Monday, January 28, 2008

Sibel Edmonds: Buckle up, there’s much more coming.

Interview by Luke Ryland

In the last few weeks, UK’s Times has run a series of articles about the so-called ‘Sibel Edmonds case.’ (’For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets, ‘FBI denies file exposing nuclear secrets theft‘ and ‘Tip-off thwarted nuclear spy ring probe‘)

Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds stumbled into a world of espionage, nuclear black market, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and corruption at the highest levels of the US government.

I interviewed Sibel yesterday regarding the current investigation and reporting by the Times, the failures of the US media, and last week’s decision by the Bush administration to legalize the sale of nuclear technology to Turkey, in an apparent to exonerate prior criminal activity by officials in his administration.

Sibel also has some urgent ‘action items’ so that we can stop these dangerous nuclear proliferation activities. I urge you to act on her suggestions.


Luke Ryland: What do you have to say about the recent work by the Insight journalists - Chris Gourlay, Jonathan Calvert, Joe Lauria - at the UK’s Times?

Sibel Edmonds: They’ve done good, solid reporting so far by doing what reporters are supposed to. They have been chasing sources and getting their hands on documents. It’s pretty simple. As you know, this story has been available to any journalist for six years now.

There’s been a lot of speculation in the last few weeks that American reporters haven’t touched this story because they are ‘corporate owned’ but it is wrong to exonerate these reporters so quickly. Many of them are too close to their official sources, and some are simply lazy. This Times team chases sources, and if they can’t reach them one way, they’ll try and try again, or they’ll seek out alternate sources, or find other ways to ensure that they get the story.

When I hear from US reporters, they say ‘Sibel, give us all the documents we’ll need, and you line up all the sources for us, and then maybe we’ll do a story’ and if one source doesn’t return their phone call, they simply give up. That’s not journalism!

Luke Ryland: Why has the US failed on this story so dramatically for 6 years?

Sibel Edmonds: It’s a combination of things, obviously. You need to consider that the entire US press corps has failed on this story; not only the regular print and TV media, but the alternative media has failed on this too.

Part of the reason is that journalists are simply too close to their official sources. Those sources might tell the journalist that there’s nothing to the story, and so the journalist gives up on it, or the official sources might ‘request’ that the journalist to stay away from the story, and the journalist is then concerned about losing access to the source in the future.

Another reason is the partisanship. With the foreign press, there is no partisanship, and that’s one reason why they have been more effective at covering this case, and I’m not just talking about the recent Times articles here. With the US media, it appears as though if there is no clear partisan angle, then there’s no story. As you know, this case is spread over two administrations, and that appears to make it difficult for the reporters to cover the story. Even within one news organization you might have one journalist who wants to use the story to indict Clinton, and another who wants to use the story to bash Bush, and in the end neither of them write about the story because it doesn’t fit their partisanship, their ‘narrative’, so they just drop it altogether.

I had such high hopes for the alternative press, and they do a lot of good work, but partisanship repeatedly gets in the way there too, on both sides.

The US media also suffers from a pack mentality. I was told by one executive that they weren’t doing the story because it was ‘old news’ because 60 Minutes did a single segment in October 2002, even though they only covered a tiny part of the case. This executive literally told me that he’d only cover the story if it was ‘hot and sexy.’ I often think that I’d need to be able to hire Britney Spears to be a spokesperson - and this is not just for my case, but for any of the many other solid, important cases at the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. Apparently this is what it would take to get any coverage.

Of course, given the pack mentality, if any of these stories does become ‘hot and sexy’ then all the journalists focus on the same issues and there’s no differentiation in their reporting.

The other major problem in the US is the focus on symptoms, rather than root causes. My case is a good example, but there are lots of others too. Look at the early reporting on my case in 2002, the Washington Post broke the story in July 2002 about the espionage in the translation bureau and then they dropped the story after two weeks. They stopped reporting on it when more important information came out and the State Secrets Privilege was invoked. To this day not a single US reporter has asked ‘Why was the State Secrets Privilege been invoked here? What is going on?’

Just this week I was approached by a major US outlet who wanted to do a story on Kevin Taskesen! This is absolutely the most trivial element of the case, and it has already been reported at length. I told them that they could learn everything they needed to know by watching 60 Minutes, 2002. Again, the US media needs to start looking at the root causes of these problems, not the symptoms.

Luke Ryland: Will the US media start reporting on this now that it is ‘hot and sexy’ again?

Sibel Edmonds: It’s hard to know. After being told for years that they won’t cover it because it is ‘old news,’ now there are certain officials in the agencies quietly telling journalists to stay away from the story because I came across a highly sensitive covert national security operation.

Also, Turkey’s army of lobbyists in DC are very effective. The US press tends to stay away from any stories critical of Turkey, I would say even more than Israel.

There’s also the possible problem of ‘eating crow’ but I hope this isn’t an issue, this story is way too important for any of that. The information that has been published in the Times recently could have easily come out four years ago in the US press. We now need everyone to focus on the important issues.

I have one message for the US media: If they think this is over, it’s not over. Much more will come out. They won’t be able to ignore it any longer, and so I hope they get over any reluctance they might have.

Look at the positive press that the Times’ series has received since their first article ran. Do you think their editors haven’t noticed? The Times is adding more and more resources to the story, more journalists, bigger budgets, and more importantly, they are getting more and more sources coming forward to shed light on these illegal activities. As I have said from the beginning, this story is not about me, there are many sources who have been waiting for the.............

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