Senior Turkish intelligence official found dead in Romania

The shadowy former director of Turkey’s naval intelligence agency, who had been facing charges for his role in a military coup in Turkey, has been found dead in Romania. Retired Colonel Eser Şahan, 66, headed the Turkish Navy’s intelligence wing in the 1990s, and participated in a swift military coup that toppled the government. The coup, known in Turkey as “the 1997 military memorandum” unfolded on the evening of February 28, 1997, when secularist officers from every branch of Turkey’s Armed Forces forced the resignation of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan and ended the rule of his coalition government.

The putsch was primarily directed against Erbakan’s Islamist-based Welfare Party, which was seen as violating Turkey’s constitutional separation between religion and state institutions. Although the parliament remained in session and the constitution continued to be in effect following the February 28 military coup, Turkey’s Constitutional Court outlawed the Welfare Party shortly afterwards. But many of its Islamist members, including Istanbul mayor, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, formed a new political group called the Virtue Party, and eventually the Justice and Development Party, which took power in the country 2002. With Erdoğan in power, the leaders of the 1997 coup, including Colonel Şahan, were tried for subverting Turkey’s democracy.

But Şahan managed to escape to Romania, where he promptly requested —and was eventually given— political asylum. He had been living there since 2004. Turkish media said last week that authorities in Romania had released very little information about the circumstances of Şahan’s death. However, several Turkish newspapers, including the leading Zaman, said the retired colonel’s body had been found lying on a park bench in the Romanian capital Bucharest. A handgun was allegedly found on the ground next to him. Sources claim he committed suicide.

Revealed: German neo-Nazi who helped Palestinians was CIA agent

Willi Pohl, a.k.a. Willi VossBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
A German far-right militant, whose animosity against Jews led him to aid Palestinians kill Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich massacre, says he was later recruited by the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Willi Pohl, also known as Willi Voss, 68, was arrested by German authorities a few weeks after Palestinian terrorist group Black September stormed the Olympic village in Munich and took hostage 11 Israeli athletes. All of them were eventually killed by their captors during a botched escape attempt at the nearby Fürstenfeldbruck airport. Voss, who was a known neo-Nazi activist at the time, was charged with possession of weapons and providing logistical support to the Black September militants. However, after his sentence was suspended, Voss managed to secretly emigrate to Beirut, Lebanon, where he was recruited as an agent of Jihaz el-Razd, the intelligence service of the Fatah, the main group in the Palestine Liberation Organization. But in 1975, while on a PLO mission in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, he decided to switch sides. He made the decision after discovering that the car he and his girlfriend were transporting on behalf of the PLO from Beirut to Belgrade contained weapons and highly unstable explosives. He says that the PLO had apparently failed to mention the existence of the hidden items when they asked him to transport the car to Europe. According to Voss’ new book, which has just been published in Germany under the title UnterGrund (Underground), the guns and explosives were discovered by customs officers in Romania (then Rumania); but because at that time the communist country was an ally of the PLO, Voss and his girlfriend were allowed to travel to Belgrade, minus the car and the weapons. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #676

Razvan UngureanuBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►CIA silent on new drone casualties report. The CIA really needs somebody to go to bat for it on a scathing new investigative report from the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, because the findings are pretty horrific: US drones target not just the militants they initially strike, but those who come to do rescue work after those strikes, and mourners at the funerals for victims of those strikes. They’ve killed somewhere between 282 and 535 civilians in a total of 260 strikes, the report found.
►►Romania spy chief nominated to replace Prime Minister. Romania’s president has nominated Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, chief of the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE), as prime minister hours after Emil Bloc resigned amid austerity protests. Ungureanu has a master’s degree from Oxford University and was foreign minister between 2004 and 2007 during Basescu’s first term of office.
►►Lawsuits target Pakistan’s powerful ISI intelligence agency. Pakistan’s top spy agency faces a flurry of court actions that subject its darkest operations to unusual scrutiny. The cases against the agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, have uncertain chances of success, analysts say, and few believe that they can immediately hobble it. But they do represent a rare challenge to a feared institution that is a cornerstone of military supremacy in Pakistan.

News you may have missed #647

Ilir Nazmi Kumbaro

Ilir Kumbaro

►►Albanian ex-spy chief on the run in Britain. Albania’s former intelligence chief, Ilir Nazmi Kumbaro, who is wanted in his homeland for torture and kidnapping, failed to attend an extradition hearing on Thursday at Westminster magistrates’ court in London. He has reportedly left his home in Fulham, west London, and police believe he is being harbored by friends.
►►Secret CIA black site discovered in Romania. The hitherto secret location, code-named “Bright Light”, is said to have been one of the CIA’s notorious interrogation prisons in Eastern Europe. It has been traced to the basement of Romania’s National Registry Office for Classified Information, which lies in a busy residential district of the Romanian capital, Bucharest.
►►CIA leaves drone base in Pakistan. The US Central Intelligence Agency has vacated an air base in western Pakistan that it had been using for drone strikes against militants in the country’s tribal areas. Pakistan had ordered the CIA to leave the Shamsi air base in protest over NATO airstrikes that killed at least 25 Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan on November 26.

Russia, Romania, expel diplomats in spy tit-for-tat

Gabriel Grecu

Gabriel Grecu

The Russian and Romanian governments have expelled each other’s diplomats in a spy scandal that made headlines in both countries last week. The spy affair began last Monday, August 16, when Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) announced the arrest of a Romanian diplomatic official, who was allegedly caught in the act of espionage. The official was later named as Gabriel Grecu, who was First Secretary of the Political Department of the Romanian embassy in Moscow. According to a laconic FSB press release, Grecu was detained while “attempting to solicit classified military information from a Russian national”. According to Russian media, the Romanian official was found “in possession of various pieces of espionage equipment”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #377

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New book on Canada’s mysterious Agent 235

Johann Heinrich Amadeus de Graaf

De Graaf

A new book published by the Pennsylvania State University Press sheds new light into the life and work of mysterious Agent 235, Canada’s mysterious mid-20th-century spy known as ‘Johnny’. In Johnny: A Spy’s Life, R.S. Rose and Gordon Scott present the outcome of 14 years of research on ‘Johnny’, whose real name was Johann Heinrich Amadeus de Graaf. De Graaf was born in Germany in 1894, but later moved to Britain, and at the start of World War II worked as an informant for MI6. Although he conducted some of his operations in Germany, most of them took place in the UK, where he unmasked a number of native pro-Nazi sympathizers and agents of the Gestapo. Read more of this post


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