FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Members From Both Sides of the Aisle Promise to Investigate Problems at FBI After Hearing Wednesday
WASHINGTON - Two Members of Congress promised to investigate whistleblower Sibel Edmonds' allegations against the FBI and raised concerns over the government's response to her case after she testified Wednesday for the first time before Congress.
Edmonds, who was fired after exposing national security concerns at the FBI, received support from Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Christopher Shays, (R-Conn.) after testifying at a subcommittee hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform. Edmonds shared her story with the committee and answered questions as part of a series of speakers on over-classification and pseudo-classification. She testified about the government's excessive use of classification to cover up its own misconduct in her case. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing Edmonds in her appeal to reinstate her case against the government.
Representative Maloney said she was outraged that Edmonds, who was trying to protect the United States by shedding light on national security breaches, has been punished by the government for her courage. Representative Maloney said the current classification system allows government agencies to silence whistleblowers and told Edmonds she would rally women leaders to support her case. She also said she would to write a bill named for Edmonds to solve classification problems.
"Our system, when we classify things, is supposed to protect us, not punish whistleblowers. It's almost unbelievable," Representative Maloney said. "I find your testimony absolutely and completely terrifying."
Representative Shays said he would contact the FBI to make sure the problems Edmonds reported have been corrected, and told Edmonds to come back to the committee if the government continues its use of secrecy in her case. That hearing is scheduled for late April. Representative Shays also said he would have his staff look into an Inspector General's report on Edmonds' dismissal that concluded she was fired for reporting misconduct within the FBI.
Edmonds is one of many national security whistleblowers who have been similarly mistreated. The ACLU said that the Edmonds case is part of a larger pattern by the government to silence employees who expose national security blunders. Coleen Rowley, Manny Johnson, Robert Woo, Ray McGovern, Mel Goodman, Bogdan Dzakovic and Mike German are just a few of the other national security whistleblowers who were vilified and retaliated against.
Wednesday's hearing came on the heels of a Justice Department decision last week to make public information about Edmonds' case that it had previously retroactively classified. The information has gone through a series of classification flip-flops that started in May 2004, when the department retroactively classified information about Edmonds' case that the FBI had provided to Congress in public briefings.
Edmonds, hired by the FBI shortly after 9/11, was fired after reporting shoddy translation work and national security breaches within the agency. She challenged her retaliatory dismissal by filing a lawsuit in federal court, but her case was dismissed last July after Attorney General John Ashcroft invoked the so-called "state secrets privilege." In filing Edmonds' appeal, the ACLU charged that the Justice Department retroactively classified the Congressional briefings not to protect national security but to bolster its "state secrets" claim. Edmonds' appeal will be heard by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, April 21.
"Edmonds' case is a perfect example of how the government abuses the states secrets privilege and classification to protect itself from embarrassment," said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson. "We will continue to fight the use of this excessive secrecy in Edmonds' case and are gratified that Members of Congress are prepared to do the same."
Henry Waxman, a California Democrat and the ranking minority member on the House Committee on Government Reform, asked Edmonds to testify at the hearing Wednesday.
For a web feature on the Sibel Edmonds case and more information on national security whistleblowers, go to /whistleblower.