Officials Knew of Al Qaida Attack with Aircraft - Whistleblower
PA News, April 2, 2004
NEW YORK -- Top level US officials knew before September 11 that al Qaida planned to use aircraft to commit a terrorist outrage, a former FBI translator claimed today. The accusation by Sibel Edmonds starkly contradicts claims by senior Bush Administration figures that they had no prior warning of the attacks in 2001 on New York and Washington.
Ms. Edmonds told The Independent newspaper: "There was general information about the timeframe, about methods to be used -- but not specifically about how they would be used -- and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts or terror attacks. "There were other cities that were mentioned. Major cities -- with skyscrapers."
The 33-year-old Turkish-American translator accused President George W Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, of telling an "outrageous lie", when she said intelligence officials had no forewarning. Ms Rice wrote in the Washington Post last week: "We received no intelligence that terrorists were preparing to attack the homeland using aeroplanes as missiles..."
But Ms. Edmonds said it would be "impossible" for that to be the case, based on documents she had seen during her time with the FBI, after the September 11 attacks. The White House has sought to gag Ms Edmonds with a court order citing "state secrets privilege".
Ms. Edmonds was one of many language experts who answered appeals for translators in the days following the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon. She was tasked with translating documents and recordings from FBI wire taps -- some of which had previously been translated, and some which were new.
From the documents, she said, it was clear that there was sufficient information in Spring and Summer 2001 that an attack was being planned. She has already made the allegations before a secret-session of a Congressional commission investigating the September 11 atrocities.
Ms Rice will appear in public before that commission in Washington next week, after backing down from repeated refusals to do so under intense pressure. She had previously spoken to the commission only in private.
And she had come under severe attack from former counter-terrorism adviser to four White House administrations, Richard Clarke, who said she failed to do her job in the months before September 11. Ms. Edmonds went on:
"I gave the commission] details of specific investigation files, the specific dates, specific target information, specific managers in charge of the investigation. I gave them everything so that they could go back and follow up. This is not hearsay. These are things that are documented. These things can be established very easily."
She said the Bush Administration was misleading the US public and the world with claims that there was no warning ahead of September 11. "President Bush said they had no specific information about 11 September and that is accurate but only because he said 11 September," she said.
The latest claims come as another blow for the Bush Administration in an election year. Mr Clarke, who was counter-terrorism adviser to both Bill Clinton and Mr Bush, told the congressional commission last week that the Bush administration "for the first eight months considered terrorism an important issue, but not an urgent issue".
He said the fight against terrorism and al Qaida was "extraordinarily" important under the Clinton administration and that Mr Clinton had "no higher priority" than combating terrorists. But under Mr Bush it was a less urgent issue. He said there was a process under way in the Bush White House to tackle al Qaida.
"But, although I continued to say it was an urgent problem, I don't think it was ever treated that way," he said. He also apologised to the families of those killed on September 11. "Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you," he said.