saw papers that show US knew al-Qa'ida would attack cities with
Whistleblower the White House wants to silence speaks to The
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
02 April 2004
former translator for the FBI with top-secret security clearance says she has
provided information to the panel investigating the 11 September attacks which
proves senior officials knew of al-Qa'ida's plans to attack the US with aircraft
months before the strikes happened.
She said the claim by the National
Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, that there was no such information was "an
Sibel Edmonds said she spent more than three hours in a
closed session with the commission's investigators providing information that
was circulating within the FBI in the spring and summer of 2001 suggesting that
an attack using aircraft was just months away and the terrorists were in place.
The Bush administration, meanwhile, has sought to silence her and has obtained a
gagging order from a court by citing the rarely used "state secrets privilege".
She told The Independent yesterday: "I gave [the commission] details of
specific investigation files, the specific dates, specific target information,
specific managers in charge of the investigation. I gave them everything so that
they could go back and follow up. This is not hearsay. These are things that are
documented. These things can be established very easily."
"There was general information about the time-frame, about methods to be used
but not specifically about how they would be used and about people
being in place and who was ordering these sorts of terror attacks. There were
other cities that were mentioned. Major cities with skyscrapers."
The accusations from Mrs Edmonds, 33, a Turkish-American who speaks
Azerbaijani, Farsi, Turkish and English, will reignite the controversy over
whether the administration ignored warnings about al-Qa'ida. That controversy
was sparked most recently by Richard Clarke, a former counter-terrorism
official, who has accused the administration of ignoring his warnings.
The issue what the administration knew and when is central
to the investigation by the 9/11 Commission, which has been hearing testimony in
public and private from government officials, intelligence officials and secret
sources. Earlier this week, the White House made a U-turn when it said that Ms
Rice would appear in public before the commission to answer questions. Mr Bush
and his deputy, Dick Cheney, will also be questioned in a closed-door session.
Mrs Edmonds, 33, says she gave her evidence to the commission in a
specially constructed "secure" room at its offices in Washington on 11 February.
She was hired as a translator for the FBI's Washington field office on 13
September 2001, just two days after the al-Qa'ida attacks. Her job was to
translate documents and recordings from FBI wire-taps.
She said said it
was clear there was sufficient information during the spring and summer of 2001
to indicate terrorists were planning an attack. "Most of what I told the
commission 90 per cent of it related to the investigations that I
was involved in or just from working in the department. Two hundred translators
side by side, you get to see and hear a lot of other things as well."
"President Bush said they had no specific information about 11 September
and that is accurate but only because he said 11 September," she said. There
was, however, general information about the use of airplanes and that an attack
was just months away.
To try to refute Mr Clarke's accusations, Ms Rice
said the administration did take steps to counter al-Qa'ida. But in an opinion
piece in The Washington Post on 22 March, Ms Rice wrote: "Despite what some have
suggested, we received no intelligence that terrorists were preparing to attack
the homeland using airplanes as missiles, though some analysts speculated that
terrorists might hijack planes to try and free US-held terrorists."
Edmonds said that by using the word "we", Ms Rice told an "outrageous lie". She
said: "Rice says 'we' not 'I'. That would include all people from the FBI, the
CIA and DIA [Defence Intelligence Agency]. I am saying that is
It is impossible at this stage to verify Mrs Edmonds'
claims. However, some senior US senators testified to her credibility in 2002
when she went public with separate allegations relating to alleged incompetence
and corruption within the FBI's translation department.
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