September eleven, was Amin here. Then, on that Tuesday morning on September eleven, everything came back to me and hit me on the head like several tons of bricks … we were warned about this. We were told, very specifically.”

A very different version of this source and what information he gave in “As U.S. steps up investigation, Iran denies assisting Al Qaeda” by John Crewdson, specific page three:

The interview followed the standard FBI format. The agents posed their questions in English, which were then translated into Farsi. The Asset’s replies were translated back into English as the agents took notes.

According to the law enforcement official, “there was talk about terrorists and planes,” but no mention of when or where the attacks might take place.

It was the FBI agents’ impression, the official said, that the target of the attacks could be “possibly here, but more probably overseas.” The Asset also reported having heard a rumor that a plane would be hijacked to Afghanistan, the official said.

The FBI’s translator, a former Iranian police colonel named Behrooz Sarshar, does not recall any mention of a hijacking to Afghanistan. But Sarshar, then a career FBI employee assigned to the translation section of the bureau’s Washington field office, does remember the Asset saying the attacks might take place in the U.S. or Europe, and also that the terrorist-pilots were “under training.”

After checking his notes from the interview, Sarshar said that, in addition to sources in Iran, the Asset had mentioned picking up information from Afghanistan and Hamburg.

Sarshar describes the Asset as part of an informal worldwide network of former Iranian intelligence officers who have remained in close touch after abandoning their homeland for Europe, Asia and the U.S., where many found work with Western police and intelligence services.

Some members of the network still travel back and forth to Iran, Sarshar said, or maintain contact with colleagues there via telephone and e-mail while waiting for the revolutionary Iranian government to fall.

According to Sarshar, the two FBI agents who interviewed the Asset were not visibly surprised by his report. It was his impression, Sarshar said, that the agents weren’t sure whether to believe their informant, and that even the Asset wasn’t convinced his information was true.

A few weeks after the initial interview, however, the agents and Sarshar paid a second visit to the Asset, who Sarshar said repeated essentially the same story.

11 From “Government Allowed 9/11 | Interview with Sibel Edmonds” (5:17-6:46):

INTERVIEWER
Do you think that the government purposefully ignored intelligence because they wanted 9/11 to happen?

EDMONDS
Absolutely. I would say certain elements within our government absolutely, intentionally, purposefully ignored and let it happen. And they haven’t been held accountable, and what we have had, all the shenanigans from the 9/11 Commission, or the Congressional inquiries, none of them went into these topics, in these established cases. If you look at the number of high level national security whistleblowers who were censured out of congressional, so-called, investigations or the so-called 9/11 hearings, that includes people like the FBI, retired FBI agent Colleen Rawley, you’re looking at Anthony Schaeffer, you’re looking at dozens of people, who have come forward, they came forward, they went to Congress, they went to the 9/11 Commission, they went to the media, and they were simply ignored. And a lot of these reported cases have been established over the years, in bits and pieces, and that’s exactly what the establishment, and what the media intended in the first place. Not to cover it all up, purposefully and forever, to just let it get out in little bits and pieces, so you won’t get that needed outrage from the public, to demand accountability, to demand answers.

This answer from a 2012 book tour interview was a contrast to 2009, when she was on a podcast hosted by Brad Friedman, and she was far more cautious in her analysis. From “Guest Hosting ‘Mike Malloy Show’ (Wednesday)”, Part Two (1:50-5:32):

CALLER
Knowing the criminals that we had in the Bush-Cheney administration, or we had, in the Bush-Cheney administration, and many Americans questioning 9-11, I gotta ask the question, does Sibel…what are her thoughts on 9-11 possibly being an inside job?

FRIEDMAN
Thank you, Christina, I won’t tell your bosses that you’re listening to K-TALK instead of your own station. Thanks Christine. [CHRISTINE: Thank you.] Alright Sibel, that’s a question that comes up for me the most, 9/11 was an inside job. What do you think?

EDMONDS
Well, as I have done, for the past seven, eight, years, I have basically stopped with what I know firsthand directly. My own knowledge, based on my own experience, based on what I obtained, which is not a lot, but: it’s extremely important. And to answer the question, was it an inside job?, it would be first of all preposterous for me to make that call. But what I can tell you, is based on what we know already, and these are the confirmed cases, you’re going to have Colleen Rowley on your show [FRIEDMAN: Yes, coming up tomorrow.], well exactly, you look at her, her case, and then you look at the Phoenix memo, the other FBI agent in Phoenix office, the Phoenix field office, and then you look at the FBI agent Wright, in Chicago, and you look at that case, and I don’t know if you read James Bamford’s latest book, what we obtained from Yemen, and I say “obtained” before September 11, because we were following two of these hijackers in- are you there? [FRIEDMAN: Yes.] Yemen, you put all this information that came from various agencies in one place, and you look at it, and you say, wow, you know it’s very easy to write things off when you have one or two slip-ups, you know, attribute certain things to bureaucratic bungling, but it goes beyond that. Now, what is that? Now, I wouldn’t be able to answer that question, but what I did answer is, we had that 9/11 Commission that was formed, and first we had Henry Kissinger appointed chairman of it [laughs], which tells you what they had in mind, what kind of commission they had in mind, which was going to be cosmetic, it was pretty obvious. And then we had the final commission, a bunch of people with conflict of interests, and we didn’t get anything, as you see, people have been gagged, a lot of things have been classified, and you would think, why would people go so far to cover up bureaucratic bungling? Again, this doesn’t mean, hey, this was an inside job, but what it tells you is there are a lot of things that we don’t know, there are a lot of things that they, the government, our government, the establishment, don’t want us to know. I mean, the recent thing that just came out, with the case against Saudi Arabia, with the 9/11 family members, well, today or yesterday, it made it to the front page of the New York Times, with Eric Lichtblau, okay, so now the government, our government, the justice department under Obama, is going again and saying “no, you can’t get this information,” because he wants to protect Saudi Arabia. Well, protect against what? So, those are the questions that have not been answered and those questions that have been answered, nothing has been done about it, and no explanation has been given to us, so we have all these issues, and there is no simple answer, but one simple answer is, yes, we are facing a lot of cover-up. And I want to know why, and I’m sure you want to know why too.

FRIEDMAN
Nah, I don’t really care. [they both laugh]

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