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?
Perhaps. In September of this year, Mr. Erdoğan’s Director of Security, Zeki Bulut, was summarily demoted and reassigned to Turkey’s far-off Anatolia region. In the weeks that followed, most members of Mr. Erdoğan’s 200-strong personal protection force were scattered and reassigned to different posts around the country. Could there be a connection between the demotions and the recent wiretap revelations? Some observers believe so. There were rumors in the Turkish media at the time that Bulut and his team were removed from their bodyguard duties after a routine bug-sweeping exercise by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) discovered wiretaps in Mr. Erdoğan’s office. Others, including members of Turkey’s political opposition, believe that the bugs were placed in the Prime Minister’s residence by a foreign intelligence agency, and accuse Mr. Erdoğan of trying to use their discovery as an opportunity to rout his political rivals. There are clearly more questions than answers at this stage. Meanwhile, the Office of the Turkish Chief Prosecutor in Ankara has announced that an official investigation into the wiretaps is underway and that “a detailed report will be prepared”.
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