For the 2016 Reading Challenge, I was tasked with reading a book chosen for me by my spouse, partner, sibling, child or BFF. I decided to ask my younger sister to choose one for me. I chose her because of all those listed, I knew her reading choices would be the most unlike my own.
My sister and I share some similar views, but in many ways we differ in our approach to life. I have a great deal of respect for my sister’s intelligence, strength and courage, and I love that we can gracefully disagree – now that we are adults.
All that to say, I knew that whatever book she chose for me to read would challenge me somehow. It would stretch me, and force me outside my normal experience. And I was not wrong. The book she chose for me did all that and more. She chose Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story, a memoir by Sibel Edmonds.
This book documents the story of Turkish-American immigrant, Sibel Edmonds, who shortly after 9/11 began working for the FBI as a translator. During her tenure with the FBI she encountered sloppy investigations, abuse of government power and resources, blatant cover-ups and security breaches.
When she attempted to report these things to her supervisors, she was repeatedly shut down. Not satisfied with the answers she was getting regarding the potential national security risk she’d uncovered, she pressed up the chain of command even when it became obvious there were bigger forces at work that wanted the situation to simply disappear.
Ms. Edmonds writes with a compelling intensity, documenting her surreal tale of retaliation and injustice. This book reads in parts like a suspense novel, fast-paced and incredibly intense. The problem is, it isn’t fiction.
After being fired from the FBI, Ms. Edmonds continued to fight to have her story heard. She faced stall tactics, shut doors, and even outright threats. She was shut down by the “State Secrets Privilege”. Eventually, her case was presented to the Supreme Court of the United States, only to be once more turned away.
Over the course of nearly a decade, Ms. Edmonds has fought continuously to be heard, to bring to light the corruption and breaches within the American system. Despite her own personal losses – or perhaps because of them – she formed the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition in order to help others facing similar situations. In 2006 she was awarded the PEN Newman First Amendment Award for her efforts in defending the first amendment rights of all Americans. She continues to work toward getting truth out to the public on her website, Boiling Frogs Post.
I would challenge every American to read this book. It’s more than a little disturbing to face a story such as this one, but I think it’s an important one to read, to bear witness to the truth.