The Translator Scandal Ripens

by Jerry Gordon (May 2008)

For over a year, we have been waging a relentless, nearly solitary battle in apprising the Congress and the American public about a billion dollar boondoggle and scandal: the lack of credible Arabic translators for our national security and intelligence agencies. As a result hundreds have been killed in Iraq from infiltration of our military and civilian intelligence agencies by agents of Islamist terrorists. Our FBI and CIA have been infiltrated by Muslim linguists who have successfully evaded polygraph tests and been able to pass on vital information to terror groups in the Middle East such as Hezbollah. Tens of thousands of documents, containing vital information on potential threats have gone untranslated in large measure because of bias in hiring practices against qualified Arabic, Farsi and Urdu speaking Christians, Jews and apostate Muslims. The result has been “chaos” according to a knowledgeable counter terrorism source. The problem is one of political correctness. Our government has been gulled by the argument that only Muslims can translate accurately their “holy language.”  This is pure taqiyyah or religious dissimulation sanctioned by Islam.

Now, at least one group in Congress, the House Anti-terror Caucus, a bi-partisan group led by Rep. Susan Myrick (R.-NC) is taking action. It issued on April 18, 2008 an agenda for Congressional investigation, akin in many ways to one we suggested a year ago in the New English Review, “Muslim Extremism in America: A Suggested Agenda for Congressional Hearings.”

In that article, I raised the following question:

Why are our national security and law enforcement agencies biased against the hiring of qualified non-Muslims linguists, translators and analysts in critical languages?  How do we remove barriers for the employment of these qualified non-Muslims in important intelligence and national security activities?

Called “Wake Up America” the Myrick proposal has ten points regarding investigation of the threat and infiltration of radical Islamist elements in America. Point three mirrors our earlier recommendation and investigations:

Will call for the Government Accounting Office (GAO) to investigate the selection process of Arabic translators in the FBI and DoD. 

This article will endeavor to lay out the factual background in support of this agenda by elucidating the depth of the translator scandal.  Perhaps now Congress will finally investigate and undertake overdue remedial actions on this issue.

Infiltration and Translator Disasters in Iraq

In the U.S. Eastern District Court in Brooklyn on Valentine’s Day in 2007, Noureddine Malki, a Muslim and naturalized American citizen with five different aliases – stretching from Mauritania to Morocco to Lebanon – pleaded guilty to a charge of illegally possessing classified documents and allegations about passing on information to insurgents. Federal agents had found these documents on his home computer hard drive.

Malki was sentenced to 13 years, according to a report in the New York Sun – a light sentence for committing espionage and passing classified documents to Iraqi Sunni insurgents during one of his two stints in Iraq. Federal prosecutors allege he did this when deployed at Al Taqqadam Air Base west of Baghdad in March 2004.

Malki also committed immigration fraud to become a naturalized US citizen. He passed information on to the insurgents in Iraq, during his time in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, and upon his return to America in 2005. Malki had worked for Titan Corporation-a major defense contractor in Iraq back in 2003 and 2004.

At a hearing in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn a year later in February, 2008, regarding the suspect, an Army officer with the 82nd Airborne Division described some of the reports that Malki had obtained.

“The information is so critical that you do not want the information to get into the hands of anyone without the need to know,” Lieutenant Colonel Michele Bredenkamp said, referring to a mission analysis report for the 82nd Airborne, to which Malki was attached. The document, among other things, described convoy routes and named known terrorists the Army was targeting. Between 60 and 70 individuals had authorization to view the document, which could be accessed through a secure computer, Colonel Bredenkamp testified.

“Would this be the type of thing for a soldier to take for a keepsake?” a prosecutor, John Buretta, asked.

“That’s absurd,” Colonel Bredenkamp said.

It is absurd that Malki, now incarcerated in a Federal prison after being sentenced to 13 years in February, 2007, would be hired as a translator without being vetted. It is absurd that our military contracted for billions of dollars of translation services awarded to “beltway bandits” and didn’t hire competent loyal non-Muslim American citizens as translators.

The irony is that his military superiors reportedly gave Malki high marks for his work with an intelligence unit in Iraq. Little did they know what he was really doing. He was found out when he applied for a security clearance. He even entered the U.S. back in 1989 under false pretenses seeking political asylum.

The information he passed on may have caused the deaths and injuries of hundreds of U.S. troops and thousands of Iraqi civilians in the horrific Najaf battle in 2004. In his Brooklyn apartment on his home computer was evidence that he was an al-Qaeda sympathizer. One example cited in the New York Daily News was a photo of the second airliner that hit the Twin Towers on 9-11 with the caption “We fly straight to you.”

Malki was recruited originally as a translator for the 82nd Airborne in Iraq by a multi-billion dollar U.S. company headquartered in Manhattan, L-3 Communications-Titan Group. Titan has received several billion dollars in procurements for in-country translation services in Iraq from INSCOM, the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, since it began contract translation services in 1999.

In 2005, Titan merged with giant L-3 Communications, a defense contracting firm specializing in global communications, surveillance and intelligence technology. This followed SEC investigations about bribery charges and Army procurement penalties concerning Titan because of the revelations involving translators in the detainees controversy at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. The combined entity continues to be awarded translation services contracts by the Army.

This Brooklyn federal court trial of an al-Qaeda translator is just the tip of the iceberg confronting the Pentagon and its contractor, Titan, concerning Iraqi insurgent infiltration of our military in the field – which wreaks death and destruction on our soldiers and loyal Iraqis.

According to a report in USA today, one hapless Titan linguist, an Iraqi Kurd, was captured and beheaded in October 2004 in a grisly video posted on the Internet. Of the more than 665 contractor deaths in the war in Iraq, L-3 Communications-Titan Group Iraqi translators accounted for nearly one-third, or 216 fatalities. This is “deadly duty,” blared the headline of a San Diego Union-Tribune report. The question is, how many of these deaths, as well as countless others, were the result of infiltration by insurgent sympathizers like Malki?

How did we let this counterintelligence debacle occur with such disastrous results?

The short answer was Titan’s screening program for local personnel in Iraq enabled infiltration through ineffective and unprofessional interrogations. When information gathered by professional counterintelligence linguist/analysts was presented to U.S. military commanders pointing this out, it was sloughed off.

According to informed sources, the late Saddam Hussein and his intelligence cadres prepared the way. Beginning in 2002, he enlisted Iraqis loyal to him to infiltrate as English-speaking operatives into American bastions in the event of a conquest. These operatives were trained to gather intelligence and foment insurgency.

When President Bush gave his stirring graduation speech at West Point in June 2002 in the run up to the Iraq war, Hussein allegedly ordered an accelerated English-language training program for qualified members of his intelligence and Baathist cadres to become “lay behind assets” in the event of an American invasion and conquest. The purpose was to infiltrate the unwary American military forces and bore from within by providing intelligence and targeting for insurgents. As one of my sources said, “Pretty wily, but effective strategy.”

To find out how this incredible lapse in counterintelligence occurred, I spoke with qualified sources who conducted screenings of Iraqi personnel at Camp Falcon in South Baghdad. The sources were former military intelligence specialists and linguists working under separate contractual arrangements.

In the aftermath of the conquest of Baghdad in April 2003, local U.S. military intelligence personnel were approached by English-speaking Iraqis offering to be of assistance. In May of 2003, the first of a series of contracts with Titan was awarded to procure U.S. law enforcement trained personnel to assist military commanders at Camp Falcon in screening local employees.

According to these sources, the Titan Local Employment Personnel screenings resulted in a rejection rate of less than 8 per 5,000 persons. That contrasted with a rejection rate of former military intelligence specialists and linguists of one-third (33 percent). Camp Falcon was heavily infiltrated by Hussein’s lay behind assets, and the information they provided to insurgents resulted in the deaths of several hundred Iraqis and U.S. personnel.

The sources indicated that they passed the counterintelligence information up the line from Camp Falcon to CENTCOM intelligence, only to receive little or no response. One of the other U.S. contractors, Kellogg Brown & Root, found the procedures and information helpful and implemented more effective screening, filtering out suspected insurgents and sympathizers.

These sources indicated that after they left Iraq, “the situation worsened.”

The media was pre-occupied by the alleged abuses in the Abu Ghraib Prison and litigation by Iraqi detainees against defense contractors like Titan and CACI. No attention has been paid to how insurgents infiltrated Camp Falcon and the defective screening procedures put in place by Titan. Camp Falcon blew up in October, 2006 when insurgent mortars hit an ammo dump.

In March, 2007, INSCOM awarded a $4.6 billion contract to Global Linguistics Solutions (GLS), LLC, and a joint venture of another defense contracting giant DynCorp International and McNeil Technologies. The award covers procurement hiring of more than 6,000 local in-country translators and 1,000 U.S. citizens with security clearances in Iraq. The president of GLS is retired Maj. Gen. James Marks, former CNN military analyst and Iraq land war intelligence chief with the Coalition forces’ Land Component Command, who holds controversial views on the inadequacy of pre-war intelligence. GLS vice president is the former commandant of the Defense Language Institute, retired Col. Michael R. Simone.

The Hezbollah Translator Sisters

A Stratfor terrorism report  revealed the stunning cases of three Lebanese Muslim women, all roommates in the Detroit area, who entered the US on student visas, Khalil Nabbouh who became USMC Captain Spinelli, FBI Agent and later CIA case officer Nada Nadim Prouty, and her sister Elfat El Aouar who married a fugitive Hezbollah fund raiser. These women exploited our immigration system, committed marriage fraud and ended up serving as a Marine, an FBI agent and a CIA case officer in highly sensitive positions. Their cases demonstrate how easily our national security and intelligence community can be penetrated and duped by cultural and religious ignorance. This could potentially be a major intelligence scandal of significant proportions with Hezbollah and Iran as the beneficiaries of a veritable treasure trove of information on domestic counter terrorism programs and military deployments in Iraq. The information should be the basis of a thorough Congressional investigation of the weaknesses of our Middle Eastern strategic and military intelligence, as well as domestic counter terrorism and counter intelligence apparatus. A veritable purge of counter terrorism and counter intelligence functions in the FBI and DNI would seem to be the order of the day.

Here are some telling observations from the Stratfor report:

These cases highlight the gaps in U.S. immigration policy and demonstrates the ways in which individuals — and militant organizations — can exploit those vulnerabilities to enter or remain in the United States fraudulently.

Furthermore, the cases demonstrate that the FBI, CIA and Marine Corps all failed to detect this web of sham marriages when they conducted background investigations on the women in question, especially since the marriages were within the seven-year investigative window required for Prouty’s FBI clearance and Spinelli’s enlistment in the Marine Corps. A full field background investigation should have been able to determine the nature of the sham marriages, given that the women never lived with their purported husbands.

It is important to note, however, that the FBI did, and still does, employ relatively few native Arabic speakers, and even fewer special agents who speak the language. The bureau is a hierarchical organization with a very agent-oriented culture, meaning agents are regarded far more highly than are analysts, technicians or translators. Agents trust other agents and will often discuss matters among themselves that they will not discuss with outsiders or translators. They also will seek assistance from fellow agents who have rare skills, such as native Arabic ability. So, although Prouty was assigned to a squad with an extraterritorial focus, she undoubtedly was given access to many cases that she was not officially assigned to work, gaining insight into the bureau’s domestic counterintelligence capabilities in relation to Arabic-speaking terrorist groups such as Hezbollah.

After Prouty’s arrest, an FBI spokesman noted that she passed a polygraph test before being hired (she undoubtedly also passed one before being hired by the CIA, as it is standard agency procedure). However, the U.S. government has long known that the results of polygraph tests administered to Middle Easterners, Muslims in particular, can be seriously flawed. The reason, frankly, is that for a host of cultural and religious reasons, lying does not stress Middle Easterners and Muslims as much as it does Western Christians. This allows them to defeat polygraph tests.

The Army Tries To Recruit Muslim Translators

The US Army desperate for Arabic translators in Iraq recruits in major Muslim communities in America like the Detroit and Chicago areas, even resorting to using billboards in Arabic.  

There is a yellow billboard in Detroit in Arabic, with the exception of the contact person, “Call Mona” in English with a phone number. These billboards have popped up in concentrated Muslim areas like Detroit and Chicago. The Army alleges it has tough problems recruiting Arabs although it picked up 270 Arab translators via this route last year.

The Arab translator problem in our military, FBI, CIA and Homeland Security agencies is a disaster mostly self-inflicted. After 9/11, thousands of Christians and Jews who spoke critical languages like Arabic, Farsi, Pashto and Urdu were brushed aside and not considered. The government had been cajoled into thinking only Muslims could speak and interpret Arabic, the “holy language” of Islam. This has led to Muslim translators, as we have seen, passing information to insurgents in Iraq and to Hezbollah in Lebanon and doubtless on to Syria and Iran.

However, despite this, the Army persists in the delusion that this is an important track to fill its quota of desperately needed Arabic translators.

Witness this excerpt from an AP account of the Army program that demonstrates the futility of recruiting from the ummah, even here in the US:

“At first, it was more hostile from the community. It was at the peak of the invasion,” said Mona Makki, a community liaison and language specialist with a company that helps the Army with recruitment. “They perceive us now in a positive way.”

Hassan Jaber, executive director of the Dearborn-based Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, said the Army has built some credibility in the community, but it is not fully embraced.

“To my knowledge, people who are volunteering and taking these jobs are doing it in secret,” he said. “It might be a factor of shame, and that they go in there … because of the money offered, not necessarily because they feel the war is justified.”

Sgt. Mario Banderas, a 39-year-old native of Lebanon, joined the Army in Detroit and served a tour of duty in 2005 as translator in Iraq. He returned as a recruiter.

“I had the idea in my mind that I can go talk to this community and probably get at least two or three people a day to join the Army. This is not the case,” said Banderas, whose name is an alias because the Army does not release translators’ real names to protect their safety.

“The idea that people have here, as soon as they see me in uniform is: ‘Oh, you’re in the U.S. Army? You’re in Iraq killing your own people?’”

The Peculiar Case of a Former FBI Muslim Agent

Youssef Bassem, a decorated FBI agent, born in Egypt, has gone public on his “whistleblower” lawsuit.

Bassem alleges that FBI counterterrorism agents lack language skills and cultural understanding. Bassem, an Egyptian born Muslim is partially correct. He noted in a Philadelphia press conference in January, 2008 reported by the AP:

“The FBI has publicly stated that expertise in working counterterrorism matters, and cultural understanding of the Middle East and the radical Islamic groups, as well as the language, are not necessary to run the counterterrorism division,” said Youssef, speaking publicly for the first time on the subject Saturday at an American Library Association meeting.

Youssef, 49, the highest ranking Arab-American agent, has a discrimination lawsuit pending against the bureau. He has also raised concerns about the FBI’s alleged misuse of warrantless searches.

The FBI denied discriminating against him and trumpeted it allegedly had 46 agents and 285 language analysts who speak at least conversational Arabic.

According to information received from our contacts, the FBI had only an estimated 33 Arabic speakers employed as agents and language translators in 2007. We also have a comment from a source active in the counter terrorism community that the Washington field office language laboratory of the FBI is in “chaos.”

Bassem is disingenuous as the FBI and even government contractors go out of their way to hire Muslims as recruiters who are critical language speakers. That means that they insinuate fellow Muslims into language analyst positions thereby engaging in taqiyyah -religiously sanctioned dissimulation. Doubtless, Bassem will have amici briefs filed in his whistleblower suit by Muslim Brotherhood front groups like CAIR and ISNA. FBI director Mueller has gone out of his way to engage in outreach to these groups and even taken them on tours of local field offices.

The Evidence of Bias in Translator Hiring-The American Congress for Truth Survey Results

In January, 2007, my colleague at American Congress for Truth (ACT), Brigitte Gabriel and I put out an action alert to our membership requesting instances of bias in hiring of non-Muslims as translator analysts by our national security agencies. The response was overwhelming. As we have found out in our inquiries first rate Arab and Farsi linguists who are Middle Eastern Christians, Jews and apostate Muslims were disappointed that their talents had gone unused because of political correctness and frankly outright intimidation by Muslim linguists in our security agencies.

This survey was limited, but nevertheless, it is indicative of concerns about why our government persists in denying employment to loyal American citizens who offered aid in reducing the mountainous backlog of untranslated Arabic and Farsi intelligence documents and intercepts.

How mountainous is the backlog of untranslated intercepts? Read this comment from a National Security Agency (NSA) official quoted from Congressional hearings in a Washington Times article on the subject written by Rowan Scarborough and Bill Gertz in their column “Inside the Ring” entitled: “Intelligence backlog.”

NSA director, Army Lt. Gen. Keith in commenting in written response to Senators on the large backlog of time consuming labor intensive foreign language intercepts on terrorism noted:

“Today’s backlog is no longer confined to Arabic and its multiple dialect but also less commonly taught languages where linguists are in short supply.”

One knowledgeable insider in our national security apparatus wrote in response to the ACT action alert:

“The fact that the FBI and the military don’t have enough linguists/translators especially after 9/11 is a disgrace and the fact that those they have are possibly not reliable or trustworthy makes it imperative that new competent resources are found.”

Here are some examples of the responses received from ACT members and others. I will begin with Brigitte Gabriel’s experience. She is one of many Christian Lebanese who tried to help but got nowhere.

Brigitte Gabriel, ACT Founder, Lebanese Christian

Brigitte applied three times to the FBI in 2001 and 2002 volunteering her services to help translate, in whatever capacity she could be used, to help our country in the fight against terrorism. She never got an answer. Finally the Government sent her a government application that stated that translators must be between the age of 25 and 35, (she had just turned 36), must have graduated with a degree in the language they wish to apply to translate and must have three years on the job experience as translators (utterly ridiculous bureaucracy). Meanwhile, government agents were complaining on television that they did not have enough translators.

Brigitte Gabriel speaks not only the classical Arabic which is the official language of most of the Middle East, but also the local dialects, Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, Palestinian, and Jordanian.

From an Iraqi Christian

“I applied twice for the FBI. I never got an answer from them. I heard that the Recruiters are Egyptians and want translators with an Egyptian dialect. I don’t know if religion is a factor, but I’ve given up. I think it will be very intimidating under these circumstances. By the way I’m an Iraqi Christian living in the U.S. I worked as a linguist for the U.S. Army in Iraq.”

From a Lebanese American Christian

“I was deployed from Ft. Benning, Georgia in May, 2003 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Supporting our armed forces and intelligence units. In October 2004, I was injured by a suicide bomb blast inside the Green Zone [in Baghdad]. I had to come back for treatment. A year ago I was released by all doctors and they recommended that I could go back to work, but not in Iraq. I called my employer and to my amazement they offered me a job back in Iraq but not a stateside one because I lacked a security clearance. I refused and they sent me a letter in January, 2006 laying me off. I have tried in vain to find a job with the government or defense contractors. The recruiters are usually Muslim and some have told me that they have relatives working for al Jazeera TV. Can you believe that!”

From a Persian American Jew

“I volunteered to help with Farsi translations. I heard back from them that they were interested in my Hebrew skills!! I didn’t see how Hebrew came into the equation with dealing with our country’s dangers. The response was very bureaucratic in nature. I have since done Farsi translation for a private think tank.”

From a Coptic Christian American

“I am a Christian Egyptian who applied for a linguist position with the FBI after 9/11, went through the testing process and was sent a rejection letter. I would love to contribute to your cause, if I can be of assistance.”

Rejection of American Israeli citizens

“I know personally of such a case where a loyal American applied for such service and got nowhere. This American Israel Jew got the same treatment. He is young, intelligent eastern looking guy who could make a real contribution to the efforts. Something funny is going on.”

What these ACT responses do is to reinforce previous reports of bias against Middle Eastern Christians, Jews and apostate Muslims chronicled in reports from WorldNetDaily and by investigative authors Rita Katz – an Iraq born American Jew – in her book Terrorist Hunter  and Paul Sperry in his engrossing book Infiltration.

Agenda for a GAO investigation

Almost four fifths of both Arabic and Farsi speakers in the U.S. are non-Muslims: Middle East Christian Copts, Maronites, Orthodox, Assyrian Chaldeans, Mizrahi Jews, and Zoroastrians. Add to that, native American language specialists and apostate Muslims and you begin to see a pattern of discrimination in our national security agencies: FBI, CIA, DIA, NSA, and others. It is largely a product of moral equivalency – a willful blindness in the lackluster recruiting efforts of our national security system and intimidation by American Muslim community advocacy groups.

The result is that we have a large gap in un-translated intelligence information and a deficit in HUMINT analysis and assessments that has stifled development of National Security strategies in the war against Islamic Jihad in the Middle East and globally.

Walid Phares of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy had indicated interest in this issue. In an email exchange following his review of a letter we sent to Senator Joseph Lieberman of the US Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, he said:

“This is a very important task. The way you are addressing it is very smart. Keep me posted…”

Dennis Hale, Political Science professor at Boston College, remarked in an email response:

‘Great idea, good letter….You’ve at last gotten the problem presented to someone who might be able to do something about it.”

Given the agenda that Rep. Susan Myrick and the House Anti-terror Caucus released on April 18th a GAO investigation of the Translator Scandal is imperative.

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