Independent Media Websites Shut Down and
My Resignation from the State Department
Oct. 14, 2004
On October 4th, I sent you an email describing one interesting aspect of my experience interpreting for President Bush and President Megawati of Indonesia in the White House eight days after 9/11. Without revealing anything confidential which was discussed in this meeting, I described how I eventually became convinced that President Bush was being fed information through some hidden device. As a result of that email being forwarded by many of you, my comments eventually ended up on the home page of the popular website democrats.com, with a link to all but the first two paragraphs of my email at http://community.democrats.com/forums/discussions.cfm?forumid=170&topicid=139727
The reason I decided to send this email to you is that I had just received information about the strange "let me finish" comment Bush had made in the middle of a sentence during his first debate with Kerry on Sept. 30th. You will recall that this unusual remark was made when he still had 30 seconds left to finish his statement, and no one was trying to stop him. In my email to you, I passed on the link to a recording of this unusual remark available on the website of NYC indymedia Thanks to the wonderful network of which we are a part, this information was spread far and wide by those who are working to expose all that is going on behind the scenes. It became a hot topic on the Internet in a very short time.
On Oct. 7th, just days after this remarkable recording was posted on the New York Indymedia website, the UK servers which supported 20 Indymedia websites in the US were seized by intelligence services, effectively shutting down these valuable independent news sources. Is this just another amazing coincidence? BBC reported the shocking news of these seizures on Oct. 11th, stating that the FBI had seized them, though an FBI spokesman denied this. Widely reported by major media in Britain, this startling news continues to go virtually unreported in the mainstream American media. If you want a clear example of how our freedom of speech is being eroded, I highly recommend reading this BBC article at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3732718.stm
The email I sent out to all of you on Oct. 4th was posted with my permission to democrats.com on Oct. 10th. Yesterday, Oct. 13th, I received a call from my supervisor at the US Department of State, where I have served as an interpreter for 18 years. She informed me that as a result of the information I revealed in that email, my contract as a language interpreter might be cancelled. This woman has had extensive experience working with Bush and other presidents. In our phone conversation, she stated that she has never seen evidence of a hidden earpiece. I have only interpreted in person for Bush three times. Yet I find it very difficult to explain how he could have talked so intelligently and in such detail about Indonesia with no notes during the meeting in question.
I feel strongly that in this time of rapid erosion of our constitutional rights and liberties, it is important for everyone to take risks and speak the truth. I was willing to risk my job, because this information is too important not to be shared. In fact, as a result of all this in combination with a new contract which I would have had to sign, I've decided to cancel my contract as an interpreter with the State Department. The new contract which I was sent just two weeks ago required that for the rest of my life I could never communicate about anything I learned from my work that had not been made public without explicit government approval. This is far too restrictive for my values and only increases the already excessive amount of secrecy in the US government. Below, you can read two emails which I later sent to my State Department chiefs regarding this matter.
I know that by working together to expose the disempowering secrets both inside ourselves and out in the world, we can and will strengthen democracy and build a better world for ourselves and our children. Please see our website at http://www.WantToKnow.info to learn more about all that is happening behind the scenes and what we can do about it. Thanks for caring and you have a great day!
With very best wishes,
Fred Burks for the WantToKnow.info team
Two Emails from Fred Burks to his supervisors at the US Department of State
First email sent October 13th:
Dear (name withheld for confidentiality)
Thank you for sharing your concerns with me this morning. I fully appreciate your position and understand that you must do what you believe is best in this. As I mentioned to you, the email which has drawn so much attention was originally sent out to one of the email lists I manage. I just went back and read the posting of this email to democrats.com. On reading how it was posted there, I saw that the first two paragraphs of my email message were not included. I thought you might be interested in reading these two paragraphs for context. Here they are:
"In the recent Bush/Kerry debate, President Bush made a very strange, revealing comment in the middle of one of his turns talking. He had been talking for 60 seconds straight when he slipped in the comment, "let me finish" between his own words. He had been given 90 seconds to respond, and no one was in any way trying to cut him off. What was he referring to? Who was he talking to with this comment? The answer is that it is very possible that Bush was responding to someone who was feeding information to him through a hidden earphone.
"Listen to the mp3 of this comment yourself at NYC indymedia, or watch the video on the C-SPAN website at: rtsp://cspanrm.fplive.net/cspan/project/c04/c04093004_debate1.rm (copy and paste this address to your web browser, then fast forward to 40 min 30 sec)."
You may or may not be aware that the UK servers which supported 20 US Indymedia websites (the link above) were confiscated in England shortly after the above news was published. You can read about this on BBC at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3732718.stm The American press has neglected to report this significant development. The information on the "let me finish" comment was sent to me by someone in the network of international researchers in which I am involved. It immediately reminded me of my experience with Bush and Megawati shortly after 9/11, which eventually led to the democrats.com posting about which you called me this morning.
In these days when our constitutional freedoms are rapidly being eroded, I feel it is extremely important that each of us thinks and acts with a clear intention of what is best for our nation and for all people. I felt that it was important to write the email relating my experience in order to contribute to the debate among my fellow researchers. You are right that I could have talked with other interpreters about this experience to find out if they had ever experienced anything similar. I have not done this, and wish I had time to do it. I very much appreciate your comments that you have never seen any evidence of this. I will certainly share that without mentioning your name when asked about this issue. Your experience at the presidential level is vastly greater than mine. Even so, I would ask you what to make of my experience that day in the White House. Based on what you know, do you believe that right after 9/11, when President Bush had been in office less than one year, he could have known that much about Indonesia? I found this to be highly unusual.
I don't believe stating that there were 22 talking points and that about half of them dealt with terrorism and the other half with Indonesia was revealing any sensitive information. I could easily have written "many talking points" rather than 22, if I believed that this was sensitive. It was mentioned on national television that they talked about both terrorism and Indonesian affairs. Was this revealing confidential information?
I know and trust that you will do what you believe is right and best. I am willing to accept whatever you and others at Language Services decide. I am deeply committed to doing what I believe is right and best. I think that, especially in these times, only if each of us does what we believe is right and best for all humanity will we be able to effectively strengthen democracy and build a better world together. I welcome your comments on all of this. Thanks again for your concern. You take care and have a good day.
With best wishes,
PS I apologize for becoming somewhat defensive in our telephone conversation. I have no conscious intention of being confrontational about this. I appreciate your professionalism in dealing with this matter.
Second email sent Oct. 14th:
Dear (names withheld)
I am writing to inform you that it is with sadness that I will be voluntarily terminating my contract with the State Department. I will send you an official resignation email and letter within the next few days. I have thoroughly enjoyed my 18 years working with [the Department of] State and working with all of you. This has by far been the most diverse, fascinating work I've ever done. Through this job, I have also encountered some of the most amazing and inspiring people I've ever met. It is clear to me, however, that my values are no longer compatible with what is required by our government to work as an interpreter.
I've had the new basic ordering agreement sitting here for a couple weeks, debating whether or not I should sign it because of the more restrictive Clause 14 on safeguarding information. I've become clear now that I will not sign the new BOA [Basic Ordering Agreement - my contract]. I did not realize that the email I sent out would get such wide publicity, and apologize for any problems that have arisen for you as a result of that. I hope my voluntary resignation will make things easier for you in this matter. I welcome any thoughts you might have on this. You can expect my official email of resignation early next week. Please let me know if you do not think this is the best course of action, though it is important to understand that I do not feel ethically I can sign the new BOA. Thank you for all of your support and all your great work through the years.
With sadness and very best wishes,
P.S. I realize that there is a shortage of good Indonesian interpreters. If there is any way I can help with this while working around the new BOA, I would be happy to do so.
Follow-up Note: For a later Washington Post article on my resignation and lots more:
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