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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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 #695

Nicolas Sarkozy and Muammar GaddafiBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Spies meet over Syrian crisis. CIA chief David Petraeus met Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday for closed-door talks focusing on the crisis across the border in Syria. Meanwhile, General Murad Muwafi, who heads Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, left Cairo on Tuesday for a visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Also, US General Ronald Burgess, Defense Intelligence Agency Director, has arrived in Egypt and is expected to meet with several Egyptian officials to discuss the situation in Syria.
►►Gaddafi contributed €50m to Sarkozy election fund. Damaging new claims have emerged about the funding of Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign and his links with former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The French investigative website Mediapart claims to have seen a confidential note suggesting Gaddafi contributed up to €50 million to Sarkozy’s election fund five years ago.
►►Analysis: US relations on the agenda for Pakistan’s new spy chief. Yusuf Raza Gilani has appointed Lieutenant General Zahir ul-Islam as the new chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, the main spy arm of the Pakistani military, ending weeks of speculation he would extend the term of Lieutenant Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, due to retire on March 18. The new spymaster faces a tough task fixing ever-worsening ties with the United States, but analysts say he is unlikely to reform an institution accused of helping militants in Afghanistan.

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

News you may have missed #393

  • US warns Turkey against Gaza flotilla probe. London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat claimed on Saturday that US President Barack Obama told Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan that an independent inquiry into the Free Gaza Flotilla massacre “could turn into a double-edged sword” against Ankara.
  • US experts doubt North Korea sunk South Korean ship. A new study by US researchers raises questions about the investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean navy ship, which went down last March, killing 46 sailors. International investigators have blamed a North Korean torpedo, raising tensions on the Korean peninsula.
  • Nixon-Kissinger dialogue raises CIA assassination suspicions. A loaded dialogue between President Richard M. Nixon and his trusted national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, dating from 1971, appears to confirm that the CIA had a role in the 1970 assassination of Chilean army commander-in-chief Rene Schneider.

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Turkey, Iran, offer warship protection for Gaza flotillas

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Tayyip Erdoğan

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Close aides to the Turkish Prime Minister’s office have disclosed that Ankara is funding a new fleet of ships to sail to Gaza under protection by Turkish warships. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps have also offered warship protection. The office of Turkey’s Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, is now actively assisting the Turkish-based Humanitarian Aid Foundation (ÍHH) in fundraising for the acquisition of a new fleet of ships to carry humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. Last Monday, an ÍHH-funded flotilla bound for Gaza was raided in international waters by the Israeli Navy, which diverted the ships to Israel after killing nine and injuring over 60 passengers. According to reports from The Associated Press and Agence France Presse, Mr. Erdogan plans to be among the passengers of the new flotilla, which will be escorted en route to Gaza by Turkish warships. Meanwhile, reports from Iran’s government-aligned Mehr News Agency indicate that the country’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have offered their warships as protection for future aid ship convoys to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory. Read more of this post

Could Turkey invoke NATO clause over Israeli attack on flotilla? [updated]

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Tayyip Erdoğan

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
IntelNews hears there is some speculation in diplomatic circles that the government of Turkey may try to involve the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in its dispute with Israel, which began after Israeli commandos killed several Turkish citizens in international waters yesterday. Up to 19 civilians are thought to have been killed during an early dawn raid by Israeli Defense Forces commandos on a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza in defiance of the four-year-old Israeli blockade. The fact that the deadly raid took place in international waters prompted Ankara to call for an emergency meeting of NATO’s 28 member states. A NATO spokesperson confirmed that ambassadors from all 28 member states, Turkey included, will be attending an emergency meeting today in Brussels, Belgium. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0215

  • Ex-MI5 officer cannot publish memoirs, court decides. A former MI5 officer, known only as “A.”, cannot publish his memoirs, which consist of a 300-page manuscript, a panel of British judges has decided. Interestingly, “A.” has said he intends to remain anonymous.
  • Turkey denies Israel use of its airspace to spy on Iran. If Israel were to violate Turkish airspace in order to conduct reconnaissance operations on Iran, Ankara’s reaction would resemble an “earthquake”, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said in an interview.

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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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