Despite a shortage of Arabic translators, the FBI turned down applications for linguist jobs from nearly 100 Arabic-speaking Jews in New York following the World Trade Center attacks, WorldNetDaily has learned.
The FBI’s New York office in October 2001 asked a local charity that works with Arab Jews to submit applications for the linguist jobs, which are crucial to anti-terrorism investigations.
But not one of the more than 90 applicants was hired, even though some had helped translate Arabic for Israeli radio and TV news stations and the Israeli army before coming to America, the charity’s director says.
”We sent them a lot of people, and nobody made it to the finish line. Not one person was found eligible for these jobs, which is outrageous,” said Doug Balin, director of the Sephardic Bikur Holim, a Jewish social-services agency in Brooklyn, N.Y.
A spokesman for the FBI’s New York office says headquarters made the final cuts.
”Applicants have to go through a series of steps, including thorough background checks, especially those who have lived abroad,” says FBI spokesman Jim Margolin. ”That’s all coordinated centrally.”
Many of the Jewish applicants lived in Mideast countries, including Israel, Syria, Egypt and Sudan.
Were the Sephardim applicants denied because they’re Jewish? ”Not that I’m aware of,” Margolin said.
Balin is not so sure.
”Maybe the FBI is not hiring Jewish people that often, I don’t know,” he said, suggesting the FBI fears offending the Muslim community.
Another source familiar with the interviewing process says the FBI was concerned that many of the applicants were ”too close to Israel,” and might lack the objectivity to accurately translate the Arabic recordings and writings of Muslim terrorist suspects under investigation. Indeed, some worked for the Israeli military.
However, the head of the New York office recently invited a Muslim cleric to preach to New York agents about Islam’s alleged peaceful attributes as part of a bureau-wide Muslim-sensitivity training program. FBI Director Robert Mueller has reached out to several Muslim-rights groups since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Balin’s assistant, Yola Haber, said that many of the Jewish applicants were ”highly qualified” and had passed the bureau’s language-proficiency tests. Some had been asked back for second and even third interviews, she says. As Jews who lived in Arab nations, she adds, they understood the idioms and expressions that might escape other translators who aren’t from the region.
Haber told WorldNetDaily that she met with two agents from the FBI’s Manhattan office, Carol Motyka and Marsha K. Parrish, who she says approached her about recruiting Arabic-speaking Jews within weeks of the terrorist attacks.
”I’m not making any comment,” Motyka said. Parrish was unavailable for comment.
Margolin noted that the hiring process is not easy, even though translators don’t have to go through the rigorous agent-training program.
”The recruitment and hiring process entails a number of steps and is more involved than the applicants might have anticipated,” he said in a WorldNetDaily interview.
Still, the FBI has been hard-pressed to clear a large backlog of untranslated documents and recorded dialogue in Arabic, information that could produce clues to terrorist plots in the U.S.
And like the U.S. Army, it’s had to deal with loyalty issues. Many of the translators that both the FBI and military have hired are Arab Muslims. The Army is investigating two Muslim linguists for possible spying at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where captured members of al-Qaida and the Taliban are being held and interrogated.
The major security breach at Gitmo comes on the heels of the FBI’s own investigation of some of its Muslim agents.
Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, an immigrant Muslim, twice refused on religious grounds to tape-record Muslim terrorist suspects, hindering investigations of a bin Laden family-financed bank in New Jersey and Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, recently indicted for his ties to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group.
A fellow FBI agent, Robert Wright, said Abdel-Hafiz finally explained to him that ”a Muslim does not record another Muslim,” after first claiming he feared for his life. Other agents said he contacted Arab subjects under investigation without disclosing the contacts to the agents running the cases.
Despite his divided loyalties, the FBI subsequently promoted Abdel-Hafiz by assigning him to the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia, a critical post for intelligence-gathering. Three-fourths of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudis.
After Wright and another agent blew the whistle in the media, however, Adel-Hafiz was put on administrative leave.
Then there’s the case of Jan Dickerson, a Turkish translator hired by the FBI last November.
In screening her for a clearance, the FBI missed her ties to a Turkish organization under investigation by the FBI’s own counter-intelligence unit, according to another whistle-blower. The bureau even let her translate the tapes of conversations with a Turkish intelligence officer stationed in Washington who was the target of the probe.
Sibel Edmonds, a co-worker who reviewed Dickerson’s translations, said Dickerson left out information crucial to the investigation, such as discussion of methods to obtain U.S. military and intelligence secrets. She had marked it as ”not important to be translated.” Dickerson recently left the FBI and now lives overseas.
Balin argues that the Arab Jews it sent to the FBI to apply for translator jobs ”would be more likely to be loyal to the United States.”
”They were against terrorists and against being attacked on these shores [on Sept. 11],” he said, ”because they were people who had suffered those kinds of things overseas and were familiar with them, and saw the freedom that America brought to people.”
”So it’s crazy that no one was hired,” Balin added