Lobbying Reform Update (click here)

Ethics Office For Hill Rejected

Bipartisan Defeat For Independent Lobbying Overseer

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 3, 2006; A01

A Senate committee yesterday rejected a bipartisan proposal to establish an independent office to oversee the enforcement of congressional ethics and lobbying laws, signaling a reluctance in Congress to beef up the enforcement of its rules on lobbying.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted 11 to 5 to defeat a proposal by its chairman, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), that would have created an office of public integrity to toughen enforcement and combat the loss of reputation Congress has suffered after the guilty plea in January of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Democrats joined Republicans in killing the measure.

The vote was described by government watchdog groups and several lawmakers as the latest example of Congress's waning interest in stringent lobbying reform. After starting the year with bold talk about banning privately paid meals and travel, lawmakers are moving toward producing a bill that would ban few of their activities and would rely mostly on stepped-up disclosure and reporting requirements as their lobbying changes.

"Lobbying reform is going more the enforcement route," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "What's that going to do? Nothing much."

Yesterday, the governmental affairs panel spent most of its three-hour drafting session debating the Collins-Lieberman proposal. Collins argued that by hiring professionals to oversee lobbying reports and the investigation of ethics complaints, Congress would improve its credibility by ending the appearance of conflict-of-interest created by the self-policing of its ethics committees.

"The current system of reviewing lobbyists' public reports is a joke," she added.

But Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), chairman of the Senate's Select Committee on Ethics and a member of Collins's panel, said the ethics panel does not need any help because it is already doing a thorough job of enforcing the chamber's rules. Speaking of the audits and investigations that the office of public integrity would undertake, Voinovich said: "The ethics committee is already doing those things."

With the backing of current and past ethics panel members in attendance, Voinovich proposed, and the governmental affairs committee adopted, an amendment that would strike the new office from the committee's bill while requiring more openness in the now secretive ethics panel. An annual report would list the number of alleged rule violations that are reported or otherwise dealt with by the House and Senate ethics committees.

Watchdog groups reacted angrily. "The cutting out of the office of public integrity really undermines this whole effort," said Joan Claybrook, president of the liberal group Public Citizen. Lieberman said he will try to get the integrity office approved next week when lobbying legislation is scheduled for action on the Senate floor. He said that he will be joined by other senators in a variety of efforts to get the lobbying bill back in the direction it was headed at the beginning of the year.

In January, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was joined by leaders of both parties in calling for bans or severe restrictions on gifts, meals and travel provided by private groups. The proposed stiff limitations were the initial reaction to the political scandals involving Abramoff and members of Congress and their staffs.

But as the legislation has evolved and Abramoff has faded from the headlines, calls for bans have grown scarce, and expanded disclosure has become the centerpiece of the efforts underway. Two Senate committees this week have largely left undiminished lawmakers' ability to accept meals and travel, and the House appears headed in the same direction.

"Disclosure, transparency and oversight systems are the tenets we're interested in implementing," said Kevin Madden, spokesman for House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). Boehner succeeded Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), who was forced to step down as leader last year after he was indicted in Texas on campaign-money laundering charges.

"We're focusing on more disclosure, transparency," agreed Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which approved its own disclosure bill Tuesday. The measure will be considered by the full Senate next week.

Some of the disclosure proposals are significant. The governmental affairs committee agreed for the first time to require professional grass-roots lobbying firms to report publicly how much they spend to influence government actions. Currently, only people who are paid to directly lobby lawmakers and their staffs must disclose their activities. Grass-roots lobbying is indirect lobbying to try to galvanize voters back home.

The bill would also require lobbyists to file quarterly reports, rather than the current biannual ones, on their activities, as well as a new, annual disclosure that would detail their donations to federal candidates, officeholders and political parties. In addition, lobbyists would have to disclose all the travel they arrange for lawmakers and all the gifts worth more than $20 that they give to them.

Lobbying reports would be filed electronically and would be accessible via the Internet, something that is not always true today.

On Tuesday, the rules committee approved its own set of extra disclosures. Its bill would require that meals accepted by senators and their aides be reported online within 15 days. That bill would also require that senators get approval in advance from the Senate Select Committee on Ethics for any privately financed travel that they accept. The trips and their main details would have to be disclosed rapidly, including the names of the people who come along on private aircraft.

So far, only one outright ban has been approved. The rules committee decided to prohibit lawmakers from accepting gifts other than meals from registered lobbyists and foreign agents. That would include such benefits as tickets to sporting events and the theater. House Republican leaders have not endorsed a similar ban.

Another serious restriction, approved by the governmental affairs committee, would slow what has been called the revolving door between government and the K Street lobbying industry. The provision would double to two years the time during which former lawmakers and former top executive branch officials would be barred from lobbying their ex-colleagues. It would also ban -- for a year after leaving their Capitol Hill jobs -- former senior congressional staffers from lobbying anyone in the chamber in which they had worked. Currently, staff members are prohibited from lobbying only their former offices during their one-year "cooling-off period."

But Lieberman said he wants to do more. He said he will try to curtail corporate-plane travel by forcing lawmakers to pay charter fares for their private airplane trips rather than the first-class rates that are allowed under current law.

This restriction was proposed during a debate in the rules committee earlier in the week but was defeated.

Senate Panel Rejects Ethics Office Plan

WASHINGTON, March 2 — Senators backed away Thursday from expansive lobbying law changes for the second time this week, overwhelmingly voting down a proposal to create an independent office to investigate ethics abuses in Congress.

The plan for a new Office of Public Integrity was rejected, 11 to 5, by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Opponents complained that the office would have duplicated the work of the Senate Ethics Committee and that the plan violated the Constitution, which provides for the House and Senate to set their own rules.

The vote does not mean the idea is dead; backers said they would try to bring it to the full Senate when the chamber takes up lobbying law changes, possibly next week. But the measure's defeat, coupled with strong disagreements among Republican leaders in the House over what form lobbying legislation should take, suggests that the path to changing the way Congress does business will be fraught with obstacles.

The proposal would have created an independent Office of Public Integrity, with a director who had subpoena power. The director, appointed by the Democratic and Republican Congressional leadership, would have had responsibility for investigating ethics charges, though his decisions could have been overruled by a two-thirds vote of the House or Senate ethics committees.

The measure was struck down despite the strong backing of the committee's chairwoman, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and its senior Democrat, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut. Support was so scant during the debate that as the discussion drew to a close, Senator Collins issued a half-joking plea for help.

"If there are any members of the committee who think there's some possibility that Senator Lieberman and I are right," Ms. Collins said, "I would love to hear them speak."

Instead, the panel adopted legislation that would strengthen disclosure rules for lobbyists, requiring them to report their activities more frequently and to do so electronically, in a format that could be easily searched by the news media and the public.

The bill would also double from one to two years the so-called cooling-off period during which lawmakers-turned-lobbyists are prohibited from lobbying their former colleagues. And it would extend that cooling-off period to senior Senate aides, who would be barred during that time from lobbying any senator, not just their former bosses, as is the current practice.

The committee also voted, 10 to 6, to impose new requirements on advocacy groups to report how much they spend lobbying Congress. That provision is aimed at groups like AARP, which spend millions on television advertisements and other campaigns intended to influence Congress but do not have to register as lobbyists.

After the meeting, Senator Collins said she thought the panel had produced "a strong bill," even without the ethics office provision. But government watchdog groups, and some senators, complained that the committee had stripped the meat out of lobbying law changes.

"The bill is crippled without an independent public integrity office because the House and Senate ethics committees cannot operate free of political pressures, and that's what this office can do," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, an advocacy group. Still, she said, the bill did contain "some important public-disclosure" requirements.

On Tuesday, another Senate panel, the Rules Committee, passed its own lobbying legislation but rejected provisions that would have made it more difficult for senators to travel on corporate jets. Instead, the committee passed a provision requiring senators to receive advance clearance for privately financed trips and to disclose all travel on corporate jets.

In the House, which is likely to take up lobbying legislation in the next few weeks, the Republican leaders have been unable to agree on what form the legislation should take. The new majority leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, said that the leadership was considering a one-year moratorium on private travel, but that he was not a fan of the idea.

The push toward lobbying law changes has grown out of a scandal involving Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is cooperating with federal prosecutors in a widening investigation. With Congress's approval ratings at the lowest in years, members of both parties are eager to pass legislation before the November elections.

But reaching a consensus will be difficult. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who has been spearheading the bipartisan effort on lobbying law changes, said he would push for the full Senate to adopt the proposal for an independent ethics office. He complained that his colleagues had voted against the plan "because it puts teeth into things."

But opponents of the new office, including the Republican chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, Senator George V. Voinovich of Ohio, said it would duplicate what that committee is already doing. "There is no need to reinvent the wheel," Mr. Voinovich said.

Congress Ethics Office Rejected

A Senate panel says monitoring by an independent outside agency is unnecessary.

By Mary Curtius and Richard Simon
Times Staff Writers

From the Los Angeles Times March 3, 2006

WASHINGTON — A key Senate committee Thursday rejected a proposal to create a new agency to oversee congressional ethics, dealing a major blow to efforts to give outsiders at least some authority to police lawmakers' conduct.

The plan to set up an independent Office of Public Integrity was derailed by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — despite its sponsorship by the panel's chairwoman, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, and the ranking Democrat, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

The measure's 11-5 defeat underscored the growing resistance on Capitol Hill to overhauls advocated by government watchdog groups and some lawmakers after recent political scandals. Rather than significantly rewrite their rules for conduct, most members of Congress appear to favor more extensive reporting requirements — mostly for lobbyists.

The defeat of the ethics office proposal sparked sharp criticism.

"We are really disappointed," said Mary Boyle, spokeswoman for the citizens' lobbying group Common Cause. "For Congress to produce any kind of credible reform, they need an enforcement mechanism."

The proposal called for an office, independent of the existing House and Senate ethics committees, that could initiate investigations of lawmakers. The office staff was to have been led by a director hired by congressional leaders; its findings would have been turned over to the congressional ethics panels, whose members would then have decided on any penalties.

In Thursday's debate, several senators balked at ceding even limited oversight to an outside agency.

"There is no need to reinvent the wheel," said Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), who led opposition to the proposal. "The Office of Public Integrity is a solution in search of a problem."

Voinovich is chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, as well as a member of the domestic security panel.

After the latter committee scotched the ethics office provision, it approved legislation that would require lobbyists to provide more detailed reports on their activities, to file that information more frequently, and to disclose the money they spend to promote their clients' interests.

The bill also would require lobbyists to list annually the campaign donations and fund-raising events in which they take part.

Penalties for violations of these rules would be increased. And the "cooling off" period — the time a former senator must wait before lobbying his onetime colleagues — would be extended to two years from one year.

The bill is expected to be combined with one passed this week by the Senate Rules Committee, then sent to the Senate floor as early as next week.

The Rules Committee measure aims to rein in "earmarking" — the popular legislative practice of tucking money into bills, often at the behest of lobbyists, for projects benefiting a particular state or industry. Also, senators would be required to provide more information about meals paid for by lobbyists or travel financed by outside groups. And the lawmakers would be prohibited from accepting gifts from lobbyists.

The House is expected to take up an overhaul of its ethics rules this month, although the chamber's Republican leaders have been struggling to reach agreement on the package's key elements.

Boyle, the Common Cause spokeswoman, said that enacting tougher reporting requirements would not address what she termed a fundamental failure to enforce current rules.

She argued that the scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty in January to defrauding his clients and conspiracy to bribe members of Congress, did not arise because of a lack of ethics rules in the House and Senate.

"It was about rules that were broken and there was no enforcement for breaking them whatsoever," Boyle said.

She said the opposition of Voinovich to the ethics office proposal was particularly disappointing.

"Voinovich is a good-government guy," Boyle said. "He is an ally with us on a number of issues."

Collins and Lieberman insisted that their proposal was not meant to imply that the Senate Ethics Committee had not been doing a good job — but Voinovich and his allies were not persuaded.

Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), who was among those voting against the ethics office, noted that he had served on the ethics panel and that it was an "often thankless task" because most of its deliberations were secret.

"Unfortunately, this can create the perception that the committee is inactive," he said.

Common Cause and other watchdogs contend that the track records for the House and Senate ethics committees demonstrate that lawmakers are reluctant to vigorously investigate one of their own.

As an alternative, they have urged Congress to follow the example set by about two dozen states that have created outside ethics panels that, with varying degrees of independence and authority, oversee the conduct of state legislators.

Collins was philosophical about the defeat of the ethics office idea.

"Reform is always very difficult, especially … when you're trying to reorganize Congress," she said.

Lieberman said he would seek to bring the proposal to the Senate floor when debate opened on the other changes to ethics rules.

"To really make the reforms real requires a stronger, more independent enforcement process," Lieberman said.

Fueling the push for ethics rule changes have been the Abramoff scandal and November's guilty plea by then-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-San Diego) to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. Cunningham resigned his seat as he entered his plea.

After Abramoff's guilty plea, GOP leaders in the House and Senate pledged to take bold steps, such as banning trips by lawmakers paid for by interest groups, to clean up Congress. But since then, such efforts have stalled.

Several lawmakers have argued that the crimes committed by Abramoff and Cunningham were isolated and that Congress should resist the temptation to make systematic changes because of them.

Senate panel rejects new ethics office

Measures requiring lobbyists to disclose more sent to full Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Legislation that would force lobbyists to disclose more about their spending to influence the political process advanced Thursday in the Senate, but minus a key provision that would have set up a new independent office to monitor congressional ethics.

The 12-1 vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee sends the bill to the Senate floor, where it could come up next week.

That would be about two months after former lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty in a federal corruption investigation involving his providing of lavish trips, meals and golf outings "in exchange for a series of official acts."

The relative speed in moving the bill reflects election-year concerns that lobbying and ethics scandals have alienated voters.

"The consequences of these scandals are so antithetical to our democracy and so damaging to Congress that we must come together to produce reform or face further derision and mistrust," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, who sponsored the bill with committee chairman Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Quarterly reports

Under the Collins-Lieberman bill, lobbyists would have to file quarterly reports of their activities, instead of the current twice a year, and would have to ensure Internet access to those reports. Lobbyists would also have to provide details of trips they arrange for legislators and make annual disclosures of their campaign contributions or fundraisers for politicians.

Retiring lawmakers would have to wait two years before accepting jobs lobbying Congress, up from the current one-year waiting period.

But in a 11-5 vote, the committee decided to eliminate a provision that would have set up an office of public integrity, an agency with investigative and subpoena powers that would complement and assist the work of the House and Senate ethics committees.

"Restoring public confidence is essential and the public is very leery about whether we can set our own rules," Collins said in explaining the need for the new office. She and Lieberman stressed that the ethics committees would still have final say on proceeding with investigations or charging members with violations.

But three committee members who are also on the six-member ethics committee balked, saying they were doing a good job and adding another of bureaucracy would only complicate their work.

"I fear that the ethics committee will become little more than a paralyzed political body," said Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, chairman of the ethics committee.

Lieberman vowed to reintroduce the provision when the bill reaches the Senate floor.

Lieberman, joined by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, was successful in winning approval of an amendment that would require paid lobbyists to reveal information about grassroots lobbying, helping clients to encourage the general public, through mass mailings or advertising, to contact federal officials. Smaller grassroots lobbying efforts aimed at 500 people or less would be exempt.

On Tuesday, the Senate Rules Committee approved similar lobbying legislation that included a new procedure for senators to wean earmarks, those specifically targeted and at times wasteful projects that lawmakers like to take home to their constituents, from larger bills.

Any single senator would be able to raise a point of order against an earmark that didn't get a committee vote, and 60 votes would be needed to keep it alive.

The full Senate will consider some combination of the two bills, which overlap in such areas as extending the waiting period for lobbyist jobs to two years.

House moves slower

The House has been slower on the lobbying issue, so far only moving to ban former-members-turned-lobbyists from the House floor and gym. House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, R-California, at a hearing on the issue Thursday, urged unity, saying that "with one voice, we can improve the stature of Congress in the eyes of the American people."

But House GOP leaders have met rank-and-file opposition to their earlier proposal to ban all privately funded travel for lawmakers, and on Thursday the top Democrat on the House ethics committee, Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, dismissed a Dreier proposal to hold joint hearings on the issue.

Mollohan said the ethics committee, which has been inactive for more than a year because of partisan disputes, was trying to restore its nonpartisan character, and an open hearing on the ethics issue would undermine that effort.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press www.cnn.com
Senate panel rejects ethics office
WASHINGTON (AP) — Posted 3/2/2006 1:18 PM

A Senate committee on Thursday emphatically rejected the creation of a new office to oversee ethics violations by lawmakers. The proposed office had been a cornerstone of legislation aimed at cleaning up congressional relations with lobbyists.

Opposition to the proposed Office of Public Integrity was led by members of the Senate ethics committee, who defended their own work in investigating allegations of wrongdoing and said a new layer of bureaucracy was unneeded.

"I fear that the ethics committee will become little more than a paralyzed political body," said Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, chairman of the ethics committee and the sponsor of the amendment to eliminate language on the new office from the lobbying bill.

The vote by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee was 11-5 to remove the provision.

The committee later approved the lobbying bill, which could be introduced on the Senate floor, along with similar legislation backed by the Senate Rules Committee earlier this week, as early as next week.

The Rules Committee bill focused on new steps by which lawmakers could eliminate earmarks, the thousands of pet projects inserted into larger bills, often at the urging of special interest groups. The bill would allow a single member to raise a point of order striking such specific projects from a bill, and require 60 votes to keep the project in the bill.

The new office was supported by the panel's chairman and top Democrat, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., who said an independent office to investigate and oversee ethics issues was needed in the wake of recent scandals that have damaged the reputation of Congress.

"Restoring public confidence is essential and the public is very leery about whether we can set our own rules," Collins said. Lieberman stressed that with the new office the ethics committees in the House and Senate would still make all final decisions about investigating charges or citing members for violations.

But Voinovich and two other panel members who are also on the ethics committee, Sens. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., argued that unlike the House ethics committee, which has done little over the past year because of partisan fights, the Senate committee is doing its job. The new office, Pryor said, would result in "a fundamental change in the nature of the Senate ethics committee."

The Collins-Lieberman bill, patterned after legislation promoted by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., requires greater disclosure from lobbyists about contributions they give to lawmakers or travel they arrange.

It also requires retiring lawmakers to wait two years, instead of the current one, before taking a job lobbying Congress, and increases fines for lobbyists who violate the rules.

The idea of an independent ethics office is being pushed by lawmakers, led by Democrats, who say the current system isn't capable of handling ethics issues in a fair and timely fashion. Lieberman said he would offer an amendment to restore the office of public integrity to the bill when it is debated on the Senate floor.

The House also is working on legislation in response to the fallout from the scandal over Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist who pleaded guilty as part of a federal corruption investigation case involving the spending of millions of dollars to buy political influence.

House Republicans, however, are still divided over some key issues, such as whether to ban all privately funded travel. Abramoff hosted several prominent lawmakers on trips to Scotland and elsewhere marked more by rounds of golf than by fact-finding events.

Senate Panel Rejects Ethics Office

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press WriterThu Mar 2, 3:32 PM ET

Legislation that would force lobbyists to disclose more about their spending to influence the political process advanced Thursday in the Senate, but minus a key provision that would have set up a new independent office to monitor congressional ethics.

The 12-1 vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee sends the bill to the Senate floor, where it could come up next week.

That would be about two months after former lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty in a federal corruption investigation involving his providing of lavish trips, meals and golf outings "in exchange for a series of official acts."

The relative speed in moving the bill reflects election-year concerns that lobbying and ethics scandals have alienated voters.

"The consequences of these scandals are so antithetical to our democracy and so damaging to Congress that we must come together to produce reform or face further derision and mistrust," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman (news, bio, voting record), D-Conn., who sponsored the bill with committee chairman Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Under the Collins-Lieberman bill, lobbyists would have to file quarterly reports of their activities, instead of the current twice a year, and would have to ensure Internet access to those reports. Lobbyists would also have to provide details of trips they arrange for legislators and make annual disclosures of their campaign contributions or fundraisers for politicians.

Retiring lawmakers would have to wait two years before accepting jobs lobbying Congress, up from the current one-year waiting period.

But in a 11-5 vote, the committee decided to eliminate a provision that would have set up an office of public integrity, an agency with investigative and subpoena powers that would complement and assist the work of the House and Senate ethics committees.

"Restoring public confidence is essential and the public is very leery about whether we can set our own rules," Collins said in explaining the need for the new office. She and Lieberman stressed that the ethics committees would still have final say on proceeding with investigations or charging members with violations.

But three committee members who are also on the six-member ethics committee balked, saying they were doing a good job and adding another of bureaucracy would only complicate their work.

"I fear that the ethics committee will become little more than a paralyzed political body," said Sen. George Voinovich (news, bio, voting record), R-Ohio, chairman of the ethics committee.

Lieberman vowed to reintroduce the provision when the bill reaches the Senate floor.

Lieberman, joined by Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich, was successful in winning approval of an amendment that would require paid lobbyists to reveal information about grassroots lobbying, helping clients to encourage the general public, through mass mailings or advertising, to contact federal officials. Smaller grassroots lobbying efforts aimed at 500 people or less would be exempt.

On Tuesday, the Senate Rules Committee approved similar lobbying legislation that included a new procedure for senators to wean earmarks, those specifically targeted and at times wasteful projects that lawmakers like to take home to their constituents, from larger bills.

Any single senator would be able to raise a point of order against an earmark that didn't get a committee vote, and 60 votes would be needed to keep it alive.

The full Senate will consider some combination of the two bills, which overlap in such areas as extending the waiting period for lobbyist jobs to two years.

The House has been slower on the lobbying issue, so far only moving to ban former-members-turned-lobbyists from the House floor and gym. House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., at a hearing on the issue Thursday, urged unity, saying that "with one voice, we can improve the stature of Congress in the eyes of the American people."

But House GOP leaders have met rank-and-file opposition to their earlier proposal to ban all privately funded travel for lawmakers, and on Thursday the top Democrat on the House ethics committee, Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, dismissed a Dreier proposal to hold joint hearings on the issue.

Mollohan said the ethics committee, which has been inactive for more than a year because of partisan disputes, was trying to restore its nonpartisan character, and an open hearing on the ethics issue would undermine that effort.

Homeland Security Committee: http://hsgac.senate.gov/

Most Americans Urge for Tougher Lobbying Rules

March 5, 2006  http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/index.cfm/fuseaction/viewItem/itemID/11091

(Angus Reid Global Scan) – Many adults in the United States believe the behaviour of lobbyists in federal politics must be more transparent, according to the George Washington University Battleground 2006 poll by Lake Snell Perry and Associates and The Tarrance Group. 87 per cent of respondents call for greater disclosure by lobbyists about their work and their level of congressional contacts.

Also, 86 per cent of respondents want greater disclosure by members of Congress about their contacts and campaign contributions.

In January, lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges as part of a deal to cooperate with a federal corruption investigation. More than 70 per cent of respondents call for a broader gift ban, more transparency on congressional pay raises, increasing the lobbying ban on former members to two years, and changing the contribution limits on political action committees and individuals.

Last week, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs said the creation of an independent office to investigate congressional ethics charges was unnecessary. Republican senator George Voinovich declared, "The ethics committee is already doing this. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel."

Polling Data

Support for specific proposals of congressional reform and lobbying reform

Greater disclosure by lobbyists about their work
and their level of congressional contacts
Greater disclosure by members of Congress about
their contact with lobbyists and about campaign
contributions from lobbyists
A broader gift ban 79%
Greater transparency on congressional pay raises 76%
Increasing the lobbying ban on
former members to two years
Changing the contribution limits on PACs
and individuals
Banning lobbying on the floor of the House
and in the House gym
A broader travel ban 67%
Ending earmarks 59%

Source: George Washington University Battleground 2006 / Lake Snell Perry and Associates / The Tarrance Group
Methodology: Telephone interviews to 1,000 registered American voters, conducted from Feb. 12 to Feb. 15, 2006. Margin of error is 3.1 per cent.


March 01, 2006
Senate panel approves modest lobby reform proposal
Krystal MacIntyre at 2:51 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate Rules and Administration Committee [official website] has unanimously approved the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2006 [summary, PDF; committee materials], which incorporates only modest curbs on privately financed trips and earmarks. If the bill is passed by the full Senate, it will require senators to disclose all travel on corporate jets and receive advance clearance for privately financed trips. The bill also subjects earmarks to a 60-vote threshold. If an earmark, a special-interest provision that legislators include in bills, is challenged and does not receive 60 votes, the Senate would strike it from body of the proposed legislation. The bill did not include strict restrictions proposed by some lawmakers.

This move comes two months after the Jack Abramoff [JURIST news archive] corruption scandal and is the first step towards revising current lobby law. Intense disagreements still remain among lawmakers as to what changes are necessary, and several ethics reform [JURIST news archive] proposals for lobbyists have recently been introduced.

Lobbyists oppose plan to reform ethics rules
Krystal MacIntyre at 3:32 PM ET January 25, 2006

[JURIST] In a US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs [official website] hearing on lobbying reform [hearing materials] Wednesday, trade group lobbyists questioned the need for the new ethics reform proposal [JURIST report] that would place stricter regulations on lobbyists and lawmakers. The new regulations were proposed shortly after Republican Jack Abramoff [JURIST news archive] pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to charges of mail fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to corrupt public officials in connection with bribing lawmakers to win favors for his clients. The new rules are meant to increase reporting requirements for lobbyists, limit privately financed trips for lawmakers, and set more stringent restrictions. In testimony before the committee, lobbyists said the new rules are not necessary, and urged Congress instead to focus on enforcing existing ethics rules [House backgrounder]. Public advocacy groups, however, say that a reform of the rules and regulations surrounding lobbying practices is necessary in order to prevent lobbyists from buying influence

Lobbyists Urge Congress Not to Overreact on Ethics Rule Changes

Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Trade group lobbyists told a U.S. Senate committee today that the investigation into influence peddling involving Jack Abramoff is an aberration and questioned the need for new ethics rules to regulate their relationships with lawmakers.

``It is imperative that you do not overreact,'' former Michigan Governor John Engler, the president of the Washington- based National Association of Manufacturers, said in prepared testimony to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. ``Just as a majority of senators and members of Congress have always conducted themselves in a legal and ethical manner, so too have a vast majority of lobbyists.''

The Senate hearing was the first since Abramoff's Jan. 3 guilty plea in U.S. federal court to conspiracy to corrupt public officials, mail fraud and tax evasion. He has agreed to cooperate with a U.S. Justice Department corruption probe. The Republican lobbyist plied lawmakers with free meals, trips overseas and access to skyboxes at sporting events to win favors for Indian tribes and other clients.

House and Senate lawmakers of both parties have introduced legislation to impose new regulations on lobbyists and lawmakers, and the Republican leadership in both chambers is drafting its own measures. Most of the proposals would increase reporting requirements for lobbyists, impose restrictions on privately financed trips for lawmakers and require former members of Congress to wait two years before they begin lobbying their ex- colleagues.

`Public Confidence'

``We must act to strengthen the laws governing disclosure and ban practices that erode public confidence in the integrity of government decisions,'' said Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who is chairwoman of the committee.

Paul Miller, president of the American League of Lobbyists, questioned whether any new rules are needed.

``No matter how well-intentioned a reform effort may be, it will be meaningless to the American people if we first don't begin by talking about enforcement of the current rules,'' Miller said in his prepared testimony. ``Before we create new ones, therefore, we would urge Congress to undertake a detailed review of what's currently in place, to see how effective those rules and regulations would be with enforcement.''

The lobbyists' position contrasts with that of public advocacy groups in Washington such as Public Citizen and the League of Women Voters which have called for new limits on lobbyist donations, a ban on lobbyists raising money for candidates, and the end to lobbyist-funded events honoring members of Congress, such as those held at the national party conventions.

``Their money has a greater potential to buy influence,'' said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a Washington- based advocacy group. ``For that reason, we believe a lower contribution limit can be placed on lobbyists.''

There are currently 27,611 registered lobbyists, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, a Washington group that tracks money in politics.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at  jsalant@bloomberg.net.

Senate Panel Approves Modest Curbs on Lobbyists

By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG  www.nytimes.com
WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 — Congress took its first step toward revamping lobbying law on Tuesday, as a Senate committee unanimously approved modest curbs on privately financed trips and the special-interest provisions known as earmarks.

But the measure did not include the tough restrictions that some lawmakers had proposed.

Nearly two months after the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal rocked Capitol Hill, the 17-to-0 vote in the Senate Rules Committee demonstrated just how hard it might be to reach consensus on changes in lobbying law.

Intense disagreements remain, particularly about private and corporate travel, and they do not always pit Republicans against Democrats.

The Republican-controlled panel, for instance, rejected two proposals offered by the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. One would have required senators to reimburse corporations for travel on their jets. Senators now pay the equivalent of first-class fares, which generally cost far less.

The other proposal would have doubled, to two years, the current ban on former senators' lobbying their colleagues after leaving public office.

Mr. Santorum, asked later whether his colleagues were backing away from tough changes, said, "To some extent, they certainly did today."

In the House, the Republican leadership is considering a one-year moratorium on privately financed travel, even though the new majority leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, has been cool to the idea.

Mr. Boehner, conducting his first regular briefing with reporters since being elected leader, said Tuesday that his colleagues wanted time to determine how to regulate private trips, allowing legitimate fact-finding excursions to continue while banning lavish junkets.

"There has to be a level of trust between the American people who sent us here and the Congress," he said, adding that changes in lobbying law were "an essential first step in what I view as a long process."

The House is likely to take up measures in the next few weeks. The Senate could act as early as next week.

The measure that the rules panel approved on Tuesday is not the only bill working its way through the Senate. On Thursday, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is to draft its own version.

The chairwoman of that committee, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said she, like Mr. Santorum, advocated reimbursement for corporate travel.

Another leading Republican, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, said such a provision would make it nearly impossible for him to travel in his state, where airline service is limited and voters are scattered across a vast expanse.

The panel chairman, Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, said afterward that he saw Mr. Stevens's point.

"Somebody's got to look at this in a way that deals with reality and makes sense," Mr. Lott said. "Do we want to artificially make people pay more, which would force working-class senators not to be able to travel, and the rich guy to travel at will?"

Under the measure adopted on Tuesday, senators would be required to receive advance clearance for privately financed trips and would have to disclose all travel on corporate jets. The measure would bar retiring senators from negotiating for work with business until their successors had been named or elected.

The bill tries to rein in earmarks, the pet projects that lawmakers sometimes insert in bills at lobbyists' behest, by subjecting them to a 60-vote threshold. If an earmark is challenged and does not receive 60 votes, the Senate would strike it from larger legislation.

The panel did not take up a proposal by Senator Mark Dayton, Democrat of Minnesota, for new restrictions on the legislative activities of lobbyists who are elected to Congress. Mr. Lott ruled the proposal out of order, saying it did not fall under the committee's jurisdiction, and advised Mr. Dayton to keep working on it.

"This was a good give and take," Mr. Lott said afterward.

Democrats, whose alternative measure was rejected by a party-line vote, thought there was more give than take. They calculated that it would be better to vote with Republicans on the rules panel and later press their alternative when the bill reaches the full Senate. The Democratic leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, said later that the party-line vote "speaks volumes."

Lobbying reform bill goes to full Senate absent ethics office provision
Joshua Pantesco at 3:58 PM ET March 02, 2006

Photo source or description

[JURIST] The US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee [official website] voted 12-1 Thursday to send a lobbying oversight bill to the full Senate, but the bill was stripped of a provision establishing an independent office with oversight over congressional ethics issues. The Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act of 2005 [full draft text; advocacy group summary] as approved would expand the definition of a lobbyist to include grassroots lobbyists, demand quarterly expense reports of all lobbyists, and require the disclosure of all campaign contributions from lobbyists to candidates.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) [official website] read a statement [text] supporting the inclusion of the oversight office provision within the text of the full Senate bill. He explained:

It would establish, as the Chairman has mentioned, an independent Office of Public Integrity with a full time executive director with investigative and subpoena powers and the staff to do a lot more than is done under the status quo. It would require lobbyists to report their activities on a quarterly basis, rather than semi-annually, and establish an electronic database of the information. Our proposal for the first time would require registered lobbyists to report all their campaign contributions, as well as other contributions that honor Members of Congress, all in the interest of full disclosure. And it would increase from one year to two the amount of time that must pass before a former Member of Congress or senior executive branch official could lobby his or her former colleagues. It would also bar Congressional staff from lobbying the entire Congress for one year.

Lieberman noted that recent scandals involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff [JURIST news archive] had motivated the legislation. During full Senate hearings on the issue, a combination of an ethics reform proposal [JURIST report] approved by a separate Senate committee on Wednesday and the lobbying oversight bill will likely be considered.

Patriot Act OK'd, ethics watchdog agency is rejected

Strong Senate vote on homeland security gives Bush boost; House to vote next week
By Mary Curtius and Richard Simon
Originally published March 3, 2006 www.baltimoresun.com
WASHINGTON // A key Senate committee rejected yesterday a proposal to create a new agency that would oversee congressional ethics, dealing a major blow to efforts to give outsiders at least some authority to police lawmakers' conduct.

The plan to set up an Office of Public Integrity was derailed by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee - despite its sponsorship by the panel's chairwoman, Republican Sen. Susan M. Collins of Maine, and the ranking Democrat, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut.

The measure's 11-5 defeat underscored the growing resistance on Capitol Hill to sweeping reforms advocated by government watchdog groups and some lawmakers in the wake of recent political scandals.

Rather than significantly rewrite their rules for conduct, most members of Congress appear to favor more extensive reporting requirements - mostly for lobbyists.

Meanwhile yesterday, the Senate also voted overwhelmingly to renew the USA Patriot Act, after months of pitched debate over legislation that supporters said struck a better balance between privacy rights and the government's power to hunt down terrorists.

The 89-10 vote marked a bright spot in President Bush's troubled second term as his approval ratings dipped over the war in Iraq and his administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. Renewing the act, congressional Republicans said, was key to preventing more terror attacks in the United States.

Critics maintained that the bill is weighted too much toward the interests of law enforcement.

The House was expected to pass the legislation next week and send it to Bush, who would sign it before 16 provisions expire March 10.

The failed congressional ethics proposal called for establishing an office that would operate independently of the existing House and Senate ethics committees and would have the power to initiate investigations of lawmakers. But its findings would be turned over to the congressional ethics panels, whose members would then decide on any penalties.

In yesterday's debate, several senators balked at ceding even limited oversight power to an outside agency.

"There is no need to reinvent the wheel," said Sen. George V. Voinovich, an Ohio Republican who led opposition to the proposal. "The Office of Public Integrity is a solution in search of a problem."

Voinovich is chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, as well as a member of the homeland security panel.

After the latter committee scotched the ethics office provision, it approved legislation that would require lobbyists to provide more detailed reports on their activities, to file that information more frequently and to disclose the money they spend to promote the interest of their clients.

The bill also would require lobbyists to list annually the campaign donations and fund-raising events in which they take part.

Lobbying Reform: An Alligator in Congress?

By: Brad Smith · Section: Diaries Feb 23rd, 2006: 09:22:25
From the diaries . . .

The liberal lobbying group Democracy 21 has come out in favor of an "Office of Public Integrity" to "clean up " Congress.  This office will be "independent," "must receive adequate resources" (whether Congress will be able to control its budget is unclear) and "should have a professional, nonpartisan staff led by a publicly credible, professionally experienced individual."  
Steve Hoersting, Executive Director of the Center for Competitive Politics, has a little warning tale.  See below the fold...

Lobbying Reform: Alligator Emerges From D.C. Swamp

By Steve Hoersting, sitting in for Brad Smith

As a coequal branch of the Federal government, established by the Constitution, Congress has always taken the responsibility of policing its own. While there has been scandal over the years, to be sure, the institution has managed to reform itself over time and to correct many of its abuses.

But after the Abramoff scandal, even the most innocent Members of Congress are searching for ways to get the so-called "reform" organizations to stop calling their institution corrupt.  So Democracy 21, one of the higher profile "reform" organizations in town, has obliged with a plan to establish a "new, independent Office of Public Integrity in Congress to oversee and enforce the congressional ethics rules."

The Office's jurisdiction would cover both the House and Senate and would "have a professional, nonpartisan staff led by a publicly credible, professionally experienced individual."  If you've not met the folks at Democracy 21 and wonder who they might view as publicly credible or professionally experienced--and you're a Democrat--picture Larry Klayman.  If you're a Republican, picture ... well, Larry Klayman.

The duties of the Office would include advising Members on the interpretation of ethics rules, investigating potential violations on the basis of the "Office's own inherent jurisdiction", and presenting cases and evidence to the ethics committees for decisions of whether violations have occurred.  "The Office must receive adequate resources to effectively carry out its duties" says Democracy 21, "and funding should be provided on an entitlement basis ... not by annual appropriations."   In other words, once the Office were established Congress would have no authority to reduce its budget, and limited ability to replace it with something else, or simply shut it down.

For many years the Federal Election Commission had just such a "reformer" as its General Counsel: a "professionally experienced individual", approved by Democracy 21, who made his career enforcing "ethics" against others.  He's not there anymore, having since moved on to bigger, more independent, reform projects.  But when he was at the FEC things were "professional" and "independent."  His team of "nonpartisan professionals helped advise Members of Congress on the meaning of the campaign finance rules; investigated cases based on the Commission's own inherent jurisdiction; and presented cases and evidence to the Commissioners for decisions of whether violations had occurred.  His team would administer, investigate and compile the cases, and draft summaries of all "relevant" information.  They even summarized the respondent's arguments for him, and submitted that summary to the Commissioners, including in it an assessment of the overall merits of the case and a recommended course of action.  When, on occasion, a member of a Commissioner's staff would request to see a document cited in a summary or relied upon by the respondent, the professionals would suggest the staffer first get support for the request from a majority of the Commissioner's colleagues; after all, the professionals were busy doing the work of the People.  The "professionally experienced individual" would review all cases for final edit before sending them to the Commissioners.  If a favorable vote looked unlikely, he would occasionally withdraw his recommendation until his team could work on the case further.  The case would be resubmitted later, with an additional but informal recommendation that the Commissioners take no extra time to consider or investigate the case further, lest the statute of limitations run.  Soon it seemed that nearly all the larger cases, or those with strained legal theories, were submitted for Commissioners' approval closer and closer to the statute of limitations.

After a time, several respondents thought the FEC's legal theories were too far a field and its findings unjust, so they sued.  The Commissioners yielded to the professional's recommendations and supported the litigation.  But in nearly a dozen cases Federal courts overwhelmingly rejected the professional's theory, culminating in a case wherein Judge Michael Luttig, writing for the Fourth Circuit, noted that the FEC's argument--that "no words of advocacy are necessary to expressly advocate the election of a candidate"--was untenable, contrary to long-established precedent, and sufficient reason for the Fourth Circuit to take the highly unusual step of awarding attorneys fees to the respondent.  The professionally experienced individual didn't miss a beat, recommending that the Commissioners not enforce the rule in the Fourth Circuit but should enforce it every where it wasn't specifically invalidated, and then extended his theory to a whole new class of communications.  Soon the RNC, the DNC, the AFL-CIO, several state party committees, a coalition of business organizations, and the Christian Coalition found themselves in protracted investigations before the FEC.  Each of these entities, every one, was exonerated, some after six years and subsequent Federal litigation.

So, eventually, the Commissioners stopped taking the recommendation of its independent professional, and decided it would be better to focus on tougher enforcement of clear violations.  The professional later left the FEC, and the time it took to resolve cases soon began to decline.  Routine violations were punished more rapidly, but witch-hunts into alleged "conspiracies" came to a halt.  And do you know what happened?  The "reform" community --led by Democracy 21 -- called those Commissioners, of both political parties, corrupt.  They called for the resignation of some, and called for a complete remaking of the institution--perhaps, in the image of a czar, an "independent" one, of course.

Installing an independent Office of Public Integrity in the halls of Congress has all of the foresight and feasibility of bringing a pet alligator into your home.  The hatchling's novelty quickly wanes as its opinion on when and what's for dinner progresses from bellowing recommendation, to agitating hiss, to threatening roar.  No matter how conscientiously its keeper adjusts or accedes to its needs, the gator seeks more and still more, until after a time it becomes unclear what if any meal would satisfy its appetite or for how long.  And it becomes even less clear--to the keeper, anyway--whether the gator is living in your house, or you're living in his. www.campaignfreedom.org


Former GOP Lawmaker Gets 8 Years
Cunningham Also Must Pay Back Millions for Bribery and Tax Offenses

By Sonya Geis and Charles R. Babcock
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 4, 2006; A01

SAN DIEGO, March 3 -- Former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a decorated fighter pilot in Vietnam who admitted taking $2.4 million in bribes from two defense contractors, was sentenced Friday to eight years and four months in federal prison for selling his office.

U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns imposed the sentence after prosecutors argued for the maximum 10 years and defense attorneys suggested that six years was enough because Cunningham, 64, is suffering from various physical ailments, as well as depression. The California Republican resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to tax evasion and conspiracy to commit bribery in November.

Appearing much thinner than he did last fall, Cunningham choked up as he addressed the judge. "No man has ever been more sorry," he said. "I made a very wrong turn. I rationalized decisions I knew were wrong. I did that, sir."

Burns said the amount of money Cunningham took "emasculates" previous bribery crimes. Noting that he, too, raised a family on a government salary, the judge said he understood wanting "the good things in life." But Burns added: "You weren't wet. You weren't cold. You weren't hungry, and yet you did these things."

In a related development, the CIA's inspector general is looking into whether Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, the agency's executive director and its third-ranking official, arranged for any contracts to be given to companies associated with Brent Wilkes, one of the contractors identified as having made payments to Cunningham. Foggo, a senior intelligence officer handling complex clandestine contracts, is an old friend of Wilkes from their high school and college days. The investigation was first reported by Newsweek.

"It is standard practice . . . to look into assertions that mention agency officers. That should in no way be seen as lending credibility to any allegation," the CIA said in a statement. "Mr. Foggo has overseen many contracts in his decades of public service. He reaffirms that they were properly awarded and administered."

In the San Diego courtroom, Cunningham wiped away tears when his attorney, K. Lee Blalack II of Washington, referred to the former congressman's wartime service, which included shooting down five enemy planes over Vietnam and being shot down himself. "There are men in this courtroom who are walking around and breathing because Duke Cunningham put his life at risk," Blalack said.

Blalack said Cunningham already had suffered greatly. "This man has been humiliated beyond belief by his own hand. He is estranged from those he loves most and cares most about," Blalack said. "All his worldly possessions are gone. He will carry a crushing tax debt until the day he dies. He will go to jail until he's 70 years old."

But prosecutor Jason A. Forge said Cunningham should not get a break, pointing out that he spent months denying the allegations after they appeared last June.

"As these crimes are unprecedented, so, too, should be his punishment," prosecutor Philip Halpern told the judge. He said that Cunningham "was squandering precious tax dollars for, among other things, systems the military didn't ask for, didn't need and frequently didn't use."

The judge recommended the prison term be served in a federal facility near Bakersfield, Calif. In addition, Burns ordered that Cunningham pay $1.8 million in back taxes and penalties plus $1.85 million in restitution based on the bribes he received.

Cunningham's greed was unparalleled, according to prosecutors, who detailed in two pre-sentencing memos what they would have presented at trial.

One included a detailed list -- with pictures -- of the house, boat, cars, antiques, rugs and other bribes he took over the past five years. It contained a copy of a "bribe menu" on Cunningham's personal note card that signified he would trade $1 million of federal funding for $50,000, and then offer a discount of $25,000 per million once he had collected $200,000.

In return, Cunningham admitting using his seats on the appropriations and intelligence committees to earmark funding for programs intended for the companies of Mitchell J. Wade and Wilkes. He then "bullied and hectored" Pentagon officials to ensure their firms, MZM Inc. and ADCS Inc., were awarded federal contracts, the government said.

Wade pleaded guilty Feb. 24 in Washington to four criminal charges related to the case. Wilkes has not been charged, though prosecutors said the investigation is continuing.

Thomas E. Mann, an expert on Congress at the Brookings Institution, said Friday that "we haven't seen anything like" the magnitude and duration of Cunningham's corruption since the Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s.

Cunningham was elected to Congress in 1990, a few years after retiring from the Navy, in which he had been an instructor at the "top gun" school for fighter pilots and the first ace in the Vietnam War. When the GOP took over the House in 1995, he used his committee seats to earmark funds for Wade and Wilkes. Wilkes's company collected at least $80 million in federal contracts, and Wade's was awarded more than $150 million in the past three years.

Cunningham's downfall began last June when the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Wade had bought the lawmaker's home near San Diego for $1.675 million and sold it months later at a $700,000 loss. Cunningham used the profits -- after Wade sent him a $115,100 check to pay the capital gains tax -- to buy a $2.55 million mansion in nearby Rancho Santa Fe. That was followed by a disclosure that Cunningham was living rent-free while in Washington on Wade's yacht, the Duke-Stir.

At first, prosecutors said, Cunningham attempted to cover up his crimes by writing a phony undated letter to Wade offering to pay his loss on the home sale to "eliminate any negative perception." To explain away rugs and antiques Wade had bought for him, Cunningham said that his check to the rug dealer had been lost in the mail, and that he "reminded" the antiques dealer he had given Wade cash for the purchases, prosecutors wrote.

The dealer recalled no such transaction. The rugs and antiques will be auctioned off this month to help pay what Cunningham owes the government.

Despite the conviction, Cunningham will get a congressional pension. Peter Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, estimated that Cunningham's 15 years in the House will make him eligible for about $36,000 a year. With his 21 years of Navy duty added to that total, his annual pension would be about $64,400, Sepp said.

Babcock reported from Washington. Staff writer Walter Pincus and researcher Madonna Lebling in Washington contributed to this report.

Ex-Congressman Gets 8-Year Term in Bribery Case

March 4, 2006

By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD www.nytimes.com

SAN DIEGO, March 3 — After acknowledging that he had "made a very wrong turn," former Representative Randy Cunningham was sentenced in federal court here on Friday to eight years and four months in prison for taking $2.4 million in bribes from military contractors in return for smoothing the way for government contracts.

The government, which called the misconduct unprecedented for its "depth, breadth and length," said the sentence was the longest ever handed down for a member or former member of Congress in a federal corruption case.

In a halting, cracking voice before journalists, friends, political associates and others, Mr. Cunningham, 64, stood before the judge and largely read from a statement as he pleaded for leniency and, turning to prosecutors, apologized for his crime.

"I rationalized decisions I knew were wrong," said Mr. Cunningham, a Naval pilot ace in the Vietnam War and "Top Gun" instructor who parlayed those experiences into a powerful political career. "Before there must be forgiveness, there must be redemption. No man has ever been more sorry."

Judge Larry Alan Burns of Federal District Court said the former congressman's conduct, which prosecutors said included keeping a "bribe menu" with the prices of influence, undermined faith in government and wasted tax dollars. In addition to some cash payments, Mr. Cunningham bargained for gifts like a sport utility vehicle, a Tiffany statue, Bijar rugs and candelabras.

Judge Burns said Mr. Cunningham, an eight-term Republican from Rancho Santa Fe who represented the northern suburbs of San Diego, could have retired to business long ago if he wanted to make copious money but instead engaged in bid rigging and badgering officials and other witnesses to help cover his tracks.

"You made a wrong turn and continued for three to five years," Judge Burns said, referring to what prosecutors documented as the period of misconduct. "I wonder how far you would have gone.

"You undermined the opportunity and option for honest politicians to do a good job."

The judge rejected Mr. Cunningham's request to delay his arrival in prison so he could visit his 91-year-old mother, saying Mr. Cunningham had had months to say his goodbyes.

Judge Burns, in recognition of what Mr. Cunningham's lawyers have described as his failing health, recommended sending him first to a prison medical center for evaluation. He also voiced admiration for Mr. Cunningham's war heroism.

Mr. Cunningham's lawyers had asked the judge for a six-year sentence, citing his military service and what they called health so failing that he may have seven years to live. Prosecutors urged the judge to abide by the 10-year sentence that Mr. Cunningham had agreed to after he pleaded guilty in November and resigned from Congress. Judge Burns noted that the sentence could be reduced by 15 months if Mr. Cunningham behaved well in prison.

Prosecutors said they might also seek a reduction if they are satisfied that he was cooperating with their investigation.

Mr. Cunningham was ordered to pay $1,804,031.50 in restitution for back taxes, penalties and interest owed to the government and was ordered to forfeit an additional $1,851,508, based on cash he received in his crimes.

The extent of corruption stunned his constituents and Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill and, along with the scandal centering on the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, sparked calls to change lobbying rules. The two investigations and others involving lawmakers and senior aides have emerged as major election themes.

Given Mr. Cunningham's focus on funneling federal money to specific projects in exchange for lobbyists' payoffs, his case put particular scrutiny on "earmarking," using measures to direct money to favored projects.

Proposals are circulating in the House and Senate to require more disclosure of the projects and their sponsors and to open opportunities to strip the earmarks slipped into bills at the last minute.

In the weeks leading up to the sentencing, sharper details of Mr. Cunningham's crimes emerged. In court papers, the government said he had behaved like an old ward boss, sketching out a "bribe menu" on a note card with the Congressional seal. One column offered $16 million in contracts in exchange for the title to a boat the contractor had bought for $140,000. The card further detailed how much more contract work could be bought for every additional $50,000 paid to Mr. Cunningham.

The papers document lavish travel on chartered jets paid by contractors with catered meals of lobster, wine and "other extravagances." Bribers put him up at top-of-the-line resorts like the Royal Hawaiian on Oahu, Hawaii and in the Greenbriar Resort in West Virginia.

Mr. Cunningham, the government said, "bullied and hectored" officials standing in his way and tampered with witnesses to have them play down or distort his misdeeds.

The principal co-conspirator in the case, Mitchell Wade, a military contractor who is the founder and former president of MZM Inc. in Washington, pleaded guilty last week in federal court to several charges, including giving Mr. Cunningham $1 million in bribes.

Mr. Cunningham's lawyers in court filings, including a psychiatric report, portrayed his life as disintegrating, saying ailments had left him with perhaps seven years to live.

The psychiatric report, by Dr. Saul J. Faerstein of Beverly Hills, Calif., said Mr. Cunningham suffered depression and suicidal thoughts, in addition to a history of prostate cancer and other ailments.

Searching for an explanation for Mr. Cunningham's conduct, Dr. Faerstein said: "Society needs heroes and wants them to be superheroes. The normal sense of mortality is suppressed in order to fulfill this role."

After the sentencing, two marshals approached Mr. Cunningham and escorted him without handcuffs from the courtroom, one of them guiding him by the waist, patting him on the back and whispering in his ear. Mr. Cunningham will spend perhaps a week or so in a jail across the street before moving to prison, said an assistant United States attorney, Phillip L. B. Halpern, who helped prosecute the case.

On March 23, the government plans to auction some of the antiques that Mr. Cunningham forfeited after pleading guilty, including French armoires, candlesticks, nightstands and a glass buffet.

Pro-Israel Lobbying Group Roiled by Prosecution of Two Ex-Officials

Two former officials of the nation's top pro-Israel lobbying group are charged with receiving classified information about terrorism.

By SCOTT SHANE and DAVID JOHNSTON March 5, 2006 www.nytimes.com
WASHINGTON, March 4 — The annual gathering of the nation's top pro-Israel lobbying group, which starts here on Sunday, will be addressed by Vice President Dick Cheney and United Nations Ambassador John R. Bolton. Politicians are lined up to warn of the threat from Iran and Hamas. Workshops will offer advice on winning the legislative game on Capitol Hill.

But the official program omits a topic likely to be a major theme of corridor chatter: the explosive Justice Department prosecution of two former officials of the group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, that is ticking toward an April trial date.

The highly unusual indictment of the former officials, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, accuses them of receiving classified information about terrorism and Middle East strategy from a Defense Department analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, and passing it on to a journalist and an Israeli diplomat. Mr. Franklin pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12½ years in prison, though his sentence could be reduced based on his cooperation in the case.

The prosecution has roiled the powerful organization, known as Aipac, which at first vigorously defended Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman and then fired them last March. And it has generated considerable anger among American Jews who question why the group's representatives were singled out in the first place.

Aipac would appear to be an unlikely target for the Bush administration; it is a political powerhouse that generally shares the administration's hawkish views on the potential nuclear threat from Iran and the danger of Palestinian militancy. But the case does fit with the administration's determination to stop leaks of classified information.

Some legal experts say the prosecution threatens political and press freedom, making a felony of the commerce in information and ideas that is Washington's lifeblood. Federal prosecutors are using the Espionage Act for the first time against Americans who are not government officials, do not have a security clearance and, by all indications, are not a part of a foreign spy operation.

"The feeling in the Jewish community is one of indignation at Aipac's being unfairly targeted by federal prosecutors for trying to find out what everyone in this town is trying to find out — what the government is thinking," said Douglas M. Bloomfield, who was a legislative director of Aipac in the 1980's and who now writes a syndicated column on American Mideast policy.

As the marquee conference speakers attest, Aipac's clout has not been visibly diminished by the criminal case. Membership has increased 25 percent in the last two years to more than 100,000, and the budget has grown to $45 million, the group said. "As always, the organization is completely focused on its core mission, the strengthening of the U.S.-Israel relationship," said Patrick Dorton, an Aipac spokesman.

Mr. Bloomfield said he had been told by insiders that the investigation of Mr. Rosen, director of foreign policy issues at Aipac and an influential figure there for more than 20 years, and Mr. Weissman, a Mideast analyst with the group since 1993, had proved a "fund-raising windfall" as donors rallied to offer their support.

But the case has set off alarms among the policy groups, lobbyists and journalists who swap information, often about national security issues, with executive-branch officials and Congressional staff members. They were not reassured by a remark from the federal judge hearing the case, at Mr. Franklin's sentencing in January, that the laws on classified information were not limited to government officials.

"Persons who have unauthorized possession, who come into unauthorized possession of classified information, must abide by the law," the judge, T. S. Ellis III, said. "That applies to academics, lawyers, journalists, professors, whatever."

A January legal brief by lawyers for Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman — written in part by Viet D. Dinh, a conservative former assistant attorney general in the Bush Justice Department — argued that the charges were a dangerous effort to criminalize conduct protected by the First Amendment. That argument gets fervent support from people who may not share the Aipac officials' conservative views on foreign policy.

"If receiving and passing on national defense information is a crime, we're going to have to build a lot more jails," said Steven Aftergood, who runs the Project on Government Secrecy at the liberal Federation of American Scientists. "To make a crime of the kind of conversations Rosen and Weissman had with Franklin over lunch would not be surprising in the People's Republic of China. But it's utterly foreign to the American political system."

Peter Raven-Hansen, a law professor at George Washington University, said the case raised several legal issues and undoubtedly would end up in the next edition of his textbook on national security law.

"Leaving aside the idea that this might chill exchanges with the press, this is a guaranteed formula for selective prosecution," Mr. Raven-Hansen said. In other words, he said, so many people have conversations involving borderline-classified information that the government will not be able to prosecute them all and will have to pick and choose, raising a fundamental fairness question.

Justice Department officials will not discuss the case. But in announcing the indictment of Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman in August, Paul McNulty, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said, "Those not authorized to receive classified information must resist the temptation to acquire it, no matter what their motivation may be."

The inquiry dates back to 1999 when, according to the indictment against Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, they first violated the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to possess and disseminate national defense information without authorization. What remains a mystery is how and when the government first focused on the Aipac employees, and why they were singled out among the hundreds of foreign policy advocates in the capital.

Former and current intelligence officials have said the two men may have stumbled into an American intelligence operation involving electronic monitoring of Israeli interests in the United States. The indictment includes what it indicates is a verbatim quotation from an April 1999 conversation Mr. Rosen had with an official of a foreign country, identified as Israel by government officials who have been briefed on the case.

Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman are accused of orally passing on to a journalist and to foreign officials classified information about American policy options in the Middle East, an F.B.I. report on the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.

In August 2002, according to the indictment, the two Aipac officials first met Mr. Franklin, who supplied them with more information, much of it involving policy options toward Iran. In pleading guilty, Mr. Franklin said he did not intend to damage the United States but hoped the two lobbyists would be advocates for his views within the administration.

(Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Mr. Rosen, and John N. Nassikas III, who represents Mr. Weissman, declined to discuss the case.)

Aipac and its former employees have tussled over legal fees. In October, according to a person who had been briefed about the dispute and who would describe the delicate negotiations only on condition of anonymity, the group offered the men about $800,000 apiece to cover legal fees. But they turned down the offer because it would have required them to give up their right to sue Aipac, the person said.

Though Aipac is not accused of wrongdoing, some lawyers say a trial could prove embarrassing for the group, because it could delve into the inner workings of the organization and the internal roles played by Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman.

"A trial has got to be a concern for Aipac," said Neal Sher, a former federal prosecutor and a former executive director of Aipac. "You don't know what might come out. A trial might reveal its inner workings, its dealings with the government and its dealings with Israel."

Mr. Sher, like other former Aipac officials, said one particularly sensitive point for the group would be any evidence that it ever acted at the behest of Israeli officials. Aipac officials have never registered as agents of Israel and have never been required to, because they have not acted at the "order, request, direction or control" of Israel, said Philip Friedman, the group's general counsel.

But the question of dual loyalty, to the United States and to Israel, became touchy after the investigation was revealed. At last year's conference, the group broke with tradition and did not sing the Israeli national anthem.

This year, officials have said, the tradition will be restored. Both the American and Israeli anthems are on the program.

Amid AIPAC's Big Show, Straight Talk With a Noticeable Silence

By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, March 7, 2006; A02 www.washingtonpost.com

Words are seldom minced at the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

During a luncheon speech yesterday at the convention center, Daniel Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, shouted a barnyard obscenity involving a bull when he dismissed the theory that Iran and Hamas might soften their anti-Israel views. The audience gave Gillerman a standing ovation.

The undiplomatic diplomat went on to describe a war on radical Islam: "While it may be true -- and probably is -- that not all Muslims are terrorists, it also happens to be true that nearly all terrorists are Muslim."

But ask people at this week's gathering about Steve Rosen, the father of modern AIPAC, who goes on trial next month for disseminating classified information, and you get the sort of look you'd expect if you inquired about an embarrassing medical condition.

"I'm not the person to ask about that," says Nathan Diament, a Washington representative for Orthodox Jews.

"Who?" responds Neil Cooper, a delegate from the Philadelphia area.

"Rosen? Which one is he?" answers a charity executive, with a smile.

"I need to read more about it," demurs Etan Cohen, a college student.

AIPAC staff members note that, with Iran and the Palestinians to worry about, the indictments of Rosen and former deputy Keith Weissman have not been mentioned in any of the group's public meetings so far. And they say the pro-Israel lobby, unharmed by the Rosen flap, is putting on its biggest and best show ever this week: 4,500 participants, including more than 1,000 students, paying visits to at least 450 House and Senate offices.

Indeed, the scandal doesn't seem to have slowed down the group. At last night's dinner, AIPAC set aside 27 minutes for the reading of its annual "Roll Call" of lawmakers, diplomats and administration officials attending the gathering. As of midday yesterday, RSVPs had come in from 57 embassies, from Burundi to Turkey; a score of Bush administration officials; a majority of the Senate; and a quarter of the House. Even the ambassadors of Pakistan and Oman supped at AIPAC's table.

Any talk of Rosen is confined to private donor meetings and hallway conversations -- where opinions are split on AIPAC's decision to turn its back on Rosen and Weissman.

"I don't like the way AIPAC handled it, hanging them out to dry," said one West Coast delegate, after delivering an on-the-record no comment. "They didn't do anything different from what everybody else does in this town every day."

Rosen and Weissman are the first nongovernment officials to be prosecuted under the all-but-forgotten Espionage Act of 1917. The law, amended in 1950, makes it a crime for an unauthorized person even to have classified information knowingly; if Rosen broke that law, so do hundreds of other lobbyists and journalists as part of their normal course of business.

The New Yorker magazine reported last year that AIPAC's lawyer, Nathan Lewin, recommended that the two officials be fired after he heard from prosecutors about an FBI-recorded telephone call between Rosen, Weissman and The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler, in which Rosen observed that "at least we have no Official Secrets Act." Lewin and the prosecutors may not have realized that the line -- referring to a British law about publishing classified information -- was a stock joke Rosen used in conversations with Kessler and other reporters.

AIPAC at first defended Rosen vigorously, then dismissed him in April over unspecified conduct "beneath the standards AIPAC sets for its employees." The group has advised members that it has not taken a position on whether Rosen acted legally.

That nuance was understandably lost on most of the attendees asked about the matter at yesterday's session. "AIPAC doesn't support passing of state secrets to Israel, and that's my view, too," said Daniel Rathauser, a high school senior from New Jersey.

Max Newman, from Michigan, had no complaints, either. "I respect the way the organization handled it," he said. "What they did was against the policy of AIPAC."

Exactly what they did should come out in next month's trial. In the meantime, AIPAC is clamping down on what information it lets out.

Luncheon speeches by former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and former Virginia governor Mark Warner (D) were declared off the record. At another speech yesterday by Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, reporters were turned away at the door; an AIPAC spokeswoman went through the room making sure no journalists had infiltrated.

At the public sessions, the message was uniform: AIPAC is strong, and getting stronger. "Thank God for AIPAC," Gillerman told the participants. "This is for us the greatest guarantee and insurance policy for the survival of Israel," he added. "Please don't ever change."

As Rosen and Weissman have learned, it already has.

Published: Aug 5, 2005
By: David Rose

Love of country led Sibel Edmonds to become a translator for the
F.B.I. following 9/11. But everything changed when she accused a
colleague of covering up illicit activity involving Turkish
nationals. Fired after sounding the alarm, she's now fighting for the
ideals that made her an American, and threatening some very powerful


In Washington, D.C., and its suburbs, December 2, 2001 was fine but
cool, the start of the slide into winter after a spell of
unseasonable warmth. At 10 o'clock that morning, Sibel and Matthew
Edmonds were still in their pajamas, sipping coffee in the kitchen of
their waterfront town house in Alexandria, Virginia, and looking
forward to a well-deserved lazy Sunday.

Since mid-September, nine days after the 9/11 attacks, Sibel had been
exploiting her fluency in Turkish, Farsi, and Azerbaijani as a
translator at the F.B.I. It was arduous, demanding work, and Edmonds-
who had two bachelor's degrees, was about to begin studying for her
master's, and had plans for a doctorate-could have been considered
overqualified. But as a naturalized Turkish-American, she saw the job
as her patriotic duty.

The Edmondses' thoughts were turning to brunch when Matthew answered
the telephone. The caller was a woman he barely knew-Melek Can
Dickerson, who worked with Sibel at the F.B.I. "I'm in the area with
my husband and I'd love you to meet him," Dickerson said. "Is it O.K.
if we come by?" Taken by surprise, Sibel and Matthew hurried to
shower and dress. Their guests arrived 30 minutes later. Matthew, a
big man with a fuzz of gray beard, who at 60 was nearly twice the age
of his petite, vivacious wife, showed them into the kitchen. They sat
at a round, faux-marble table while Sibel brewed tea.

Melek's husband, Douglas, a U.S. Air Force major who had spent
several years as a military attaché in the Turkish capital of Ankara,
did most of the talking, Matthew recalls. "He was pretty outspoken,
pretty outgoing about meeting his wife in Turkey, and about his job.
He was in weapons procurement." Like Matthew, he was older than his
wife, who had been born about a year before Sibel.

According to Sibel, Douglas asked if she and Matthew were involved
with the local Turkish community, and whether they were members of
two of its organized groups-the American-Turkish Council (A.T.C.) and
the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (A.T.A.A.). "He said
the A.T.C. was a good organization to belong to," Matthew says. "It
could help to ensure that we could retire early and live well, which
was just what he and his wife planned to do. I said I was aware of
the organization, but I thought you had to be in a relevant business
in order to join.

"Then he pointed at Sibel and said, `All you have to do is tell them
who you work for and what you do and you will get in very quickly.'"
Matthew could see that his wife was far from comfortable: "She tried
to change the conversation to the weather and such-like." But the
Dickersons, says Matthew, steered it back to what they called
their "network of high-level friends." Some, they said, worked at the
Turkish Embassy in Washington. "They said they even went shopping
weekly for [one of them] at a Mediterranean market," Matthew
says. "They used to take him special Turkish bread."

Before long, the Dickersons left. At the time, Matthew says, he found
it "a strange conversation for the first time you meet a couple. Why
would someone I'd never met say such things?"

Only Sibel knew just how strange. A large part of her work at the
F.B.I. involved listening to the wiretapped conversations of people
who were the targets of counter-intelligence investigations. As she
would later tell investigators from the Justice Department's Office
of the Inspector General (O.I.G.) and the U.S. Congress, some of
those targets were Turkish officials the Dickersons had described as
high-level friends. In Sibel's view, the Dickersons had asked the
Edmondses to befriend F.B.I. suspects. (In August 2002, Melek Can
Dickerson called Sibel's allegations "preposterous, ludicrous and

Sibel also recalled hearing wiretaps indicating that Turkish Embassy
targets frequently spoke to staff members at the A.T.C., one of the
organizations that Turkish Embassy targets frequently spoke to staff
members at the A.T.C., one of the organizations that the Dickersons
allegedly wanted her and her husband to join. Sibel later told the
O.I.G. she assumed that the A.T.C.'s board-which is chaired by Brent
Scowcroft, President George H. W. Bush's national-security advisor-
knew nothing of the use to which it was being put. But the wiretaps
suggested to her that the Washington office of the A.T.C. was being
used as a front for criminal activity.

Sibel and Matthew stood at the window of their oak-paneled hallway
and watched the Dickersons leave. Sibel's Sunday has been ruined.

Immediately and in the weeks that followed, Sibel Edmonds tried to
persuade her bosses to investigate the Dickersons. There was more to
her suspicions than their peculiar Sunday visit. According to the
documents filed by Edmonds's lawyers, Sibel believed Melek Can
Dickerson had leaked information to one or more targets of an F.B.I.
investigation, and had tried to prevent Edmonds from listening to
wiretaps of F.B.I. targets herself. But instead of carrying out a
thorough investigation of her allegations, at the end of March 2002
the F.B.I. fired Edmonds.

Edmonds is not the first avowed national security whistle-blower to
suffer retaliation at the hands of a government bureaucracy that
feels threatened or embarrassed. But being fired is one thing.
Edmonds has also been prevented from proceeding with her court
challenge or even speaking with complete freedom about the case.

On top of the usual prohibition against disclosing classified
information, the Bush administration has smothered her case beneath
the all-encompassing blanket of the "state-secrets privilege"-a
Draconian and rarely used legal weapon that allows the government,
merely by asserting a risk to national security, to prevent the
lawsuits Edmonds has filed contesting her treatment from being heard
in court at all. According to the Department of Justice, to allow
Edmonds her day in court, even at a closed hearing attended only by
personnel with full security clearance, "could reasonably be expected
to cause serious damage to the foreign policy and national security
of the United States."

Using the state-secrets privilege in this fashion is unusual, says
Edmonds's attorney Ann Beeson, of the American Civil Liberties
Union. "It also begs the question: Just what in the world is the
government trying to hide?"

It may be more than another embarrassing security scandal. One
counter-intelligence official familiar with Edmonds's case has told
Vanity Fair that the F.B.I. opened an investigation into covert
activities by Turkish nationals in the late 1990's. That inquiry
found evidence, mainly via wiretaps, of attempts to corrupt senior
American politicians in at least two major cities-Washington and
Chicago. Toward the end of 2001, Edmonds was asked to translate some
of the thousands of calls that had been recorded by this operation,
some dating back to 1997.

Edmonds has given confidential testimony inside a secure Sensitive
Compartmented Information facility on several occasions: to
congressional staffers, to investigators from the O.I.G., and to the
staff from the 9/11 commission. Sources familiar with this testimony
say that, in addition to her allegations about the Dickersons, she
reported hearing Turkish wiretap targets boast that they had a covert
relationship with a very senior politician indeed-Dennis Hastert,
Republican congressman from Illinois and Speaker of the House since
1999. The targets reportedly discussed giving Hastert tens of
thousands of dollars in surreptitious payments in exchange for
political favors and information. "The Dickersons," says one official
familiar with the case, "are only the tip of the iceberg."

It's safe to say that Edmonds inherited her fearless obstinacy from
her father, Rasim Deniz, who died in 2000. Born in the Tabriz region
of northwestern Iran, many of whose natives speak Farsi (Persian),
Turkish, and Azerbaijani, he was one of the Middle East's leading
reconstructive surgeons, but his forthright liberal and secular
opinions brought him into a series of conflicts with the local
regimes. One of Sibel's earliest memories is of a search of her
family's house in Tehran by members of SAVAK, the Shah's secret
police, who were looking for left-wing books. Later, in 1981, came a
terrifying evening after the Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamist
revolution, when Sibel was 11. She was waiting in the car while her
father went into a restaurant for takeout. By the time Deniz
returned, his vehicle had been boxed in by government S.U.V.'s and
Sibel was surrounded by black-clad revolutionary guards, who
announced they were taking her to jail because her headscarf was
insufficiently modest.

"My father showed his ID and asked them, `Do you know who I am?,'"
Sibel says. "He had been doing pro bono work in the slums of south
Tehran for years, and now it was the height of the Iran-Iraq war. He
told them, `I have treated so many of your brothers. If you take my
daughter, next time I have one in my operating room who needs an
amputation at the wrist, I will cut his arm off at the shoulder.'
They let me go."

It was time to get out. As soon as he could, Deniz abandoned his
property and his post as head of the burn center at one of Tehran's
most prestigious hospitals, and the family fled to Turkey.

When Sibel was 17, she wrote a paper for a high-school competition.
Her chosen subject was Turkey's censorship laws, and why it was wrong
to ban books and jail dissident writers. Her principal was outraged,
she says, and asked her father to get her to write something else.
Denis refused, but the incident caused a family crisis. "My uncle was
mayor of Istanbul, and suddenly my essay was being discussed in an
emergency meeting of the whole Deniz tribe. My dad was the only one
who supported what I'd done. That was the last straw for me. I
decided to take a break and go to the United States. I came here and
fell in love with a lot of things-freedom. Now I wonder: was it just
an illusion?"

Sibel enrolled at a college in Maryland, where she studied English
and hotel management; later, she received bachelor's degrees at
George Washington University in criminal justice and psychology, and
worked with juvenile offenders. In 1992, at age 22, she had married
Matthew Edmonds, a divorced retail-technology consultant who had
lived in Virginia all his life.

For a long time, they lived an idyllic, carefree life. They bought
their house in Alexandria, and Sibel transformed it into an airy
spacious haven, with marble floors, a library, and breathtaking views
across the Potomac River to Washington. Matthew had always wanted to
visit Russia, and at Sibel's suggestion they spent three months in
St. Petersburg, working with a children's hospital charity run by the
cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. Sibel's family visited America often,
and she and Matthew spent their summers at a cottage they had bought
in Bodrum, Turkey, on the Aegean coast.

"People said we wouldn't last two years," Sibel says, "And here we
still are, nearly 13 years on. A lot of people who go through the
kind of experiences I've had find they put a huge strain on their
marriage. Matthew is my rock. I couldn't have done it without him."

In 1978, when Sibel was eight and the Islamists' violent prelude to
the Iranian revolution was just beginning, a bomb went off in a movie
theater next to her elementary school. "I can remember sitting in the
car, seeing the rescuers pulling charred bodies and stumps out of the
fire. Then, on September 11, to see this thing happening here, across
the ocean-it brought it all back. They put out a call for
translators, and I thought, Maybe I can stop this from happening

The translation department Edmonds joined was housed in a huge, L-
shaped room in the F.B.I.'s Washington field office. Some 200 to 300
translators sat in this vast, open space, listening with headphones
to digitally recorded wiretaps. The job carried heavy
responsibilities. "You are the front line," Edmonds says. "You are
the filter fro every piece of intelligence which comes in foreign
languages. It's down to you to decide what's important-`pertinent,'
as the F.B.I. calls it, and what's not. You decide what requires
verbatim translation, what can be summarized, and what should be
marked `not pertinent' and left alone. By the time this material
reaches the agents and analysts, you've already decided what they're
going to get." To get this right requires a broad background of
cultural and political knowledge: "If you're simply a linguist, you
won't be able to discern these differences."

She was surprised to discover that until her arrival the F.B.I. had
employed no Turkish-language specialists at all. In early October she
was joined by a second Turkish translator, who had been hired despite
his having failed language-proficiency tests. Several weeks later, a
third Turkish speaker joined the department: Melek Can Dickerson. In
her application for the job, she wrote that she had not previously
worked in America. In fact, however, she had spent two years as an
intern at an organization that figured in many of the wiretaps-the
American-Turkish Council.

Much later, after Edmonds was fired, the F.B.I. gave briefings to the
House and Senate. One source who was present says bureau officials
admitted that Dickerson had concealed her history with the A.T.C.,
not only in writing but also when interviewed as part of her
background security check. In addition, the officials conceded that
Dickerson began a friendship at the A.T.C. with one of the F.B.I.'s
targets. "They confirmed that when she was supposed to be listening
to his calls," says one congressional source. "To me, that was like
asking a friend of a mobster to listen to him ordering hits. She
might have an allegiance problem. But they seemed not to get it.They
blew off their friendship as `just a social thing.' They told
us `They had been colleagues at work, after all.'"

Shortly after the house visit from the Dickersons, Sibel conveyed her
version of the event to her supervisor, Mike Feghali-first orally and
then in writing. The "supervisory language specialist" responsible
for linguists working in several Middle Eastern languages, Feghali is
a Lebanese-American who had previously been an F.B.I. Arabic
translator for many years. Edmonds says he told her not to worry.

To monitor every call on every line at a large institution such as
the Turkish Embassy in Washington would not be feasible. Inevitably,
the F.B.I. listens more carefully to phones used by its targets, such
as the Dickersons' purported friend. In the past, the assignment of
lines to each translator has always been random: Edmonds might have
found herself listening to a potentially significant conversation by
a counter-intelligence target one minute and an innocuous discussion
about some diplomatic party the next. Now, however, according to
Edmonds, Dickerson suggested changing this system, so that each
Turkish speaker would be permanently responsible for certain lines.
She produced a list of names and numbers, together with her proposals
for dividing them up. As Edmonds would later tell her F.B.I. bosses
and congressional investigators, Dickerson had assigned the American-
Turkish Council and three other "high-value" diplomatic targets,
including her friend, to herself.

Edmonds found this arrangement very questionable. But she says that
Dickerson spent a large part of that afternoon talking with Feghali
inside his office. The next day he announced in an e-mail that he had
decided to assign the Turkish wiretaps on exactly the basis
recommended by Dickerson.

Like all his translators, Edmonds was effectively working with two,
parallel lines of management: Feghali and the senior translation-
department bosses above him, on one hand, and, on the other, the
investigators and agents who actually used the material she
translated. Early in the new year, 2002, Edmonds says, she discovered
that Dennis Saccher, the F.B.I.'s special agent in charge of Turkish
counter-intelligence, had developed his own, quite separate concerns
about Dickerson.

On the morning of January 14, Sibel says, Saccher asked Edmonds to
come into his cramped cubicle on the fifth floor. On his desk were
printouts from the F.B.I. language-department database. They showed
that on numerous occasions Dickerson had marked calls involving her
friend and other counter-intelligence targets as "not pertinent," or
had submitted only brief summaries stating that they contained
nothing of interest. Some of these calls had a duration of more than
15 minutes. Saccher asked Edmonds why she was no longer working on
these targets' conversations. She explained the new division of
labor, and went on to tell him about the Dickersons' visit the
previous month. Saccher was appalled, Edmonds says, telling her, "It
sounds like espionage to me."

Saccher asked Edmonds and a colleague, Kevin Taskasen, to go back
into the F.B.I.'s digital wiretap archive and listen to some of the
calls that Dickerson had marked "not pertinent," and to re-translate
as many as they could. Saccher suggested that they all meet with
Feghali in a conference room on Friday, February 1. First, however,
Edmonds and Taskasen should go to Saccher's office for a short pre-
meeting-to review their findings and to discuss how to handle

Edmonds had time to listen to numerous calls before the Friday
meeting, and some of them sounded important. According to her later
secure testimony, in one conversation, recorded shortly after
Dickerson reserved the targets' calls for herself, a Turkish official
spoke directly to a U.S. State Department staffer. They suggested
that the State Department staffer would send a representative at an
appointed time to the American-Turkish Council office, at 1111 14th
St. NW, where he would be given $7,000 in cash. "She told us she'd
heard mention of exchanges of information, dead drops-that kind of
thing," a congressional source says. "It was mostly money in exchange
for secrets." (A spokesperson for the A.T.C. denies that the
organization has ever been involved in espionage or illegal payments.
And a spokesperson for the Assembly of Turkish American Associations
said that to suggest the group was involved with espionage or illegal
payments is "ridiculous.")

Another call allegedly discussed a payment to a Pentagon official,
who seemed to be involved in weapons-procurement negotiations. Yet
another implied that Turkish groups had been installing doctoral
students at U.S. research institutions in order to acquire
information about black market nuclear weapons. In fact, much of what
Edmonds reportedly heard seemed to concern not state espionage but
criminal activity. There was talk, she told investigators, of
laundering the profits of large-scale drug deals and of selling
classified military technologies to the highest bidder.

Before entering the F.B.I. building for their Friday meeting with
Saccher, Edmonds and Taskasen stood for a while on the sidewalk,
smoking cigarettes. "Afterwards, we went directly to Saccher's
office," Edmonds says. "We talked for a little while, and he said
he'd see us downstairs for the meeting with Feghali a few minutes
later, at nine A.M." They were barely out of the elevator when
Feghali intercepted them. He didn't know they had just come from
Saccher's office.

"Come on, we're going to start the meeting," he said. "By the way,
Dennis Saccher can't be there, He's been sent out somewhere in the
field." Later, Edmonds says, she called Saccher on the internal
phone. "Why the hell did you cancel?" she asked. Bewildered, he told
her that immediately after she and Taskasen had left his office
Feghali phoned him, saying that the conference room was already in
use, and that the meeting would have to be postponed.

Edmonds says Saccher also told her that he had been ordered not to
touch the case by his own superiors, who called it a "can of worms."
Despite his role as special agent in charge of Turkish counter-
intelligence, he had even been forbidden to obtain copies of her
translations. Saccher had two small children and a settled life in
Washington. If he dared to complain, Edmonds says, he risked being
assigned "to some f**ked-up office in the land of tornadoes."

Instead, Edmonds was ushered into the windowless office of Feghali's
colleague, translation-department supervisor Stephanie Bryan.
Investigating possible espionage was not a task for which Bryan had
been trained or equipped.

Bryan heard Edmonds out and told her to set down her allegations in a
confidential memo. Edmonds says that Bryan approved of her writing it
at home. Edmonds gave the document to Bryan on Monday, February 11.
Early the following afternoon, the supervisor summoned Edmonds.
Waiting in a nearby office were two other people, Feghali and Melek
Can Dickerson. In front of them were Edmonds's translations of the
wiretaps and her memo.

"Stephanie said that she'd taken my memo to the supervisory special
agent, Tom Frields," Edmonds says. "He apparently wouldn't even look
at it until Mike Feghali and Dickerson and seen it and been given a
chance to comment. Stephanie said that, working for the government,
there were certain things you didn't do, and criticizing your
colleagues' work was one of them. She told me, `Do you realize what
this means? If you were right, the people who did the background
checks would have to be investigated. The whole translation
department could be shaken up!' Meanwhile, I was going to be
investigated for a possible security breach-for putting classified
information on my home computer. I was told to go the security
department at three P.M."

Before Edmonds left, Dickerson had time to sidle over to her desk.
According to Edmonds, she made what sounded like a threat: "Why are
you doing this, Sibel? Why don't you just drop it? You know there
could be serious consequences. Why put your family in Turkey in
danger over this?"

Edmonds says the F.B.I.'s response to her was beginning to shift from
indifference to outright retaliation. On February 13, the day after
her interview with the bureau security office, three agents came to
her home and seized the computer she shared with her husband. "I
hadn't had time to back up the data, and I told them that most of my
business was on that computer, Matthew Edmonds says.

"An agent called the next morning," Matthew says. "He told
me, `Everything on your computer is destroyed, and we didn't back it
up.' They were playing games. When I got the computer back, they had
wiped out everything. Four days later, I got a CD-ROM with it all
backed up." A lifelong conservative Republican, Matthew was being
shocked into changing his worldview. I was so naïve. I mean, what do
you do if you think your colleague might be a spy? You go to the
F.B.I.! I thought if Sibel's supervisor wasn't fixing this problem
she should go to his superior, and so on up the chain. Someone would
eventually fix it. I was never a cynical person. I am now."

While the agents were examining the Edmondses' computer, Mike Feghali
was writing a memo for his own managers, stating "there was no basis"
for Sibel's allegations. A day earlier, an F.B.I. security officer
had interviewed Dickerson. A report issued by the O.I.G. in January
2005 states, "The Security Officer did not challenge the co-worker
[Dickerson] with respect to any information the co-worker provided,
although that information was not consistent with F.B.I. records. In
addition.he did not review other crucial F.B.I. records, which would
have supported some of Edmonds' allegations." Instead, he treated her
claims as "performance issues," and "seemed not to appreciate or
investigate the allegation that a co-worker may have been committing

According to a congressional source, the fact that Edmonds was a mere
contract linguist, rather than an agent, made her claims less
palatable. "They seemed to be saying, `We don't need someone like
this making trouble,'" the source says. "Yet, to her credit, she
really did go up through the chain of command: to her boss, his boss,
and so on."

Edmonds reached the top of the language-section management on
February 22, when she met with supervisory special agent Tom Frields,
a gray-haired veteran who was approaching the end of a long bureau
career. At first it seemed he was trying to set her mind at rest: "He
told me, I just want to assure you that everything is fine, and as
far as you're concerned, your work on this matter is done,'" Edmonds
says. "I told him, `No, it's not fine. My family is worried about
possible threats to their safety in Turkey.' His face went through a
transformation. He warned me that these issues were classified at the
highest level and must not be disclosed to anyone. He started to
interrogate me: Who had I told? He said if it was anyone unauthorized
he could have me arrested."

Edmonds's meeting with Frields on the 22nd was probably her last
chance to save her job. The inspector general's 2005 report
disclosed, "Immediately after the meeting, [Frields] began to explore
whether the F.B.I. had the option to cease using Edmonds as a
contract linguist."

Four days later the bureau's contracting unit told him, "If it was
determined that [she] was unsuitable, the F.B.I. would have
sufficient reason to terminate her contract." Stymied by Frields,
Edmonds tried to go still higher, and on March 7 she was granted an
audience with James Caruso, the F.B.I.'s deputy assistant director
for counterterrorism and counter-intelligence. Edmonds says he
listened politely for more than an hour but took no notes and asked
no questions. Afterward, Matthew picked her up and they drove to the
Capital Grille for an early lunch. It was only 11:30 and the
restaurant was still empty, but as the Edmondses began to study their
menus, they saw two men in suits pull up outside in an F.B.I.-issue
S.U.V. They came inside and sat down at the next table.

"They just sat and stared at Sibel," Matthew says. "They took out
their cell phones, opened them, and put them on the table. They
didn't eat or drink-just sat, staring at Sibel, the whole time we
were there." Modified cell phones, Sibel knew, are commonly used by
bureau agents as a means of making covert recordings.

That afternoon, Sibel wrote to two official bodies with powers to
investigate the F.B.I.-the Justice Department's internal affairs
division, known as the Office of Professional Responsibility, and its
independent watchdog, the O.IG. She went on to send faxes to the
Senate Intelligence Committee and Senators Charles Grassley,
Republican from Iowa, and Patrick Leahy, Democrat from Vermont, both
of whom sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to say that she had
found evidence of possible national-security breaches.

On March 8, Sibel appeared at a dingy little office in Washington's
China Town, where she was polygraphed. According to the 2005
inspector general's report, the purpose of this examination was to
discover whether she had made unauthorized disclosures of classified
information. "She was not deceptive in her answers," the O.I.G.

Dickerson was polygraphed two weeks later, on March 21, and she too
was deemed to have passed. But, according to an official cited in the
report, the questions she was asked were vague and unspecific. "The
polygraph unit chief admitted that questions directly on point could
have been asked but were not." Nevertheless, then and for a long time
afterward, "the FBI continued to rely on the [Dickerson] polygraph as
support for its position that Edmonds' allegations were unfounded."

Dickerson's polygraph test, however unsatisfactory, seems to have
sealed Edmonds' fate at the FBI. The following afternoon, she was
asked to wait in Stephanie Bryan's office. "Feghali saw me sitting
there and leaned across the doorway," Edmonds says. "He tapped his
watch and said, `In less than an hour you will be fired, you whore.'"
A few minutes later, she was summoned to a meeting with Frields. They
were joined by Bryan and George Stukenbroeker, the chief of personal
security and the man in charge of investigating her case. Edmonds had
violated every security rule in the book, Stukenbroeker said.

A hulking security guard arrived to help escort her from the
building. Edmonds asked if she could return to her desk to retrieve
some photos, including shots of her late father of which she had no
copies. Bryan refused, saying, "You'll never set foot in the FBI

Bryan promised to forward them, says Edmonds, who never got the
photos back. Edmonds looked at Frields. "You are only making your
wrongdoing worse, and my case stronger. I will see you very soon,"
she told him. According to Edmonds, Frields replied, "Soon maybe, but
it will be in jail. I'll see you in jail." (When interviewed by the
O.I.G., Frields and another witness denied making this comment.)

Matthew was waiting outside. "I'm not a crybaby," Sibel says. "But as
I got into my husband's car that afternoon, I was in floods, shaking.

As soon as she returned home from the February meeting where
Dickerson allegedly cautioned her not to endanger her family in
Turkey, Sibel called her mother and sister in Istanbul, even though
it was the middle of the night there. Sibel is the oldest of three
sisters. The youngest was studying in America and living with the
Edmondses in Alexandria, but the middle sister - whose name Edmonds
wishes to protect - was enjoying a successful career at an
international travel company based in Istanbul. The 29-year-old was
also engaged to be married. Within days of receiving Sibel's call,
she flew with her mother to Washington.

Early in April, Sibel and Matthew were having lunch in their favorite
Thai restaurant in Old Town Alexandria - a precious chance, with
their house now fully occupied with Sibel's family, to share a
private moment together. "My phone rang," Sibel says. "It was my
middle sister. She said something really bad had happened and I must
come back at once."

The sister's Istanbul neighbor had just phoned, saying that two
policemen had knocked on her door, asking for the sister's
whereabouts. They would not disclose the reason, saying only that it
was an "intelligence matter." They also left a document. Sent by
Tevfik Asici of the Atakoy Branch Police Station and dated April 11,
it was addressed to Sibel's sister and read, "For an important issue
your deposition/interrogation is required. If you do not report to
the station within 5 days, between 09:00 and 17:00, as is required by
Turkish law CMK.132, you will be taken/arrested by force."

In July 2002, with a written recommendation from Senator Grassley,
Sibel's sister requested political asylum in the United States. Her
application statement cited the threat allegedly made by Dickerson,
adding that Sibel would be considered "a spy and a traitor to Turkey
under Turkish law, and the Turkish police will use me to get at her.
Turkish police are known for using cruelty and torture during
interrogation; subjects are kept without advice to family members and
often disappear with no trace." Estranged from Sibel, the sister
remains in America, unable to go home.

Edmonds did what numerous avowed whistleblowers had done before: she
appealed to congress, and she got a lawyer - David Colapinto of the
Washington firm of Kohn, Kohn and Calapinto, which advertises itself
on its Web site as specializing in cases of this kind. He filed suit
under the Freedom of Information Act for full disclosure of what
happened inside the bureau, and submitted a claim for damages for the
violation of Edmonds's constitutional rights. By August he was ready
to depose Douglas Can Dickerson. But before their scheduled
deposition, the couple abruptly left the country. Douglas had been
assigned to an air-force job in Belgium. Virgil Magee, a U.S. Air
Force spokesman in Belgium, confirms that Dickerson remains on active
duty in Europe, but refuses to say exactly where.

That fall, Attorney General John Ashcroft tried to wipe out Edmonds's
legal action by invoking the state secrets privilege. This recourse,
derived form English common law, has never been the subject of any
congressional vote or statute. Normally, says Ann Beeson of the
A.C.L.U., it is used be the government when it wants to resist the
legal "discovery" in court of a specific piece of evidence that it
fears might harm national security if publicized. But in Edmonds case
Ashcroft argued that the very subject of her lawsuit was a state
secret. To air her claims in front of federal judges would jeopardize
national security.

This, Beeson says, had distinct advantages for the F.B.I. and the
Department of Justice: it meant they did not have to contest the
merits of her claims. Moreover, the substance of the arguments they
used to justify this level of secrecy was and is secret itself. The
full version of Ashcroft's declaration invoking the privilege, filed
on October 18, 2002, was classified, and in the public case for
blocking Edmonds's action rested on the mere assertion that it would
be damaging to proceed. Later, in 2004, the law firm of Motley Rice
sought to depose her for a pending case on behalf of the families of
9/11 victims. Immediately, Ashcroft asserted the privilege again.
Motley Rice submitted a list of questions it wanted to ask Edmonds,
almost all of which were prohibited. Among them: "When and where were
you born?," "What languages do you speak?," and "Where did you go to

Edmonds still wanted to fight, and to challenge Ashcroft in court.
But over the next few months, the relationship with her lawyers began
to suffer. "Let's face it, taking on the D.O.J. is no joke,
especially in Washington," Edmonds says.

It was the absolute low point. I tried to find another firm," she
says, "but as soon as I mentioned the state-secrets privilege, it was
like, `Turn around, go back, and by the way the clock is running at
$450 an hour.' I must have been turned away by 20 firms."

The Dickersons, the Justice Department, and the F.B.I. and its
relevant personnel declined to comment for this article. In August
2002, Melek Can Dickerson told the Chicago Tribune, "both the F.B.I.
and the Department of Justice have conducted separate investigations
of [Edmonds's] claims.. They fired her and, interestingly, they
continued my contract."

In September 2002, Colonel James Worth of the Office of the Air Force
Inspector General said that, in response to a letter from Edmonds,
there had been a "complete and thorough review of Major [Douglas]
Dickerson's relationship with the American-Turkish Council" that
found "no evidence of any deviation from the scope of his duties."
Edmonds says she was not interviewed by those conducting the review.

Edmonds' treatment by the F.B.I. seems to fit two baleful patterns:
the first is the bureau's refusal to address potentially disastrous
internal-security flaws; the second is a general tendency among
national-security agencies to retaliate against whistle-blowers.

Amid the lush greenery of his parents' garden in Plattsmouth,
Nebraska; former F.B.I. senior intelligence-operations specialist
John Cole describes how these institutional inclinations combined to
destroy his career. Now 44, Cole joined the F.B.I. in 1985. By the
late 1990's, he was running undercover operations in the Washington
area, focusing on counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence. Later,
while playing a key role in the 9/11 investigation, he became the
F.B.I.'s national counter-intelligence program manager for India,
Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Early in the fall of 2001, Cole was asked to assess whether a woman
who had applied to work as a translator of Urdu, Pakistan's national
language, might pose a risk to security. "The personnel security
officer said she thought there was something that didn't seem right,"
Cole says. "I went through the file, and it stuck out a mile: she was
the daughter of a retired Pakistani general who had been their
military attaché in Washington." He adds that, to his
knowledge, "Every single military attaché they've ever assigned has
been a known intelligence officer."

After September 11, this association looked especially risky. The
Pakistani intelligence service had trained and supported the Taliban
in Afghanistan, and still contained elements who were far from happy
with President Pervez Musharraf's pro-American policies. Cole gave
his findings to the security officer. "Well done," she said. "You've
found it."

A week later, she called Cole again, to say that the woman had
started work that morning with a top-secret security clearance.
F.B.I. director Robert Mueller had promised Congress that the bureau
would hire lots of new Middle Eastern linguists, and normal
procedures had been short-circuited as a result. As of July 2005, the
woman was still a bureau translator. Sibel Edmonds said she remembers
her well - as the leader of a group that pressed for separate
restrooms for Muslims.

Cole says the incident was only one of several that caused him to
doubt the quality and security of the FBI's counterterrorism efforts,
and, like Edmonds, he says he tried to fix the problems he saw by
going up the chain of command. Getting rid of an agent of his stature
was a lot more difficult than firing a contract linguist. Cole says
the retaliation began when, after years of glowing reports, his
annual appraisal found his work in one area to be "minimally
acceptable." Next, he was placed under investigation by the Office of
Professional Responsibility, first on a charge that he lied on a
routine background check, and then, after he had disclosed classified
information without authorization. Finally, he was demoted to menial
roles: "They literally had me doing the Xeroxing" Bitterly
disillusioned, he says, he resigned in March 2004.

"According to the terms of our employment, whistle-blowing is an
obligation," Cole says, "We sign a piece of paper every year saying
we will report any mismanagement or evidence of a possible crime. But
the management's schtick is that if you draw attention to the
bureau's shortcomings you're disgracing it.

Cole is one of about 50 current and former members of the FBI,
C.I.A., National Security Agency, and other bodies who have made
contact recently with Sibel Edmonds. Another is Mike German, one of
the bravest and most successful counterterrorism agents in the
bureau's history, who penetrated a neo-Nazi gang in Los Angeles and a
militia group in Seattle and brought them to justice.

German made his bed of nails in 2002 when he was asked to get
involved in an investigation into a suspected cell of Islamist
terrorists. "I came down and reviewed the case, and it was a complete
mess," he says. "There were violations of FBI policy and violations
of the law. As someone who had been through successful terrorism
prosecutions, I knew you couldn't afford to make mistakes."

Like Cole, German says he thought himself obliged to report what was
going wrong, not to penalize other agents but in the hope of putting
it right. "I though the bureau would do the right thing: that the
case would get back on track, and we'd get the opportunity to take
action against the bad guys involved." Instead, he says, he faced the
familiar litany of escalating retaliation - including an internal
investigation of his own work on the terrorist cell case. "Bear in
mind that only a handful of people have ever infiltrated terrorist
groups," German says. "You'd think that after 9/11 they might have
been interested in that. But word came back to me that I'd never get
a counterterrorism case again." He resigned from the bureau in June

As I talked to whistle-blowers, I had the impression that those
treated the worst were among the brightest and best. There could be
no clearer example than Russ Tice, and 18-year intelligence veteran
who has worked for the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency
(D.I.A.) and American's eavesdroppers, the National Security
Agency. "I dealt with super-sensitive stuff," he says. "I obviously
can't talk about it, but I had operational roles in both Afghanistan
and Iraq."

It was at D.I.A. in the spring of 2001 that he wrote a report setting
down his suspicions about a junior collage, a Chinese-American who
Tice says was living a lavish lifestyle beyond her apparent means.
Although she was supposed to be working on a doctorate, he noticed
her repeatedly in the office, late at night, reading classified
material on an agency computer. "It's not like I obsessed over the
issue," Tice says. "I did my job, and then 9/11 happened, and I was a
very busy boy."

He moved to the N.S.A. toward the end of 2002. The trigger for his
downfall the following April was the arrest of Katrina Leung; the
F.B.I. informant accused of spying for China while having an affair
with a bureau agent. It prompted Tice to send a classified e-mail to
the D.I.A. security section, commenting that the Leung case showed
that the F.B.I. was "incompetent." The implication was that the
D.I.A. could prove it's competence by fully investigating the junior

Tice, a big, powerful man with a forthright manner, has to pause to
control his emotions when he describes what happened as a
consequence. "I was sent for an emergency psychiatric evaluation. I
took all the computer tests and passed them with flying colors. But
then the shrink says he believes I'm unbalanced. Later he said I'm
suffering from "paranoid ideation." He was examined by an independent
psychiatrist, who "found no evidence of mental disorder." But he had
already been denied access to secure places at N.S.A. As a result,
this highly commended technical-espionage expert was put to work in
the N.S.A.'s motor pool, "wiping snow off cars, vacuuming them, and
driving people around. People looked at me like I had bubonic
plague." (The D.I.A. did not respond to a request for comment, and an
agency spokesperson said the agency does not discuss personnel

After about eight months of this purgatory, apparently an attempt to
persuade him to resign, he was placed on "administrative leave." Like
other whistle-blowers, he tried to redress his treatment. In August
2004, Tice wrote letters to members of the House and Senate. Six days
later, the N.S.A. began the formal process which would lead to his
getting fired, and to having his clearance revoked permanently. "What
happened to me was total Stalin-era tactics," he says. "Everyone I
know or ever worked with says I'm perfectly sane. Yet I just don't
know what to do next. I've been in intelligence all my life, but
without a security clearance, I can't practice my trade."

Echoing Cole and German, one of the congressional staffers who heard
Edmonds's secure testimony likens the FBI to a family, "and you don't
take your problems outside it. They think they're the best law
enforcement agency in the world, that they're beyond criticism and
beyond reproach." To an outside observer that ethos alone might
explain the use of the state secrets privilege against Edmonds. But,
the staffer adds, some of the wiretaps she said she
translated "mentioned government officials." Here may lie an entirely
different dimension to her case. Vanity Fair has established that
around the time the Dickersons visited the Edmondses, in December
2001, Joel Robertz, an F.B.I. special agent in Chicago, contacted
Sibel and asked her to review some wiretaps. Some were several years
old, others more recent; all had been generated by a counter-
intelligence that had its start in 1997. "It became apparent that
Chicago was actually the center of what was going on."

Its subject was explosive; what sounded like attempts to bribe
elected members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican. "There was
pressure within the bureau for a special prosecutor to be appointed
and take the case on, "the official says. Instead, his colleagues
were told to alter the thrust of their investigation - away from
elected politicians and toward appointed officials. "This is the
reason why Ashcroft reacted to Sibel in such an extreme fashion," he
says "It was to keep this from coming out."

In her secure testimony, Edmonds disclosed some of what she recalled
hearing. In all, says a source who was present, she managed to listen
to more than 40 of the Chicago recordings supplied by Robertz. Many
involved an F.B.I. target at the city's large Turkish Consulate, as
well as members of the American-Turkish Consulate, as well as members
of the American-Turkish Council and the Assembly of Turkish American

Some of the calls reportedly contained what sounded like references
to large scale drug shipments and other crimes. To a person who knew
nothing about their context, the details were confusing and it wasn't
always clear what might be significant. One name, however, apparently
stood out - a man the Turkish callers often referred to by the
nickname "Denny boy." It was the Republican congressman from Illinois
and Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. According to some of the
wiretaps, the F.B.I.'s targets had arranged for tens of thousands of
dollars to be paid to Hastert's campaign funds in small checks. Under
Federal Election Commission rules, donations of less than $200 are
not required to be itemized in public filings.

Hastert himself was never heard in the recordings, Edmonds told
investigators, and it is possible that the claims of covert payments
were hollow boasts. Nevertheless, an examination of Hastert's federal
filings shows that the level of un-itemized payments his campaigns
received over many years was relatively high. Between April 1996 and
December 2002, un-itemized personal donations to the Hastert for
Congress Committee amounted to $483,000. In contrast, un-itemized
contributions in the same period to the committee run on behalf of
the House majority leader, Tom Delay, Republican of Texas, were only
$99,000. An analysis of the filings of four other senior Republicans
shows that only one, Clay Shaw of Florida, declared a higher total in
un-itemized donations than Hastert over the same period: $552,000.
The other three declared far less. Energy and Commerce Committee
chairman Joe Barton, of Texas, claimed $265,000; Armed Services
Committee chairman Duncan Hunter, of California, got $212,000; and
Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Thomas, of California,
recorded $110,000.

Edmonds reportedly added that the recordings also contained repeated
references to Hastert's flip-flop, in the fall of 2000, over an issue
which remains of intense concern to the Turkish government - the
continuing campaign to have Congress designate the killings of
Armenians in Turkey between 1915 and 1923 a genocide. For many years,
attempts had been made to get the house to pass a genocide
resolution, but they never got anywhere until August 2000, when
Hastert, as Speaker, announced that he would give it his backing and
see that it received a full house vote. He had a clear political
reason, as analysts noted at the time: a California Republican
incumbent, locked in a tight congressional race, was looking to win
over his district's large Armenian community. Thanks to Hastert, the
resolution, vehemently opposed by the Turks, passed the International
Relations Committee by a large majority. Then, on October 19, minutes
before the full House vote, Hastert withdrew it.

At the time, he explained his decision by saying that he had received
a letter from President Clinton arguing that the genocide resolution,
if passed, would harm U.S. interests. Again, the reported content of
the Chicago wiretaps may well have been sheer bravado, and there is
no evidence that any payment was ever made to Hastert or his
campaign. Nevertheless, a senior official at the Turkish Consulate is
said to have claimed in one recording that the price for Hastert to
withdraw the resolution would have been at least $500,000.

Hastert's spokesman says the congressman withdrew the genocide
resolution only because of the approach from Clinton, "and to
insinuate anything else just doesn't make any sense." He adds that
Hastert has no affiliation with the A.T.C. or other groups reportedly
mentioned in the wiretaps: "He does not know these organizations."
Hastert is "unaware of Turkish interests making donations," the
spokesman says, and his staff has "not seen any pattern of donors
with foreign names."

For more than years after Edmonds was fired, the Office of the
Inspector General's inquiry ground on. At last, in July 2004, its
report was completed - and promptly labeled classified at the behest
of the F.B.I. It took months of further pressure before a redacted,
unclassified version was finally issued, in January 2005. It seemed
to provide stunning vindication of Edmond's credibility.

"Many of Edmonds' core allegations relating to the co-worker [Melek
Can Dickerson] were supported by either documentary evidence or
witnesses," the report said. "We believe that the F.B.I. should have
investigated the allegations more thoroughly."

The F.B.I. had justified firing Edmonds on the grounds that she had
a "disruptive effect," the report went on. However, "this disruption
related primarily to Edmonds' aggressive pursuit of her allegations
of misconduct, which the F.B.I. did not believe were supported and
which it did not adequately investigate. In fact, as we described
throughout our report, many of her allegations had basis in fact,"
the report read. "We believe . that the F.B.I. did not take them
seriously enough, and that her allegations were, in fact, the most
significant factor in the F.B.I.'s decision to terminate her

Meanwhile, Edmonds had new lawyers: the A.C.L.U.'s Ann Beeson, who is
leading the challenge to the state-secrets privilege, and Mark Zaid,
a private attorney who specializes in national-security issues. Zaid
has filed a $10 million tort suit, citing the threats to Edmonds's
family, her inability to look after her real-estate and business
interests in Turkey, and a series of articles in the Turkish press
that have vilified her.

In July 2004, a federal district court had ruled in favor of the
government's use of the state-secrets privilege. Like Ashcroft's
declaration, its opinion contained no specific facts. Next came a
bizarre hearing in the D.C. appeals court in April 2005. The room was
cleared of reporters while Beeson spoke for 15 minutes. Then Beeson
and Edmonds were also expelled to make way for the Department of
Justice lawyers, who addressed the judges in secret. Two weeks later,
the court rejected Edmond's appeal, without expanding on the district
court's opinion. At press time, she was set to file a brief with the
U.S. Supreme Court. If the court agrees to take the case, the
government's reasons for its actions may finally be forced into the
open; legal experts say the Supreme Court has never allowed secret

A week after the April appeal hearing, Edmonds gathered more than 30
whistle-blowers from the F.B.I., C.I.A., National Security Agency,
Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies to brief staffers
from the House and Senate. Among the whistle-blowers were Daniel
Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in
1971, and Coleen Rowley, the F.B.I. agent from Minneapolis who
complained that Washington ignored local agents who in August 2001
had raised concerns about a flight student named Zacharias Moussoui,
who has since admitted being an al-Qaeda terrorist.

Many of those present had unearthed apparent breaches of national
security; many aid their careers had been wrecked as a result. At a
press conference after the briefings, Congressman Edward Markey,
Democrat of Massachusetts, praised Edmonds and her colleagues
as "national heroes," pledging that he would introduce a bill to make
it a crime for any agency manager to retaliate against such
individuals. Afterward, the whistle-blowers mingled over hors
d'oeuvres and explored their common ground and experiences. By July,
they are working to formalize their not-for-profit campaign group,
the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. "When they took on
Sibel," says Mike German, who is now the coalition's congressional
liaison, "they made the wrong woman mad."

"I'm going to keep pushing this as long as I can, but I'm not going
to get obsessional," Edmonds says. "There are other things I want to
do with my life. But the day the Iranians tried to arrest me, my
father told me, "Sibel, you only live your life once. How do you
choose to live? According to your principles, or in fear?" I have
never forgotten those words."