Sibel Edmonds Case: New (and old) revelations of spying at the FBI

by | Nov 16, 2007 | Stress Blog

News outlets are abuzz with the news of the guilty plea of Nada Nadim Prouty.

Despite fraudulently acquiring her citizenship and having close familial ties to Hezbollah, Prouty was able to pass background checks for both the CIA and the FBI.

Prouty pled guilty to improperly accessing the internal computer systems, apparently to get a status-check on investigations into Hezbollah, as well as herself and her family members.

The agencies appear to be playing down the incident with anonymous sources saying that there aren’t any counter-terrorism or counter-intelligence implications – although many observers are less sanguine.

Perhaps the media will take the opportunity to revisit the case of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds.

Perhaps the media will be equally outraged that some of the spies in Sibel’s case are still working in senior positions at the FBI, and other spies were allowed to walk away without an investigation.

Perhaps not. I won’t hold my breath.

Dodgy Background Checks?
The UK’s Independent reports:

“As a tale of incompetence by the intelligence services, the tale of Nada Nadim Prouty is hard to beat.”

What if the issue isn’t a matter of ‘incompetence’ though? As we saw in Sibel’s case, sometimes there really are ‘bad guys’ inside the agencies. It’s certainly not inconceivable that ‘bad guys’ in the agencies would recruit and promote similarly-minded folks. To the extent that might be true, it wouldn’t take very long for the bad guys to come to dominate the senior positions at the FBI.

If that sounds far-fetched, consider what Special Agent John Roberts said on the 60 Minutes show about Sibel’s case. John Roberts was head of the FBI’s Internal Affairs Department – so his words should carry some weight:

Mr. JOHN ROBERTS: I don’t know of another person in the FBI who has done the internal investigations that I have and has seen what I have and that knows what has occurred and what has been glossed over and what has, frankly, just disappeared, just vaporized, and no one disciplined for it.
Mr. ROBERTS: I think the double standard of discipline will continue no matter who comes in, no matter who tries to change. You have a certain group that will continue to protect itself. That’s just how it is.
BRADLEY: Have you found cases since 9/11 where people were involved in misconduct and were not, let alone reprimanded, but were even promoted?

Mr. ROBERTS: Oh, yes. Absolutely.
Mr. ROBERTS: Depends on who you are. If you’re in the senior executive level, it may not hurt you. You will be promoted.

Long term FBI agent Frederic Whitehurst from the FBI crime lab in Washington made a similar point, hypothetically, in an interview with Sibel and Scott Horton:

Dr Whitehurst: But right now there is not only no accountability (at the FBI), nobody audits the process, nobody can audit the process, so we don’t know how many of those people are crooks.

Think about this – and it’s not too far fetched – the FBI has (previously) been infiltrated by spies, Robert Hansen, Earl Pitt, whatever, by spies. Foreign governments have infiltrated the FBI. The FBI has had agents that have joined the mafia… Suppose that the top management of the FBI was compromised – what recourse do American citizens have? We don’t have any recourse. The safest place in the United States of America right now for a criminal is within the walls of FBI headquarters. The safest place! Nobody can touch those people! It’s terrifying.

Whitehurst makes a related point in that interview:

The Bureau has an expression: ‘Who is your juice-man back at HQ?’ Who is the guy that is supporting you?

As I documented in Sibel Edmonds’ Corrupt Boss is STILL the key to National Security, Sibel’s boss, Mike Feghali, engaged in all manner of espionage, including recruiting spies into the translation bureau and making sure that agents in the field didn’t receive translations that were directly relevant to ongoing investigations – including the 9/11 investigation. This has all been confirmed by the Inspector General’s report into Sibel’s case. Nonetheless, Feghali has been promoted and is now, currently, in charge of the entire Arabic translation desk, in charge of 300 translators, many of whom are his family and friends, and some “were openly celebrating the terrorist attacks on September 11.”

Who promoted Feghali, and why? Who are his ‘juice men’?

Why is Congress, and the media, silent on this matter?

Feghali also hired Melek Can Dickerson. Prior to joining the FBI, Dickerson worked for three different organizations – all of which were targets of FBI investigations, and she had ongoing relationships with people who were targets of FBI counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism operations.

How did the FBI miss this in their background checks?

In partnership with Feghali, Dickerson blocked translations into her friends, leaked information to them about the investigations, and engaged in all manner of other nefarious activities. Dickerson, and her husband then-USAF Major Douglas Dickerson, actually tried to recruit Sibel into the espionage network.

Again, even after this was confirmed by the FBI’s own investigation, Melek Can Dickerson was allowed to continue in her nefarious ways for another 6 months before she fled the country. Her husband, Douglas Dickerson, has since been protected by various interests withing the US Government, and has also promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and still has his Top Secret/SCI clearance – giving him access to all manner of US military secrets that he might sell to the highest bidder.

Sibel describes it thusly:

“As mentioned above and confirmed by the Congress and the FBI, Melek Can Dickerson was hired and granted Top Secret Clearance despite the fact that she lied in her job application about her previous employments that were targets of FBI investigations, that she and her husband had on going personal and business relationships with FBI targets. Ms. Dickerson maintained her position and clearance even after the FBI confirmed that she had intentionally blocked and mistranslated intelligence/information related to the individuals and organizations she had ties with, and after two FBI targets were tipped off and hastily left the United States”

Why is Congress, and the media, silent on this matter?

Of course, Sibel isn’t the only person to make claims about dodgy background investigations. Take the case of John Cole, manager for counterintelligence operations covering Pakistan, Afghanistan and India at FBI HQ. He reported that:

Several translators from (Pakistan, Afghanistan and India ), who had ties/relationship with targets of FBI investigations and were found to be significant security risks, were hired by the FBI and placed in charge of translating intelligence in languages from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. In one case, the translator’s father was among the members of a FBI target organization, and in another case, the FBI discovered that one translator had been providing FBI top secret information to a foreign intelligence service.

Cole was forced out of the FBI after 18 years for raising these questions. Apparently he didn’t have the requisite Juice Men on his side.

Back to Prouty
Returning to the recent case of Nada Nadim Prouty, according to The Independent, in 1999, Prouty was “talent spotted” at the restaurant where she’d worked since 1990. Who recruited her? Who pushed her through the recruitment process? Who were her ‘Juice-Men’? Have they been promoted? Who facilitated Prouty’s 2003 move to the CIA and then to the “CIA’s most sensitive post” where she “participated in the debriefings of high-ranking al-Qaida detainees”?

The Prouty timeline, and her penalty, is also suspicious.

According to Michael Isikoff in Newsweek, buried in the penultimate paragraph of a 3 page article:

“(The FBI) discover(ed) Prouty’s connections to Hizbullah (in) December 2005Eventually the bureau alerted the agency and the CIA later reassigned her to a less sensitive position… about a year ago, after she first came under suspicion.”

That is, the FBI has known about this for 2 years, and it took the CIA a full 12 months to downgrade her status, and then it took a further 12 months for the investigation and to negotiate her guilty plea. Of course, Prouty wasn’t charged with espionage, but rather, as one anonymous spin doctor described it:

“She took an illegal shortcut to the American dream, then she made some inappropriate computer searches.”

Heads were exploding over at Fox News at the apparent lenience of the punishment:

JOHN GIBSON, CO-HOST: We’re all breathless about this, an illegal immigrant spy with terror ties and the punishment — that’s it for the punishment?

KENNEDY: This has got a lot of people in the intelligence industry just completely freaked out that she’s only getting six to 12 months. I spoke with the Justice Department today. They say because she is going to cooperate and because she will be a key witness, this is what they arranged for her plea deal.

So which is it? “Inappropriate computer searches” or something more serious?

Former CIA agent Larry Johnson says:

“The CIA and FBI are going to great lengths to try to tamp this story down. But you don’t blow an ops officer’s career just because she took a sneaky peek of an classified file. For Christ’s sake. She had clearances. She did something beyond read.”

So why did Prouty get off nearly scot-free? The fake marriage and immigration charges appear to be the equivalent of Bernie Kerik’s ‘Nanny problem.’ Again, who are Prouty’s ‘Juice Men’? Did she blackmail them into giving her this apparent leniency? Did she threaten to expose them all?

Prouty’s guilty plea states that if she withdraws her guilty plea, the government shall “reinstate any charges that were dismissed as part of this agreement.” What are those charges? What are they holding over her head?

How many other spies?
Scott Horton asked Sibel about the reaction within the FBI when she began to report what was happening. Sibel replied:

“After this was confirmed – because the agent I worked for, he reported this issue to the Security Division – and it came down to this issue: If (the FBI) were to admit to this case, and investigate it, criminally investigate it and refer it to counter-espionage division, it would bring into question all the other Top Secret Clearances we had granted to other translators. That means they would come down and shake up this dept and – this is the exact words:

“Who knows how many more Dickersons would fall out if they were to come and shake up the Dept?”

Heaven forbid. Apparently they’d rather tolerate multiple cases of espionage than have a PR problem. Again, I’m not sure whether espionage vulnerability is regarded as a feature or a bug.

Traduttore tradittore
In fact, compromised translators are often more dangerous than compromised agents. “Traduttore tradittore” say the Italians – “The translator is the traitor.”

In the words of DoJ’s Inspector General Glenn Fine:

“The FBI’s linguists play a critical role in developing effective counterterrorism and counterintelligence information. Linguists are the first line of analysis for information collected in a language other than English.”

Compromised translators have the power to shift investigations away from targets, and given Feghali’s hiring practices, many of them were compromised. In Sibel’s case, Melek Can Dickerson simply told the agents that certain relevant phone calls between her friends were ‘not pertinent.’ The agents simply had no choice but to trust the translations. Eventually the agents suspected that something was amiss and asked Sibel to retranslate the wiretaps.

Given the enormous power of the translators, it’s not surprising that foreign interests would attempt to infiltrate the translation bureau. In fact, within the FBI, translators actually have significantly higher clearance authority than any of the actual agents. What is surprising is that the FBI doesn’t go to greater lengths to ensure the integrity of the translation unit. Again, one possibility is that various Juice Men prefer to have weaknesses in the system.

‘Illegal Alien’
I don’t know the truth behind the Prouty matter. I suspect it is much more serious than the agencies are currently trying to portray. On the other hand, I suspect that the ‘illegal alien’ (and to a lesser degree the Hezbollah connection) emphasis is merely a smokescreen for our friends on the Right.

I do know that there are more serious problems that we face – including the fact that we currently have traitors in the FBI translation department, and the Defense Department, and the State Department – and they are being protected today. And someone keeps promoting them. Sibel has been trying to bring these matters to our attention for 5 years – but neither our friends in congress, nor our friends in the media (for that matter, nor our friends in the blogosphere) appear very interested in listening to her – despite the fact that her allegations have all been confirmed.

Sibel has been trying, unsuccessfully, to get Henry Waxman to hold hearings into her case in Congress. (In ordinary circumstances, we might expect Waxman’s Government Reform Committee to hold hearings into the Prouty matter, but he wouldn’t dare do that without holding hearings into Sibel’s case.) Now Sibel is prepared to ‘tell all,’ at great personal risk, if a broadcast network will let her tell her story.

Sibel deserves our support.


Waxman can be contacted in DC: (202)225-3976 and LA:323 651-1040. The toll free Capitol switchboard number is 800-828-0498. See if you can shame him into doing something.

cross-posted at Let Sibel Edmonds Speak

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