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Subject: 911 Allegations Lost in Translation
Date: Sat, 10 Apr 2004 03:48:31 +0200
X-Newsreader: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.50.4522.1200
Thursday 8 April 2004 By Jefferson Morley - Washington Post
Sept. 11 Allegations Lost in Translation
The sensational story of Sibel Edmonds illuminates the world of difference
between the international online media and the US press.
Edmonds is a 33-year-old former FBI translator whose February allegations
to the commission investigating the 11 Sept. 2001 terror attacks directly
challenge the credibility of the commission's star witness, national
security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
In an April 2 interview with the Independent of London, Edmonds said she
read intelligence reports from the summer of 2001 that al Qaeda operatives
planned to fly hijacked airplanes into US skyscrapers. - 1 -
"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," she
said. She added that specific cities with skyscrapers were mentioned.
Edmonds said that she had provided the commission's staff with "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."
Edmonds took issue with Rice's assertion in a 22 March Washington Post
Op-Ed piece that the United States had no intelligence warning of al
Qaeda's tactics. "That is impossible," she said. - 2 -
As Rice's appearance before the commission grew into a huge news story,
Edmonds's account went global. The Independent's story received
respectful, extensive treatment from news sites on every continent,
ranging from Cronica de Hoy http://www.cronica.com.mx/nota.php?idc=117944
(in Spanish) in Mexico City to Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung (in German :
http://www.sueddeutsche.de/ausland/artikel/632/29603/) to the Khaleej
Times in the Persian Gulf
to the New Zealand Herald in the South Pacific. -3-
Edmonds's story has been almost uniformly ignored in the US daily press.
Her allegations have been detailed in the online magazine Salon and
several liberal sites are playing them up. -4-
The Independent's story was mentioned briefly on Monday in Dan Froomkin's
White House Briefing blog on washingtonpost.com. :
Tim Russert briefly quizzed the Republican and Democratic heads of the
9/11 commission about Edmonds during Sunday's "Meet the Press" program
on NBC. Former Clinton White House aide Paul Begala mentioned it last
week on CNN's "Crossfire." But the only US newspaper to give Edmonds any
extended coverage was the Washington Times.
In January, a page-one New York Observer article on Edmonds's complaints
about lax security in the FBI's translation office did not include the
allegations that first appeared in the Independent. -5-
Clearly, what we have here are two different standards of journalism :
one American, one nearly global. The question is where does this
difference come from ?
One possible explanation is that the heart of Edmonds's story remains
unconfirmed. Edmonds did work as a translator for the FBI for six months
after the Sept. 11 attacks, but she was fired from her post for
unspecified reasons. The documents that she says will corroborate her
story have not yet surfaced and may not exist.
Perhaps US news organizations are prudently laying off a story that may
not be true while foreign editors are less scrupulous. As my roundup on
foreign coverage of Matt Drudge's unconfirmed story about John Kerry's
alleged affair showed, news sites in England, Australia and Africa are
more likely to run an unconfirmed story than their US counterparts.
Foreign news organizations cite several qualities that make Edmonds seem
a credible witness. She won good reviews for her work at the FBI. She
told her story to the Sept. 11 commission staff. When she took her
complaint about lax FBI security to Congress, Iowa Senator Charles
Grassley, a conservative Republican, called her "very credible."
Edmonds's story is newsworthy for three reasons, according to the
Edmonds's accusation "starkly contradicts claims by senior Bush
Administration figures that they had no prior warning of the attacks
in 2001 on New York and Washington," said the Scotsman, a generally
conservative paper in Scotland whose editors favored the US-led invasion
of Iraq. -6-
Edmonds's charges dovetail with another pre-Sept. 11 revelation, reporter
Shaheen Chughtai noted Tuesday on Aljazeera.net, the Web site of the Arab
cable news channel. -7-
Chughtai cited a Sept. 2002 NBC News report that on 6 Aug. 2001, President
Bush "received a one-and-a-half page briefing advising him that Osama bin
Laden was capable of a major strike against the US, and that the plot
could include the hijacking of an American airplane."
And finally, Edmonds's allegations go to the very heart of the Sept. 11
probe, according to Mushahid Hussain, a leading Pakistani political
commentator. Writing in the Nation, the leading paper of Pakistan,
he asked if Sept. 11 was "an intelligence fiasco" or the result of "a
more fundamental flaw that had its origin in a policy, which simply
refused to take threats from non-state actors like Al-Qaeda seriously ?"
Will Condoleezza Rice address Edmonds's allegations when she takes
the stand ?
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