In surprise move, Turkey’s spy chief cancels plans to run for office

Hakan FidanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The director of the all-powerful Turkish intelligence service, who resigned his post last month in order to run for parliament, has surprised observers by announcing his return to his previous duties saying he had a change of heart. Hakan Fidan has been in charge of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) since 2010, when he was personally appointed to the position by then Prime Minister and current President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Following his appointment, he personally supervised operations against political enemies of Erdoğan, who is widely seen as his mentor and close political ally. Early last February, Fidan, a mysterious figure who rarely speaks to the media, announced his resignation as director of MİT in order to run for parliament in June. His move was immediately hailed by the Justice and Development Party, which represents Erdoğan, as well as Turkey’s current Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu.

On Monday, however, Fidan surprised political observers by stating that he had decided not to enter politics after all, and was returning to the post of MİT director, effective immediately. The Turkish strongman’s change of heart appears to have come despite a public approval of his earlier decision to resign his MİT post, from Prime Minister Davutoğlu. Some observers claim that the surprise U-turn may reflect a widening split within the Justice and Development Party, between the prime minister and President Erdoğan, who first appointed Fidan to MİT’s helm back in 2010. Commenting on Fidan’s resignation last month, Erdoğan had signaled displeasure with the move, saying that Fidan “should have stayed [at MİT] instead of leaving without permission”. There are rumors in Ankara that Fidan’s U-turn came after considerable pressure from the pro-Erdoğan faction in the Justice and Development Party. The latter did not approve of Fidan’s resignation from MİT, believing that the spy chief is more needed in helping strike a peace treaty with Turkey’s disaffected Kurdish population. However, Davutoğlu’s people in the party believed that Fidan could add to the political prestige of their electoral campaign.

Does Fidan’s sudden return to MİT signal a widening tactical fragmentation within the Justice and Development Party? Davutoğlu told reporters on Monday that rumors of a division had been invented by the media, and that he and Erdoğan continue to “always consult” each other. Meanwhile the media-shy MİT chief declined to speak publicly about his decision, and instead issued a brief statement that said he had come to the conclusion that it was “necessary” to resume his previous post.

Germany announces arrest of alleged Turkish spies

Embassy of Turkey in BerlinBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
German authorities have announced the arrest of three citizens of Turkey on charges of conducting espionage activities in Germany on behalf of the Turkish government. In a statement issued on December 18, the office of the German federal prosecutor said the three Turks had been arrested on the previous day, following a prolonged counterintelligence investigation. In accordance with German federal law, the statement identified the three only by their first name and age, which are: Mohammed Taha G., 58, Göksel G., 33, and Ahmed Duran Y., 58. It said the detainees had been charged with conducting illegal espionage activities on German soil, on behalf of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, known locally as MİT. The announcement by the office of the prosecutor said a warrant for the arrest of the three had been issued on November 11, implying that the Turks had been monitored for several months prior to their December 17 arrest. According to the official account, Mohammed Taha G. and Göksel G. were arrested at Frankfurt Airport, presumably as they were attempting to leave the country. Shortly afterwards, Ahmed Duran Y. was also arrested at his home in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. German authorities believe the three were members of an organized spy ring, which was headed by Mohammed Taha G. Its primary operational goal appears to have been to collect intelligence on Germany’s sizable Turkish expatriate community, much of which consists of ethnic Kurds. Some sources told German media that the three Turks were using their contacts with a local branch of the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) as a cover for their espionage operations. However, this has been denied in Turkish media reports, which cite unnamed security officials as saying that neither TIKA nor the three detainees are connected to MİT. Meanwhile, spokespersons at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MİT, and the embassy of Turkey in Berlin refused to comment on the story. There is little doubt, however, that this news comes at a particularly tense period in German-Turkish relations. Last August, unconfirmed German media reports suggested that Germany’s main external intelligence agency, the BND, had been actively spying on the Turkish government since at least 2009. According to the reports, the BND designated Turkey as a “priority target” in 2009, even though both countries are allied members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Meanwhile, the Turkish government has reacted angrily at accusations by German politicians that Ankara is turning a blind eye to the rise of the Islamic State for Iraq and al-Sham, also known as ISIS, allegedly in an effort to combat the resurgent Kurdish separatism in Anatolia.

Turkish prosecutor indicts 13 with tapping PM’s phone

Recep Tayyip ErdoğanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Turkeys’ chief public prosecutor has indicted 13 suspects with charges of wiretapping the personal telephone of the country’s former prime minister. Authorities believe the suspects are part of a broader criminal conspiracy whose members wiretapped phones belonging to senior political figures, as well journalists and government administrators, including judges and military officials. The indictment was presented on Tuesday before the 7th high criminal court in Turkish capital Ankara. It accuses the 13 suspects of conducting systematic “political and military spying”, and claims they targeted the personal telephone communications of Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time. The charges represent the culmination of a tumultuous period of antagonism between Mr. Erdoğan and his critics in Turkey, who accuse him of absolutism and megalomania. Last July over 100 members of the country’s police force were arrested in raids that took place on all over Turkey. They were accused of illegally wiretapping the telephones of senior government figures including Mr. Erdoğan and Hakan Fidan, director of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, known as MİT. Hadi Salihoglu, Istanbul’s chief prosecutor, said at the time that the alleged 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 Mr. Erdoğan noted that one of the police officers arrested in July was 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 Erdoğan’s former cabinet. The investigation led to the exposure of corrupt practices by several cabinet members and their families, and resulted in several ministerial resignations. Several 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. The 13 suspects are expected to stand trial in Ankara once the court approves the indictment by the office of the prosecutor. Mr. Erdoğan is listed as a plaintiff in the indictment.

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

News you may have missed #828

Abdullah ÖcalanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Chinese researcher charged with stealing US drug. Chinese cancer researcher Huajun Zhao, 42, who has been working in the United States since 2006, has been charged with stealing data and an experimental compound from the Medical College of Wisconsin. The federal complaint accuses Zhao of stealing the compound, C-25, which could potentially assist in killing cancer cells without damaging normal cells. An FBI investigation turned up evidence that Zhao hoped to claim credit in China for discovering C-25. He had already claimed on a research website that he had discovered an unnamed compound he hoped to take to China.
Turkish intelligence to ‘oversee PKK retreat’. Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency, MİT, will oversee the withdrawal of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, according to Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bülent Arınç. Last month, Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the armed Kurdish group that has battled Turkey for 30 years, proclaimed an immediate ceasefire in PKK’s conflict with the Turkish state, which has claimed about 35,000 lives. Speaking on Turkey’s state-run broadcaster, TRT, Arınç said no legislation would be introduced to facilitate the withdrawal, but “certainly MİT will oversee it; security forces will take part in it, too”, he added.
Analysis: Controversial Bush programs continue under Obama. During the George W. Bush years, two of the most controversial elements of what was then called the Global War on Terrorism were the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation (RDI) program and the creation of the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo Bay and the RDI program are both back in the news now, each for their own unsavory reasons. The Pentagon is requesting nearly $200 million for Guantanamo Bay infrastructure upgrades, including $49 million for a new unit for ‘special’ prisoners. Meanwhile, participation in the CIA’s controversial RDI program has resulted —for at least one person— not in prosecution or professional sanctions, but rather in a promotion.

Turkey refused to extradite bin Laden’s son-in-law to US

Ghaith (left) with bin Laden and al-ZawahiriBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Turkish authorities have reportedly rejected a formal extradition request by the United States for a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, who was arrested in Ankara on Friday following a tip-off by the Central Intelligence Agency. Suleiman Abu Ghaith was born in Kuwait but had his citizenship revoked after publicly opposing the rule of the Kuwaiti monarchy and demanding the institution of shari’a law in the oil emirate. In 2000, he traveled to Afghanistan where he met Osama bin Laden and joined al-Qaeda. He eventually married Fatima bin Laden, one of bin Laden’s numerous daughters, who is currently living in Saudi Arabia. He gradually rose within the ranks of the organization, eventually becoming one of its public spokesmen. Soon after the US invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001, Ghaith is believed to have escaped from Afghanistan by entering Iran on foot. He was eventually captured by Iranian government forces and placed in a detention camp along with other suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban members. It is not known how he managed to leave Iran and enter Turkey (though some say he was released the by Iranian authorities), or how the CIA knew of his presence there. However, according to Turkey’s leading daily Milliyet, the Agency contacted members of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (known as MİT) and told them that Ghaith had entered the country on a forged passport. He was arrested soon afterwards at a hotel in Ankara’s affluent Çankaya district. The hotel where Ghaith was captured is reportedly located near the official residence of the Turkish President and a stone’s throw from numerous foreign embassies —including the embassy of the US, which was attacked by a suicide bomber on February 1. Read more of this post

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

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