It has been almost five years now since former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds first contacted the Senate Judiciary Committee to reveal the shocking tale of Turkish bribery of high-level U.S. officials. In that time span, Edmonds has been misled by members of Congress on several occasions: Numerous promises have been made to the whistleblower by the Senate Judiciary Committee that her allegations would be exposed in public hearings. Those promises have rung hollow.
Now, with the Democratic victory in Congressional elections, coupled with revelations that many of the tapes she translated were probably obtained illegally through FISA warrants , the Turkish translator’s case has gained new relevance. Edmonds recently presented to Congress her petition of 15,000 individual signatures and the support of 30 organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), OMB Watch, Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Government Accountability Project (GAP), People for the American Way, and the Liberty Coalition, who have sponsored this petition and joined her campaign. Furthermore, Edmonds has received assurances that the House Government Reform Committee will hold hearings. And one would hope that with a very good public servant, Henry Waxman, chairing the Government Reform Committee, a full public airing of Ms. Edmonds’ allegations would be a foregone conclusion.
Unfortunately, time and time again the Congress has proven that, absent public pressure, a case like that of Turkey’s corruption of U.S. government officials will not automatically receive its due attention. And although the Democrats’ recent rise to power brings new hope, it won’t automatically guarantee justice. Unlike the numerous Iraq War investigations that Waxman and other Democrats in Congress are planning, the issues brought up by Sibel Edmonds may tarnish the images not just of the Bush Administration, but also of certain elements of the Clinton Administration. Further complicating matters is that members of both political parties in Congress were also allegedly the recipient of Turkish gratuities: When a country like Turkey decides to engage in illegal espionage and lobbying, it spreads its funds generously. And though Edmonds’ case involves the nuclear black market, not even the potential of a nuke reaching American soil is guaranteed to motivate our public servants, especially when they fear some of the muck might splatter on their own Party.
One must also recall the case of another famous whistleblower from years past to fully understand the former FBI linguist’s dilemma. While it is well-known that Daniel Ellsberg ‘leaked’ the Pentagon Papers to the press in order to expose the lies used to mislead the country into Vietnam, what is not as well known is the fact that Ellsberg first presented this information to representatives of Congress- including hallowed Democrats like William Fulbright. According to Ellsberg, Fulbright and other Democrats in Congress feared bureaucratic retribution from the Nixon Administration and strung Ellsberg along with promises for almost two years. It was only because of the foot dragging by liberal Democrats that Ellsberg was finally forced to go to the New York Times.
In Edmonds’ case, even the press might not be much of an option. The mainstream media has continually ignored each shocking new revelation surrounding her tenure at the FBI. To be sure, certain outlets have touched parts of the story, from CBS 60 Minutes’ “Lost in Translation” to Vanity Fair’s “An Inconvenient Patriot”, but I am told many other journalists have sat on information given to them by Edmonds and others. Such information could have blown her case wide open by now. In frustration, Sibel Edmonds has turned to the activists and journalists in the blogosphere in order to build momentum for hearings in the Congress.
She is correct to do so. When all is said and done, exposing Edmonds’ charges and curbing the abuse of the state secrets privilege will only happen with grassroots pressure. Simply electing Democrats will not result in uncovering and rooting out this kind of rank corruption in the Executive Branch and Congress. Similarly, electing the right folks has not resulted in a rapid withdrawal from Iraq. The only real hope for making these hearings happen is to follow-up on the Democratic electoral victory by holding the politicians’ feet to the fire. As Ellsberg is fond of saying, they may not see the light, but they’ll feel the heat.
Let’s make them feel the heat.
MIKE MEJIA is a freelance writer with a Master’s in International Policy Studies from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, where he specialized in International Trade and Arms Proliferation. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.