Guest: Ron Frey, Barry Rekoon, Sibel Edmonds
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: Courtroom mystery. Scott Peterson‘s murder trial comes to a screeching halt while the judge investigates a potential new development in the case. Could it involve the prosecution‘s star witness, Amber Frey, who was set to be cross-examined? Tonight, Amber‘s father on this latest development, his daughter‘s riveting testimony and those revealing phone tapes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PETERSON, CHARGED WITH DOUBLE MURDER: There are so many things I want to tell you. God. Unbelievable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: The whistleblowers. Sibel Edmonds and Colleen Rowley put their careers, reputations and lives on the line. They took the FBI to task after spotting problems before 9/11. It landed one on the hot seat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLEEN ROWLEY, FBI WHISTLEBLOWER: The FBI made mistakes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: The other lost her job. Tonight, Sibel Edmonds and Colleen Rowley in their the first interview together. Was their candor worth it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLEY: I think integrity is extremely important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Is the country any safer? And what‘s their reaction to the 9/11 report?
ANNOUNCER: From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: And good evening, everybody. Today was supposed to be the day that Scott Peterson‘s attorneys got a chance to cross-examine his former mistress, Amber Frey. She‘s been testifying for several days, and hours of recorded phone conversations between the two former lovers have been played in court. But after meeting with lawyers for both sides, the judge sent the jury home the day, saying there has been, quote, “a potential development that has to be checked out,” end quote. Court has been canceled for tomorrow, and Amber Frey is not supposed to be back on the witness stand until Monday. Her attorney, Gloria Allred, said Frey wanted to get on the stand today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLORIA ALLRED, AMBER FREY‘S ATTORNEY: It is, of course, frustrating to Amber because she was ready. The delay causes a great deal more inconvenience for her and her family. And it‘s difficult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Joining me now from Redwood City, California, is Amber Frey‘s father, Ron Frey, and his attorney, Barry Rekoon. M. Frey, do you know anything about why this delay took place today?
RON FREY, AMBER FREY‘S FATHER: A lot of speculations. Probably the strongest would be that Mr. Geragos is pleading with James Brazelton to make a plea bargain.
NORVILLE: You think so?
FREY: After Amber and those tapes come on, he‘d be foolish not to.
NORVILLE: How devastating do you think the taped testimony your daughter was able to provide is to the case?
FREY: You‘d have to ask Barry that.
NORVILLE: Well, I‘ll ask him that, then. Mr. Rekoon, how hurtful are those tapes to the defense‘s case, in your opinion?
BARRY REKOON, RON FREY‘S ATTORNEY: I think they‘re very hurtful. The only problem is if the prosecution overplays it, plays too many of them and numbs the jury to them. But if they play their cards right, the tapes could be used to convict Mr. Peterson.
NORVILLE: Mr. Frey, it‘s been incredible for America to listen to these tapes, but no one can listen to them in the way that you have. As a father hearing some of those private moments of your daughter‘s life being played in open court and on national television, how has it impacted you?
FREY: Some days are very painful to listen to the tapes. It absolutely—yesterday, I was absolutely crying when I heard the tapes.
NORVILLE: Which parts got you in particular yesterday, when it was all coming to a climax and Amber was about to call it quits with Scott?
FREY: Oh, no. No. That‘s the good part, when she‘s calling it quits. But him always wanting to see her and all the lies and just the fear we had all the time that he might bring harm to her.
NORVILLE: When did you first hear about Scott Peterson, sir?
FREY: Oh, I would say January 2, two days after Amber come forward.
NORVILLE: She had not called you before she had that press conference?
FREY: The press conference was January 29, if I‘m not mistaken.
NORVILLE: You mean when she came forward to the police right before New Year‘s?
FREY: Oh, right, when she come forward to the police, two days after that. But that would have been approximately January 2.
NORVILLE: And what did Amber say about him? I imagine it was your daughter who informed you about this fellow.
FREY: Well, it wasn‘t even Amber that said it. The family—other family members told me about it. Amber was very, very involved the first few days with helping the police.
NORVILLE: And what was your interaction with Amber during that time? It must have been incredibly stressful for her, but also for your family because you all didn‘t really know what she was getting mixed up in at that point, did you?
FREY: Well, we always had a fear for her. You know, with Laci Peterson being missing, we didn‘t know what Scott Peterson was capable of, so we kept constant surveillance on Amber.
NORVILLE: And you always had someone with her?
FREY: No, no, no. Surveillance, private detectives, madam.
NORVILLE: We‘ve heard so many telephone calls that speak to the web of deceit that Scott Peterson had apparently created. I want to play one of those calls and just get your reaction to that, Mr. Frey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON‘S FORMER LOVER: You know, I can only draw conclusions that you could possibly had something to do with this disappearance of Laci.
SCOTT PETERSON, CHARGED WITH DOUBLE MURDER: That‘s not—that‘s not true.
FREY: And that the truth that you talk about that you can‘t tell me, wouldn‘t that reveal the truth or reveal what‘s going on?
PETERSON: Reveal my un-involvement? No, it wouldn‘t.
FREY: Reveal your un-involvement? I don‘t understand.
PETERSON: Well, I am not involved in the disappearance of Laci.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: When you heard these tapes, when you heard your daughter trying to get information out of Scott Peterson, what did you think about your daughter‘s abilities?
FREY: Oh, I always knew she‘d be strong, very, very brave woman ever since childhood, very strong.
NORVILLE: And she‘s had an interesting life, I gather. We‘ve heard so much about her life. How has she dealt with the loss of privacy?
FREY: Well, it‘s been difficult. For the last few months, she stays in her house most of the time. She doesn‘t go out. She wears disguises to get around town. It‘s been very difficult for her.
NORVILLE: And what about the rest of you in the family? How are you guys dealing with it?
FREY: Well, it‘s been an inconvenience for us. The big problem is when we think about the Rocha family and the loss of their daughter and grandson, it just tears us apart. But it‘s been an inconvenience to us, though.
NORVILLE: I want to play another one of the tapes, and this one has to deal with when she confronted Scott Peterson on the story that he told her in the beginning that his wife was lost. Let‘s give a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREY: When you said you lost your wife, what—I mean, what sense do think people think when you say that, in lies (ph)? I mean, I took it and she took it as she had passed away.
PETERSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was dead. Yes, I know you did.
FREY: How else—how else is one to think any different than that, Scott?
PETERSON: Well, I mean,
FREY: And you didn‘t indicate you were currently married and living with her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Mr. Frey, when did you know that Amber was suspicious of what, for all intents and purposes, seemed like a great new guy in her life?
FREY: Oh, early in December, Amber shared her—shared conversations with me about Scott and their activities, and was just beaming with love. She was so in love with him. I couldn‘t even wait to meet him. But then too soon, it come to an end.
NORVILLE: What did she tell you about him? Why was she so ecstatic that she met this new fellow?
FREY: Well, look at Scott. He‘s handsome.
FREY: And then—and now he‘s—you know, she told me these things before the tapes were played. He had businesses. He was successful, physically fit, liked his (SIC) daughter, liked to go hiking, shared the common thoughts about many things. They did fun things, went dancing. They entertained, dining. But here again, it was all just—well, it was a lie.
NORVILLE: But he also seemed to be awfully solicitous of you little granddaughter, Amber‘s daughter. They—they went Christmas tree shopping together. He seemed ready to embrace not only your daughter but her family.
FREY: My granddaughter is a very special little girl. My daughter—
Amber has brought her up on her own. She‘s done a magnificent job with her. Charming little baby. We just love her to death. Anybody that meets here does. When (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was holding her, you know, she felt the same feelings towards the little girl, just special child. I don‘t blame Scott for liking the little girl, and I don‘t blame him for falling in love with Amber. It wasn‘t a one-way street. They were in love with each other, and I‘m not so sure Scott still isn‘t in love with her.
NORVILLE: What makes you say that?
FREY: Watch him in court. Where I stay, there‘s probably 40 reporters in and out on a daily basis, and they tell me what‘s going on in court. And he—this is what 40 different reporters tell me. They look in his eyes when he looks at her.
NORVILLE: Have you ever met Scott Peterson, sir?
FREY: No, not at all.
NORVILLE: Do you have any opinion as to his guilt or innocence in this case?
FREY: Well, in the very beginning, I didn‘t want to formulate an opinion. I didn‘t want to be unfair. But as the closer it got to the trial, I had to make myself search my brain, my heart, my soul and look at the evidence. And based upon the evidence, the man—he‘s guilty.
NORVILLE: All right. We‘re going to take a short break right now. We‘ll be back. More with Amber Frey‘s father, Ron, and his attorney in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - JANUARY 24, 2003)
FREY: I met Scott Peterson November 20, 2002. I was introduced to him. I was told he was unmarried. Scott told me he was not married. We did have a romantic relationship. When I discovered he was involved in the disappearance—or the Laci Peterson disappearance case, I immediately contacted the Modesto Police Department.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That was Amber Frey‘s news conference on January 24, 2003, when she came forward to say that she was the other woman in Scott Peterson‘s life.
Now back with Amber Frey‘s father, Ron Frey, and his attorney, Barry Rekoon. Mr. Frey, when you see the clips of your daughter walking in and out of court, she seems to me stoic but almost wooden, just very, very stiff, obviously just trying to bear up under all the scrutiny that she‘s under. When you look at your little girl, what do you see?
FREY: Well, I know what I‘m looking for, and I see some serious strength there. When you look into her eyes, she‘s dedicated to tell the truth.
NORVILLE: And how are you—your own personal feelings about the fact that she‘s now in the center of this national spectacle?
FREY: How do you feel about it?
FREY: It would be best it never happened. This is almost surreal.
It‘s not even like it‘s real. Amber had made that comment once. You wake up one day, and the next day it‘s—you don‘t even believe it‘s real.
NORVILLE: She talked in her phone conversations with Scott Peterson about the fact that this wasn‘t the first time that she had found herself involved with a man who ended up being married. I want to listen to that portion of the conversation and come back to you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREY: I think I told him the story about a boyfriend I had been with that had been through the drive-through at Vegas, married this girl, and that night, they got pregnant. And I told him, I said, You know, are you sure you want to be with me? I mean, you have a pregnant woman here with your child and—and I said, Well, what is your decision? He says, Well, I want nothing more than to be with you. And on her side, she was a complete crazy woman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: She went on and had conversations, and we heard them in court, Mr. Frey, about the fact that when she confronted Scott and he said that Laci Peterson was OK with the fact that there was another woman in his life—what did you think when you heard that part of the phone conversation played?
FREY: Oh, I didn‘t believe that for a minute. And who‘s to say he told Laci Peterson anything? This is his words. That‘s not Laci‘s. But if Laci really heard those words, there probably would have been a fight or confrontation.
NORVILLE: And when you hear Amber talk as she did about the fact that
· she said something along the lines, What am I—am I naive? Am I a pushover? Am I stupid? Do I not have good judgment? When you heard her emoting that way, did you feel that, Honey, you‘ve made some poor choices, or, Gosh, you‘ve been snookered by men before? Where do you come down on that?
FREY: When she was younger, she‘d been deceived, and that‘s why she trying to be so very careful never to get deceived again. But little did she know she was just making it easier for Scott to move in on her because she said what she didn‘t want to have happen. She told him the answers. He lied to her. And we all know the rest of the story. Then it turned into a romance for her.
NORVILLE: And is she still in love with him, you think?
FREY: No. She might be in love with the memory of that short time, but she‘s not in love with Scott.
NORVILLE: And what lessons do you think she has learned through this entire experience?
FREY: Well, the experience isn‘t over. Now, the majority of the media‘s been very, very fair to her. They like her. They respect her. Some people are very unkind. Now, thank God, we—she has Gloria Allred. Gloria—at the time she hired Gloria, it was probably at the lowest, when the media—some of the bad media people were attacking her. And ever since then, Gloria‘s put them in their place.
Now, if it hadn‘t been for Gloria Allred, there wouldn‘t be an Amber Frey now. The media would have tore her up. She wouldn‘t have had enough left to go to court. It would have been just like the Kobe Bryant case, where they beat up the accuser to where she doesn‘t even want to follow through on the case.
NORVILLE: And yet the media...
FREY: So Gloria...
NORVILLE: The media took their hunk out of Amber. I mean, it was no surprise that if you‘ve taken naked or semi-naked photos, when you get in the center of a storm like this, somebody‘s going to find them and try to make some money off of it.
FREY: Well, that‘s misfortunate. I heard a lady today say—you know, they speak for Amber, some of them. You know, Amber‘s never said she‘s going to pose for any “Playboy.” But now Geragos floats these rumors. I mean, it‘s real easy to float rumors in the courthouse. They tell a few people, and pretty soon, the rumors are the news, and next thing, they think it‘s the truth. But Amber‘s been learning quite a bit from this experience.
NORVILLE: And as a result of that learning experience—I mean, we all know any time somebody gets caught up in one of these things, there‘s always the offer to write a book and they hold very important and very attractive book contracts in front of you. Do you think she will take advantage of what I‘m sure will be an opportunity later on for her to tell her story in that way?
FREY: A month ago, I said, Amber, we hear people talking about book deals, movie deals. We ought to talk. I said, Amber, if you do honest testimony, that should be enough for life. And as far as any moneys or any rewards for this, you know, that‘s not even important. She said, Well, I agree, Dad. I‘m going back to work. So that isn‘t her thoughts, to do movies or books. And that‘s—she doesn‘t even think that way or discuss things that way.
Last night on another program, a supposed friend comes forward, and they‘re saying, Well, that‘s what Amber should do. Well, Amber isn‘t doing anything until the civic duty‘s over.
NORVILLE: Right. Now, you, I know, are not going to court, and I know Amber and Ms. Allred have asked you not to because they didn‘t want you to be a distraction because it‘s got to be very difficult for a father. When‘s the last time...
NORVILLE: ... you spoke to her?
FREY: Before Amber come up to testify, her and I talked for an hour.
Gloria and I talked for an hour. And I—they didn‘t even have to ask me.
I says, I will be close by. And if you need me, just call. I‘ll be there. Ms. Allred said, Please, no more letters. You know, just—you know, give Amber her space. And that‘s what I‘ve been doing. I just—I‘m close by, but I stay out of their way.
NORVILLE: I know, Mr. Frey, you do follow the coverage of this case. And I‘m sure you saw beforehand a lot of people predicted that she would not be the best witness, that she‘d be an airhead on the stand. And yet I think I‘ve heard just about everyone say she has comported herself well both as a witness and as a tape recording expert when was doing those conversations with Scott Peterson. How do you look at your daughter‘s comportment, both on the stand and as you‘ve listened to her on those tapes?
FREY: Well, I always knew she‘d be honest and give credible testimony. And I knew she wouldn‘t fold. Now, I don‘t think it‘s pleasant for anyone to have to be cross-examined, and Mr. Geragos has a reputation that he can be tough. And hopefully, it comes and goes quick. Now, Mr. Rekoon, he had said to me his opinion—you know, that‘s the big debate now. Is Mr. Geragos going to ask a couple questions and let her go, or is he going to really grill her? We won‘t know until she gets on the stand but I think she‘s going to endure it very well.
NORVILLE: Well, and we know that Amber will be taking the stand on Monday, unless there‘s another unexpected development in the case. Ron Frey, thank you very much for your time. Barry Rekoon, we thank you for your counsel, as well.
ANNOUNCER: Up next: They risked their careers and reputation to expose what they thought were problems within their own agency, the FBI.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLEEN ROWLEY, FBI WHISTLEBLOWER: I really think we ought to be doing our best to try to prevent any future acts of terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: But are we any safer today? FBI whistleblowers Sibel Edmonds and Colleen Rowley when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.
NORVILLE: On now to the story of an FBI translator who put her career on the line and came forward to report how the FBI dropped the ball in tracking terror leads before 9/11. Sibel Edmonds lost her job in March of 2002, when she blew the whistle and said that documents had not been translated because of incompetence and corruption. And she said the FBI did not investigate her claim that a co-worker was committing espionage.
FBI director Robert Mueller later admitted that Sibel‘s whistleblowing was a contributing factor as to why she was fired, and that directly contradicted what Mueller had said earlier, that those who came forward would be protected.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - JUNE 6, 2002)
ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: And I will not tolerate reprisals or intimidation by any bureau employee against those who make protected disclosures. Nor will I tolerate attempts to prevent employees from making such disclosures.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: And joining me now is Sibel Edmonds. It‘s nice to meet you and to hear up close and personal what you went through. You were hired fairly soon after 9/11 to be one of the many translators who were needed to look at some of the intelligence data that had come in.
SIBEL EDMONDS, FORMER FBI TRANSLATOR: Correct, Deborah. I received a call on September 14, 2001, three days after 9/11. And I started working for the bureau on September 20, 2001.
NORVILLE: And your expertise was translating which languages?
EDMONDS: Farsi, Turkish and Azerbaijani.
NORVILLE: All of which were languages that would have been probably useful in trying to discern some of the chatter that any al Qaeda-linked terrorists might have been...
NORVILLE: ... picked up by the United States. When did you start having doubts about the way the department of translations was being operated?
EDMONDS: Well, actually, it started immediately. Within a few weeks after I started working there, I came across some really serious issues, from security breaches to certain documents from pre-9/11 and also post-9/11 that were being either intentionally blocked or mistranslated, and also some really significant security breaches that had been already confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. And I started reporting these issues within the bureau from November, December, 2001, until March, 2002.
And I did not blow the whistle immediately. I took these issues all the way up to Director Mueller and his assistant, Dale Watson. And finally, when they refused to take any action, I took these issues to the Department of Justice‘s inspector general‘s office and to the Senate.
NORVILLE: I want to talk specifically about what you say took place in the office. One of the things was you say that there was a translator, a Turkish translator, who was putting aside documents that related to people with whom this individual was familiar. And you charge that that person was engaged in espionage.
EDMONDS: Correct. And again, these charges were confirmed by the FBI in June and July, 2002, during unclassified meetings with two senators‘ staff. And this individual was marking translations of intelligence coming from individuals that she used to work with and she had ongoing relationship with, as “not pertinent to be translated,” hundreds of pages of documents.
NORVILLE: And these were people who were under a cloud of suspicion. They were not necessarily targets, but they were certainly being looked at by others in the intelligence community from America.
EDMONDS: They were important targets.
NORVILLE: You also say that there was a deliberate effort to undo work that had been done and to slow the process for budget reasons.
EDMONDS: Correct. Actually, I came across that, we all did, in this translation department immediately after September 11. They had a hearing scheduled for, I believe, November or December, 2001, and they had to go in front of the Congress and show the backlog of untranslated documents.
NORVILLE: And the bigger the backlog the better the pitch for money.
NORVILLE: And so you told the story to the committee that you had translate add document, went home from work, came back from work the next day and found what?
EDMONDS: That actually everything was deleted, so I had to start over again.
We had agents during those few months after 9/11 who were begging the translators from various field offices calling in saying, please translate this, because we have certain detainees or we have certain leads. Yet within the offices, the FBI headquarters, FBI Washington field office, we were being told, no, slow down. Just let the work pile up.
NORVILLE: And there was obviously a sense of urgency from the field-level people. What was the sense of urgency or lack thereof within the office?
EDMONDS: No sense of urgency whatsoever. And it was an absolute contradictory of two climates. Because all agents that I worked with, worked for, they were working around the clock. They, first of all, they were outraged with what had occurred and they were desperate to find leads and follow leads.
NORVILLE: Did you, in the translations that you took part in, did you see evidence that, had it been available to agents prior to September 11, could have forestalled the tragedy that day?
EDMONDS: Yes, several specific cases. That again, these cases have been confirmed. One case involved receiving information from a certain informant, asset, a reliable asset who had been working for the bureau for over 10 years. And this information was received in April, 2001. And it was given to the special agent in charge of counter-terrorism.
NORVILLE: In what language was this information?
EDMONDS: This was in Farsi.
NORVILLE: In Farsi.
EDMONDS: And I‘m talking about this, because it has already been confirmed.
In fact, Director Mueller expressed surprise that the commissioners did not ask him about this serious incident.
NORVILLE: And we should note that this was investigated, and when the investigation was completed, it was found that none of your allegations could be disapproved, some could be proved, and there were some that they were not sure about, but none were disapproved. So, at the end of the day, the outside investigators corroborated much of what you charging.
EDMONDS: Correct. Not only that, here I have two Senate letters from June and July, 2002. Now, the Senate is gagged on these letters. They cannot even refer to these letters. Two years ago, during two unclassified meetings with the Senate members, FBI officials confirmed all my allegations and denied none. And this is according to two senior senators.
NORVILLE: Which is another charge that‘s being made against the FBI, that information is being classified retroactively, usually information that could be perceived as being embarrassing to the bureau. Do you see a pattern there?
EDMONDS: Absolutely. For the past two years, all I have fought for is the fact that I want this information to be made available to the Congress and to the public.
NORVILLE: And are you satisfied with the information that was in the 9/11 report? Because some of this was a part of it, but certainly not all of it.
EDMONDS: No. In fact, as far as the FBI‘s translation units are concerned, there was only one microscopic footnote. They were referring to budget shortages and the need for more translators and they did not discuss at all these systemic problems to the security breeches with all the information that had already confirmed for the past two years and that was very, very disappointing.
NORVILLE: Well, when you look at the state of the agency today—now you haven‘t been there for over two years—is it better now that there has been so much scrutiny? Because what you refer to happened to the time when you were personally involved with the FBI, has it changed?
EDMONDS: I‘ve been in touch with several people from the Washington Field Office and also FBI‘s headquarters. And, as far as I have been informed, none of these issues have been addressed. In fact, those translators that the FBI confirmed were not qualified are still working there. And they‘re still in charge of those chit chats, those chatters that the administration keeps referring to.
NORVILLE: In the heightened terror alert that we‘re in.
And the security issues—as you know, Director Mueller admitted it was not seriously investigated. And now they were planning to start investigating it. So, all of those targets have left the country. Those two people have left already.
NORVILLE: We‘re going to take a short break. We‘re going to come back and talk more about what it means to be a whistleblower within the FBI. We‘ll come back to Sibel in a few minutes.
And we‘ll hear another story when we get back, the story of FBI special agent Coleen Rowley. She, too, risked her career and reputation to do the right thing. We‘ll find out what‘s happened to her since she came forward after this.
NORVILLE: Now on to the story of another FBI whistleblower, Special Agent Coleen Rowley. In 2002, she wrote a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller and testified before Congress saying that bureau ignored terror warnings before 9/11. She also said that her office had been blocked by senior officials from pursuing suspicions about terror suspect Zacarias Moussauoi. Colleen Rowley now joins us from Minnesota.
Ms. Rowley, when you testified on Capitol Hill a couple of years ago, you made headlines. And you told Congress that the bureaucracy was basically dealing with risk aversion. Has the situation changed appreciably to your mind?
SPECIAL AGENT COLEEN ROWLEY, FBI WHISTLE BLOWER: Well, the mind-set has greatly changed. There is a real sense of urgency now. And the lack of aggressiveness or, I guess at the time, what you would have called at the time complacency is really over.
NORVILLE: Has it changed in terms of you—you have said that there was a police investigative mind-set as opposed a war-like mind-set, we‘re in a war on terrorism. Has that changed as well?
ROWLEY: Well, actually, I—when I testified, I really talked more about some of the endemic problems that the FBI had. One was bureaucracy, and careerism. We have a system where people are promoted after short terms, 10 years in management. I also talked about lack of guidance that was more, you know, streamlined. And also I mentioned a few other—there (UNINTELLIGIBLE) wall at the time, which is a complicated issue that was one of the major focuses of my testimony.
NORVILLE: I know these are your personal opinions and obviously don‘t represent those of the bureau, but you also followed with a letter in June, 2003 to, Director Mueller. And in it you made some very specific points which would I like to follow up with you.
You said, you questioned his announcement that there were some 5,000 al Qaeda operatives.” Well, here‘s another part of the letter. Put it back up on screen for me, Jeff (ph).
“I was well aware of the forceful, but frustrated efforts being made by my Minneapolis case agents, and their supervisor, in their efforts to get headquarters to move. But since my own view was peripheral, I did not think I could be much additional help. Since that fateful day of September 11, however, I have not ceased to regret that perhaps I did not do all that I might have done. I promised myself that in the future I would always try.”
What was it specifically that you were regretful about pre September, 9/11.
ROWLEY: Well, you bringing up a very good point here, which is that pre-9/11, everyone, simply everyone made mistakes. Everyone from Visa stampers, the lowest security people at the airport, all the way up to mid-level management, lawyers, all the way up to the top, directors and even presidents. And I don‘t deny that I should have done more in the sense, that I should have injected myself into the fray between our agents and our headquarters, management and lawyers.
NORVILLE: And specifically your agency or your bureau had reported information some of your field level agents had report the suspicion that Zacarias Moussauoi was taking flight lessons at a local flight school for the purpose of learning how to fly planes. And that that was important information that the counter terror people needed to know. You felt like it wasn‘t acted upon seriously.
ROWLEY: That‘s actually why it took about 12 pages to explain this and, again, it‘s very complicated. The public does not understand the national security law very well because it only—at least before 9/11, it wasn‘t even talked about. It‘s talked about a little more now, but it‘s a very complicated thing. Prior to 9/11, there was an extreme—extremely high wall that interfered with a lot of the investigation. You know, when they talk about the 10 dots, try three of the dots were largely due to the FISA Wall problem. Essentially, just to simplify it, the problem is before...
NORVILLE: Agencies couldn‘t communicate with one another. There were bureaucratic impediments to that being possible?
ROWLEY: Actually, it‘s not bureaucratic. They were legal impediments and interpretation issues of the law itself. What had happened over the years is that there was a real concern that the FISA Wall that is conducting surveillance and intrusive techniques based on national security reasons would be abused to use it for criminal purposes. And so because of that, the impediments and these—this wall, what we called the wall grew larger and larger.
NORVILLE: That‘s pre-9/11. Post-9/11, has the wall come tumbling down?
ROWLEY: Well, the Patriot Act with a one-word changer completely eradicated the law. And then there was a court decision by the FISA court of Appeals, that actually confirmed there is no longer any wall. There is absolutely no obstacle between criminal agents and intelligence agents completely sharing information now.
NORVILLE: One of the bits of fallout from Sibel Edmonds‘ case is that it now forced agencies beyond the FBI to look at the way whistle-blowers are dealt with in federal government. And there‘s been a number of other individuals within the FBI who have come forward with information, about how the bureau has conducted certain operations. Do you believe that Ms. Edmonds‘ case was an be aberration and that most whistle blowers are listened to and their words of counsel taken under advisement?
ROWLEY: Well, of course, After Enron and WorldCom came down, a new law was passed, Sarbanes—Oxley-Sarbanes law. And I think we‘re probably due for some version of that on the federal scene, in order to give greater protection to whistle blowers.
And actually, I‘m frankly amazed that the 9/11 commission did not put that as one of their recommendations. We‘ve continued since 9/11 -- you know, preventing terrorism is an ongoing process. You prevent it one time, but tomorrow something new can happen. And to the extent that we‘re always going have mistakes and errors coming up, we‘re marching into uncharted waters, we need a law that we have a good mechanism to bring up those mistakes and deal with them quicker rather than later.
NORVILLE: Well, I think a lot of people thought there was a law that protected people who came forward with information. Miss Rowley, we‘re going to take a short break. When we come back, we‘ll continue with you and Sibel Edmonds will join our conversation for the first time on television together, we‘ll ask the two of them if the U.S. is any safer nearly three years after September 11. Has the FBI made the needed changes.
NORVILLE: Back now in their first television appearance together, FBI whistleblowers Sibel Edmonds and Colleen Rowley.
Ladies, did each of you know of the other story when it was going down?
Ms. Rowley, did you know about Ms. Edmonds‘ allegations at the time that she was making them in March of 2002?
ROWLEY: Not initially.
NORVILLE: So at the time, it was all going on in a vacuum as far people and other FBI bureaus would have known?
ROWLEY: Yes. The first time I saw Sibel Edmonds was on the first “60 Minutes” show.
NORVILLE: And when you heard the allegations, she was making, did it ring true to you? Did it seem kind of outlandish? How did you as a bureau member look at what she was saying on national television?
ROWLEY: I don‘t know anything about the specific facts of the language services at headquarters, but I was in our language program in the 1980‘s. I actually learned Italian as part of my FBI job and I knew French, and I served assignments where I did translating a little bit as well.
And of course, it‘s been a long-term endemic issue and problem for the FBI to get enough proficient translators and people who are able to understand languages, even in simple languages like Italian and, of course, you couple that now with the other languages that are not widely taught in the United States.
NORVILLE: And that‘s one of the allegations that you made, Ms. Edmonds. And you fear that not enough progress has been made, even though the bureau has tripled the number of linguists that they have in the bureau. Some say the lack is great.
In terms of the languages that you were specialized in, how many interpreters are there?
EDMONDS: I cannot give out that specific information, plus I left the bureau about two years ago. The hiring practices were not merit-based. The hiring—you had a certain translator or certain supervisor or certain person and let‘s say for Arabic language this translator brought in seven members of his families and that disregarded the other applicant qualified translators from getting the language slots. But it was not lack of translators. It was actually that the hiring practices were not right.
NORVILLE: And one of the accusations that you made, which has not yet been discounted by the investigators who have looked into it, is that one particular investigator not only was not able to pass the proficiency test in his language, but he couldn‘t pass it in English either? And this person was sent to Guantanamo Bay?
EDMONDS: Correct. This individual actually failed all English tests and some of the Turkish tests. This individual‘s wife was working for FBI headquarter. He was hired regardless of failing all these exams. He was sent to Guantanamo Bay, where a translator went to receive information, translate information regarding possible future attacks. And based on this information, people were basically detained longer or released.
NORVILLE: And is this person still engaged by the FBI?
EDMONDS: Yes, two years after FBI admitted this case, two years after it has become public, this person is the sole Turkish translator for all Turkey languages for the FBI here in Washington.
NORVILLE: We should note we‘ve gone to the FBI and the official response to Ms. Edmonds‘ claims is as follows:
“Sibel Edmonds, a former part-time contract linguist who worked for the FBI approximately 52 days over a 6 month period, has made several allegations. Due to pending legal matters and classification issues, the FBI is unfortunately precluded from responding to her allegations.”
So the response is essentially no response.
Ms. Rowley, let‘s look ahead to the 9/11 report recommendations, many of which speak to the issues that you were intimately involved in. Do you think the recommendations. and there are so many it‘s difficult to put it under an umbrella, do you think the once that address the issues you were most concerned about are the right ones to move forward and make America safer?
ROWLEY: Well, I think a lot of their recommendations do make sense. Unfortunately, a lot of those recommendations are not the ones really being talked about a lot. There is a recommendation that we address the war on terrorism using other means other than military and law enforcement, but instead utilize this whole gamut of tools that are available to us, including diplomacy, intelligence, et cetera.
NORVILLE: Well, that sort of makes sense.
ROWLEY: It does make sense. And I don‘t hear people talking about that idea very much. The intelligence czar idea is the one that‘s getting all the play. And I don‘t really think that that‘s going to solve too much.
NORVILLE: Because if we had one place within the FBI that all the information was going pre-9/11, why do we think any place now will be better?
ROWLEY: Well, actually if you read the report, Director Tenet, what I think I said before, is he was one dot away. He did know much of this information. He was the director of D.C.I., director of intelligence. And, in fact in our case, he knew the facts.
So, I don‘t know that the shifting the chairs and getting a new director and maybe this new center with another acronym is really going to help too much. It gives people a false illusion of accomplishing something when they can create a new bureaucracy. And in many cases, it‘s the little person at the bottom—I can name six cases with terrorism and criminals that were stopped and prevented, interdicted, by a law enforcement officer or a common citizen.
NORVILLE: And let me ask you then is that little person at the bottom empowered enough to make sure their information gets far enough up to the top that it‘s acted upon as it should to be keep America safe?
ROWLEY: Well, not always. Of course, that‘s the problem. Law enforcement officers, like the custom officer who stopped Rasan, had that authority to stop him and search him, luckily enough.
NORVILLE: We‘re going to let that be the last word. Sibel Edmonds, thank you so much for being here and sharing your story with us.
EDMONDS: Thank you for inviting me.
NORVILLE: Keep us posted on whatever developments happen.
Colleen Rowley, thank you as well for being with us. We appreciate your time.
When we come back, could he be John Kerry‘s secret weapon? Stay tuned.
NORVILLE: We like to hear from you. Send us ideas and comments to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of your e-mails are posted on our Web page at norville.msnbc.com. And while you are there, you can also sign up for your newsletter.
Thanks for watching tonight. I‘m Deborah Norville. Tomorrow night, Chris Heinz, the son of Teresa Heinz Kerry, the step-son of presidential candidate, John Kerry. He quit his job to try to help get his step-dad elected. Tomorrow night, he shares insights into the campaign. Chris Heinz, my guest tomorrow night.
And coming up next, Joe Scarborough joined by former New Jersey governor Christie Todd Whitman. “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” coming up next. We‘ll see you tomorrow.
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