Classified Woman

In this startling memoir, Sibel Edmonds—the most classified woman in U.S. history—takes us on a surreal journey that begins with the secretive FBI and down the dark halls of a feckless Congress to a stonewalling judiciary and finally, to the national security whistleblowers movement she spearheaded. Having lived under Middle East dictatorships, Edmonds knows firsthand what can happen when government is allowed to operate in secret. Hers is a sobering perspective that combines painful experience with a rallying cry for the public’s right to know and to hold the lawbreakers accountable. With U.S. citizens increasingly stripped of their rights in a calibrated media blackout, Edmonds’ story is a wake-up call for all Americans who, willingly or unwillingly, traded liberty for illusive security in the wake of 9/11.

Review by Nanore Barsoumian at Armenia Weekly

A string of suspicious events and encounters lead FBI translator Sibel Edmonds to the center of a conspiratorial net of cover-ups and possible espionage, as she attempts to unravel the truth behind buried sensitive case files that could shed light and incriminate high-profile individuals in connection with the September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.

Her struggle takes her to the halls of Congress, U.S. courtrooms, and, finally, the National Whistleblowers Coalition she helped found.

When Edmonds, a Turkish-speaking U.S. citizen, is hired by the FBI as a translator, she is eager to serve her adopted country in the wake of the terrorist attacks. But she soon finds out that the FBI’s translation department is anything but transparent, and accountability and oversight are sorely lacking. Files go missing. Translations are sabotaged, putting lives—the lives of FBI agents—in danger. Her immediate boss seems more and more unprincipled and crooked with every passing encounter. An atmosphere of fear and hopelessness prevents others from speaking out.

“Sibel Edmonds would not let an intimidating FBI shut her mouth, and as a result, suffered grievous consequences, but she has persevered and we are better off for her sacrifices.”
— Paul Newman

“Edmonds must feel a bit like Alice at the tea party, where justice is not being served, and where a secret is a secret but why it’s a secret or who says it’s a secret is a secret, and we can’t tell you why because it’s a secret.”
––Editorial, Seattle Post

“She’s credible. And the reason I feel she’s very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story.”
— Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), “60 Minutes”

“The silencing of Edmonds has been remarkably silent. Which is probably just what the FBI was counting on in the first place.”
– Clay Risen, The New Republic

What’s inside

Introduction

Some say life is a journey. I agree. My life has been three major journeys, each marked by a distinctive set of events that defined and shaped who and where I am today.

The first journey of my life took me to Iran. It was marked by witnessing my father subjected to arrest, interrogation and, of course, torture, a common practice in the reign of Shah Reza Pahlavi, Iran’s king. My father—a doctor, a surgeon—believed in democracy and liberal val- ues; he advocated collective bargaining for the working class to achieve health care benefits and wages that would enable them to survive. For this he was marked as a Communist and imprisoned. For doing right by others he was tortured. In spite of it all, and against ardent protesta- tions of his family, he continued to fight for his country’s freedoms; to help where he could, to ease suffering. His were deeply held beliefs. His journey became mine, at a very early age. We were bonded.

That first journey too was marked by revolution: I watched it unfold and witnessed oppression, persecution, and merciless injustice. Overnight, fundamental values were forced on me: how I should be dressed, how I should cover every strand of hair, how precisely and how many times I must pray. I had no choice in the matter of where I lived; we don’t get to choose where we are born or taken by our parents. While this bumpy road ended as tumultuously as it started, I carry its scars with me. They are permanent. My disdain for any form of religious fundamentalism, aversion to even the word monarchy, and hatred for any despotic practice, all were acquired during this time and will stay with me forever.

The second journey began on my return to Turkey. This one was marked by censorship: my fellow Turks and I were forced to swallow words and black out any sentence forbidden by those who ruled. Punishment for violators was cruel and severe, as happened to many authors and reporters I admired: all of them locked up for expressing opinions that many shared but few dared even to acknowledge. Here it was in black and white: when freedom of the press and expression are taken away, the suffering and ill consequences are not limited to only those few who write and report. All of my father’s resolve, for instance, all his hard work and support, were not adequate to prevent censorship from affecting what I was taught in school, what I yearned to learn and what I longed to express. These were forbidden.

The iron force of the Turkish state marked my second journey with its mass killing of its minorities, mass detention of its dissidents, and mass corruption among its ruling parties. This journey too was one by default; I played no role in starting it. I did, however, conclude it by making the decision to leave it behind and choosing the next path myself. These experiences too, for as long as I live, are engraved in my conscience and soul. My passionate love for freedom of speech and of the press, my dedication to the protection of due process, and my endless quest for government held accountable—gained in the void of their absence—always will remain an inseparable part of me.

The most important of my three journeys is the third. This is the one chosen freely: coming to the United States of America. This jour- ney started as love at first sight. Its beginning was marked by living with the kind of freedom and rights that had existed only in books and my fantasies. This road became a highway as I began to know the Constitution my new country theoretically upheld, the separation of powers it said it exercised, and a fairly new concept of equality it tried to nurture. I chose this country, and I wanted to immerse myself in its culture; to meld with it, blend into it; become inseparable, so that all those things I admired and longed for would apply to me; would envelop me. I rushed through its steps until I reached the top, where I would declare my oath to my newfound land, and dedicate myself not only to cherish but also to protect it for as long as I chose to live in it. The strength and fidelity of this union didn’t lessen over time. Each passing year, of education in its laws and history, of visits to any of the diverse cultures it contained, left a lovely mark in me to hold on to, show, and treasure.

Until, that is, the chosen road changed shape and took me in a blind direction, leading me into dark, cold places I never thought existed. Just like the dark side of the moon, here was the dark side of my precious third journey—a side not many talked of or wrote about; an ugly side that may have shown up here and there, once in a while, throughout its history, like a child’s “bad monster” popping up in the night, then retreating into shadows, never lingering long enough to be seen or figured out, or ever exposed in the light.

 

Chapters

Pages

“Across the river, despite the poor visibility and encroaching night, I could make out the famous landmarks of Washington, DC; of its past, its government. The Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, the Cap- itol . . . I smiled bleak and bitterly, for once upon a time I’d seen them with different eyes and marveled at all they represented. They served as reminders of our democracy, the Bill of Rights and a government of the people, by the people, for the people. They used to fill me with a sense of pride and contentment. Now they carried an awful, different meaning; one that evoked in me fear, disappointment, distrust, rage and sadness. These feelings were mingled with futility, a sense of desperation that things would never be fixed, and pessimism too—about the chances of ever recovering what was lost, or even if that were possible.”

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About the author.

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Jen Write

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