Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Sibel First Amedment cannonball

Sibel has posted a new YouTube video about her winning the PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award earlier this year. The transcript is below. Sibel makes as an appearance, as does Rep Carolyn Maloney, Ann Beeson (ACLU), Sen Frank Lautenberg, and Paul Newman

She's also posted PEN's press release announcing the award, and Sibel's acceptance speech is here. Here's a snippet:
Standing up to despotism and tyranny has always been considered illegal by those in power, and dangerous to those who would expose them. Today we are facing despots who use ‘national security’ to push everything under a blanket of secrecy; to gag and call it a privilege; to detain without having to show a cause; and to torture yet believe it’s fully justified.

We must be vigilant & fight back, for our freedom is under assault – not from terrorists – for they only attack us, not our freedom, and they can never prevail. No, the attacks on our freedom are from within, from our very own government; and unless we recognize these attacks for what they are, and stand up, and speak out – no shout out – against those in government who are attempting to silence the brave few who are warning us; then we are doomed to wake up one sad morning and wonder when and where our freedom died.

There was also a separate, informal, impromptu 10 minute 'speech' from the Award Breakfast here (10min, mp3) - I love this speech. It's very touching. You'll have to listen.


Here's the transcript of the PEN video:
Voiceover: Sibel Edmonds lives in suburban Washington and never expected to become, in the words of a Vanity Fair headline, "An Inconvenient Patriot.”

Rep Carolyn Maloney (D. NY): She is a modern day Paul Revere! She stood up and said "This is wrong." And they told her to shut-up and she just kept on talking. And they told her to shut-up again, and took away her security clearance, took away her job, and she still just kept on talking.

Sibel Edmonds: They have threatened me that they will put me in jail

Voiceover: Edmonds was born in Iran. One of her earlier memories: the Shah's secret police, SAVAK, searching her family's house in Tehran. Then, the Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution.

One time, Revolutionary Guards surrounded an eleven year old Sibel and told her she could go to jail because her headscarf was not modest enough. Her family fled to Turkey, Sibel ended up in college in Maryland. Her languages included English, Farsi, Turkish and Azerbaijani. After 911, Edmonds decided to go to the FBI. They did not have a single translator who could speak Turkish - she became a contract linguist, translating conversations, seized documents and wiretaps of foreign officials under suspicion.

Ann Beeson (ACLU): And she discovered, in fact, that there had been serious security breaches which could jeopardize the work, and jeopardize the investigation - and also in fact that there was a person that she was just convinced was a spy, from another country.

Voiceover: She told her boss. And her bosses boss. But nothing changed. Then further, the Justice Department, the Office of the Inspector General, and two senators on the Judiciary Committee. When action was taken, it was the FBI firing her. They said for her disruptive effect on the translating unit. She brought suit against the FBI for firing her. But the Department of Justice invoked the States Secrets Privilege - saying that hearing the case would jeopardize National Security. The case was dismissed. She never even got into court. The government retroactively classified briefings that Edmonds had made to Senators - yet she continued to speak out. Finally, the independent Office of the Inspector General - the OIG - investigated. Their report immediately classified by the FBI - but when an unclassified version was released it confirmed Sibel's story. Quote: "Many of her allegations had bases in fact. We believe the FBI did not take them seriously enough, and that her allegations were in fact the most significant factor in the FBI's decision to terminate her services." Even with that report, the appeal of her case was denied, so she took her case to the highest court in the land - the Supreme Court declined to hear it. Her reporters cite the ultimate irony - the hearing was denied the same day that a hunk of marble from the Supreme Court's facade fell to the pavement. But her cause is not over. The Paul Revere Freedom to Warn Act, and a similar Senate bill, to strengthen protection for government whistleblowers will now make it's way through Congress because of Sibel Edmonds' case.

Rep Carolyn Maloney (D. NY): She's a First Amendment cannonball. She speaks up for what she believes in. She's a leader. The fact that she, not only, was a strong advocate for her own case, but she became a strong advocate for the public policy, for the greater good.

Sen Frank Lautenberg (D, NJ): She had the intuition, the courage, and the backbone, to stand up and do it. And we are very grateful to her. And the PEN award is significant in that regard. Tell the public what happened - Sibel Edmonds was a heroine in this

Ann Beeson (ACLU): Sibel Edmonds is an American Patriot. She has a classic story to tell - which is the story of an immigrant, who came here seeking more freedom, and seeking a real democracy - and was unfortunately shut down when she tried to exercise her rights under the First Amendment.

Paul Newman: I'm Paul Newman. For the past fourteen years we've been honoring courageous Americans who have defended their First Amendment rights against overwhelming odds, and in so doing, affirmed the protection of the First Amendment for all of us. Sibel Edmonds adds lust re to this distinguished group of honorees with her refusal to backdown from her confrontation with the FBI. In his straight talking way, President Harry Truman said: Whenever one American, who has done nothing wrong, is forced by fear to shut his mouth, then all Americans are in peril. Sibel Edmonds would not let an intimidating FBI shut her mouth, and as a result, suffered grievous consequences, but she has persevered and we are better off for her sacrifices.

Voiceover: PEN American Center is pleased to present Sibel Edmonds with the 2006 Pen Newman's Own First Amendment Award.

crossposted at

I don't get Lautenberg's involvement. I realize he supports pro-whistleblower legislation. But he is on the inside of the corriders of power. Not to mention he voted for the detainee bill and his excuse was BS.

Maybe I'm off base. Perhaps the context was limited to whistleblower legislation. I just get the sense Lautenberg is grandstanding.
Just saying it's one thing to praise Edmonds at an award ceremony...and another to support her struggle against Lautenberg's colleagues who are in no hurry to protest the application of the state secrets privilege.

Am I missing something? Naive?
Noise, I don't really know much about Lautenberg - but you are correct, he has been very supporting of WB legislation. His name comes up repeatedly in part two and three of the Dirty Dozen interview.

He is on the the Homeland Security Committee, and Sibel calls him 'a really good person' and "The Senate, in a way, is just like one party. It's rare to see someone like Feingold or Sen. Lautenberg..."

So that's pretty high praise.
"Am I missing something? Naive?"

I have to weigh in with Noise on this one. While we should be somewhat grateful to Lautenburg, he, along with every other legislator, are still respecting the illegal retroactive classification by John Ashcroft. Lautenburg will not say "Sibel Edmonds" and "Turkey" in the same sentence, for example.

The question is: are Congressmen like Lautenburg respecting the Ashcroft gag order because they are afraid of being accused of leaking classified info- or are they using this illegal gag order as an excuse, because they'd rather not talk about a scandal that includes bribed Democratic Congressmen, Israel and Clinton appointee Marc Grossman?
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