WASHINGTON - A lawyer for FBI whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds said Tuesday the bureau's prepublication review office has adopted overly expansive restrictions that are preventing Edmonds from publishing a book about her life at the FBI.
Edmonds, once a contract linguist at the bureau, was fired a decade ago after complaining to FBI managers about shoddy wiretap translations and alleging that an interpreter with a relative at a foreign embassy might have compromised national security by blocking translations in some cases and notifying targets of FBI surveillance.
Edmonds sued for unlawful termination, but Attorney General John Ashcroft stopped her lawsuit by invoking the state secrets privilege. He said her claims might expose government secrets that could damage national security.
Attorney Stephen Kohn said his client's book, "Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story," contains no classified information, yet has been under review by the bureau for the past year. Bureau regulations promise reviews will take only 30 working days. In all, reviews can cover a dozen different factors, which may significantly delay the 30-day limit, said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson.
Kohn said the bureau's interpretation of its legal responsibility has gone far beyond classified information.
The lawyer cites language in a Feb. 7 FBI letter that says the matters Edmonds writes about involve "many equities, some of which may implicate information that is classified." Kohn also cites a non-disclosure agreement Edmonds signed that says the agreement is intended to prevent disclosure that would be "contrary to the law, regulation or public policy."
In response, the bureau's public affairs office pointed to the FBI website, which says the job of the bureau's prepublication review office is to ensure that FBI personnel safeguard "sensitive and classified information" from unauthorized disclosure. The website says the obligation to safeguard is based on "statutes, regulations, access and employment agreements, contractual clauses and the fiduciary relationships into which employees or contractor personnel enter."
Kohn says there are numerous court decisions which have held that prepublication review only can be used for secret and classified information.
"What this says is that Sibel Edmonds - and possibly countless other thousands of FBI employees and contractors - sign an agreement to have documentation censored if the FBI director thinks it's contrary to public policy," said Kohn.