Turkish general claims CIA ‘may have had role’ in 2003 coup plot

Bilgin BalanliBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A Turkish former four-star general, who was jailed for his role in an alleged coup plot by secularists in the Turkish military, has alleged in an interview that the United States may have advised the coup plotters. Bilgin Balanli was the only active-duty four-star general to be charged in connection with the so-called Balyoz Harekâti (Operation SLEDGEHAMMER) coup-plot case. The alleged plot became widely known in early 2010, when Taraf, a liberal Turkish daily, published documents from 2003 that outlined the plotters’ plans for a military takeover of government. According to Taraf, the conspirators were secularists within the ranks of Turkey’s military and intelligence agencies, who were opposed to the rule of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), headed by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The documents outlined plans to bomb two mosques in Istanbul and bring down a Turkish fighter jet over the Aegean Sea, which would be blamed on Greece. The plotters hoped that the ensuing crisis would permit the military to assume power in the country. The AKP-led government reacted swiftly: on February 21, 2010, police operations took place in nearly a dozen Turkish provinces, leading to the arrests of over 40 leading coup plotters. Another 325 were charged in the following days. The alleged plotters argued that Operation SLEDGEHAMMER was simply an exercise that had been conceived as a scenario-based simulation for a military seminar. But the courts rejected their argument and sentenced nearly 300 of the accused to prison terms ranging from a few months to several years. More recently, however, most of those sentenced were released pending retrials. Many were acquitted last month on grounds that their civil rights had been violated during their initial trial.

Among those acquitted was General Balanli, who was about to be promoted to Chief of Staff for the Turkish Air Force when he was arrested in connection to SLEDGEHAMMER in 2010. His conviction meant that he had to resign from his post and relinquish his state pension. In his first lengthy interview since his acquittal, Balanli said he believes many of the coup planning documents had been authored by a non-Turkish intelligence agency, probably the US Central Intelligence Agency. Balanli was referring to allegations, made by many of the accused during the SLEDGEHAMMER trials, that an American senator had provided some of the coup planning documents, with the help of a retired Turkish military officer based in Istanbul. According to Balanli, much of the terminology and phraseology found in the plot documents was clearly not written by Turkish-language speakers. For example, said Balanli, the Turkish-language documents used the term “ocean” to refer to the Aegean Sea. “We do not use the word ‘ocean’ to refer to our seas”, said the Turkish general. “The term ‘ocean’ is only used by the US to refer to the sea”, he argued. “I believe that these documents were translated from the English, from the original American plan”, said Balanli.

The former general’s claim, though unsubstantiated, is bound to be refuted by Washington. It will, however, reinforce Turkish President Erdoğan’s claim that his pro-Islamist government has been the subject of plots and machinations from the West, and especially from Washington.

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.

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

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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