Saturday, July 21, 2007

WaPo: "Sensational story of Sibel Edmonds" almost uniformly ignored by U.S. press.

Washington Post:
"(Sibel) Edmonds's story has been almost uniformly ignored in the U.S. daily press. "

That's certainly true. Why?

One possible explanation is that the heart of Edmonds's story remains unconfirmed.

That's not true. Senator Charles Grassley said:
"Absolutely, she's credible. And the reason I feel she's very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story."

Grassley made that statement in 2002. The WaPo article is from 2004. And we've learnt a lot since then.


The WaPo article, published in the "World Opinion Roundup" section, April 8 2004, began thusly:

The sensational story of Sibel Edmonds illuminates the world of difference between the international online media and the U.S. press.

Edmonds is a 33-year-old former FBI translator whose February allegations to the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks directly challenge the credibility of the commission's star witness, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. In an April 2 interview with the Independent of London, Edmonds said she read intelligence reports from the summer of 2001 that al Qaeda operatives planned to fly hijacked airplanes into U.S. skyscrapers.

Given that the 'article' was in the "World Opinion Roundup" section of the newspaper, the purpose of the piece was primarily to highlight what was being discussed in foreign media vis a vis US media, so I don't want particularly want to bash the piece (and it is generally quite friendly to Sibel) but the piece does highlight, particularly in retrospect, a lot of what is wrong with the (lack of) reporting on Sibel's case.

The WaPo piece is very frustrating for a bunch of reasons - large and small - and I can't help myself but to deal with the small reasons (because they do point to larger institutional failings) before we get to the more significant reasons. Firstly, the piece juxtaposes US press vs "international online media." The Independent is one of the most respected English-speaking print publications on the planet. They put (this element of) Sibel's story on the front page.

Secondly, the WaPo piece suggests that maybe "foreign editors are less scrupulous" than their 'prudent' US counterparts because some Murdoch press around the world ran with the "unconfirmed" Drudge story that John Kerry was having an affair with an intern then we ought to take the Independent's front page story with a grain of salt.

And this brings us to the larger issues. WaPo argues "The documents that she says will corroborate her story have not yet surfaced and may not exist." It is true that the documents haven't surfaced - but we have some circumstantial evidence that what Sibel is trying to say is true and valid. Sibel has been gagged by Attorney General John Ashcroft. The US Congress has been gagged by Attorney General John Ashcroft. These simple acts provide a prima facie case that there is some there, there.

WaPo argues that "One possible explanation (for US media silence) is that the heart of Edmonds's story remains unconfirmed." Firstly, the function of journalism is to test whether such allegations are true - usually by getting documents, or people, on the record. There are people who have gone on the record supporting Sibel's allegations - but still the US media ignores the case. Veteran FBI counter-intelligence agent John Cole said:
"I felt that maybe I could be of some assistance to her because I knew she was doing the right thing. I knew she was right...

I was talking to FBI colleagues in the administrative division who had read her file, who had read the investigative report and they were telling me a different story. They were telling me that Sibel Edmonds was a 100% accurate, that management knew that she was correct."

As far as I know, the only media organization to report this was Congressional Quarterly, once. English journalist David Rose wrote an 11 page article, two years ago, documenting Sibel's case - actually, just two elements of the case - sourced to people with first-hand knowledge of her case. One of the claims in the article was that Dennis Hastert had received bribes by foreign officials - surely a significant story - but as far as I know, the only reference in the US media was a recent article in Wired magazine.

But the claims are never denied. We only get silence. And the silence of the US media marks them as co-conspirators. We don't get 'he said, she said' reporting, for once. Just silence.

WaPo says:
"The documents that she says will corroborate her story have not yet surfaced and may not exist

Maybe the documents exist, maybe they dont - apparently they are the Schrödinger's cat of documentary evidence. For 5 years Sibel has staked her claim, her reputation, on the fact that they exist.
"Put out those tapes. Put out those wiretaps. Put out those documents. Put out the truth. The truth is going to hurt them. The truth is going to set me free."

That's a direct, verifiable challenge. The facts are either true, or they're not. Sibel has done everything she can to make her claims public where they can be tested, with documents. She tried to take her case to the Supreme Court - now her only chance is to get Henry Waxman to hold hearings into her case. She'll testify under oath, she says that all of her bosses will testify under oath. She's either telling the truth, or the USG is going to extraordinary lengths to prevent her from proving that she is crazy.

Call Waxman. Demand public open hearings:
DC phone: (202) 225-3976
LA phone: 323 651-1040
fax: (202) 225-4099
Capitol switchboard phone: 800-828-0498

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