Monday, March 29, 2004

I mentioned the strange case of Sibil Edmonds a while back, in which our heroine, newly-hired in the post-911 FBI's Mideastern Languages translation section, discovered much skullduggery and low dishonesty, leading to her eventual whistleblower firing. She was essentially an entry-level new hire, but in a position in which her whistleblowing was at least potentially credible. Now it seems (Salon day-passed article warning) that she's been telling tales to the 911 commission, and calling Condi Rice a liar over claims that the higher-ups never saw planes-as-weapons intel before the event.

Powerline points out the obvious, which is that our heroine wasn't an analyst, she was a translator, and a lowly one at that. Furthermore, she didn't work for the FBI in that period of time. Therefore, she cannot - I repeat, cannot - be testifying from personal knowledge about the period prior to the attack.

I'm somewhat curious about this allegation that she had three hours before the commission. That's an awful lot of time. Cabinet-level officials didn't get that much face time with the commission. Given that she's a fired, part-time entry-level translator who didn't work for the government in the period leading up to 9/11, one would naturally assume that she was retailing her "the translators were celebrating the attack" story. But this isn't what the news lead is about her testimony. Instead, we get this "Grr, I hate Condi" thing, and a lot of talk about the material she was working on proving that the FBI had evidence about the plane-weapons plot. This is material she was translating - presumably for the first time - after the attacks. She had been hired because there were horrific back-logs.

So, what her story essentially adds up to, once you strip out the hot-button ranting, is that the FBI had evidence which it didn't know about, and couldn't pass along, because it hadn't been translated. Remember - not an analyst. She wouldn't have had access to previously-translated material as a new hire, nor would they have been using a new person to cross-check old translations, I don't think. Possibly they were using enormously sensitive, previously-translated material to check her translating chops, but I somehow doubt that - it doesn't strike me as the sort of thing a paranoid government security agency would do with a new hire.

So, this story ought to read: translator says that FBI had material showing the plot, but failed to translate material in time. You can't pass along information without translation, after all. That's a shame, and it's an important detail that folks have been arguing for a while - we need more trustworthy translators, and we didn't have them in the spring and summer of 2001.

What I can't abide that it takes a minor forensic examination to extract that story from what was actually published. Salon continues to stink like the virtual fishwrap that it is.

Via Macallan at Tacitus.

No comments: