Exclusive Interview with FBI Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds: 'Did you take an oath to protect top-secret classified papers?'
Federal Government Begins its Witch Hunt Targeting Whistleblowers
By Winter Patriot on 7/28/2006, 4:57pm PT  

Guest blogged by Winter Patriot

The federal government has opened a new chapter in its continuing assault on the truth and the people who tell it. On Wednesday, Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency (NSA) and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst, received a subpoena requesting him to testify before a federal grand jury.

Why? According to a press release issued today by National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), Tice seems to see it simply as an attempt at intimidation.

But another reason lurks just beneath the surface: Tice has knowledge that, if it ever became public, would pose a serious challenge to one of the current administration's favorite projects --- secret and illegal spying on law-abiding American citizens.

Fortunately for Russell Tice, and for all Americans who love the truth and the freedom to express it, he is not alone in this. He's getting considerable support from NSWBC, an organization founded by Sibel Edmonds to support truth-tellers in government.

We have the press release sent out early today by NSWBC, which explains everything I've been saying. We also have an op/ed piece written by Sibel Edmonds, in which she makes a compelling plea for more whistleblowers to come forward. I will post both documents in full below and I encourage you to read them.

But that's not all we have ...

The documents below are very formal. And that's not inappropriate, given their subject matter. In them, Sibel Edmonds and the others explain things very clearly, in a language that is so refined the reader might not notice the passion in it.

There's no lack of passion when Sibel Edmonds speaks, though. This nearly frozen blogger was fortunate enough to speak with her --- via telephone --- for a few minutes this afternoon.

And it was fabulous! She almost thawed me out! Listen:

What are they doing here? What is the government doing? They're trying to kill two birds with one stone. They're protecting their secret illegal activites and at the same time they're making an example. They want to make an example out of Russell Tice in order to intimidate other whistleblowers. You know, they used to use administrative methods to silence whistleblowers: suspensions, transfers, firings, gag orders like I have, and so on. But now they're taking it one step further. They're threatening whistleblowers with jail time if they tell the truth.

Suppose you're walking down the street and you see a rape in progress. What would you do? If you're a decent, compassionate person, there's no question what you would do. You'd dial 9-1-1, right? That's what we would all do, isn't it? That's what anyone would do.

But for the people working in the agencies, it's a different story. If they see evidence of criminal activities, if they see things being done that are not only illegal but also against the best interests of the country, what can they do? Who can they call? We don't have a 9-1-1 number to call, and the usual channels --- the internal methods that whistleblowers used to be able to use --- don't work anymore. So we really have no choice but to call the media.

We have to work doubly hard to encourage whistleblowers. And it's simple: I mean, who are you protecting? Who are you loyal to? If you work for the government, did you take an oath to protect top-secret classified papers? Or did you take an oath to protect the Constitution, to protect the country? We think you should be loyal to the country, and to the Constitution. After all, this is what is expected of government employees.

So the people we call "whistleblowers" shouldn't be anything special. This is what all government employees should be doing. And if they did, we wouldn't call them whistleblowers. We wouldn't have a name for them. We'd have a name for the other people in government instead.

I should say so!

I can think of a few really good names for those people. And I'll bet you can too.

But let's not go there ... not now, anyway.

Instead, let's turn to the documents I promised you. I urge you to read them, and to follow the links, if you care about the future of freedom in this country, or if you want to know more about the government's newest attack on truth, justice, and what was supposed to be the American way.

This is this morning's press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE- July 28, 2006

Wednesday, July 26, Russell Tice, former National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence analyst and a member of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), was approached outside his home by two FBI agents who served him with a subpoena to testify in front of a federal grand jury. NSWBC has obtained a copy of the subpoena issued for Mr. Tice’s testimony and is releasing it to the public for the first time. The subpoena directs Mr. Tice to appear before the jury on August 2, 2006 at 1:00 p.m. in the Eastern District of Virginia. Mr. Tice “will be asked to testify and answer questions concerning possible violations of federal criminal law." [To view the subpoena click here].

In response to the subpoena, Mr. Tice issued the following statement: “This latest action by the government is designed only for one purpose: to ensure that people who witness criminal action being committed by the government are intimidated into remaining silent.” He continued: “To this date I have pursued all the appropriate channels to report unlawful and unconstitutional acts conducted [by the government] while I served as an intelligence officer with the NSA and DIA. It was with my oath as a US intelligence officer to protect and preserve the U.S. Constitution weighing heavy on my mind that I reported acts that I know to be unlawful and unconstitutional. The freedom of the American people cannot be protected when our constitutional liberties are ignored and our nation has decayed into a police state.”

On December 22, 2005, the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition made public a request by Tice to report to Congress probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts by the government while he was an intelligence officer with NSA and DIA. In a press release, NSWBC urged the congress to hold hearings and let Mr. Tice testify. Mr. Tice, a responsible veteran intelligence officer, tried to use the so-called appropriate channels, including the United States Congress, to responsibly and lawfully disclose government wrongdoing. [To read the release click here].

“What we are seeing here is a government desperate to cover up its criminal and unconstitutional conduct. They now are going beyond the usual retaliation against whistleblowers who courageously come forward to report cases of government fraud, waste, abuse, and in some cases such as this one, criminal actions. Their old tactics of intimidation, gag orders, and firing, have not stopped an unprecedented number of whistleblowers from coming forward and doing the right thing. Desperate to prevent the public’s right to know, they now are getting engaged in a witch hunt targeting these patriotic truth tellers.” stated Sibel Edmonds, the Director of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.

In addition, the timing of the subpoena appears to be more than a little suspect. On July 25, 2006, Judge Matthew Kennelly upheld the government’s assertion of the state secrets privilege in Terkel v. AT&T. The crucial issue in the case was whether or not the government’s program of surveillance had been publicly acknowledged, and Kennelly wrote "the focus should be on information that bears persuasive indication of reliability." If there were reliable public reports of the program then the fact of the program’s existence could not be a state secret. Kennelly found that there were no reliable sources of public information about the contested program’s existence sufficient to thwart the government’s need for secrecy. In other words, the existence of the program had not been conclusively established, and the government therefore had a right to prevent probing into the matter. This stops a case that represented a serious threat to the Bush administration.

Professor William Weaver, NSWBC Senior Advisor, stated: “Russ Tice is the only publicly identified NSA employee connected to the New York Times in its December 2005 story publicizing warrantless Bush-ordered surveillance. Tice is also publicly perceived as someone who could authoritatively establish the existence of the program at issue in Terkel; Tice could remedy the defect in the plaintiff’s case cited by Kennelly that allowed the government’s assertion of the state secrets privilege to be successful. Later, on the same day Kennelly’s opinion was filed, the Department of Justice sent out Tice’s subpoena. The date on the subpoena is July 20th, before Kennelly’s decision was filed, but the issue in the Terkel case was so pregnant that it would be easy for the government to anticipate the ruling and only issue the subpoena to Tice if necessary. It has now become necessary, and the government seems to be moving to put pressure on Tice not to reveal information that would confirm the electronic surveillance program at issue in Terkel by threatening him with investigation and possible indictment.”

National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, founded in August 2004, is an independent and nonpartisan alliance of whistleblowers who have come forward to address our nation’s security weaknesses; to inform authorities of security vulnerabilities in our intelligence agencies, at nuclear power plants and weapon facilities, in airports, and at our nation’s borders and ports; to uncover government waste, fraud, abuse, and in some cases criminal conduct. The NSWBC is dedicated to aiding national security whistleblowers through a variety of methods, including advocacy of governmental and legal reform, educating the public concerning whistleblowing activity, provision of comfort and fellowship to national security whistleblowers suffering retaliation and other harms, and working with other public interest organizations to affect goals defined in the NSWBC mission statement. For more on NSWBC visit www.nswbc.org

# # # #

© Copyright 2006, National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. Information in this release may be freely distributed and published provided that all such distributions make appropriate attribution to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.

# # # #

And now, the Op/Ed piece witten by Sibel Edmonds and William Weaver:

NSWBC Call to Patriotic Duty

Without whistleblowers the public would never know of the many abuses of constitutional rights by the government. Whistleblowers, Truth Tellers, are responsible for the disclosure that President George W. Bush ordered unconstitutional surveillance of American citizens. These constitutional lifeguards take their patriotic oaths to heart and soul: Rather than complying with classification and secrecy orders designed to protect officials engaging in criminal conduct, whistleblowers chose to risk their livelihoods and the wrath of their agencies to get the truth out. But will they be listened to by those who are charged with accountability?

The Whistleblowers Law of Congressional Hearings holds that the higher ranking the official who testifies the less the likelihood that the truth will be revealed. With this in mind, it is impossible to proceed to the viscera of what happened to whom and when without asking those who are charged with putting policy decisions into the actual stream of practice. High officials have perverse incentives to hide what is done in their orders by the employees below them. It is indispensable that Congress reach deep inside the National Security Agency and other agencies, seeking out employees at the operational level to determine how the President’s illegal order was carried into action. To assure that this occurs, we need for people with information from the agencies involved to come forward and ask to be interviewed by Congress. The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition calls on people with knowledge of unconstitutional surveillance of American citizens to contact NSWBC and let us know that they are willing to provide congress with information and testimony. Anonymity, if desired, will be scrupulously honored. NSWBC will provide contact information to Congress and investigative authorities, and will follow up to ensure that these witnesses were in fact interviewed in good faith by congressional staff and committees and allowed to participate in the hearing process. NSWBC will be the conduit between agents and Congress for those like Russ Tice, a former intelligence agent at the National Security Agency, who announced his willingness to disclose to Congress illegal acts by officials at his former employer. At NSWBC we know what we are asking people to do: Our organization is made up exclusively of veteran intelligence and law enforcement officers, agents and analysts.

Now is the time to come forward, not to reveal legitimately classified information, but to make yourselves available as witnesses and to serve the true supervisor of us all: the Constitution. Ordinarily one would expect the congress to be the guardian of our freedom by living up to its storied role as a check and balance to the President and the Executive Branch. But for four years, members of our Congress in supposed oversight committees were aware of illegal spying on American citizens. Co-opted by an unscrupulous commitment to secrecy and the state, intelligence oversight committees in Congress must step out of the way for a People’s hearing on the matter of presidentially ordered illegal surveillance. Congress must engage in a broad, public hearing of these matters.

Accountability, in the end, always comes down to the public’s right to know, the right to have the most basic knowledge about what its servants are doing with its money and its authority. Ambassador Maxwell Taylor, when asked what he thought about the public’s right to know of what the government is doing on its behalf, infamously responded the he did not “believe in that as a general rule.” Fortunately, that is not a general rule that comports with our system of government. Citizens cannot make informed choices if they do not have the facts. Public servants should not be forced to choose between career and conscience, between commitment to oath and commitment to colleagues, and if we live by our words, laws, and principles they will not have to. Protecting all employees of the People are that:

  • Their higher loyalty is to the Constitution and the rule of law;
  • Information may never be classified as secret merely because it is embarrassing or incriminating, or to cover up criminal and unlawful conduct;
  • There is no agreement that public servants may sign that will require them lie to the Congress or courts;
  • The United States’ Code of Ethics for Government Service explains carefully and clearly in an assured voice that "Any person in government service should put loyalty to the highest moral principles and to the Country above loyalty to persons, party, or Government department."

Sibel Edmonds, NSWBC Founder & President, sedmonds@nswbc.org

Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI language specialist, was terminated from the bureau after reporting security breaches, cover-up, and blocking of intelligence with national security implications. Since that time, court proceedings in her whistleblower case have been blocked by the imposition of “State Secret Privilege,” and Congress has been prevented from discussion of her case through retroactive reclassification by the Department of Justice. Edmonds, fluent in Turkish, Farsi and Azerbaijani; holds an MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, and a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University.

Professor William Weaver, NSWBC Senior Advisor, wweaver@nswbc.org

Bill Weaver served in U.S. Army signals intelligence for eight years in Berlin and Augsburg, Germany, in the late 1970s and 1980s. He holds a law degree and Ph.D. in politics from the University of Virginia. He currently is an associate professor and associate director of faculty for the Institute for Policy and Economic Development and an Associate in the Center for Law and Border Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. He specializes in executive branch secrecy policy, governmental abuse, and law and bureaucracy.

About National Security Whistleblowers Coalition

National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), founded in August 2004, is an independent and nonpartisan alliance of whistleblowers who have come forward to address our nation’s security weaknesses; to inform authorities of security vulnerabilities in our intelligence agencies, at nuclear power plants and weapon facilities, in airports, and at our nation’s borders and ports; to uncover government waste, fraud, abuse, and in some cases criminal conduct. The NSWBC is dedicated to aiding national security whistleblowers through a variety of methods, including advocacy of governmental and legal reform, educating the public concerning whistleblowing activity, provision of comfort and fellowship to national security whistleblowers suffering retaliation and other harms, and working with other public interest organizations to affect goals defined in the NSWBC mission statement. For more on NSWBC visit www.nswbc.org

Contact info:

You can reach Sibel Edmonds of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition here: sedmonds@nswbc.org

The NSWBC website is here.

Click here to see this press release in its original context.