Federal Bureau of Investigation's Foreign Language Translation Program Follow-Up

Audit Report 05-33
July 2005
Office of the Inspector General

Appendix 7

Update on the Office of the Inspector General’s July 2004
Report, “A Review of the FBI’s Actions in Connection with
Allegations Raised by Contract Linguist Sibel Edmonds”

In a separate matter related to the FBI’s translation program, the OIG investigated allegations raised by Sibel Edmonds, a former contract linguist for the FBI. In July 2004, the OIG completed a 100-page report regarding its investigation, entitled ”A Review of the FBI’s Actions in Connection With the Allegations Raised by Contract Linguist Sibel Edmonds.” The Department of Justice and the FBI classified the review as Secret because it contained national security information. This Secret report was provided to the FBI, the Department of Justice, congressional oversight committees, and the 9/11 Commission. The OIG subsequently created an unclassified 35 page summary of the report that the Department and the FBI agreed was unclassified. The OIG released the unclassified report in January 2005.

Edmonds worked for the FBI from September 20, 2001, until March 2002, when the FBI terminated her services. Before her termination, Edmonds had raised a series of allegations regarding the FBI’s linguist program, including security concerns about actions by a co-worker related to potential espionage.

In addition, Edmonds raised other allegations to the OIG regarding the FBI’s language program, such as travel voucher fraud and time and attendance abuse. Edmonds also alleged that the FBI had hired unqualified personnel and used one of them to translate military interviews despite that person’s weak language skills. Finally, Edmonds complained that her termination was in retaliation for her complaints.

The OIG review concluded that many of Edmonds’s core allegations relating to the co-worker had some basis in fact and were supported by either documentary evidence or witnesses other than Edmonds. While the evidence did not prove that the co-worker had disclosed classified information, the OIG concluded that the FBI should have investigated Edmonds’s allegations more thoroughly. The allegations, if true, had potentially damaging consequences and warranted a thorough and careful review by the FBI, which did not occur.

We understand that, as a result of the OIG’s recommendation, the FBI currently is conducting further investigation into this matter.

With respect to Edmonds’s claim that she was terminated from the FBI in retaliation for her complaints, the OIG review concluded that her allegations were at least a contributing factor in the FBI’s decision to terminate her services.

With regard to various other allegations made by Edmonds concerning the FBI’s foreign language program, our review substantiated some but did not substantiate others. For example, we found that certain travel by linguists was wasteful, and that a contract monitor was hired even though he had not scored high enough on the language test to qualify for the position. However, we did not find sufficient evidence to substantiate Edmonds’s allegations that the FBI condoned time and attendance abuse, an intentional slow down of work to support hiring additional analysts, or travel fraud.

The OIG report contained eight recommendations related to the FBI’s foreign language translation program. In September 2004, we received the FBI’s initial response to the recommendations and, based on that response, closed one recommendation. The other seven recommendations remained “resolved but open” until we receive further information from the FBI. The FBI recently provided further information regarding their action in response to the recommendations, which we summarize below:

  • Written guidelines for risk assessments in background investigations of linguists. We recommended that the FBI create written guidelines that clearly state the factors to be weighed when deciding whether a risk assessment is necessary in a particular case.

    The FBI agreed that risk assessments are necessary and stated that, in July 2004, it issued a new policy covering this area. The FBI provided a copy of that policy to the OIG, and we agreed that the policy addresses the recommendation raised by the OIG.

  • Written guidelines on reviewing materials. The contract linguists we interviewed said they received oral training from case agents and other linguists about their work, but they had not received any written guidance regarding review and translation of foreign language materials. We recommended that generalized guidance to linguists regarding reviewing materials would be useful to help ensure that contract linguists have a common understanding of their work requirements when reviewing materials.

    In response to this recommendation, the FBI noted that it had implemented a “New Linguist Training Program.” The FBI provided the OIG with copies of the syllabus of the training and the training materials, which reflect that the training addresses the areas of concern raised by the OIG. The FBI also recently stated that its newly-completed manual for linguists addresses the areas of concern raised by to the OIG’s report. The OIG has requested a copy of the manual.

  • Assignments of material for review. The OIG found that the way material was assigned for linguists to review created potential security risks and also contributed to the conflict that arose between the linguists in the Edmonds case. We recommended that the FBI ensure that supervisors determine which material should be reviewed by linguists. In response to this recommendation, the FBI stated that a standard operating procedures manual for linguist supervisors was expected to be finalized by the end of June 2005 and would address this issue. The OIG has requested a copy of the manual when it is completed.

  • Systematic tracking of reviewed materials. The OIG found that because of resource issues, more than one linguist may be assigned to a particular translation task. Because of the way the FBI’s computer system operates, we found the FBI has no method to establish with certainty which linguist reviewed which material. We recommended that the FBI consider implementing a practice to ensure that the FBI has a record of work completed on a particular task and consider creating an audit trail that would record each person who worked on the task.

    In its most recent response, the FBI stated that a new data management system with the capability of retaining detailed audit trails would be implemented beginning in 2006 (the Electronic Surveillance Data Management System or EDMS), although it is anticipated that it will take up to three years to fully deploy the system. The FBI stated that, in the interim, it will adopt the practice described by the OIG through which a record of work completed, including information about who worked on a task, is maintained in an electronic format. The FBI stated that this interim measure will be implemented in all FBI field offices as soon as operating procedures are in place. The OIG has requested that it be informed when field-wide implementation of this interim measure is complete.

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