I am playing a short set at the Folk Fest this weekend. I am playing at 1:45. It will be an all banjo set, all originals, unless I have time for a Jeff Lewis cover.
My interview with Sibel Edmonds is now available on the web and published in the Ester Republic. Thank you Dierdre Helfferich for your help in getting this story out!
Here is the link-
I also put it at the bottom of this post. Also I’ve added her blog to my list of blogs.
My Songs from Caligari ALaska are now on the web as well. You can watch the whole production for FREE at this website-
Thank You Kade Mendelowitz. He interviewed me for the production, and also made and desigend the sets. This show features my friends Anna Gagne Hawes , Rachel Blackwell, Jey Johnson and Sergio Santana. It was directed by Anatoly Anohin and Brian Lyke and was/is fantastic.
I played at Clucking Blossom two weekends ago, I unveiled new large color illustrations for the humanist, pro- environment, anti-nuclear proliferation song “Anthropic Principle Lullaby”
and performed the classic, often requested and irreverant “William H Macy.” I also managed to draw many people and play accordion accompaniment for Greg Bryce- also known as “Black Fowers Black Sun.”
I also hosted a Circuit bending workshop, and recently discovered Makeyourownclone.com and Getlofi.com. I may construct one of Make Your Own Clone’s pedals someday, now I am looking at their kits and thinking they are cool, wishing I had money to blow. I got some chips from Getlofi and will be putting them in my old gameboys. 🙂 I may be in the lineup at Angry Young and Poor, July 11th at Ester community park
and Lonely Hearts Burlesque- July 10 through 25th at the Golden Eagle. With an original song by me and original skits in the style of old time vaudeville. If you like the Muppets, Monty Python or the Marx Brothers you’ll like my skits!
Here is the article mentioned above in its entireity. Please read and forward to others, more people need to hear Sibel’s story!
Gagging the Truth about Corruption in the War on Terror
a conversation with Sibel Edmonds, FBI whistleblower
an interview by Isaac Paris
On Wednesday, April 8, I conducted an interview with Sibel Edmonds. If you are unfamiliar with her story: she joined the FBI as a translator of Turkish, Farsi, and Azeri shortly after September 11, 2001. She found corruption, incompetence, and perhaps espionage in the Middle Eastern languages translation department. She noticed that “if counterintelligence receives information about terrorism that implicates certain nations, semi-legit organizations or the politically powerful in this country, then that information is not shared with counterterrorism, regardless of the consequences.” She followed protocol by filling out forms and going to her superiors. She was accused of going public with the information and taking it to Congress when she had not. She was fired, and then went to Congress and the Supreme Court. The Bush administration classified what she said to Congress as confidential under the States Secrets Act. Her case could not go forward in the Supreme Court because everything related to her case had been classified confidential.
Among her claims: that the US missed opportunities to prevent September 11; that the “US Government engaged in mock investigations and shut down many small Islamic charities and organizations, giving the appearance of action in the so-called ‘War on Terror;’” that Dennis Hastert, former Republican Speaker of the House, accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from Turkish lobbying groups in exchange for “political favors and information;” that the American Turkish Council is a front for illegal activity involving opium money and selling confidential US weapon technology; and that loyalty to Saudi Arabian business partners was more important than the safety of American citizens to former President George W. Bush. We cannot know all that she has found because the government invoked the state secrets privilege to gag her and Congress in order to ‘protect certain sensitive diplomatic relations,’ or, to speak plainly, profit.
I had stumbled across Sibel Edmonds in my research for a comic book on historical figures who had been silenced or persecuted for their views and who fought for free speech. A few of those featured in the book are Sonya Kovalevskya, Max Stirner, Shuanzi, and Socrates. I had gone to College Coffeehouse to have the conversation with Edmonds, and, while my young son, Miro, pestered me to cease ignoring him, and others there enjoyed espresso and checked their e-mail, she and I discussed her story. I felt nervous to be discussing such matters in a public place, but her demeanor and humor put me at ease.
Sibel: I think it’s a great idea to do a comic. I read one of a woman from Iran, it was very good.
Isaac: Yes… Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
Sibel: Ah, you must be young; you still have your memory.
Isaac: My project will have two-page biographies of people who have been gagged, who have said unpopular things, and who have stood up for freedom of speech. I would like to have a page about you, and I wanted to get the details right. I heard of you first when I was studying Daniel Ellsberg.
Sibel: Ah! my best friend.
Isaac: Oh really? I think he is perhaps the most famous whistleblower; so, you stick together?
Sibel: Yes, he is a dear friend and when he comes to the DC area he stays at my house.
Isaac: I was researching him, I didn’t interview him, but in one of his interviews he mentions you. Have other whistleblowers contacted you?
Sibel: Yes, and I have made an organization, at nswbc.org. [National Security Whistleblowers Coalition]
Isaac: I read the ACLU report that explained that the Whistleblowers Protection Act doesn’t really protect any whistleblowers.
Isaac: Are you trying to get the word out more? What are you doing now?
Sibel: I have been taking a break, I haven’t done any interviews for a year. I get so many e-mails and I can’t respond to all of them, but your comic book sounded interesting.
Isaac: Thank you. In my comic, I depict you as shocked and surprised as these events happen, is this accurate?
Sibel: Well, yes, at first I was shocked and then I was dismayed. I really didn’t believe something this ridiculous could happen in this country. It really defies all logic.
Isaac: The Vanity Fair article was what I used primarily for the “plot” of my comic, would you say this article did a good job?
Sibel: A pretty good job, but it focused on the connection to Dennis Hastert, not the silencing of Congress and the Supreme Court. But the article was only ten pages, to tell the whole story it would need to be over forty pages long…
Isaac: There was a statement by someone in the government, [who] called the article, “an exciting read, entertaining, but no truth to it.”
Sibel: The article didn’t focus on the court case, which is what I think is most important. It was shut down because everything was classified. I use the word Kafkaesque, as there is no other word to describe it.
Isaac: It’s as if there isn’t a court high enough to hear your case.
Sibel: Exactly, and there is no first amendment rights for someone who has things to say that are made classified by the government. Or in my case, retroactively made classified. I hope you include a satire regarding the languages I translate and my birth date being classified. If I were to be pulled over by a policeman I couldn’t give him my driver’s license because its classified!
Isaac: So is that the case? You can’t fly, for instance?
Sibel: No, of course I am required to give my passport when I fly. It’s all absurd. The things made classified were public knowledge, as they had been available on the web, from Congress’s own website. The Executive branch should never gag Congress. They complied with the illegal gag order. “Yes, we will do whatever you ask of us because of the terrorists, because of the boogie man.” And the media isn’t doing its job, holding these people accountable.
When Daniel Ellis brought the Pentagon Papers to the Washington Post and the New York Times in 1971, these media organizations were pressured by the Executive branch to suppress the information. Eventually, the Supreme Court granted the newspapers the right to publish documents deemed confidential. In Sibel’s case, the Supreme Court was cowed by the Bush administration. Newspapers have been less eager to cover the story, perhaps reflecting popular opinion; in 1971 the Vietnam War was exceedingly unpopular, and criticizing it was common. In 2004 the War on Terror was supported by the majority of the American people, still reeling from the terrorist attacks of September 11. This is only more evidence that we need to be the media.
Isaac: So in my comic, I say that you ran into information about the September 11 attacks and you found evidence of illegal activity within the first few weeks, but you had a low-level clearance, is that right?
Sibel: Well, no, as a translator your clearance is higher than even that of the agents. The first line is the translators. The translator decides what should be discarded as unimportant.
Isaac: So our agents could be the best and it wouldn’t matter.
Sibel: Exactly. All is determined by the translator, there is no mechanism to check or double check. There are only three agents in the FBI who can speak Arabic and none who speak Turkish.
Isaac: And you were the first Turkish translator hired by the FBI?
Sibel: Well, there were Turkish translators in other divisions, who sometimes would be told, “We need you for three days or for three months or whatever” by the FBI, but yes, I was the first Turkish translator, and then they hired three more.
Isaac: Your supervisor, Mike Feghali, I want to put him in the comic, but there’s no photo that I can find, can you describe what he looked like?
Sibel: He is a very unimportant man. He is just a low-level bureaucrat. He is from Lebanon, fifty years, 5’5”. Heavy, shiny, greasy-looking man. Dark olive complexion, balding in front, double chin, maybe triple chin. He used to work for the FBI in NY as a translator for Arabic.
Isaac: And in my comic I say that he was padding his time sheets, and did he brag about that to you?
Sibel: No. This was not happening while I was there. But he was hiring his brother, his sister-in-law, his friends, and his friend’s brothers as translators. But that’s just bureaucracy. But he was billing the FBI for hours he didn’t work—this was long before my time with the FBI—and they fired him. He also had several sexual harassment charges, but he filed a complaint that this was prejudice against him because he was of Arabic decent so they kept him on. And then he applied for supervisory positions several times and they didn’t give him the job.
Isaac: So after that he was untouchable? Is he Fluent in Turkish?
Sibel: No. But he didn’t have to be, at the time he was my supervisor he was just a manager, he just had organizational duties. I don’t know if he was padding his time sheet but he was padding others, his friends. Or, they would go to him and say “I want to go see this Iranian singer who is coming to town,” and he would approve that that was a work expense, and pay them for that.
Isaac: And he was the one who asked you to translate slowly?
Sibel: Yes, but that was the whole department. They had lots of backlogged digital files to translate, and we were all told to take our time. They were trying to convince higher-ups that they needed more funding.
We talked more; I was trying to get descriptions of the people who would be in my comic. Eventually our conversation wound its way to discussing the current administration.
Sibel: The Obama administration had a chance to prosecute the Bush administration and hold them accountable but they did not. The Obama administration is granting the Bush admin people immunity.
Isaac: And all this promise of change turns out to be just business as usual.
Sibel: Yes, I do not have much hope for the Obama administration. We had a chance for real change with Ron Paul, but he is labeled a nut, and people say, “I don’t want to throw my vote away.” I don’t agree with everything he says; I am not an economics expert, but in him I saw the potential for genuine change.
Isaac: It’s like what we went through with Nader in 2000.
Sibel: We need fifty honest Congressmen to have real change. We cannot put our aspirations in a new president. It is not enough to have Ron Paul and that other guy. You need $250,000 to run for Congress and that’s just too much.
Isaac: When all the attention was on Blagojevich for trying to sell Barack Obama’s senate seat to the highest bidder, I felt, he is just one corrupt politician—and there are so many others who are getting no coverage at all!
I asked her what she was doing lately, and she said she had been traveling and had gone to Asia. I told her I was going to be traveling soon, and we began to complain about airport security.
Sibel: What does it take for people to say, “Okay, now we are officially living in a police state?” We see it most in the airports, we are being violated, our constitutional rights, every single day and especially when we travel. Did you hear Ron Paul’s manager was detained in an airport and he asked, “Under what law are you detaining me?” and they didn’t give him one. Fortunately he had a fancy cellphone and taped the entire incident.
I have been traveling recently and I visited the UK and Australia and they have adopted the same oppressive mood in the US airports. They have the same rules. I visited Vietnam and felt much safer in non-American airports than in those of the so-called ‘democracies.’
I talked to some friends in Vietnam, I asked them, “You aren’t afraid of the terrorists?” and they said, “Why should we be? Why would they hit us? We haven’t done anything to anger anybody.”
Isaac: Have you returned to Turkey?
Sibel: I am completely blacklisted. I cannot return to Turkey because if I do, I will be arrested immediately. To them I have committed treason; I worked for another country’s intelligence.
Isaac: I didn’t realize.
After I had taken about an hour of her time and Miro’s patience for sitting in the coffeeshop listening to me talk politics on the phone was at the breaking point, we concluded our chat pleasantly with some lighter humor.
Sibel: Have you heard of the drug czar? The US appointed four new czars of other things, I think we have the National Security Czar and the Economy Czar… What does this word mean? “Czar.” Have we really run out of English words for officials and we must use the word “czar”now? What would a female be? A czarina?
Isaac: It seems to imply that they are unquestionable.
Sibel: Yes, and what word do we use next? When this position is made obsolete? God? Here is a country that hates monarchy and we name a government position, “czar?”
Isaac: Whose idea was that? is that supposed to sound like someone we can trust?
(A little internet research reveals that we also have a Border Czar, and many humor websites have joked that the head czar would be a—drum roll please—czar czar.)
Isaac: Is this conversation likely to be wiretapped?
Sibel: Oh yeah, you can bet on it.
Isaac Paris is a musician and cartoonist living in Fairbanks, Alaska. His most recent project was composing music for Theatre UAF’s “Caligari: Alaska.” He is also helping with Clucking Blossom 5, May 30th at Birch Hill Recreation area. To keep updated on his book project and hear his songs, you can visit his blog at isaacparis.wordpress.com.
For more information about Sibel Edmonds, there are many websites where you can read interviews and articles about her case.
The Wikipedia entry on her: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sibel_Edmonds
“The Highjacking of a Nation,” by Sibel Edmonds, November 15, 2006, available on line at: www.nswbc.org/Op%20Ed/Op-ed-Part1-Nov15-06.htm
“In Congress we trust… Not.” Sibel Edmonds, May 4, 2009. Available on line at: www.bradblog.com/?p=7117
“What FBI whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds found in translation,” by Philip Giraldi. Dallas News, February 17, 2008, Available on line at: dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/points/stories/DN-sibeledmonds_17edi.ART.State.Edition1.45b446a.html
“Sibel Edmonds: Help me put Perle and Feith in jail.” An interview with David Swanson. March 13, 2007. Available on line at: lukery.newsvine.com/_news/2007/03/13/613021-sibel-edmonds-help-me-put-perle-and-feith-in-jail
Whistleblowing organizations and websites:
Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, www.fas.org/programs/ssp/govsec/
National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, www.nswbc.org
National Whistleblowers Center, www.whistleblowers.org
Project on Government Oversight, www.pogo.org