July 29, 2004

Old wine in new bottles

In 2002, translator Sibel Edmonds was let go by the FBI after she complained about poor-quality work and even sabotage in translations produced by other bureau linguists. The Justice Department's inspector general has produced a classified report on Edmonds' charges, some aspects of which were revealed in a July 21 letter to congress from FBI director Robert S. Mueller III. The NYT has gotten a copy of Mueller's letter, and Erich Lichtblau has an article about it today's paper.

According to the article,

Ms. Edmonds worked as a contract linguist for the F.B.I. for about six months, translating material in Turkish, Persian and Azerbaijani. She was dismissed in 2002 after she complained repeatedly that bureau linguists had produced slipshod and incomplete translations of important terrorism intelligence before and after the Sept. 11 attacks. She also accused a fellow Turkish linguist in the bureau's Washington field office of blocking the translation of material involving acquaintances who had come under F.B.I. suspicion and said the bureau had allowed diplomatic sensitivities with other nations to impede the translation of important terrorism intelligence.

The inspector general's report apparently concludes that Edmonds "was dismissed in part because she accused the bureau of ineptitude", in the words of Lichtblau's article, and also "found that the F.B.I. did not aggressively investigate her claims of espionage against a co-worker."

A few years ago, people used to say that the classic George Smiley/Harry Palmer type of spy story was finished, because the dramatic frame was gone. But it looks like the classical themes are back, in a new framework.


Posted by Mark Liberman at July 29, 2004 08:02 AM