LONDON–Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds told UK based Sunday Times that Turkey had sold Nuclear Secrets to Pakistan. Her interview, which ran in Sunday’s edition, explains how the State Department and Pentagon have been infiltrated by a Turkish intelligence organization suspected of ties to terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and nuclear proliferation.
While working at the FBI as a Turkish translator, Edmonds listened into hundreds of sensitive intercepted conversations while based at the agency’s Washington field office.
She approached The Sunday Times last month after reading about an Al-Qaeda terrorist who had revealed his role in training some of the 9/11 hijackers while he was in Turkey.
Edmonds described how foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions.
Among the hours of covert tape recordings, she says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan.
However, Edmonds said, "he was aiding foreign operatives against US interests by passing them highly classified information, not only from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, in exchange for money, position and political objectives."
She claims that the FBI was also gathering evidence against senior Pentagon officials–including household names–who were aiding foreign agents.
"If you made public all the information that the FBI has on this case, you will see very high-level people going through criminal trials," she said. Her interview and her story in general show just how much the West was infiltrated by foreign states seeking nuclear secrets. It illustrates how western government officials turned a blind eye to, or were even helping countries such as Pakistan acquire bomb technology.
The wider nuclear network has been monitored for many years by a joint Anglo-American intelligence effort. But rather than shut it down, investigations by law enforcement bodies such as the FBI and Britain’s Revenue & Customs have been aborted to preserve diplomatic relations.
Edmonds, a fluent speaker of Turkish and Farsi, was recruited by the FBI in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Her previous claims about incompetence inside the FBI have been well documented in America.
One of Edmonds’s main roles in the FBI was to translate thousands of hours of conversations by Turkish diplomatic and political targets that had been covertly recorded by the agency.
A backlog of tapes had built up, dating back to 1997, which were needed for an FBI investigation into links between the Turks and Pakistani, Israeli and US targets. Before she left the FBI in 2002 she heard evidence that pointed to money laundering, drug imports and attempts to acquire nuclear and conventional weapons technology.
"What I found was damning," she said. "While the FBI was investigating, several arms of the government were shielding what was going on."
The Turks and Israelis had planted "moles" in military and academic institutions, which handled nuclear technology. Edmonds says there were several transactions of nuclear material every month, with the Pakistanis being among the eventual buyers. "The network appeared to be obtaining information from every nuclear agency in the United States," she said.
They were helped, she says, by the high-ranking State Department official who provided some of their moles–mainly PhD students–with security clearance to work in sensitive nuclear research facilities. These included the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory in New Mexico, which is responsible for the security of the US nuclear deterrent.
In one conversation Edmonds heard the official arranging to pick up a $15,000 cash bribe. The package was to be dropped off at an agreed location by someone in the Turkish diplomatic community who was working for the network.
The Turks, she says, often acted as a conduit for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s spy agency, because they were less likely to attract suspicion. Venues such as the American Turkish Council in Washington were used to drop off the cash, which was picked up by the official.
"I heard at least three transactions like this over a period of 2 and a half years. There are almost certainly more," she said.
The Pakistani operation was led by General Mahmoud Ahmad, then the ISI chief. Intercepted communications showed Ahmad and his colleagues stationed in Washington were in constant contact with attaches in the Turkish embassy.
Intelligence analysts say that members of the ISI were close to Al-Qaeda before and after 9/11. Indeed, Ahmad was accused of sanctioning a $100,000 wire payment to Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers, immediately before the attacks. The results of the espionage were almost certainly passed to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist. Khan was close to Ahmad and the ISI. While running Pakistan’s nuclear program, he became a millionaire by selling atomic secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea. He also used a network of companies in America and Britain to obtain components for a nuclear programme. Khan caused an alert among western intelligence agencies when his aides met Osama Bin Laden. "We were aware of contact between A Q Khan’s people and Al-Qaeda," a former CIA officer said last week. "There was absolute panic when we initially discovered this, but it kind of panned out in the end."
It is likely that the nuclear secrets stolen from the United States would have been sold to a number of rogue states by Khan.
Edmonds says packages containing nuclear secrets were delivered by Turkish operatives, using their cover as members of the diplomatic and military community, to contacts at the Pakistani embassy in Washington. Edmonds also claims that a number of senior officials in the Pentagon had helped Israeli and Turkish agents. Once acquired, the nuclear secrets could have gone anywhere. The FBI monitored Turkish diplomats who were selling copies of the information to the highest bidder.
"Certain greedy Turkish operators would make copies of the material and look around for buyers. They had agents who would find potential buyers," Edmonds said.
Edmonds’s employment with the FBI lasted for just six months. In March 2002 she was dismissed after accusing a colleague of covering up illicit activity involving Turkish nationals.
The US attorney general has imposed a state secrets privilege order on her, which prevents her revealing more details of the FBI’s methods and current investigations. Her allegations were heard in a closed session of Congress, but no action has been taken and she continues to campaign for a public hearing. She was able to discuss the case with The Sunday Times because, by the end of January 2002, the justice department had shut down the program.
The Sunday Times reported that two FBI officers (one serving, one former) and two former CIA sources who worked on nuclear proliferation provided overlapping corroboration of Edmonds’s story. One of the CIA sources confirmed that the Turks had acquired nuclear secrets from the United States and shared the information with Pakistan and Israel. "We have no indication that Turkey has its own nuclear ambitions. But the Turks are traders. To my knowledge they became big players in the late 1990s," the source said.