Turkey peace talks halted as Kurdish activists are assassinated in Paris

Sakine Cansiz with Abdullah Öcalan in 1995By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The future of peace talks between the Turkish government and the country’s Kurdish minority appeared uncertain yesterday, after three female Kurdish activists were found murdered execution-style in downtown Paris, France. The murders marked the first-ever killings in Europe of senior members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which operates as the primary political and paramilitary agent of Turkey’s Kurdish population. According to reports from France, a gun fitted with a silencer was used to kill two of the women in the back of the neck and the third one in the stomach.

One of the dead, Leyla Sönmez, was a Kurdish activist responsible for Kurdish diplomatic relations in France. Another, Fidan Doğan, who was also a French citizen, was the Paris representative of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK), which operates as Kurdistan’s government-in-exile based in Brussels, Belgium. But the most prominent victim of the triple murder is Sakine Cansiz, co-founder of the PKK, who is described as a “legend” among party activists. Cansiz who was present at PKK’s founding in 1978, was imprisoned by the Turkish government in the 1980s and given political asylum in France in 1998. Read more of this post

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Who wiretapped Turkish Prime Minister’s office, home?

Recep Tayyip ErdoğanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
During a televised interview on December 21, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan revealed that four unauthorized wiretapping devices had been detected in his parliamentary office and government car. A subsequent report from the Office of the Prime Minister on December 25 said that one more device had been found in Mr. Erdoğan’s home-office at this residence in Turkish capital Ankara. Who is behind the operation? In his December 21 interview, the Prime Minister told a nationwide audience that the bugs had been planted by “elements of a deeper state” within Turkey. “A deeper state exists in nearly every country”, he said, adding: “we try a lot but unfortunately it is impossible to [completely] eradicate the deeper state”. The term ‘deep’ or ‘deeper state’, which is used frequently in Turkey, is meant to signify a covert collaboration of convenience between organized crime and members of the country’s intelligence services.

One example of the Turkish ‘deep state’ that comes to mind is Ergenekon, a clandestine ultra-nationalist organization with secularist and anti-Western objectives. Its membership, which is reportedly drawn primarily from Turkey’s military and security establishments, is involved in both criminal and political activities aiming to preserve the political power of Turkey’s armed forces, while subverting the rise of Islamism and keeping Turkey out of the European Union. The existence of this mysterious organization was revealed in 2001 by Tuncay Güney, an operative of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), who was arrested for petty fraud. In 2009, an investigation into Ergenekon uncovered a clandestine network of safe houses in Ankara, as well as in the Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, for the sole purpose of wiretapping the communications of targeted individuals and organizations. The safe houses were reportedly equipped with wiretapping systems purchased in Israel, some of which were portable and were thus moved to various cities and towns in Turkey, in accordance with Ergenekon’s mission directives. But are Ergenekon’s tentacles powerful enough to reach into the Turkish Prime Minister’s residence? Read more of this post

News you may have missed #797

Mohamed MorsiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Egypt names new intelligence chief. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi last week issued a decree naming Mohammed Raafat Shehata the country’s new head of intelligence, after the former spy chief was forced into retirement. Shehata had been acting director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services Directorate since August 8, when his predecessor Murad Muwafi was sacked, after after gunmen killed 16 Egyptian border guards in Sinai.
►►Ex-Blackwater firm to teach US spies survival skills. The Defense Intelligence Agency announced on Thursday evening it would award six private security companies a share of a $20 million contract to provide “individual protective measures training courses” for its operatives. Among them is Academi, the 3.0 version of Blackwater, now under new ownership and management. The US military’s intelligence service is hiring the firm, along with five others, to train its operatives to defend themselves as they collect information in dangerous places.
►►Turkey court convicts 326 of coup plotting. A Turkish court on Friday convicted 326 military officers, including the former air force and navy chiefs, of plotting to overthrow the nation’s Islamic-based government in 2003, in a case that has helped curtail the military’s hold on politics. A panel of three judges at the court on Istanbul’s outskirts initially sentenced former air force chief Ibrahim Firtina, former navy chief Ozden Ornek, and former army commander Cetin Dogan, to life imprisonment but later reduced the sentence to a 20-year jail term because the plot had been unsuccessful. The trial of the high-ranking officers —inconceivable in Turkey a decade ago— has helped significantly to tip the balance of power in the country in favor of civilian authorities.

News you may have missed #666 (superstition edition)

Gevork VartanianBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Soviet spying legend Gevork Vartanian dies. Legendary Soviet spy Gevork Vartanian, who helped foil Operation LONG JUMP, a Nazi plot to kill the three main Allied leaders in Tehran during World War II, has died in Moscow, aged 87. Operating in Tehran during World War II, he tracked German commandos, including the infamous Nazi operative Otto Skorzeny, who had arrived to attack a summit attended by Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill.
►►Turkey arrests ex-armed forces chief over coup charges. Turkish government prosecutors allege that Ilker Basbug, who retired as Turkey’s chief of staff in 2010, led a terrorist organization and plotted to overthrow the government. Remarkably, most English-language sources, including the Financial Times, managed to report Basbug’s arrest without mentioning Ergenekon, the ultra-nationalist network uncovered by Turkish police in 2007, which has resulted in hundreds of arrests, including that of Basbug.
►►Lebanon claims arrest of ‘longtime’ Israeli spy. The Lebanese army has detained a man on suspicion of collaborating for years with Israel’s Mossad spy agency. The man, identified as Elias Younes, is a retired employee of the state telecommunications company Ogero. Hezbollah-affiliated sources said Younes had been dealing with Israel for “over 35 years”. See here if you are wondering where you have heard before about Lebanese telecommunications employees allegedly spying for Israel.

News you may have missed #586

Stewart David Nozette

David Nozette

►►Top CIA official says Obama ‘changed virtually nothing’. An examination of Top Secret America, which aired on PBS’s Frontline yesterday, includes a rare and lengthy interview with 34-year-CIA-veteran John Rizzo, who is described as “the most influential lawyer in CIA history”. Among other things, Rizzo told Frontline that “with a notable exception of the enhanced interrogation program, the incoming Obama administration changed virtually nothing with respect to existing CIA programs and operations. Things continued. Authorities were continued that were originally granted by President Bush beginning shortly after 9/11. Those were all picked up, reviewed and endorsed by the Obama administration”.
►►Turkish military intel chief arrested in coup plot. Lt. General Ismail Hakki Pekin, the head of the Intelligence Department of the Turkish General Staff, has been arrested pending trial over an alleged plot to overthrow the government. Around 200 members of the military are thought to have planned attacks on mosques and worked to create tension in neighboring Greece to pave the way for a coup to topple the government, as part of the Ergenekon operation.
►►US scientist accused of spying reaches plea deal. US government space scientist Stewart David Nozette, who is accused of trying to sell secrets to Israel, has reached a plea deal with prosecutors. US District Judge Paul Friedman scheduled a hearing Wednesday morning to take Nozette’s plea.

News you may have missed #370

  • Ukrainians ‘not spying any more’ on Russian FSB. Ukrainian counterintelligence services have stopped monitoring Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officials stationed in Ukraine, according to a leading Ukrainian weekly. Ukrainian-Russian relations have dramatically improved since February, when Ukraine’s pro-Moscow leader Viktor Yanukovych was elected President.
  • US House votes to allow auditing of spy agencies. Despite several veto threats from the White House, the US House of Representatives has adopted an amendment to defense authorization bill HR 5136, which would give the Government Accountability Office the power to audit intelligence agencies.
  • Leading Turkish daily wiretapped. Turkish former deputy police chief Emin Aslan, who was arrested in 2009 in a drug trafficking investigation, says he was told in 2008 that the phone lines at Turkey’s leading daily Milliyet were wiretapped. The wiretapping appears to be connected to the notorious Ergenekon affair.

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News you may have missed #334

  • Analysis: Split up the CIA, says veteran officer. A 15-year CIA veteran, who goes by the pseudonym Ishmael Jones, reveals in a new book that the Agency now has only “a handful” of non-official-cover officers, i.e. spies not affiliated with a US diplomatic mission abroad. In The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture, Jones argues the CIA should be broken up and its pieces absorbed by other US intelligence agencies.
  • Turkey appoints new intelligence director. It is expected that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) will soon be headed by Dr. Hakan Fidan, who will replace Emre Taner. MİT’s reputation has recently been severely hit by the involvement of some of its personnel in the notorious Ergenekon affair.

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News you may have missed #298

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News you may have missed #294

  • Tensions mount in Turkey over alleged coup plot. Simmering tensions between Turkey’s government and judicial elite erupted into open confrontation Thursday, over the handling of a probe into the Ergenekon network, an alleged military-intelligence plot to topple the Islamist-rooted government.
  • CIA recruiting Chinese-Americans. The CIA is posting recruitment advertisements in Southern California’s Chinese language media during the Lunar New Year, in an attempt to hire Chinese Americans. This is part of a wider effort by the Agency to increase numbers of ethnic minority employees by 22 to 30 percent by 2012.
  • Two alleged Israeli spies sentenced to death in Lebanon. Retired police officer Mahmoud Qassem Rafeh, who was arrested by Lebanese authorities in 2006, has been given a death conviction for “collaboration and espionage on behalf of the Israeli enemy”. Another defendant, Palestinian Hussein Khattab, has been convicted in absentia for his alleged involvement in the murders of members of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

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News you may have missed #0283

  • Romanian spy chief in rare interview. On the 20th anniversary of Romania’s post-communist Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE), Romanian daily Libera published an interesting interview with SIE director Mihai Razvan Ungureanu. Includes quote of the week: “The diplomat does nothing illegal [...] while the spy does nothing in the spirit of respecting the laws of other states”.
  • Trial of Hawaii resident accused of spying for China postponed. Noshir Gowadia’s federal trial has been delayed several times since he was arrested in 2005, for allegedly providing China with information on making cruise missiles less visible to radar and heat-seeking missiles.
  • Bizarre suicide streak in Turkish military continues. Could the latest in a long list of recent alleged suicides by members of the Turkish military be connected to the shadowy Ergenekon military-intelligence network?

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News you may have missed #0272

  • Outcry in Turkey over revealed coup plot. Turkish daily Taraf has revealed a military coup plot, which included detailed plans to trigger chaos in the country with the ultimate goal of a military takeover. This appears to be a new plot, not associated with the ongoing Ergenekon coup plot investigation.
  • US jails Sri Lankan LTTE operatives. A US federal court has sentenced Thiruthanikan Thanigasalam and Sahilal Sabaratnam to 25 years in prison for trying to purchase almost $1 million worth of high-powered weaponry for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which the US considers a terrorist organization.
  • Czechoslovakian spy lookout to be opened to public. The bell tower on St. Nicholas’ Church in Prague, where 20 years ago the Czechoslovakian secret police, the StB, kept a hidden lookout on activities outside nearby embassies, especially that of the US, is to be opened to the public later this year.

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News you may have missed #0210

  • Turkey arrests secret service officials over coup allegations. The head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization’s (MİT) branch in the city of Erzincan, identified only as Ş.D., and two other regional MİT officials, are under arrest in connection with the ongoing investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine network charged with plotting to overthrow the Turkish government.
  • European Union gives CIA access to Europe bank records. Some have condemned the agreement, due to come into force in two months’ time, because it contains no reciprocal arrangement under which European authorities can easily access the bank accounts of US citizens in America.

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News you may have missed #0082

  • The spy who prayed. Profile of As’ad Said Ali, deputy chief of Indonesia’s National Intelligence Agency, who is actively involved in Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization.
  • Shadowy Turkish group used journalists as spies. Ergenekon, a shadowy ultranationalist network with strong links to the Turkish armed forces, which planned to topple the Turkish government, used journalists to spy on its high-profile targets, according to court documents.
  • CIA sacked Baghdad station chief after deaths. The CIA removed its station chief in Iraq and reorganized its operations there in late 2003, following “potentially very serious leadership lapses” that included the deaths of detainees in US custody.

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News you may have missed #0023

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Mysterious clandestine group behind Turkish wiretap case

Tuncay Güney

Tuncay Güney

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Early last January, two concealed audio surveillance devices were found at the Ankara headquarters of Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP). Officials and supporters of the center-left party, which is currently Turkey’s main opposition political force, were shocked by the discovery, and an investigation was launched to uncover the culprits. In a surprising move, Turkish police raided late last week the home of a prominent union official, and discovered documents that are said to directly link the CHP wiretaps with Ergenekon, a shadowy ultranationalist network with strong links to the Turkish armed forces. Read more of this post

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