- A former translator for the FBI with top-secret security
clearance says she has provided information to the panel investigating
the 11 September attacks which proves senior officials knew of al-Qa'ida's
plans to attack the US with aircraft months before the strikes happened.
- She said the claim by the National Security Adviser,
Condoleezza Rice, that there was no such information was "an outrageous
- Sibel Edmonds said she spent more than three hours in
a closed session with the commission's investigators providing information
that was circulating within the FBI in the spring and summer of 2001 suggesting
that an attack using aircraft was just months away and the terrorists were
in place. The Bush administration, meanwhile, has sought to silence her
and has obtained a gagging order from a court by citing the rarely used
"state secrets privilege".
- She told The Independent yesterday: "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 added: "There was general information about
the time-frame, 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 of terror attacks. There were other cities that were mentioned.
Major cities - with skyscrapers."
- The accusations from Mrs Edmonds, 33, a Turkish-American
who speaks Azerbaijani, Farsi, Turkish and English, will reignite the controversy
over whether the administration ignored warnings about al-Qa'ida. That
controversy was sparked most recently by Richard Clarke, a former counter-terrorism
official, who has accused the administration of ignoring his warnings.
- The issue - what the administration knew and when - is
central to the investigation by the 9/11 Commission, which has been hearing
testimony in public and private from government officials, intelligence
officials and secret sources. Earlier this week, the White House made a
U-turn when it said that Ms Rice would appear in public before the commission
to answer questions. Mr Bush and his deputy, Dick Cheney, will also be
questioned in a closed-door session.
- Mrs Edmonds, 33, says she gave her evidence to the commission
in a specially constructed "secure" room at its offices in Washington
on 11 February. She was hired as a translator for the FBI's Washington
field office on 13 September 2001, just two days after the al-Qa'ida attacks.
Her job was to translate documents and recordings from FBI wire-taps.
- She said said it was clear there was sufficient information
during the spring and summer of 2001 to indicate terrorists were planning
an attack. "Most of what I told the commission - 90 per cent of it
- related to the investigations that I was involved in or just from working
in the department. Two hundred translators side by side, you get to see
and hear a lot of other things as well."
- "President Bush said they had no specific information
about 11 September and that is accurate but only because he said 11 September,"
she said. There was, however, general information about the use of airplanes
and that an attack was just months away.
- To try to refute Mr Clarke's accusations, Ms Rice said
the administration did take steps to counter al-Qa'ida. But in an opinion
piece in The Washington Post on 22 March, Ms Rice wrote: "Despite
what some have suggested, we received no intelligence that terrorists were
preparing to attack the homeland using airplanes as missiles, though some
analysts speculated that terrorists might hijack planes to try and free
- Mrs Edmonds said that by using the word "we",
Ms Rice told an "outrageous lie". She said: "Rice says 'we'
not 'I'. That would include all people from the FBI, the CIA and DIA [Defence
Intelligence Agency]. I am saying that is impossible."
- It is impossible at this stage to verify Mrs Edmonds'
claims. However, some senior US senators testified to her credibility in
2002 when she went public with separate allegations relating to alleged
incompetence and corruption within the FBI's translation department.
- © 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd