Linguist shortage hampers U.S. intelligence
Thread poster: Dyran Altenburg
Dyran Altenburg  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:28
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Nov 14, 2002

Linguist shortage hampers U.S. intelligence

Saturday, November 9, 2002

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- The nation\'s chief information experts probably wouldn\'t recognize a foreign terrorist threat because they don\'t know the languages commonly spoken, an FBI expert said.

The FBI has hired more than 300 linguists since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but there\'s still a severe shortage of people in the United States who know languages used by terrorists and who can decipher intelligence, said Margaret Gulotta, chief of the FBI\'s Language Services Section.

\"Yes, we were unprepared. We needed more linguists than we had,\" Gulotta told more than 500 people at the 43rd annual Conference of the American Translators Association on Friday. \"The situation has improved tremendously.\"

Warnings of terrorist attacks may not be translated in time unless more people are hired by the nation\'s defense and intelligence agencies, she said.

The American Translators Association said only 614 students are now studying Pashto, Dari, Farsi and Uzbek at U.S. colleges, although 40 million people speak those languages. There\'s also a need for many more Arabic speakers, the group said, which more than 200 million people speak in 25 countries.

\"We still need a lot of people to work for us,\" Gulotta said. \"They\'re not getting languages through the American school system.\"

Language investment

The government commits money to language education only in a time of international crisis, and then interest lags, said Richard Brecht, Director of the National Foreign Language Center, a think tank in Washington.

\"We\'ve never made that investment, \" said Brecht, a panelist at the meeting.

Intelligence agencies often don\'t have the resources to process information fast enough, the panelists said. It wasn\'t until September 12, 2001, that the government was able to analyze information suggesting people with terrorist connections believed something significant would happen September 11.

More taxpayer money should be spent boosting government translators\' pay so that the FBI and CIA can compete with private businesses, the panelists said. They said it\'s also important to promote foreign languages in America\'s public schools.

Computer translating programs don\'t do the job because meaning is often lost in translation, said moderator Kevin Hendzel. A computer couldn\'t pick up on code words used by terrorists speaking in a foreign language.

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Arthur Borges
Local time: 22:28
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Another problem the FBI (and other agencies) might be having Nov 14, 2002

is that any linguists they hire would need to develop an ingoing feel for Islam if they are to hone their Arabic language skills and the religion has definite, even magical appeal. Judaism has preserved the magic but most forms of Christianity have squashed it like, uh, an inappropriate question. In their position, I\'d be recruiting high school grads trained by Jesuits and bankroll their college education, if this isn\'t already being done.

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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:28
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And yet linguists were fired just for being gay. Nov 14, 2002

Here are three recent articles about this topic (with links)

Army Fires Arabic Linguists for Being Gay as Terrorist \'Chatter\' Reaches Highest Levels Since September 11, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC - In the midst of news reports today that ‘chatter’ among suspected terrorist groups has risen to levels not seen since the days immediately before the attacks of September 11, 2001, this week’s New Republic reports that America’s armed forces have fired qualified, trained Arabic linguists whose skills are essential in translating such communications simply for being gay. During a recent two month period, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has assisted seven Arabic linguists who were fired from the Army’s Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, because of their sexual orientation.

The military’s shortage of Arabic linguists has been widely reported, both in the press and in a recent report from the United States House of Representatives. It is unclear whether the military or intelligence community yet has sufficient capability to translate the message traffic necessary to thwart future terrorist attacks. DLI students spend 63 weeks learning Arabic, compared to 25 weeks for Spanish, Italian or French.

Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) said, “For those who needed further evidence of how ill-advised the anti-gay military policy is, they now have it. Firing talented people who possess a scarce and sorely needed skill because some people don\'t like their choice of social companions puts prejudice ahead of national security.”

C. Dixon Osburn, SLDN’s Executive Director, cited the cases as ample evidence that the military’s anti-gay policies should be repealed. “For the sake of national security, Congress should repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Osburn said. “Bigotry undermines readiness.”

Aaron Belkin, Director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California-Santa Barbara, said the firing of Arabic language specialists seems inconsistent with the rationale for the gay ban. \"The military claims that the gay ban is necessary to preserve military effectiveness. The firing of seven Arabic experts suggests that the ban itself hurts the military.\"

Don\'t Ask, Don\'t Translate

by New Orleans Times-Picayune

Since Sept. 11, 2001, American intelligence agencies and military units have been trying to wipe out al-Qaida, a terrorist network whose leaders come from and recruit in Arabic-speaking countries. The United States could soon be involved in a military operation against Iraq, where Arabic is the first language of most soldiers, generals and bureaucrats.

In both conflicts, victory depends in some measure upon Americans\' ability to understand intercepted documents and radio signals and communicate with Arabic-speaking civilians.

Yet not even a dire shortage of Arabic-language specialists could stop the U.S. military from expelling at least seven gay Arabic-language specialists from the Army-run Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif.

Federal law calls for the dismissal of soldiers who are clearly found to be gay. But under the \"don\'t ask, don\'t tell\" policy, soldiers aren\'t supposed to disclose their sexual orientation, and commanders aren\'t supposed to investigate their soldiers\' private lives.

It\'s true that some gay soldiers, fearful of being found out, will admit their orientation and then ask permission to stay on. One Arabic-language specialist did just that in a recent case cited by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group for gay and lesbian soldiers. The language institute, a highly selective training school for military linguists, initially let her continue with her work but then reversed itself.

Meanwhile, some commanders at the institute are going well out of their way to spy on soldiers suspected of being gay. According to The New Republic magazine, another Arabic-language specialist was discharged after his superiors caught him with his boyfriend during a surprise inspection at 3:30 a.m.

A spokesman for the Army\'s Training and Doctrine Command told the magazine that the firings of the Arabic-language specialists are \"not relevant\" to the war on terrorism. But that\'s nonsense. Arabic takes years to master. The loss of seven Arabic-language specialists represents a serious blow to American military capabilities at a time when such expertise has never been more crucial.

The ban on gay and lesbian soldiers is an official military policy -- albeit an especially cruel and pointless one. Yet in the past, military leaders relaxed enforcement during times of crisis, because good results matter far more than whether individual soldiers are straight or gay.

It is appalling to learn that, for some Army commanders, indulging an irrational prejudice is now more important than national security. There are surely more than seven gay linguists at the Defense Language Institute. They only want to serve their country, and their country needs them badly.

Army Fires Arabic Linguists for Being Gay

WASHINGTON, DC -- Despite a shortage of qualified Arabic linguists in the intelligence and defense fields, the Army has fired a significant number of trained language specialists from the military’s Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, California because they are gay.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has assisted in the cases of seven Arabic speakers trained at DLI, including Private First Class Patricia Ramirez. Ramirez recently acknowledged her sexual orientation in a letter to her command.

The DLI command originally informed Ramirez in writing that, despite her sexual orientation, she was being retained in the Army and should continue to report for duty.

Within weeks of that announcement, however, SLDN learned that DLI officials had apparently reopened Ramirez’s case and were illegally questioning service members on base to obtain information about homosexual conduct. Additional service members at DLI were reportedly threatened with disciplinary action if they did not cooperate with the command’s renewed investigation of Ramirez.

Shortly thereafter, Ramirez was informed that, despite DLI’s earlier promises to allow her career to continue, she was being fired under the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

Ramirez indicated to her command that, if the Army would allow openly lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel to serve without prejudice, she would be happy to continue serving. “The truth is that I would like very much like to complete language training and serve my country,” Ramirez wrote.

“The command at DLI should have closed this case when it told PFC Ramirez to continue with her career,” said SLDN Executive Director C. Dixon Osburn. “Brave, patriotic Americans should not be fired in the name of federally sanctioned discrimination. That is blatantly un-American.”

Officials within the intelligence communities have spoken publicly about the impact a shortage of Arabic linguists has had on the nation’s fight against terrorism. A recent report from the House of Representatives noted that, “the GAO reported a significant shortfall in linguists. After the 9-11 attacks, this shortfall actually increased slightly. A long-term linguist and analyst hiring strategy is required.”

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-11-14 20:27 ]

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Local time: 16:28
English to Italian
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not yet? Nov 15, 2002

unfortunately I\'ve got no time now to read it all - but I\'m frankly surprised (or maybe not) that the situation hasn\'t changed yet: such a shortage \'appeared\' on italian (!) journals more than one year ago (just after the twins\' fact)!



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Marcus Malabad  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:28
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wiss-ASS cracka! Nov 15, 2002

This piece of news is headlined at Yahoo. I followed the lead to this (one piece of hilarious wisdom from someone from the golden turkey state of Tennessee):

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-11-15 12:21 ]

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