Group alleges FBI abused wiretaps to spy on government officials
According to a release sent to RAW STORY by the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, government officials were illegaly wiretapped by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in order to advance a public corruption investigation.
A 2002 complaint by FBI Special Agent Gilbert Graham alleges that an FBI task force on which he was serving used counterintelligence wiretaps primarily in order to spy on US government officials.
"It is the complainant’s reasonable belief that the request for ELSUR [electronic surveillance] coverage was a subterfuge to collect evidentiary information concerning public corruption matters," the just released complaint shows.
The full release is included below, and can also be accessed, with links to relevant documents, at the NSWBC website.
National Security Whistleblowers Coalition
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE- March 5, 2007
Contact: Sibel Edmonds, National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, email@example.com or William Weaver, firstname.lastname@example.org
Two FBI Whistleblowers Confirm Illegal Wiretapping of Government Officials and Misuse of FISA
State Secrets Privilege Was Used to Cover Up Corruption and Silence Whistleblowers
The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC) has obtained a copy of an official complaint filed by a veteran FBI Special Agent, Gilbert Graham, with the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (DOJ-OIG). SA Graham’s protected disclosures report the violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in conducting electronic surveillance of high-profile U.S. public officials.
Before his retirement in 2002, SA Gilbert Graham worked for the FBI Washington Field Office (WFO) Squad NS-24. One of the main areas of Mr. Graham’s counterintelligence investigations involved espionage activities by Turkish officials and agents in the United States. On April 2, 2002, Graham filed with the DOJ-OIG a classified protected disclosure, which provided a detailed account of FISA violations involving misuse of FISA warrants to engage in domestic surveillance. In his unclassified report SA Graham states: “It is the complainant’s reasonable belief that the request for ELSUR [electronic surveillance] coverage was a subterfuge to collect evidentiary information concerning public corruption matters.” Graham blew the whistle on this illegal behavior, but the actions were covered up by the Department of Justice and the Attorney General’s office.
The report filed by SA Graham bolsters another FBI whistleblower’s case that became public several months after Graham’s official filing with the Justice Department in 2002. Sibel Edmonds, former FBI Language Specialist, also worked for the FBI Washington Field Office (WFO), and her assignments included the translations of Turkish Counterintelligence documents and audiotapes, some of which were part of espionage investigations led by SA Graham. After she filed her complaint with the DOJ-OIG and Congress, she was retaliated against by the FBI and ultimately fired in March 2002. Court proceedings in Edmonds’ case were blocked by the assertion of the State Secrets Privilege by then Attorney General John Ashcroft, and the Congress gagged and prevented from investigating her case through retroactive re-classification of documents by DOJ.
Edmonds’ complaint included allegations of illegal activities by Turkish organizations and their agents in the United States, and the involvement of certain elected and appointed U.S. officials in the Department of State, Pentagon, and the U.S. Congress in these activities. In its September 2005 issue, Vanity Fair ran a comprehensive piece on Edmonds’ case by reporter David Rose, in which several former and current congressional and Justice Department officials identified former House Speaker Dennis Hastert as being involved in illegal activities with the Turkish organizations and personnel targeted in FBI investigations. In addition, Rose reported: “…much of what Edmonds reportedly heard seemed to concern not state espionage but criminal activity. There was talk, she told investigators, of laundering the profits of large-scale drug deals and of selling classified military technologies to the highest bidder.” In January 2005, DOJ-OIG released an unclassified summary of its investigation into Edmonds' termination. The report concluded that Edmonds was fired for reporting serious security breaches and misconduct in the agency's translation program, and that many of her allegations were supported by convincing evidence.
Another Former Veteran FBI Counterintelligence and Espionage Specialist at FBI Headquarters in Washington DC also filed similar reports with DOJ-OIG and several congressional offices regarding violations of FISA implementation and the covering up of several espionage cases involving FBI Language Specialists and public corruption cases by the Bureau. The cases reported by this whistleblower corroborate those reported by SA Graham and Sibel Edmonds. In an interview with NSWBC investigators the former FBI Specialist, who wished to remain anonymous, stated: “…you are looking at covering up massive public corruption and espionage cases; to top that off you have major violations of FISA by the FBI Washington Field Office and HQ targeting these cases. Everyone involved has motive to cover up these reports and prevent investigation and public disclosure. No wonder they invoked the state secrets privilege in Edmonds’ case.”
William Weaver, NSWBC Senior Advisor noted that,”These abuses of power are precisely why we must pay attention to whistleblowers. Preservation of the balance of powers between the branches of government increasingly relies on information provided by whistleblowers, especially in the face of aggressive and expanding executive power. Through illegal surveillance members of Congress and other officials may be controlled by the executive branch, thereby dissolving the matrix of our democracy. The abuse of two powers of secrecy, FISA and the state secrets privilege, are working hand in hand to subvert the Constitution. In an abominably perverse arrangement, the abuse of FISA is being covered up by abuse of the state secrets privilege. Only whistleblowers and the congressional and judicial oversight their revelations spawn can bring our system back into balance.”
Several civil liberties and whistleblowers organizations have joined Edmonds and NSWBC in urging congress to hold public hearing on Edmonds’ case, including the supporting cases of SA Graham and other FBI witnesses, and the erroneous use of state secrets privilege by the executive branch to cover up its own illegal conduct. The petition endorsed by these groups is expected to be released to public in the next few days.