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Interpreter Says No to Secrecy
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Washington Post (Article on resignation of website founder Fred Burks)

Washington Post (Article on resignation of website founder Fred Burks), December 8, 2004
Posted: December 22nd, 2006

Indonesian specialist Fred Burks ... is making a noisy exit from government service after 18 years of interpreting for top U.S. officials, including President Bush and former president Bill Clinton. Burks resigned last month in protest against what he sees as excessive government secrecy, and since then has been treating anybody who will listen with insider stories about private meetings he attended. Burks interpreted for Bush at an Oval Office meeting with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri in September 2001, eight days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He says Bush displayed such a detailed grasp of Indonesian issues at the meeting that he came away thinking the president must have been fed information through a hidden earpiece. Burks says he is free to talk about his work as a contract interpreter for senior government officials because he was never required to sign a secrecy agreement. That changed last month when the State Department insisted he agree to a new contract that included a pledge never to disclose "any information" that he learned in the course of his government interpreting work to unauthorized outsiders. He refused. "It was ridiculous," said Burks, who learned Indonesian while teaching in Borneo in 1981 and living with an Indonesian family. "In theory, it meant I couldn't even tell my family where I was traveling if that information had not already been made public." He says he also has never had a security clearance. Burks's fluency in Indonesian and Mandarin Chinese made him a valued asset for the State Department.

Note: If the above link fails to function, click here. Mr. Burks agrees that some level of secrecy is necessary, but that current levels are far beyond tolerable. For brief descriptions of some of the fascinating meetings at which Mr. Burks was present, click here. For lots more on secrecy and an insider's perspective, click here.

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