September 18, 2006
Kill the Messenger
An Exclusive Interview by Luke Ryland
Luke: Congratulations on the project. How long have you been working on the film?
Mathieu: We started working on the project approximately February 2005 - we got in contact with Sibel and agreed that we should pay her a visit. We met her for the first time in DC just one week before her DC Circuit Court appearance - mid April. Last time we saw her was in May 2006 - and during that time period we visited the US five times. We spent about 90 days of shooting the whole thing.
Luke: Right - you were also doing Tranquility Bay along the way, right?
Mathieu: Yes. Tranquility was already completed and edited - Jean and I were just waiting for the broadcast on the national TV station in May - but by that time we'd already started the project with Sibel.
Luke: Ok - How about you give a synopsis of the movie to kick us off.
Mathieu: First of all let's start with what we wanted to achieve in this film. We were interested in the phenomenon of whistleblowers – as you may know, the whole concept of whistleblowing is not a big thing here in France. We don’t know nor understand the concept
So we looked into major cases of whistleblowing in the US and I came across the whistleblowing cases in the FBI and we got interested in Sibel's case particularly because, you know, people told us that she is incredible. So at the beginning, all we knew at the beginning was that she had a secret - that she was willing to fight, and that she had a secret. And I had no goddamn idea what the secret was about. No idea.
We knew nothing about the whole thing in the beginning - and Sibel made it perfectly clear in the beginning that she would not disclose anything to us - nor to anyone else. We agreed and started with a big interview in the beginning in April 2005 after she lost in the DC Circuit Court. A 2 hour interview in her house - it was very tense, very sharp - and she described the whole thing, the case in general, the Dickersons etc, etc - without making any mention of the specifics of the secret itself.
But at the same time, we decided that it would also be very interesting to find out what it is that she couldn't tell - like you and many others do. So we started the investigation on our own - the idea was to tell two stories unfolding at the same time; Sibel's journey with the government, and at the same time trying to look into the secret.
So the film is divided this way - the first act of the film is about what happened to Sibel, who she is, and what she worked on. So for example in the first act there is no mention whatsoever of the American Turkish Council. We just know that she's been attacked by vicious people in the government, and that there's a very shady spy case. In the second act of the film, Sibel counter-attacks - she creates the whistleblower coalition, she goes on appeal, and then we come across David Rose, the investigative journalist for Vanity Fair and this is how we come across the notion of the American Turkish Council - the ATC.
At that time, we knew that the whole Sibel Edmonds case is closely linked to Turkey and the ATC whom we also know is closely linked to the MIC, the Military Industrial Complex, and we also know that some of these influential players are very highly connected to arms trafficking.
And then in the last chapter of the film, the last 25 minutes, we go into the secret and explore the links between Turkey, the US, Israel, Pakistan; possible links to Islamic groups; the role of Turkish Generals, and the specific role of neoconservatives. We also focus on the Plame case - and how that all connects to Sibel.
Luke: That's a lot of territory to cover in 84 minutes!
Mathieu: I know but there is no way getting around this. Sibel’s case is huge, huge…that’s why there are some elements that we have, that you probably have as well, that we aren't able to include in the film for various reasons: what happened in Chicago for instance or the role of Mark Grossman.
First reason is people here in France, first of all know almost NOTHING about the US intelligence community, absolutely nothing about Sibel Edmonds, or about her case, nothing about what the gag order is, or what a whistle-blower is and know little about Neocons dealing with the Middle East - so for the French viewer, it's an entirely new lesson
We have a sequence for example at the American Turkish Council annual conference and you can clearly understand the kind of business that takes place in this venue - and in this respect the film is interesting but in terms of telling EVERYTHING about the secrets. So we only mention two names of Neocons apparently connected to the case: Douglas Feith and Richard Perle.
Luke: But you interviewed Marc Grossman, right?
Mathieu: (laughs) yes we did. But it's not included.
Luke: Oh no!
Mathieu: Well - if someone in the U.S is interested in the film, we will see if we can add things, we'll have to think that over - but we had good reasons not to include his testimony in the version for France. Again, if it's a film for the mainstream viewer who needs to understand that arms trafficking is just daily routine and that US officials are ready to make hidden deals including weapons proliferation with people who are supposed to be their worst enemies, then that in itself is very interesting to us, and hopefully to other people as well.
In the film we expanded on those notions with ex-CIA officer Philip Giraldi who recently wrote a very interesting article about Sibel Edmonds. He also states that Douglas Feith and Richard Perle may have helped, or have been instrumental in establishing false end-user-certificates that enabled some people to send weapons to the Chechnya guerillas - most of them, or at least some of them being very closely linked to Al Qaeda. He of course touches on Perle and Feith’s connections with Israel and Turkey, with Israeli and U.S defense contractors, always playing both sides of the fence.
To us, this is a major piece of contemporary and it so happens that Sibel Edmonds is entangled in this web. As reporter Christopher Deliso says, Sibel by herself happens to be a connecting dot to many many things. She is the missing piece that helps assemble almost the entire puzzle. We agree with Chris! Sibel is amazing, but her secret is amazing too.
In passing, Sibel is also direct witness to a full catalogue of FBI failures: incompetence, gross negligence and sometimes corruption not to mention their being very receptive to political pressures from the Executive Branch. And the film bears witness to that.
As Robert Baer, the ex-CIA guy, describes it, there is this big Saudi lobby in Washington, doing turf battles with the Israeli lobby. And you also have some people doing freelance work like Richard Perle and others, promoting and connecting to the Turkish lobby, which itself has been able to connect to the Israeli lobby which was pretty smart on their part – and again, this is what Sibel's story tells.
Luke: Right - do you see that there's much ideology on the Turkish front? Or is the Turkey scenario just a useful platform to sell arms, or to move heroin etc?
Mathieu : If we put together all the evidence we amassed, we have a direction - those who approached Sibel were Turkish, those who are involved in arms trafficking are connected to Turkey, but the question is 'Which side of Turkey?' - If you look at Turkey, you find the army, the MIT (intelligence service), connected in countless ways with the warlords, the baba families (drug barons), the nationalist extreme right, you find the Kurds, and, - you have many players when you talk of 'Turkey'! Everybody plays with guns, narcs, money and crime.
Turkey is playing this pivotal role all the time and those who know Turkey will tell you that Turkey is thriving with excellent strategists and diplomats. It's very often based on corruption and crime, but that's another story. Turkey is a fantastic country - and I think it deserves a John Le Carre book. There was a James Bond film with a fantastic Turkish backdrop: From Russia with Love. Ankara has always been a hotbed of spies, I think during the Second World War there was L’Affaire Cicero case, an American film classic, there were all the spies in Ankara, with Goering’s people spying on the Americans, the Americans spying on the Germans etc. And all those spies met each other in cocktail parties - it was amazing!
Luke: Ok - and where does the heroin trafficking fit into Sibel's story?
Mathieu: Well, the poppy trade is interesting for many people, although we don’t have very specific knowledge about the connections to the Sibel Edmonds’s case. All we know is that for the last 30 years, Turkey has been the leading country in the world in terms of processing heroin and the drug business is just another business for many players in this country. It helps make money, fund illegal activities.
Luke: Oh sure. As Sibel gets tired of pointing out - 'her story' story is not about her, per se. getting back to the film - who did you interview?
Mathieu: Well, there are a lot of people who we interviewed who didn't make it to the final cut of the film, but the main characters in the film besides Sibel are:
1. John Cole who used to be Counter-Intelligence officer at the FBI in the nineties - he was a precious witness for us.
2. Of equal importance was Philip Giraldi who appears toward the end of the film, he used to be stationed in Turkey in the 80s as a CIA Operative, and he's a seasoned veteran of the CIA, and he knows the players in the game. He recently published this famous article on Sibel’s case in the American Conservative and obviously understood most of what was to be understood about her case.
3. Before that of course there was David Rose, because he already investigated Sibel's case for Vanity Fair,
4. David Albright, one of the world’s most prominent nuclear proliferation experts.
5. And then the two lawyers from the ACLU, Ann Beeson and Ben Wizner, and a whole case of whistleblowers from NSWBC.
We may also include this very nice guy from New York who sings the song "Sibel Edmonds" Gary Hood who plays his song in the film.
Luke: What did Phil Giraldi have to say?
Mathieu: Giraldi knows the reason why there was a military relationship between Turkey and Israel for the last 30 years - Turkey wanting to get access to weapons in the US and Israel being interested in becoming friendly with a Muslim country. That's the starting point.
Beyond that, he understands the role of the Military Industrial Complex, both in the US and in Israel and Turkey - for example, Turkish Generals retain commissions on the works and the production lines of the Turkish arms manufacturing companies - in other words, baksheesh.
Giraldi then pointed to the neocons who are intertwined in the triangle between the US, Turkey and Israel and also insists on the fact that these people have been connected to the Turkish government, Israeli arms companies and the Military Industrial Complex in the US.
Giraldi also insisted very specifically about the FBI investigations on Feith and Perle and some others. The impression that we had before meeting Giraldi is that Turkey recruited the crème de la crème of Israel's friends in the US, so that they would then have access to not only Washington’s officials, but also to the Pentagon and its most hi-tech weapons. Giraldi confirmed that.
Luke: in Giraldi's article, he also mentions Paul Wolfowitz and Stephen Solarz, did you come across them?
Mathieu: Well – Giraldi mentions Stephen Solarz - but again, it's just indirectly linked to Sibel's case. In the mid 80’s, Steven Solarz, a Jewish congressman and an open strong supporter of the Israeli cause, was indeed a strong advocate for Ankara, ‘the’ U.S friend of Turkey at the times. Solarz is interesting for other reasons.
Feith and Perle started lobbying for Turkey after Solarz. They sort of ‘took over’ the business from the late 80s until 1994, with their company International Advisors Inc. (IAI). Turkey had, and still has, another lobbyist friend in DC: Robert Livingston, but that would embark on a different side of the story.
Luke: Ok - how about your interview with David Albright - what did he have to say?
Mathieu: To us, he was the most credible guy, someone who was able to document something really specific: that is, the role of Turkey in the build-up of the Pakistani nuclear program. Albright told us that Turkey started helping since the very beginning. We didn’t know that. He confirmed that some stuff most likely ended up in Al Qaeda’s hands. And to us, that was sign the cycle was complete. Jihadists are a threat because they spread terror even using suicide bombers. Now they may have some access to a nuclear weapon. What a legacy for the future!
Luke: It's a dangerous game that they play. Moving on. I know that you interviewed Marc Grossman and that you cut it out of the film - can you talk about the interview at all?
Mathieu: Knowing the players in the game, and knowing the business that they engage in, and this being a small world, and Grossman having worked in Turkey and Pakistan, Grossman having met with ISI chief (Pakistani intelligence agency) on a much-hyped but yet mysterious meeting on September 11, at the time of the attacks, Grossman being the pillar of ATC, etc, one could assume that Marc Grossman would not be far away from those dealings - legal or illegal, it doesn’t matter. Most observers presume he was on Sibel’s wiretaps, possibly tipping Turkish friends about let’s say the risk posed by Brewster Jennings‘s activities (The company Plame used as a cover). Sibel touches on those aspects in a masterful way in the film. Praises to her to be so smart in front of a camera.
Coming back to Grossman, exposing his role would have been interesting for the film, but the guy being what he is, there was no way that he would have given an interview if we had accused him of anything. Turkey, for example, was known to him as being a transit point for drugs not as the biggest opium –processing country in the world. He didn’t want to accept that simple fact.
Then we tested him - we asked him about Valerie Plame - and it was amazing to see his face change! He had the nerve to say that he didn’t know anything about Valerie Plame, or about Brewster Jennings - which is simply false! As you know, his name had appeared publicly for months in the Valerie Plame's case – Anyway, we didn't mention the fact that we knew he was lying.
Next we pretended that we didn’t know anything about Sibel, and we just mentioned that there was this little woman of Turkish origin whose name was mentioned in an article in Vanity Fair speaking about Turkey… His face changed again, and he came up with this answer: ' Vanity Fair? I am afraid it is not a magazine I read '! We there asked him directly about Sibel Edmonds and he said that he didn't know anything about Sibel Edmonds – her name was ‘unfamiliar’.
Luke: That's hysterical. When was that interview?
Mathieu: April 2006.
Luke: (laughs) Oh that's great. And he's never heard of Sibel Edmonds and Valerie Plame. That's fantastic. I'd love to see that footage.
Mathieu: Well - if we ever sell this film in the US, we could consider adding a small chapter on him.
Luke: Ok - the David Rose interview - what did he have to say?
Mathieu: In our cast, he had the crucial role of the guy who makes the first important revelations. He was the man for the job. He has a great vision of the whole thing, he's a great story teller, but at the same time carefully sticking to what he knows. He is the only one who has spoken to people who know what’s on the tapes. He met with the sources, and as he says in the film, ‘these sources were very nervous about the tapes’. His testimony helps strengthening the pillars of the story - yes, the tapes involved Turkish officials, some of them working for the embassy in the Washington, and others in the consulate in Chicago. Yes it was in exchange of secrets. David also described how he found out about Hastert, and then alluded to what we expose in the last segment of the film: the Neocons connection.
Luke: Right. And did you visit the Turkish American Cultural Alliance – TACA in Chicago?
Mathieu : We did - we paid a visit in Chicago, we filmed it, but it isn't in the film - all we had were insinuations by Sibel about 'semi-legitimate cultural organizations' - She did not mention the word TACA to us - because a) she could not and b) she would not. We found out about TACA just because there is only one Turkish Folklore organization in Chicago - TACA.
Phil Giraldi also mentioned TACA, he found them independently too, and he noticed that TACA is highly connected, apparently to some influential local Jewish groups. According to him, TACA has been publicly exposed, and mentioned, or connected with a drug case in the 90's in Chicago.
Luke: Ok - how about your interview with John Cole?
Mathieu: John was born in France (laughs)… John is a true U.S patriot. He always wanted ‘to do what’s right’. He was a great introduction to Sibel in the film. John wants to remind others that as a public servant, he took an oath of office to protect the country from its enemies, “both foreign and domestic”. Well obviously many people within the neocon community fit the portrait of a domestic enemy. But these people are more powerful than John or Sibel. John was also one of many intelligence whistle-blowers who described the risk-averse mentality, the sheer incompetence of many people in mid-management positions in the agencies.
In November 2005, I learnt from the Turkish paper Hurriyet that Plame was not only investigating Turkey, she was investigating the ATC. My intuition proved right. Later, in April 2006, we confronted Sibel with this set of facts and ask her to go on the record. Sibel’s line about Plame and Brewster Jennings is just gold. She said : 'During my time at the FBI, I never heard the name Valerie Plame - but if you are asking me about Brewster Jennings, that's another story, a story that I cannot comment on because I cannot talk about anything that I did at the FBI - and the targets of the investigations, and the details of the investigations’. The message is crystal clear! So is Sibel !
Luke: ok - so are you doing much media for the film?
Mathieu: So far, not as much as the previous film. People don’t really understand it yet - they know its about spies and bad American guys and the intrinsic cynicism of diplomacy etc - but people tend to like the film because Sibel is very combative and she has a fighting spirit and everything - but we have fewer interviews than Tranquility Bay - you know, that was about violence against kids - everybody understands that - this one is a bit more difficult obviously.
We've been interviewed by people who understand the picture - but it’s quite an exercise to get a flavor of the whole story, you know. People here don’t necessarily know how famous and powerful Richard Perle is - and it's hard for them to connect the ‘bad guys’ in Sibel’s case to the bad stuff happening in the world today with Iran, Israel, Lebanon.
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