Turkey in turmoil as 70 are arrested for spying on PM, spy chief

Recep Tayyip ErdoğanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Turkey’s political system appeared to be sinking deeper into crisis on Tuesday, as nearly 70 police officers, some of them senior, were arrested for illegally wiretapping the telephones of senior government figures, including the Prime Minster and the intelligence chief. At least 67 members of the country’s police force were arrested in raids that took place on Tuesday all over Turkey, while warrants have reportedly been issued for over 100 people. Many of the arrestees were seen being taken away in handcuffs by security personnel, including two former heads of Istanbul police’s counterterrorism unit. Hadi Salihoglu, Istanbul’s chief prosecutor, said in a written statement issued on Tuesday that the suspects were part of a criminal conspiracy that had wiretapped phones belonging to Turkeys’ Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as Hakan Fidan, director of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, known as MİT. Thousands of other phone lines had also been wiretapped, he added, belonging to journalists and government administrators, including judges and military officials. Salihoglu said the conspirators had concocted a fake police investigation of a made-up terrorist organization called Tevhid-Selam (Al-Quds Army, in English), in order to justify the wiretapping of the officials’ phone lines. However, critics of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s government noted that one of the police officers arrested on Tuesday is the former deputy chief of the Istanbul police department’s financial crimes unit, which earlier this year led an investigation into alleged corrupt practices by senior members of the Erdoğan cabinet. The investigation led to the exposure of corrupt practices by several cabinet members and their families, and resulted in several ministerial resignations. A few months ago, a wiretapped conversation emerged in the media, in which Mr. Erdoğan can allegedly be heard discussing with his son how to hide large sums of money. Some observers have expressed the view that the leaked telephone conversation between the two men emerged from the Tevhid-Selam investigation, which may be why Mr. Erdoğan has now decided to shut it down and arrest those behind it. Read more of this post

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Hakan FidanBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►India’s spy satellite to be launched in April. The Radar Imaging Satellite, or RISAT-1, is a wholly Indian-built spy-surveillance satellite that can see through clouds and fog and has very high-resolution imaging. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has said that RISAT-1 is slated for launch in April. The satellite would be used for disaster prediction and agriculture forestry, and the high-resolution pictures and microwave imaging “could also be used for defense purposes”.
►►GCHQ staff could risk prosecution for war crimes. British law firm Leigh Day & Co. and the legal action charity Reprieve are launching the action against Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague, accusing him of passing on intelligence to assist US covert drone attacks in Pakistan. Human rights lawyers have said that civilian staff at GCHQ, Britain’s signals intelligence agency, could also be at risk of being prosecuted for war crimes.
►►Turf war between Turkey’s top spy and police commander? A news report appeared yesterday, which claimed that there was a rift between Turkish intelligence agency MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan and National Police Chief Mehmet Kılıçlar, over intelligence sharing in the fight against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). But the two agencies issued a rare joint statement calling media reports “unsubstantiated”.

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Lech WalesaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Walesa scorns new claims he was communist informant. Poland’s former President and Solidarity founder Lech Walesa has brushed off new claims that crucial documents concerning his alleged collaboration with Poland’s communist secret services may be stored in the Polish parliament’s archives. “I know that if there are any papers on me that are unknown, they are only toilet paper”, he said in an interview with Polish television network TVN. Rumors and accusations that Walesa, an anti-communist union leader was in fact a secret communist informant have been circulating for years in Poland.
►►Israeli embassy in Singapore dismisses Barak assassination plot. The Israeli embassy in Singapore confirmed Friday that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had visited the city-state, but dismissed reports of an assassination plot targeting him. Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida wrote recently that Barak had been targeted for assassination by three members of a Hezbollah militant cell during his trip to Singapore from February 12-15.
►►Moves to question Turkish spy chiefs quashed. State prosecutors have abandoned an attempt to question Turkey’s spy chiefs over past secret contacts with Kurdish militants, after government moves to curb their investigation of the intelligence agency (MİT). State media said on Monday that prosecutors lifted an order summoning MİT head Hakan Fidan. Nice to be reminded who is really in charge in 21st-century ‘democratic’ Turkey.

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Hakan FidanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russia ‘exposed 199 spies’ last year. Outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday that Russian counterintelligence had exposed 199 spies working for foreign powers last year. He was speaking at a meeting of the Federal Security Service. He also urged the FSB to “take extra measures to protect Russian interests” and reinforce the country’s borders in the Arctic.
►►Germany expels four Syrian diplomats. As tensions mount between Western nations and Syria, the German authorities said Thursday that they had ordered the expulsion of four Syrian diplomats after arresting two men accused separately of spying on opponents of President Bashar al-Assad. The four diplomats —three men and a woman who were not identified by name— have been given three days to leave Germany.
►►Turkey summons spy chief over talks with Kurds. Prosecutors have summoned Hakan Fidan, head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT), as well as his predecessor, Emre Taner, for questioning, over reports of secret peace talks in Norway between Turkish intelligence agents and Kurdish militant leaders. Predictably, MİT has appealed the move.

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Hakan FidanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Iran nuclear defector’s family spared deportation from Canada. Family members of a top defector who worked for Iran’s nuclear energy program have been temporarily spared deportation from Canada, after claiming they will be tortured by Iran’s secret police. The defector, his daughter and mother, have not been identified in media reports. The names of their lawyers were not made public either.
►►Turkish spy services to be “among world’s largest”. Turkey commemorates the 85th anniversary of its National Intelligence Organization, known as MİT. The agency’s undersecretary, Hakan Fidan (pictured), told Turkish media that within the next two to three years, they aim to become one of the largest intelligence services in the world, and that they are “synthesizing the CIA-FBI model”.
►►Analysis: New rules for CIA drones in Pakistan. The current pause in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan (55 days and counting) is now the longest during Barack Obama’s presidency. The break in drone strikes was enforced by Islamabad after NATO killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November. The break coincided with a major policy reappraisal by Washington, and it has given Islamabad room to refocus on its own strategic needs. In the coming weeks CIA drone attacks are expected to resume in Pakistan. But according to leaks and hints, there are likely to be far fewer strikes, and far fewer casualties.

Turkish spy agency in secret Oslo talks with Kurdish PKK

PKK banner

PKK banner

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The war between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which culminated in the early 1990s, has flared up again, ever since the creation of the US-protected Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Iraq. Currently, the Turkish military is technically at war with the PKK, a leftist secessionist movement that aspires to create a Kurdish homeland comprising mostly of territories in Turkey’s Anatolia region. But a leaked audio recording posted on the Internet last week shows that senior Turkish intelligence officials have been participating in secret talks with the leadership of the PKK, since at least 2010. Several Kurdish news agencies published the recording of one such secret meeting, involving the leadership of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT). The recording features a frank discussion between, on the one side, the head of MİT, Hakan Fidan, and its deputy director, Afet Güneş; the two are heard deliberating with Sabit Ok, Zübeyr Aydar and Mustafa Karasu, all of whom are senior PKK officials and wanted dead or alive by the Turkish state. A voice of an apparent mediator —marked by a distinct Scandinavian accent— can be heard speaking at the beginning. The mediator mentions that the meeting is the fifth installment of a series of encounters called “The Oslo Talks”. According to Turkish daily Hürriyet, the mediator appears to be a government official from Norway, which probably hosted the secret meeting(s) somewhere in its capital city. Shortly following the mediator’s introduction, Fidan is heard saying that he is acting as a “special envoy of [...] prime minister” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The leaked recording disappeared from Kurdish websites soon after it was posted, and some Kurdish media sources said that it had been aired by “anonymous hackers”. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #375 (analysis edition)

  • Analysis: Israel worried by new Turkey spy chief’s defense of Iran. Israel’s defense establishment, which maintains ties with Turkey’s national intelligence organization (MİT), is concerned over the recent appointment of Hakan Fidan as head of that organization, and the implications of that appointment vis-a-vis Turkish relations with Israel and Iran.
  • Analysis: How the CIA bolstered radical Islam during Cold War. The CIA’s battle with communism during the Cold War allowed radical Islamists to gain a foothold in Europe, according to a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ian Johnson, entitled A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West.

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  • FBI linguist jailed in leak probe. The Obama administration’s crackdown on government whistleblowers continued on Tuesday with the jailing of Shamai Leibowitz, a former FBI contract linguist who disclosed classified information to the media.
  • Yemen sentences alleged Iranian spies to death. Two members of an alleged Iranian spy cell operating in Yemen were sentenced to death on Tuesday. The Yemeni government accuses Iran of arming the Shiite so-called Sa’adah insurgency along the Yemeni-Saudi border.
  • New Turkish intel chief has big plans. Among the changes that Hakan Fidan, new chief of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), intends to spearhead is “starting a separate electronic intelligence organization like the American NSA or the British GCHQ”.

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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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