WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court rejected efforts to open closed-door arguments yesterday in the case of a fired FBI contractor who alleged there were security breaches and misconduct at the bureau.
Sibel Edmonds is seeking to revive her lawsuit against the government. It was thrown out of US District Court when the Bush administration invoked the state secrets privilege, which allows the government to withhold information to safeguard national security.
Edmonds says she was dismissed from her job as a wiretap translator because she told superiors she suspected a co-worker was leaking information to targets of an ongoing FBI probe.
A three-judge panel closed the court arguments, although Edmonds's allegations have been outlined in court papers, in a report by the Justice Department's inspector general, and on Capitol Hill.
Edmonds said her information, if aggressively pursued, would lead to criminal prosecutions.
The court's unusual decision to close arguments prompted a challenge by Edmonds's American Civil Liberties Union lawyers. That challenge was supported by media organizations including the Associated Press. Two private groups, the Project on Government Oversight and Public Citizen, also joined the effort.
Outside the courthouse, ACLU lawyer Ann Beeson said only the last 10 minutes of the arguments involved classified information.
The three appeals court judges hearing the case are Douglas Ginsburg and David Sentelle, appointees from the Reagan era; and Karen LeCraft Henderson, who was appointed to the appeals court by President Bush's father in 1990.
The FBI has said it fired Edmonds, a 32-year-old Turkish-American, because she committed security violations and disrupted her office.
The Justice Department's inspector general said Edmonds's allegations to her superiors about a co-worker ''raised serious concerns that, if true, could potentially have extremely damaging consequences for the FBI."
The inspector general concluded that the FBI did not adequately investigate the allegations and that Edmonds was retaliated against for speaking out.