Federal Bureau of Investigation's Foreign Language Translation Program Follow-Up
Audit Report 05-33
Office of the Inspector General
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: