Turkey’s whistleblower spy scandal that led to the YouTube ban grows as Turkish daily Cumhuriyet published yesterday banned audio records and a full transcript in defiance of the government request. Highlight of the audio records is the proposal of a mock terrorist attack on Turkey by the Turkish Intelligence Agency that would be blamed on Al Qaida. United States is implicated as a possible provocateur of Turkish military action against Syria.
Update: Turkish Government obtained a court order today banning the publication of any news related to this incident.
It is an historical fact that Hitler’s spies orchestrated a mock Polish attack on German military posts to provide an excuse and justification for the invasion of Poland at the outset of World War II. Conspiracy theories still persist today that the U.S., or some people in the U.S. government, orchestrated or allowed the 9/11 attack to provide a legitimate justification for the invasion of Afghanistan and later Iraq “in self-defense”. The bugged and bungled meeting at the Turkish Foreign Minister’s office on which a whistle was blown on YouTube is a tragicomedy reality show that says Turkish politicians are learning badly from some bad mentors.
The said meeting took place in the minister’s office between Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, his deputy minister, deputy army chief of staff, and the deputy director of Turkish National Intelligence Agency MIT. The discussion was about launching military action into Syria to defend the Tomb of Suleiman Shah, Ottoman Empire founder Sultan Osman’s grandfather. The tomb is Turkish sovereign territory located near Aleppo deep across the border in Syria. The Turkish government and military had been beating war drums for the past several weeks that the tomb was under threat by the Al Qaida-related militants, and that the military would take all action necessary to defend the Turkish territory. However, the anticipated Al Qaida attack never came, although the tension escalated as Turkish fighter jets shot down a Syrian plane near the border last week.
Participants in the foreign ministry discussion expressed frustration that the attack on the tomb had not yet materialised. The highlight of the meeting came when MIT deputy Fidan said “I can send 4 people into Syria and they can shoot 8 rockets into Turkey...when we blame it on Al Qaida the whole world will be behind us.” He said that what’s important is to create the will to go to war, “once the will is there justification is easy to find”, he added. Minister Davutoglu kept wondering if they should send in the tanks, or just aircraft while the general was eager to please the minister in any way he could. Davutoglu said the United States is awaiting their decision on military action, which might suggest that the idea could have come from Washington. The motive behind the proposed military action appeared to be to raise the popularity of the embattled Prime Minister Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party AKP, whose prestige had taken a beating since the corruption scandal broke out in December.
The YouTube revelations raise the question of whether the several terrorist attacks in Turkey that were blamed on agents of the Assad regime could have been domestically-produced justifications to aid Syrian opposition forces. Turkey has been the biggest benefactor or conduit for money and arms to Syrian opposition until alarm bells rang in Washington last year that Al Qaida-related Islamist militants were gaining the upper hand in the conflict.
Apparently emulating the official U.S. response in the Edward Snowden affair government-backed media took the offensive by announcing that the YouTube spy would be found and severely punished for revealing state secrets. A pro-government journalist called editors of the Cumhuriyet daily traitors for publishing material related to Turkey’s national security. This raises the question, again, of who is the real criminal when a whistleblower reveals an immoral and unlawful act committed by government officials against their own citizens.
Investigation of the minister’s office by MIT hasn’t uncovered any electronic bugs but led to the speculation that the recording may have been made by one of the participants in the discussion or possibly by a high-tech laser device from the outside. Onder Aytac, a TV journalist that had predicted an attack on Syria using the tomb as an excuse was arrested as the media immediately accused him of having already confessed to the crime. He was released after 24 hours of intense questioning. The Turkish spy versus spy reality show became more entertaining as he declared to the press that he had been trained by the government in intelligence and policing operations, hence his “intelligence.”
Two days ago the editors of Cumhuriyet (means The Republic) daily temporarily suspended the publishing of YouTube audio records after receiving a government request, and a veiled threat, but resumed publication yesterday with a full transcript. The paper says it has a journalistic duty to do so since the YouTube videos had already reached tens of thousands and were therefore no longer a state secret. While government-controlled and government-intimidated newspapers are trying to distract public attention with trivia, sports and entertainment news, the web site of Cumhuriyet, which officially has only 2-percent of news readership, has been flooded by tens of thousands of Turks trying to get around the censorship. It has a headline that reads “Which One Is The Traitor?” The paper also has a Facebook page for updates on the spy scandal.
Cumhuriyet, which now solely carries the banner of freedom of expression in Turkey, is a left-leaning Kemalist paper founded in 1924 by Yunus Nadi, one of the country’s first professional journalists. While many papers got into the habit of printing colour pictures and naked women to attract readers, the paper has a reputation for not compromising its principles of serious and truthful reporting and boldly expressed opinion at the cost of diminishing readership. Many of its editors and columnists have been imprisoned or indicted under various charges for not being politically correct.
Note: A Turkish court ordered a publication ban today on any news related to this incident.