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Sibel Edmonds Case: FBI Files

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Luke Ryland
Mon Aug 18, 2008

dailykos.com

Last week, Scott Horton interviewed (audio) investigative journalist Joe Lauria. Lauria was one of the co-authors of the three-part (1, 2, 3) series on the case of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds for the UK’s Sunday Times.

In the interview Lauria discusses the Sibel Edmonds case, the state of the US media, and the Military Industrial Complex in the context of his new book with presidential candidate Mike Gravel: “A Political Odyssey: The Rise of American Militarism and One Mans Fight to Stop It

In the interview, Lauria says that he spoke at length to the three FBI agents who were Sibel’s immediate bosses at the FBI and that they “corroborated in general terms, that this story is true.”

Lauria describes how he recently interviewed one of the FBI agents at his home for 90 minutes, and met another of Sibel’s former bosses several times outside his house. The agents are unwilling to provide detailed corroboration on a lot of the details in the case because they fear being sent to prison, but their willingness to speak to Lauria about the case, and their supportive statements that “She’s not crazy,” provide generalized corroboration on the case.

The FBI itself is not happy that Lauria and the Sunday Times are still looking into the Edmonds case and they made a “formal complaint” with the Sunday Times (a British media outlet!) that Lauria stay away from the agents.

David Rose, author of the Vanity Fair article on Sibel’s case, and the only other journalist who has been able to speak to some of the first-hand sources – from the FBI, Dept of Justice, and Congress – in Sibel’s case, also reported how fearful his sources are:

The people that I talked to about these tapes are extremely nervous. There is a climate in America now which is punitive towards people who are suspected of disclosing information without authorization to journalists. The approach of the Bush administration is to punish people who come forward.

The good news is that Joe Lauria and the Times have a lot more information about the case that they haven’t yet published, and are still actively investigating – 8 months after their first article was published, and 6 years since Sibel first went to Congress. It is no wonder that the FBI is nervous and issuing formal complaints.

Case Background
Lauria gave a good summary of the nuclear black market element of Sibel’s case:

“What Sibel revealed to us, and has been revealing little by little since January, is that she has heard that there was a nuclear procurement ring operating inside the US to procure nuclear designs and parts for the AQ Khan network, and it was done not through Pakistani intelligence directly, but through the Turkish embassy.

Turkish businessmen who got the information and gave it to Turkish military attaches, who then turned it over to the ISI, and from there went on to the nuclear black market. To procure these parts and designs, high government US officials helped facilitate Turkish-Israeli PhD students to get into nuclear facilities in the US, they worked with the RAND corporation as well, some moles with RAND to help get this information. There was at least one American company, Giza Technologies, that was helping with parts, probably there were others, and this thing went on from 1995 at least until 2002, and it could still be going on – when this operation was shut down by the Dept of Defense and the State Dept.

Now, Sibel tells us that high government officials inside those two departments – Defense and State – were involved in this ring. She has named them on her website – at least, she has not named them, she has photographs of people – other bloggers have named them.”

US Media
Lauria excoriates the US media in the interview:

“Centrism is the philosophy of the American media – and that essentially backs the status quo, when you’re a centrist, and this game of objectivity that they play is really limited by parameters that you’re allowed to ask questions and to investigate and in a sense then you’re transmitting these assumptions, and reinforcing every day that the US is really a functioning democracy

[...]

The mindset of the American mainstream press does not allow certain ideas to easily filter through: the idea that high-ranking US officials might actually be facilitating this… It’s entertainment all the time, the presidential campaign is entertainment, and do you actually think that these guys would actually go in there and make changes, whoever wins, when behind this wall of entertainment put forward by news media and the entertainment industry is a murky world of terrorism, nuclear procurement ring, of CIA, of the FBI working – and this rarely breaks through to the mainstream press…

They rarely look at the entire system being rotten, not just one official here or there being rotten, and they pat themselves on the back. And when I say the entire system being rotten, I mean Congress that is enthralled to corporate backers, and approving their aggressive foreign policy that enriches themselves, and does nothing to secure the American people or the interests of most American people. That is not even in the discussion in the mainstream press, so this Boston Globe reporter was unable to conceive easily that a government official could have been involved. “

Sibel’s Comments
I asked Sibel for a comment about the interview, she replied:

Again and again you see journalists in this country who think that their job consists of nothing more than phoning the FBI press office to ask for a comment. Only two journalists have spoken to actual first-hand sources about my case; David Rose who is British, and Joe Lauria working for a British newspaper. Why is it that only these two reporters were able to speak to sources at the Dept of Justice, at the FBI, and in Congress who are familiar with the details of my case?

The agents that Joe Lauria spoke with are very familiar with all the details of the case because I worked directly with them. Yes, it is true that these sources are very nervous about speaking out because they fear the legal repercussions, however they shouldn’t have anything to fear, because they know that it is illegal for the government to classify anything for the purpose of hiding criminality. As I’ve been saying from the beginning, Congress needs to hold hearings and put us all under oath where we are protected so long as we tell the truth.

It is time for hearings. All it takes is one congressman to hold hearings, or to read the classified information into the public record. Who will stand up?

Cross-posted at Let Sibel Edmonds Speak

Transcript
The following is a partial transcript of the interview (full transcript here):

Horton: Welcome back to Antiwar Radio. It’s KAOS 92.7FM in Austin Texas. Antiwar.com/radio. And introducing our guest today, it’s Joe Lauria. He writes for the Sunday Times of London, Boston Globe and Bloomberg News, the Huffington Post. He is the co-author of the new book: “A Political Odyssey: The Rise of American Militarism and One Mans Fight to Stop It” with former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Mike Gravel. Welcome to the show, Joe.

Lauria: Thank you, Scott.

Horton: It’s good to have you here. You came to my attention early this year when this three part – I guess it turned into a four part series – in the London Times came out, about at least part of the case of Sibel Edmonds, the former FBI translator-turned-whistleblower, and she’s raised allegations kind of in all different directions – drug-smuggling and all kinds of different corruption and prior knowledge of impending attacks before 911 etc, and yet you guys focused really on the nuclear black market angle of her story. So I guess, if we could start here, Joe, perhaps if you could share with the audience a bit of the background of who Sibel is and her case, why she is a credible witness, and then what you guys began to find when you started looking into verifying her story.

Lauria: Sure. Sibel Edmonds is a Turkish and Farsi speaker who was hired by the FBI shortly after 911 – I think it was September 20 2001 – when there was suddenly a need to listen to a backlog of tapes that had been gathered by the FBI, and wiretaps, principally of the Turkish embassy in Washington – traffic in and out of there – that had gone on from 1995 till 2001. So Sibel went over six years of tapes, over a period of six months, and she started to make complaints about various things that were going on at the FBI, and she caused a lot of problems there because she was complaining particularly about one of her co-workers who she found worked for, and was also a member of, the American Turkish Council, which Sibel began to hear on these tapes was a crucial element in this nuclear procurement ring that she heard on the tapes. Now, as you know, she was fired in March 2002, she tried to sue to get her job back, this was all stopped and Ashcroft, the Attorney General, put a State Secrets Privilege gag order on her, after Sibel had gone to Senator Grassley and Representative Waxman – they listened to her several times, they took down her information, they promised hearings if Democrats took over the House, which they did in 2006, and that seemed to be progressing until Ashcroft put this gag order on her and the congressmen removed the information from their website that Sibel had given them and they never spoke about this again, even though we know – and this is related to Gravel’s case too, we’ll talk about that later – no congressman can be gagged by congress under Article Six of the constitution, they can’t be questioned about anything they say in a legislative Act on the House floor or Senate floor or anywhere where there is a legislative act. So, the congressmen wimped out basically, Waxman and Grassley.

Sibel lost her case, and she was gagged. She got the ACLU to be her attorney, and they claimed that she is the most gagged person in the history of the US. So she pretty much held to that gag until December of last year when she put out on her website, and various other people that you know on the web, that she was willing to talk to the media, and tell them everything that she knew – because the press did not know what the real essence of what she had learned listening to these tapes, aside from some small complaints about irregularities at the FBI at Washington where she worked. Nobody in the US media took her up on her offer which is interesting, and something I’d like to get into later, but the Sunday Times, we contacted her, one of my colleagues, Chris Gourlay in London, in December, and Sibel actually called back and we began discussing with her the story, and then we ran – as you said – three stories about Sibel, and a fourth one on a related issue, and what Sibel revealed to us, and has been revealing little by little since January, is that she has heard that there was a nuclear procurement ring operating inside the US to procure nuclear designs and parts for the AQ Khan network, and it was done not through Pakistani intelligence directly, but through the Turkish embassy.

Turkish businessmen who got the information and gave it to Turkish military attaches, who then turned it over to the ISI, and from there went on to the nuclear black market. To procure these parts and designs, high government US officials helped facilitate Turkish-Israeli PhD students to get into nuclear facilities in the US, they worked with the RAND corporation as well, some moles with RAND to help get this information. There was at least one American company, Giza Technologies, that was helping with parts, probably there were others, and this thing went on from 1995 at least until 2002, and it could still be going on – when this operation was shut down by the Dept of Defense and the State Dept.

Now, Sibel tells us that high government officials inside those two departments – Defense and State – were involved in this ring. She has named them on her website – at least, she has not named them, she has photographs of people – other bloggers have named them. We have not named them for legal reasons, we have not been able to confirm their involvement so I won’t be able to speak about who they are, but we believe Sibel obviously, and our job has been to corroborate what she has told us, and we’ve gotten lots of corroboration on the edges, but the main details, some of the main facts have been difficult to get. The main reason is that people who are in the know could go to jail for speaking about it, as Sibel can, and she has risked going to jail. And I know you’ve had Daniel Ellsberg on your show and he has talked about Sibel, and Daniel has written the foreword to the book I did with Gravel as well, and there aren’t many Sibel Edmonds around, there aren’t many Daniel Ellsbergs around who will risk their careers and possible imprisonment to speak about these things.

So what Sibel has given us is quite a fascinating and disturbing picture of what is going on and what I did last month – in June, rather – was to find the people immediately above her in the FBI who had worked with her on this case. I spoke with three of them, at length, and they have, just by virtue of them speaking to me, corroborated in general terms, that this story is true. They cannot, and would not, go into the details unfortunately because that could land them in a lot of trouble, including imprisonment, because this has been completely classified.

Horton: These were FBI agents you spoke to?

Lauria: Yes

Horton: And you said there were three different ones?

Lauria: Yes. One lived in Maryland, another lived in Virginia, but when I went out to see him I learned that he’d moved out West somewhere. He, we know from Sibel, was very angry when they shut down this investigation. You know, the FBI gets a bum rap, a lot of times, there’s a lot to be answered for in this case, but we have to understand that there are good agents – ‘good’ in the sense of wanting to do their job, which is to investigate crimes – and the political appointees at the top, when they get the pressure from larger forces, the Whitehouse, or the Defense Dept or the State Dept, are stopped, and they are very angry, a lot of these guys that they couldn’t pursue this no matter where it led, and this is what we saw in the case with Sibel, we saw it in the case with the Tinners in Switzerland where suddenly the US put pressure on the prosecutor, and the prosecution has been dropped and evidence destroyed, and in the fourth story in our series about Peter Griffin, a very close associate of AQ Khan since the 70s who had an investigation going on, with evidence gathered by the British Customs Dept and that was squashed as well, and without explanation.

Horton: We’ve got plenty of time here so lets put off the Tinners and Peter Griffin and this stuff for a little while here and go back over a few things that you’ve already mentioned. First of all, I understand British libel law and all that kind of thing but you’re not going to have to hang up on me if I say the names of the people she’s talking about?

Lauria: No I won’t, but I’m not going to confirm what you’re saying though. You can say whatever you want.

Horton: There is a whole list of her “Rogues Gallery” and so forth there at justacitizen.com, but particularly when we’re talking about the State Dept, the accusations, and this is obviously the guy that your article centers around is Marc Grossman, and then she says Perle and Feith at the Defense Dept, right?

Lauria: Well I can’t comment on the names

Horton: OK, well, anyone can Google that and look it right up. OK, secondly, as far as her credibility goes, because there is a State Secrets Privilege gag, and she has only been able to say so much, you said you’ve talked to these three FBI agents just a couple of months ago in June who confirmed some of this story for you. Obviously you had other sources besides Sibel for the series in the Sunday Times, I wonder if you could elaborate on that, maybe the Inspector General’s report, statements of various senators, that kind of thing, so that people understand that when you’re talking about. You know, we’re talking about American moles, and Turkish moles, and Pakistani moles, and America’s nuclear program, this is some pretty out-there kind of stuff, so I want people to understand that what they’re hearing is not some comic book. This is actually real!

Lauria: Well, a lot of… journalism is a credibility game, so we have to believe, first of all, our source, and we do believe Sibel. The issue then becomes corroborating what she says, because we need facts. You can’t just go on whether we believe someone or not, and then the people we speak to we have to be able to believe them. And as I pointed out, there are not that many people who are aware of what is going on. There are the participants in the ring, who are never going to speak, of course, and there are the investigators in the FBI, and in the CIA – I didn’t bring that up, we could talk about the Valerie Plame connection that we uncovered in this story too – and then there are analysts like Philip Giraldi, the former CIA station chief in Istanbul, I believe, who knows Sibel, knows a lot about the case, who can provide on-the-record points of view that allow the reader to understand that this is not a comic-book episode, that this is very, very plausible, and totally within reason that this story that Sibel is telling us could happen – that high-level government officials could be involved in facilitating this.

And you go back to AQ Khan’s network in the 70s and the Reagan administration, you can even go back further to the Carter administration when they tried to go after the Pakistanis to try to stop them from developing a nuclear weapon. Then when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, they needed Pakistan to help arrange the payment and the training of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, so they suddenly turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear program. And the Reagan administration almost actively helped them do this because the Chinese were giving information to Pakistan, and they wanted the Chinese nuclear business for Westinghouse, it’s obvious that the administrations starting from Carter and all the way has helped the AQ Khan network – at least by either protecting it, or even actively helping it, so this is just another phase of it. This story is not off-the-wall, if you started from the 70s you could start a direct line – Sibel just came in and heard what was going on from 95 to at least 2002 and possibly still today.

So as I was saying, we have the three types of sources: there’s Sibel who has gone on the record at great risk to herself, although I don’t think they want to move on her because that would create the US media attention that our stories have not been able to create. There are those who are directly involved in the investigation – the FBI and CIA – and there are the analysts. So we’ve got analysts on the record saying things, but we need really FBI and CIA people to corroborate the details of what she is telling us, which we believe. We believed enough to write it in our stories without a lot of direct corroboration, because we believed that we should put her claims out there, and those FBI agents that I spoke to at length, and I got into the home of one for an hour and a half, and I spoke several times in front of the homes of another one.

The FBI made a formal complaint with the Sunday Times to keep me away from his house – why would they do that? Why was Sibel gagged if what she was saying is true? But the fact that these FBI agents spoke in general terms to me about her, made claims that she’s not crazy, that she was not a fantasist, but that they could not go into details for the reasons I describe, may fall short perhaps of where we’d like to be, because we have a lot more stuff that she has given us, but we have not run the stories. I’m happy that a lot of the bloggers in the US and the foreign press has picked up on these stories, it has been total silence in the US, and there are people eager maybe to see more stories coming out in our series, and we’re eager to get them out there, but we need more corroboration on the slew of more details that Sibel has given us – names, dates, places – that we believe but we cannot confirm yet because we can’t get sources within the FBI to go on the record – even off the record, we don’t need them to go on the record – we just need to know that they’re giving us what they know, and I believe they know this, and I believe they want to talk, they would like to, they are just afraid, and you can hardly blame. You have to put sometimes – and this may sound corny – the good of the country and real national security, not the phony stuff that the Bush administration is talking about and all the false fears that cover-up operations just like this. And they can not go on the record for the reasons we’ve been saying, and so that’s where we are right now in terms of corroboration.

Horton: OK – now, this has come up – the Tinners you brought up in talking about the corroboration, the people kind of shared with you the history of America’s relationship with the Pakistani nuclear program, please provide me with some clarity – the AQ Khan network – well, as you said, they sort of at least turned a blind eye to it in the 1980s because they needed Pakistan’s help with the war against the Russians in Afghanistan and that kind of thing, does that last all the way through? Was Sibel over-hearing people who were actually part of a secret mission to co-operate with the AQ Khan network? And she mistakenly thinks they were being criminals when actually perhaps it was just officially-sanctioned criminality?

Lauria: No, we’ve never seen anything she told us as official US policy, but more of high-ranking US officials acting in an individual capacity in a rogue way. We don’t have any evidence, nor did she provide any evidence that this has been official US policy, but we do know that the Turkish and Israeli students getting this information, turning it over to Turkish businessmen, who then sold it – and everybody was getting paid along the way here – don’t forget it’s about money – including some of the high ranking US officials – they turned it over to ISI.

One of the reasons that they used the Turks is because it would not look good for the Pakistan intelligence to be working inside the US. You know, it’s interesting, another point of view with the Bush administration suddenly turning against the ISI for some reason in the last few weeks – but certainly they have worked closely with the CIA for Afghanistan, and also inside the US here in getting this information into the hands of the ISI, and AQ Khan worked obviously very closely together. So why don’t you drop these new designs, new parts, new information was sold – Iran, Libya, North Korea, perhaps, with the help of US Government officials. Now if this were a sting operation, as we understand, I’ve heard second hand that some correspondents in Washington have been told by their intelligence sources to stay away from this Sunday Times series because this is a big sting going on, and if you publish this you’ll ruin the thing – but I mean, as Dan Ellsberg pointed out to me, and I think he’s probably said to your show earlier, if that were the case, well they did a bad job, because Iran, North Korea, Libya – so-called enemies of the US got that bomb, or that information about the bomb, and they didn’t move early enough to do that. So this is obviously not true – I don’t believe that it was a sting. I think that is not true, I think that these officials were facilitating this.

Horton: There’s a sort of an assumption there that if the CIA was working with this AQ Khan network that it would have to have been in order to stop them, but – like you said – they’ve been helping these guys since the 1970s. What indicates that they would want to stop them?

Lauria: Well, who in the CIA and the FBI? Not every rank and file FBI agent and CIA agent is told that we’re protecting these guys because we want them to have the weapons, we want to enrich ourselves, or for other strategic reasons, but only top officials who were implicated will put a stop on the investigations so we saw Valerie Plame working, investigating, just as the FBI agents I spoke to were investigating this same nuclear ring that Sibel has laid out for all of us, and when Valerie Plame got too close at the American Turkish Council – again, the nexus of this operation in the US, and where she met her husband Joe Wilson – she was there and this high-ranking US government official…

In an anonymous letter that we got through a think tank in Washington said that this high-ranking government official – and it names him – he alerted a Turkish front company called White Energy that was part of the nuclear procurement network inside the US to stay away from Brewster Jennings, which was the CIA front company – that this Turkish front company wanted to hire…

Horton: Ah – and this is long before Robert Novak said anything about it on TV

Lauria: Yeah, yeah. Look, there are two parts to the Valerie Plame thing, we believe. The first part is this is in August 2001 that this high-ranking US official told the Turkish company to stay away from Brewster Jennings because they were actually investigating this ring. That blew the cover of Brewster Jennings and it happened to be that Valerie Plame was an important agent within Brewster Jennings that was in the ATC – so in effect, it blew Valerie Plame’s cover amongst the people that she was investigating, not publicly. What happened with Novak is that it became public knowledge when he wrote it in his column – that very much may have been motivated it seems by Cheney’s office to punish her husband because he tried to reveal that the evidence for the war in Iraq was phony – but that was a separate angle. The mainstream press was very very happy about the Novak story, they think they’ve got it, and they’re not interested in going back to when Valerie’s identity was first revealed, more seriously, than by Robert Novak.

Horton: Right – that’s something that’s not of interest to anyone, I don’t think. You guys reported about it in the London Times, but that’s the only place I’ve ever heard that.

Lauria: Yeah, well, you know the FBI was asked in a Freedom of Information request to reveal the files of Sibel’s case, they claimed that the files don’t exist, I saw an FBI document that shows that the files do exist – it could be that they were destroyed, so they could be telling the truth there – so obviously there appears to be a lot of cover-up going on, and they shut down the investigation. So you were saying why the CIA, on one hand seemed to be working with this network, and on the other hand they seem to be shutting it down – so I don’t think Valerie Plame was in on wanting this network to succeed, I think that she was trying to do her job, just like the FBI agents I spoke to were trying to do their job, just like the customs officials were trying to do their job, but when they get too close to uncovering official involvement, it has got to be stopped. And there’s no explanation.

This is what happens, there’s no explanation – and the press doesn’t probe it that deeply, unfortunately. And in the US in particular. I mean, it’s just horrendous – and I’ll tell you, and I haven’t revealed this, it’s not a big deal, but I went to the Boston Globe because I’ve worked seven years for them as a correspondent, mostly at the UN, and I laid out the story for them, I wanted some American media attention and I talked to a correspondent that I’ve worked with for years at the Washington bureau and I could not convince her in an hour to even look into this story, let alone to buy any of what I was telling her.

Horton: Really?

Lauria: Yeah. they didn’t think there was anything to it and that Sibel obviously was not credible without even checking it out – and I think that these – having worked for mainstream media since 1990, always as a freelancer – except for a year at Bloomberg and I fled from that place – that these are centrists. Centrism is the philosophy of the American media – and that essentially backs the status quo, when you’re a centrist, and this game of objectivity that they play is really limited by parameters that you’re allowed to ask questions and to investigate and in a sense then you’re transmitting these assumptions, and reinforcing every day that the US is really a functioning democracy, not even a representative democracy. And as we know of course there are oligarchic interests that buy off Congress, that puts the person in the Whitehouse that they need – and this gets me into the book of Gravel – that gets the defense contracts necessary to pump the American people with fear, so that we allow our taxpayers money to go and pay for defense outlays that are absolutely unnecessary and then fight wars that enhance our power and wealth…

Horton: Yep – I’m really interested in that scene, though, the bureau chief who just, in an hour, you can’t even get her interested

Lauria: It was not the bureau chief, it was a reporter there

Horton: OK – but still, I just like that; ‘No No No, just talk to the hand, I’m sorry, I don’t want to hear it,’ fingers in the ears

Lauria: I don’t think that they were capable – not ‘capable’ – the mindset of the American mainstream press does not allow certain ideas to easily filter through: the idea that high-ranking US officials might actually be facilitating this… It’s entertainment all the time, the presidential campaign is entertainment, and do you actually think that these guys would actually go in there and make changes, whoever wins, when behind this wall of entertainment put forward by news media and the entertainment industry is a murky world of terrorism, nuclear procurement ring, of CIA, of the FBI working – and this rarely breaks through to the mainstream press, and the idea that the American officials…

Look: it’s the rotten apple theory, as opposed to the rotten orchard, the mainstream press will always want something that will bring down a government official or a corporate executive who had his hand in the till, or did some kind of corruption, and that says ‘look, we’re doing our job, we’re defending the American people by doing our job as journalists. We really are questioning government authority.’ Well that’s baloney. I mean, once in a while you get a guy who falls through, but they rarely look at the entire system being rotten, not just one official here or there being rotten, and they pat themselves on the back. And when I say the entire system being rotten, I mean Congress that is enthralled to corporate backers, and approving their aggressive foreign policy that enriches themselves, and does nothing to secure the American people or the interests of most American people. That is not even in the discussion in the mainstream press, so this Boston Globe reporter was unable to conceive easily that a government official could have been involved.

They do have higher standards, maybe, than the British press – I’ve worked for both the British and American press – and I find the British papers maybe are too quick to go to story without corroboration, and the American papers need 4 or 5 sources for something that the reporter even witnessed directly sometimes. So, I didn’t ask the Globe to run the story straight away, I just wanted to start an investigation and I wanted to be part of it obviously, and if we didn’t find anything that met the Globe’s standard, that would be fine, but they wouldn’t even begin to look into it.

Now why didn’t any other papers look into the story? I mean, Chicago Public Radio has done a series on it, they interviewed me on that, they interviewed Sibel, there was an attempt there, but it just doesn’t fit into the mindset of the American reporter. They’re ‘doing their job’ and it’s also on careerism I think, feeling the power vicariously of being close to government officials, rather than challenging them, wanting to be close to them, and part of the official theme. And of course we saw the cheerleading for all the military adventures and essentially the contracts that come back to the defense contractors. It’s self censorship, and if you are going to get a memo from your editor about how to cover the thing then you’re not going to be working there too long. You just know what you’ve got to do. I’ve worked for them, so I know what I can write and what I can’t write, and this story is just outside the imagination of the American press, and I don’t know how we’re going to get it in there.

I really appreciate you having me on, and Dan Ellsberg and Sibel several times and Luke Ryland recently to talk about this case, because it needs to be spoken about and we need more papers to look into this story, more pressure put on by the press. When the FBI can not do its job any more because it is stopped – and this is one of the arguments I gave to these agents – this is the role of journalism, to step in there and do our own investigation. Unfortunately we don’t have subpoena power, so we’re very limited in what we can do to get people to talk to us, but at least we’ve got the story out there.

Horton : Well, two questions, first of all, do you think that the internet is changing that at all? Do you think that that is more pressure on the mainstream media to kind of think a little bit more broadly? And secondly, are there any other major outlets in America that are mainstream enough that it’s worth doing the work to publish it for them but who might be willing to let you write this story?

Lauria: Well, frankly, right now, on the second question, since we’re still working on it for the Sunday Times I’m going to stick with them, I don’t want to write it for anybody else. I’m a blogger at the Huffington Post, and I could write about it there but I want to investigate it for the Sunday Times and I hope that we can break it, and then other papers will pick it up – that hasn’t happened yet, but we’re going to stick with the story right there.

Your first question about the internet and its role, there’s only one thing that will move the mainstream media, and that’s business, whether it starts to hurt their business, and it is, it has, they’re terrified of the bloggers, and they’re terrified of the internet, because they realize that it is taking business away from them, people are reading them. At a basic level, classified ads are going online, that’s really hurt the press, but in terms of journalism they’re very much aware of that, and they’re playing around with having their own reporters do blogs to try to co-opt the thing and it’s not working very well, and there’s a lot of crap on the internet – I would think that a large percent of what bloggers write is absolutely nonsense, and opinion without any fact, they’re not trained as journalists, but the fact is that’s very much the way it was at the beginning of the country, with the pamphleteers too, and a lot of it is anonymous, but there are a lot of important bloggers who are doing better work than mainstream journalists, they’re doing it without pay! They’re doing it because they want to show anywhere where the press is not doing its job, and they are feeling that pressure, and I hope that eventually as the newspaper business continues to die, they hire – millions of dollars they pay consultants to find ways of advertising the paper, television to get young people to read the paper – all this crap when they rather should pay journalists to go out and get stories. That’s what sells newspapers. That’s what always did. They seem to have forgotten this. They want just puzzles and horoscopes and comics, and whatever they can do to lure people to buy the paper. And the blogosphere is showing that there are people like Luke and others who are really starting to lead the way. And they aren’t professionals in the same sense of the training, but they are filling in where the mainstream press is failing – we’ve seen government run amok because of that, as you know – eight years of the Bush administration.

Horton: One thing that we have going for us on the internet too is the hyperlink – if we choose, every assertion that we make can be a link to the footnote, and the proof of it, and then in a situation like that, anyone who writes something that does not link to the proof of their assertions is automatically suspect. In the marketplace of ideas, well, if this is so true, where’s all your links?

Lauria: That’s a very good point. Of course, in a printed newspaper you’re supposed to name you source if you can, on the record, and if not, you at least allude to someone whose identity is being withheld but on the internet, yes, the links can go on and on. You can keep investigating the story as much as you want, and they keep leading to different links.

Horton: I’m sorry – let’s get back to this whole Nuclear Black Market thing. Tell me about this Tinner case – I guess, for the audience, give the background, German guys, arrested in Switzerland, computers destroyed, worked for the CIA, something like that. What is this story, what does it mean?

Lauria: We have not done a story on the Tinners yet. I just briefly mentioned them I think in the Griffin story. The Tinners met AQ Khan, I believe, when he was working in Europe in the 70s when he started to steal the designs there, so they’ve been very close associates with AQ Khan, and as AQ Khan was thrown into house arrest a couple of years ago, and he’s recently started to speak out again, and what he’s saying again is what Sibel has been saying in a way – which is that he got all this help from European companies, and from the US, and that they all knew what he was doing. So the Tinners were, after AQ Khan was put under house arrest, they started to prosecute people who were related to his procurement network going back to Griffin in Britain, and the Tinners in Switzerland, and this was suddenly shut down, and the US prosecutor had the files destroyed at the behest of the US. I interviewed David Albright about this some months ago – and I’m trying to remember, and he believed that China was the source of AQ Khan, not the US at the time, but that the Tinners were helping with parts and this was shut down, they just destroyed the evidence. We don’t know why, it’s obvious why – it’s obvious why, I think, to us, because the Tinners were involved with the CIA, according to the Albright, and others – and exactly why, how that happened – in other words, were they being used as double agents? Were they being used to help facilitate this? This is not clear to me. I can’t give an answer to that, not having investigated the Tinners case or written anything about that, but I’m just telling you what I’ve read. But they did work for the CIA, according to David Albright, he told me that. He is an expert on nuclear weapons.

Horton: And it should be noted here that the AQ Khan network, for all their nuclear proliferation, the terrible results that we know of, as far as I can tell, is that the North Koreans got some equipment that they never used, the Libyans got some equipment they never used, the Iranians got some equipment that they are using to enrich uranium to a measly 3.6% in the presence of IAEA inspectors, so for all the crisis, we don’t have any rogue state making nuclear weapons because of this, other than Pakistan. Right?

Lauria: That’s true. Well, the North Koreans did explode a device, didn’t they, a couple of years ago?

Horton: Oh yeah, but that was made out of plutonium harvested from their Soviet era reactors. There’s never been any evidence that they enriched uranium at all. They just bought the equipment.

Lauria: Well, I’ll tell you about enrichment – Khan and his network enriched monetarily! That’s a big part of this, you know, the business side of it. That reminds me, one of the theories is that they were actually selling phony parts to these countries.

Horton: Well, let’s hope that you can keep being a careerist journalist by writing good stories and proving that you actually are doing what it really takes, and not just cozying up there with your hairdo like the rest of these goofballs.

Lauria: I’m trying, and it’s tough, I tell you, in terms of making a living trying to do it, but I appreciate what you said.

Horton: And I appreciate your effort. Everybody, that’s Joe Lauria from the Sunday Times, formerly from the Boston Globe, Bloomberg News. You can find him at the Huffington Post. he is the co-author of Senator Mike Gravel’s new book, A Political Odyssey: The Rise of American Militarism and One Man’s Fight to Stop It, and I urge you to check out the series co-written with Chris Gourlay and Jonathan Calvert at the London Times, that’s “For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets,” “FBI denies file exposing nuclear secrets theft,” “Tip-off thwarted nuclear spy ring probe” and “Inquiry into Nuclear Mr. Fix-it? dropped.” Thank you very much for your time today, Joe.

Source URL: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/8/18/9366/91019


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