Friday, October 06, 2006


Interview: Sibel Edmonds Manifesto

This is Part One of my extended interview with Mathieu Verboud, co-director of Kill The Messenger - The story of whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds.


Luke Ryland: Mathieu, congratulations on the project. How long have you been working on the film?

Mathieu Verboud: We started around February 2005 – by then we had got in contact with Sibel and agreed that we should pay her a visit and we met her for the first time in DC in April 2005. Just one week before her appeal to the DC Circuit Court. Last time we saw her was in May 2006 - and during that time period, we spent about 90 days shooting the whole film.

LR: Right - you were also making your film Tranquility Bay along the way, right?

MV: Well, Tranquility Bay was already completed and edited – my co-filmmaker Jean-Robert and I were just waiting for the broadcast on the national TV station. By the time Tranquility Bay aired on TV (May 2006), we'd almost finished the shooting of Kill The Messenger.

Overall, we spent around a year working full time on the film on Sibel. Kill The Messenger was completed last August, and aired in France in September, for the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

LR: OK - so are you doing much media for the film?

MV: Quite a lot, all major dailies and radio stations reviewed the film. These reviews were very good, some very flattering. The film sheds light on people and situations we usually don’t know much about: spies, corrupt U.S officials and people like the fact that the film focused on that.

People like our story too because of Sibel. She brings humanity in an otherwise dark environnment. People love her. Some critics even said Sibel’s story helped them look at what went on recently with Iran, Israel, Lebanon with a different perspective. That’s nice to hear.

LR: Ok - How about you give a synopsis of the movie to kick us off.

MV: Let's start with what we wanted. We were interested in the whistleblower phenomenon - whistleblowing is something totally unfamiliar here in France. Regrettably, we don’t have this concept. So we wanted to tell the stories of those who come forward.

So we looked into major whistleblowers cases in the U.S and found out that there had been an epidemic of whistleblowing at the FBI and that’s how we got interested in Sibel's case. Also because people told us that she was quite a character…. At first, all we knew, besides the fact that she was an ex-FBI language specialist, was that she had ‘ found’ or ‘ heard’ or ‘discovered’ something during her short tenure at the FBI. She had a ‘secret’, she had been fired because of that secret and now she was engaged in a fight to expose the secret. The thing is she was gagged, so she couldn’t talk. We thought… well, what a great character for a film! (laughs)…

And we had no idea what the secret was about. Except that it was about spies and 9/11. Then we met her and she made it perfectly clear that she would not disclose anything to us…

Yet, there is something else she wanted to tell…

Sibel Edmonds Manifesto…

MV: We had a big interview in the beginning in April 2005 after she’d lost in the DC Circuit Court. A 2 hour interview in her house - she was very tense, very sharp - where she described the public side of the story, the case in general, the FBI retaliations etc, etc - without making any mention of the specifics of the secret itself. The name Dickerson was pronounced only once. We didn’t have the secret but so far, we had better: we had Sibel’s manifesto and it was a superb outline for the film.

At the same time, we decided we had to find out what it is that she couldn't tell. So we started our own investigation- the idea was to tell two stories unfolding at the same time. Sibel's journey with the government, and at the same time trying to look into the secret.

The film is divided this way - the first act of the film is about what happened to Sibel, who she is, and what she worked on etc. So far, there is no mention whatsoever of the American Turkish Council. We just know that she's been attacked by vicious people in the government, and that there's a very shady spy case.

In the second act of the film, Sibel counter-attacks - she creates the whistleblower coalition, she appeals her court-case, Paul Sperry writes his book ‘Infiltration’, the first book ever published that touches on the Sibel Edmonds case, and then we come across David Rose, the investigative journalist writing on Sibel for Vanity Fair and we stumble into the American Turkish Council - the ATC. We are about to embark into the ‘secret', till the end of the film.

At that very moment, around half-way through the film, we know that the whole Sibel Edmonds case is closely linked to Turkey, to NATO elements in Turkey like Douglas Dickerson and we now discover that the ATC is closely linked to the Military Industrial Complex, and that the whole case points to certain ‘weapons sales’, in this case a euphemism for arms trafficking.

And then in the last chapter of the film, we go into the secret and explore the links between Turkey, the U.S, Israel, Pakistan; possible links to Islamic groups; the role of Turkish Generals, and the role of neoconservatives, the Plame case - and how that all connects to Sibel.

LR: That's a lot of territory to cover in 84 minutes!

MV: Yes. There are some elements that we have, that you probably have as well, that we weren't able to include in the film for various reasons: what happened in Chicago for instance or the specific role of let’s say ex- U.S ambassador Marc Grossman. The reason is people here in France, first of all know almost NOTHING about the methods of the U.S intelligence community, know absolutely nothing about Sibel Edmonds, or about her case, nothing about what the gag order is, or what a whistle-blower is. They also have little knowledge of the Neocon-Israel connection. For the French viewer, it's an entirely new lesson.

We have a sequence for example at the American Turkish Council annual conference and this helps you understand the kind of business that takes place in this venue - yet telling EVERYTHING about Sibel’s secret is another story. Hard evidence, as you know, does not really exist in this case. We still know very little of what she knows. So we only mention two names of Neocons apparently connected to the case: Douglas Feith and Richard Perle.

LR: But you interviewed Marc Grossman, right?

MV: (laughs)… yes we did. But it's not included.

LR: Oh no!

MV: Well, we had good reasons not to include it in the French version. Again, if it's a film for the general public, people obviously unfamiliar with the daily routines of arms trafficking, unaware that some U.S officials could engage in weapons proliferation with people they themselves label as ‘the worst enemies of the free world!' That in itself is very interesting...

Those interested in the possible ‘behind-the-scene’ activities of ex-ambassador Grossman need to read this all-time classic by Christopher Deliso: "Lesser Neocons of L'Affaire Plame," an article which came out in November 2005. Excellent piece (laughs)… According to Chris, the road in Sibel’s case often leads to the Balkans. I agree. But in her case, all roads start and end in Pakistan, a country with a unique mix of islamic fundamentalism and nuclear power.

Once you’ve understood the main outline of Sibel’s case, you realize Pakistan is the place where everything started… back in the 1980’s…

NEXT UP: Part Two: U.S weapons for the jihad…

I'll post that in a couple of days.
update: see Part One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six

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