Friday, December 01, 2006

Sibel Edmonds: America's Watergate

Journalist Adrian Gatton has a great new article out about Turkey's Deep State, heroin trafficking and Sibel Edmonds in Druglink magazine.

Gatton describes how Turkey's heroin kingpins manage to flood the streets of the UK with heroin, with the help of Turkey's "Deep State – the politicians, military officers and intelligence officials who worked with drug bosses to move drugs from Afghanistan into Europe" - and, he notes, with the support, to varying degrees, and for various reasons, of UK officialdom.

Gatton also describes the famous Susurluk Incident - "Turkey’s Watergate" - which many Americans have never heard about. Someone described Susurluk, in part, this way: "Imagine a car accident at, say, a hotel in WVA. Several people are killed, among them Jeff Gannon, Douglas Feith, Warren Christopher, and OBL."

You could make a convincing argument that Sibel Edmonds' case is "America's Susurluk" (sans car accident) - which I guess means that Sibel's case is also America's Watergate. or something.

In Sibel's blockbuster WhitePaper on Wednesday, which I strongly urge you all to read, she mentions Gatton's article:
In an article published in Drug Link Magazine, Adrian Gatton cites the case of Huseyin Baybasin, the famous Turkish heroin kingpin now in jail in Holland. Baybasin explains: “I handled the drugs which came through the channel of the Turkish Consulate in England,” and he adds: “I was with the Mafia but I was carrying this out with the same Mafia group in which the rulers of Turkey were part.” The article also cites a witness statement given to a UK immigration case involving Baybasin’s clan, and states that Huseyin Baybasin had agreed to provide investigators with information about what he knew of the role of Turkish politicians and officials in the heroin trade. The article quotes Mark Galeotti, a former UK intelligence officer and expert on the Turkish mafia, “Since the 1970s, Turkey has accounted for between 75 and 90 per cent of all heroin in the UK. The key traffickers are Turks or criminals who operate along that route using Turkish contacts.” In 2001, Chris Harrison, a senior UK Customs officer in Manchester, told veteran crime reporter Martin Short that Customs could not get at the Turkish kingpins because they are “protected” at a high level.
Those familiar with Sibel's case will recognize the parallels. Gatton's article is important because the parallels with the situation in the UK and the US are not coincidental.

One similarity is the use of the Turkish Consulate. Compare Baybasin's claims with the Vanity Fair article on Sibel's case:
In her secure testimony, Edmonds disclosed some of what she recalled hearing. In all, says a source who was present, she managed to listen to more than 40 of the Chicago recordings supplied by Robertz. Many involved an F.B.I. target at the city’s large Turkish Consulate, as well as members of the American-Turkish Consulate, as well as members of the American-Turkish Council (A.T.C.) and the Assembly of Turkish American Associates.

Some of the calls reportedly contained what sounded like references to large scale drug shipments and other crimes. To a person who knew nothing about their context, the details were confusing and it wasn’t always clear what might be significant. One name, however, apparently stood out – a man the Turkish callers often referred to by the nickname “Denny boy.” It was the Republican congressman from Illinois and Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.

[snip]

Sibel also recalled hearing wiretaps indicating that Turkish Embassy targets frequently spoke to staff members at the A.T.C....
Another obvious parallel with the UK situation is the high level protection conferred upon the perpetrators - and Sibel's case demonstrates (at least) two of the protection mechanisms.

The standard operating procedure within the FBI is that "Counter-Intelligence" (CI) monitors a whole range of different groups, and when CI discovers a problem - criminal activity, terrorism threats etc, then the case is supposed to be forwarded to the relevant section of the FBI - to the narcotics division, or to Counter-Terrorism or whatever. Sibel apparently learnt that the cases regarding the Turkish Embassies and the ATC etc simply were never handed off from CI to any of the FBI departments that could actually use the actionable intelligence. In other words, the FBI knew that these groups, including many former senior officials, were engaged in various nefarious activities - including drug trafficking, nuclear black market, terrorism and bribery - and did nothing!

The other protection mechanism that I'm referring to is obviously the use of the States Secrets Privilege as a means to shut down Sibel, America's Susurluk.

I've invited Adrian Gatton to join us in the comments, but I'm not sure he can make it. I will be interviewing him in the near future.

Now that you have some of the background, here's his article (with permission)

The Susurluk Legacy
By Adrian Gatton
Nov/Dec 2006
Druglink Magazine

Ten years ago, a horrific car accident grimly illuminated how Turkish state officials colluded with drug barons to traffic drugs into Europe and Britain. Adrian Gatton investigates how corruption has smoothed the path of heroin from Afghanistan into the UK.

ONE fateful evening, on November 3, 1996, a black Mercedes 600 pulled away from a plush Izmir hotel, and travelled towards Istanbul. Turkey’s roads are notoriously dangerous, and on the dark highway, near the town of Susurluk, the Mercedes smashed into an oncoming truck. Three of its four passengers died in the pile-up.

Photographs show blood-stained seats in a mangled wreck, the bonnet wrinkled-up and scorched by fire. Medics pulled out the bodies of an MP, a police chief, a beauty queen and her lover, a top Turkish gangster and hitman called Abdullah Catli. In the boot they found an assassin’s tools: pistols with silencers and machine guns, plus false diplomatic passports.

When the accident hit the papers, it emerged that Catli, a heroin trafficker on Interpol’s wanted list, was carrying a diplomatic passport signed by none other than the Turkish Interior Minister himself.

DEEP STATE

The Susurluk Incident became Turkey’s Watergate, exposing the deep links between the Turkish state, terrorists and drug traffickers. It revealed what Turks call the Gizli Devlet, or Deep State – the politicians, military officers and intelligence officials who worked with drug bosses to move drugs from Afghanistan into Europe.

“It was like a flash of lightning,” says Hugh Pope, a British writer on Turkish affairs who has lived in Istanbul since the 1980s. “For a brief moment, it lit up everything that was really happening behind the stage.”

We should remember Susurluk today, because it is an event which can help us to understand Britain’s current heroin addiction. Susurluk showed that many drug traffickers who helped create Britain’s heroin addiction boom were backed by the Turkish establishment.

For example, Abdullah Catli, who died in the accident, trafficked heroin to the UK with the aid of the Turkish embassy in London which issued him a passport under his alias Mehmet Ozbay. He also had a UK work permit. Huseyin Baybasin, another Turkish heroin kingpin now in jail in Holland, who after Susurluk went public with revelations about state corruption, later explained his role in his book Trial by Fire: “I handled the drugs which came through the channel of the Turkish Consulate in England.” But as he adds: “I was with the Mafia but I was carrying this out with the same Mafia group in which the rulers of Turkey were part.”

The British authorities are well aware of Turkey’s role in the drugs trade. In a story I broke in The Guardian earlier this year, I explained how in the 1990s Baybasin told British Customs and Excise investigators about state collusion in the drugs trade. After initial meetings in London, according to a source, these two drug liaison officers – whose names are known to Druglink – later travelled regularly to Holland to meet Baybasin.

According to a witness statement given to an immigration case involving Baybasin’s family, Huseyin agreed to provide investigators with information about what he knew of the role of Turkish politicians and officials in the heroin trade. The contents of the discussions are not known in detail, but in a string of newspaper and TV interviews, he claimed he was assisted by Turkish officers working for NATO in Belgium. “The government kept all doors open for us,” he said. “We could do as we pleased.”

POLITICS

What has Britain done about it? Not enough, it would seem, given the scale of the heroin still hitting the UK’s shores. Turkey is a NATO-member and a moderate Islamic country with a secular state. Discussions with such a vital ally about its heroin problem have been tricky. When, for example, in 1997, Tom Sackville, the then UK Home Office minister, accused the Turkish government of being neck-deep in the drugs trade, he got a stiff demarche from the Turkish embassy (Sackville was speaking off-the-cuff and not following government policy). Our Foreign Office, rather than backing the minister, vented its fury on his department for meddling in foreign affairs, according to a source familiar with the row.

Sackville’s foray aside, the British government’s reluctance to publicly condemn Turkey has frustrated investigators. We got a rare public glimpse of this when, in 2001, Chris Harrison, a senior Customs officer in Manchester, told veteran crime reporter Martin Short in his TV series Godfathers, that Customs could not get at the Turkish kingpins because they are “protected” at a high level.

Turkey’s heroin trade remains a sensitive diplomatic issue and so the ultra-secretive new Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), which has incorporated Customs’ investigators, is unlikely to be so frank in future (the press policy they have adopted is more akin to MI5’s). However, SOCA officers I have spoken with off-the-record are still sceptical about Turkey. One told me how he was even spied upon while working on a big drugs operation in Istanbul.

Meanwhile, Turkey remains central to the UK’s heroin problem. “Since the 1970s, Turkey has accounted for between 75 and 90 per cent of all heroin in the UK,” said Mark Galeotti, a former intelligence officer and expert on the Turkish mafia. The key traffickers are Turks, or criminals who operate along that route using Turkish contacts (“the Turkish connection”).

CLEAN-UP

Without doubt, there have been efforts to clean-up. International pressure after Susurluk brought some reforms, especially in money laundering regulations. And the Foreign Office funds, via the UNODC, the Turkish International Academy against Drugs and Organised Crime.

And since the late 1990s, the police and Customs, sometimes with Turkish assistance, have busted one trafficker after another from the “Turkish connection”. Here is a short roll-call: the Arif family of the Old Kent Road in London is largely eliminated, Liverpudlian kingpin Curtis Warren is in jail in Holland, Jimmy ‘the Hitman’ Karagozlu was jailed, Ahmed and Amir Haghighat-Khou are in jail, the Kubilay family are out of action, and Ali Tore recently got 26
years. Other kingpins once mysteriously based here, such as Nurettin Guven and Alathin Cakici, have gone.

But as soon as one Turkish drug baron is jailed, another seems to take his place. Is Turkey just a victim of geography, as some experts claim, stuck between Afghanistan and Europe, or are the problems highlighted by Susurluk still cause for concern?

“There won’t be another Susurluk.” says Hugh Pope, who argues that Susurluk forced Turkey into a “virtuous cycle” of reform and soul-searching.

Others, like Turkey’s former spy chief, Mehmet Eymur, would disagree. He moved to Washington and, by 2000, from that safe haven dished the dirt on the officials and politicians who escaped punishment for Susurluk. "Unfortunately," Eymur said at that time, "in Turkey, one scandal ends only to be followed by another."

His criticisms are echoed by Professor Frank Bovenkerk, of Utrecht University, whose book on the Turkish mafia is forthcoming in the UK. He told Druglink: “In Turkey now, [scandals like Susurluk] are so well-known, they don’t even bother to cover it up any more.”

If those remarks seem intemperate, they are nothing compared to those of a former FBI whistle-blower. According to Sibel Edmonds, who was a translator at the FBI, the Deep State continues to exist in Turkey. Her claims are the most sensational since Susurluk.

LEGACY

Edmonds, who speaks Turkish, Farsi and Azeri, was hired by the FBI after 9/11 to translate phone-taps. She was in the front-line of the War on Terror, a war where terrorism, organised crime and drug-trafficking closely intersect. Headphones on, from her desk she had, as it were, her ear pressed to the wall of a lot of clandestine activity involving Turkey. When asked by Druglink whether the Deep State still operates in Turkey, she said: “Of course it does. It’s more
powerful than ever.”

Edmonds, who gave evidence to the 9/11 commission based on her experience, was fired by the FBI after she accused colleagues of corruption involving Turkey. She is a celebrated whistle-blower in America. But she is bound by a draconian gag order. She can’t say a lot, but anyone interested in Susurluk’s legacy should listen carefully to what she does say. She questioned how drug trafficking can stop when it is so vital to the Turkish economy: “The sums of money are huge. If it stopped it would cause an economic crash.”

Dr Ertan Bese, of the Turkish National Police Academy, wrote in his 2004 doctoral thesis on Turkish organised crime, that the underworld economy of Turkey is worth $60bn, amounting to a massive 25 per cent of Turkey’s national income. A huge proportion of this figure is derived from heroin trafficking.

Edmonds has testified, in secret, to how she discussed hearing Turkish consular officials in the USA apparently discussing drug deals. She told Druglink: “In Turkey everything is run by the military. These activities cannot take place without the permission of the military and the permission of Turkish intelligence.”

Until the gag-order on Sibel Edmonds is somehow lifted, we will be unable to explore her claims. However, they do raise concerns that the legacy of Susurluk is still with us and that combating the heroin trade is not so much a matter of police work as politics. But Turkey’s crucial value to the British and US governments at a time of crisis in Iraq and Iran means the political will is not there. Meanwhile, Britain’s heroin addiction will continue. For us, at least, that is the legacy of Susurluk.

Many of the key players in Susurluk are all still key players in Turkey today - with one of them, Mehmet Agar, a favourite to become Prime Minister next year. The sole survivor of the 1996 Susurluk car crash was found guilty, last month, and given a 1-year sentence, suspended. It's outrageous.

It's difficult to conceive of a parallel in the US. Imagine, for example, that all the people involved in Iran-Contra were occupying senior positions in the Executive Branch, the Pentagon and elsewhere.

Oh, wait.

Please go and read Sibel's important White Paper from Wednesday, "The Highjacking of a Nation. Part 2: The Auctioning of Former Statesmen & Dime a Dozen Generals" - here is the intro:
"Many Americans, due to the effective propaganda and spin machine of Turkey’s agents in the U.S., and relentless efforts by high-level officials and lobbying groups on Turkish networks’ payroll, do not know much about Turkey; its position and importance in the areas of terrorism, money laundering, illegal arms sales, industrial and military espionage, and the nuclear black-market. Not many people in the States would name Turkey among those nations that threaten global security, the fight against terrorism, nuclear proliferation, or the war on drugs. For the purpose of this article it is necessary to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of Turkey, its strategic location within global criminal networks, its various networks and entities operating behind seemingly legitimate fronts, and its connection to the military and political machine in the U.S.

For many Americans Turkey is one of the closest allies of the United States; a most important member of NATO; a candidate for EU membership; and the only Middle-Eastern close ally and partner of Israel. Some acknowledge Turkey’s highly prized status in the United States due to its location as the artery connecting Europe to Asia, its cross borders with Iran, Iraq and Syria to its East and South, with the Balkan states to its west, and with the Central Asian nations to its north and northeast. Others may recognize the country as one of the top U.S. customers for military technology and weapons.

Interestingly enough, these same qualities and characteristics which make Turkey an important ally and strategic partner for the nation states, make it extremely crucial and attractive to global criminal networks active in transferring illegal arms and nuclear technology to rogue states; in transporting Eastern Narcotics, mainly from Afghanistan through the Central Asian states into Turkey, where it is processed, and then through the Balkan states into Western Europe and the U.S.; and in laundering the proceeds of these illegal operations via its banks and those on the neighboring island of Cyprus."
Sibel details the 'who' & the 'why' & and the 'how' of, not only her case, but also the Highjacking of a Nation.

Gatton says that Sibel "can’t say a lot, but anyone interested in Susurluk’s legacy should listen carefully to what she does say" - he's right, but it's also legitimate to turn that upside-down. Anyone interested in Sibel's case should be familiar with Susurluk - not only because the Turkish heroin connection is at the core of Sibel's case - but, more importantly, because 'Susurluk' provides a model for what is happening in the US today: "Imagine a car accident at, say, the Greenbriar hotel in WVA. Several people are killed, among them Jeff Gannon, Douglas Feith, Warren Christopher, and OBL."

As we learnt with Susurluk, the issue isnt just that, for example, OBL and Feith might be working together, per se, but rather that another random car crash might have (hypothetically) yielded, for example, Perle, Zarqawi and Scowcroft, or Ghorbanifar, Cheney and Kim Jong il, or Atta, Rice & Kissinger.

It happened in Turkey, and it can happen here. It happened with Iran-Contra, it happened with Iraq-Gate. It can happen here, today. It is happening. Sibel lays it out for us in devastating fashion.

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please go rec.

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