Supreme Court Denies Review in FBI Whistleblower Case

November 28, 2005 12:00 am


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NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union today expressed disappointment over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to review the case of Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator who was fired in retaliation for reporting serious security breaches and espionage within the Bureau. Lower courts dismissed the case when former Attorney General John Ashcroft invoked the rarely used “state secrets” privilege.

“Sibel Edmonds is a true patriot who deserved her day in court,” said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson. “We are disappointed that the Supreme Court did not see the ongoing danger of allowing the FBI to hide its blunders behind the ‘states secrets’ privilege.”

Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, added, “Now it is up to Congress to pass legislation that would prevent retaliation against heroic government employees who uncover weaknesses in our ability to protect public safety.”

The Court created the so-called state secrets privilege more than 50 years ago but has not considered it since. However, the ACLU said the government is increasingly misusing the privilege to cover up its own wrongdoing and to keep legitimate cases out of court.

Edmonds, a former Middle Eastern language specialist hired by the FBI shortly after 9/11, was fired in 2002 and filed a lawsuit later that year challenging the retaliatory dismissal. A report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General, made public in January 2005, concluded that Edmonds’ whistleblower allegations were “the most significant factor” in the FBI’s decision to terminate her.

“This case was never about me; it was about the FBI’s attempt to cover up wrongdoing and mismanagement,” Edmonds said. “I am disheartened that the legal system has failed to hold the FBI accountable for its actions, but I will continue to press Congress to fully investigate security breaches within the Bureau.”

Since filing her lawsuit, Edmonds has received support from several members of Congress, including Senate Judiciary Committee members Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

Edmonds’ ordeal is highlighted in a 10-page article about whistleblowers in the September 2005 issue of Vanity Fair which links her allegations and the subsequent retaliation to possible “illicit activity involving Turkish nationals” and a high-level member of Congress. The ACLU said the article, titled “An Inconvenient Patriot,” further undercuts the government’s claim that the case can’t be litigated because certain information is secret.

In August 2004, Edmonds and more than 50 former and current government officials from multiple agencies formed the National Security Whistleblower’s Coalition. The group is the first whistleblower coalition formed exclusively of government employees who have raised national security issues.

“Unfortunately, what happened to Sibel Edmonds was not an isolated incident,” Beeson said. “But it is truly remarkable that Sibel has turned adversity into activism. Her story is far from over.”

Edmonds is represented by Beeson, Melissa Goodman, and Ben Wizner of the national ACLU; Art Spitzer of the ACLU of the National Capital Area; and Mark Zaid of Krieger and Zaid, PLLC.

Further information on the case, including other legal documents and a backgrounder on the state secrets privilege, is online at: www.aclu.org/whistleblower.

For more information on the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, go to: www.nswbc.org.

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