Out of Control Policy Blog

Protecting us from terror or protecting bureaucracy?

In the wake of the latest terror threat, the accounts of FBI whistleblowers getting snubbed are particularly troubling:

In a letter released on Capitol Hill, FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged that the a recently concluded internal Justice Department investigation found "a contributing factor" in [former interpreter Sibel] Edmonds firing was the fact that she had accused the bureau of ineptitude, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart.

Edmonds insisted today, the ineptitude still exists.

"The problems were systemic problems that existed within the FBI's translation units that involve security breaches and also incompetence. These were the problems I reported," she said.

Edmonds is now working on her PhD and acts as an advisor to the Sept. 11 families. It was just after the Sept. 11 attacks that she offered her services to the FBI as a Turkish and Middle Eastern language specialist.

But shortly after joining the bureau's Washington field office, she said she encountered sloppy work by colleagues and was told by superiors to work slower so the bureau might justify demands for a bigger budget.

"I was warned that if I were to make these issues public and take them outside the bureau I would be retaliated against and I would be fired. And exactly that's what occurred," she said.

It shows that no matter how much we gear up to fight terror, the institutional incentive for a bureaucracy to make itself bigger–even if it means covering up mistakes–will always be there.

And now there's veteran FBI terror infiltrator, Mike German:

[I]n early 2002, when Mr. German got word that a group of Americans might be plotting support for an overseas Islamic terrorist group, he proposed to his bosses what he thought was an obvious plan: go undercover and infiltrate the group.

But Mr. German says F.B.I. officials sat on his request, botched the investigation, falsified documents to discredit their own sources, then froze him out and made him a "pariah." He left the bureau in mid-June after 16 years and is now going public for the first time - the latest in a string of F.B.I. whistle-blowers who claim they were retaliated against after voicing concerns about how management problems had impeded terrorism investigations since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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