Archive for Sunday, June 9, 2002

FBI translator program comes under scrutiny

June 9, 2002

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— The FBI and the Justice Department are investigating a whistle-blower's allegations of security lapses in the translator program that has played an important role in interpreting interviews and intercepts of Osama bin Laden's network since Sept. 11, officials said.

FBI officials said they believed the program was solid and secure even as they let the investigations move forward. The officials said there had been some minor bumps as a large number of translators, many of them Arabic-speaking, were brought aboard after the attacks.

The FBI acknowledged a shortage of Arabic-speaking translators after Sept. 11 and put out immediate pleas to find people willing to work as contract employees.

The FBI has been using a mentoring program that pairs newcomers with experienced translators to address some of those issues, officials said.

Government officials and legal sources familiar with the review said the whistle-blower's allegations ranged from shoddy transcriptions to suggestions one interpreter with a relative who works at a foreign embassy may have compromised national security.

Government officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said the FBI had been unable to corroborate the whistle-blower's allegations.

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