Turkey eavesdropped on conversations of US troops deployed at Turkish bases

 

Abdullah Bozkurt

 

The Turkish military spied on and listened to the conversations of US servicemen who were deployed to Turkey’s military bases as part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, a secret document obtained by Nordic Monitor has revealed.

According to the Turkish military intelligence note dated July 17, 2016, the conversations of US troops assigned to the Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System based at the General Hüseyin Ataman Kışlası Garrison in Turkey’s Gaziantep province were eavesdropped on and reported to the senior military command of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). The conversations were recorded when Turkish liaison officers interacted with the US servicemen to coordinate logistics, transportation and other matters.

The intelligence note was signed by Sgt. Osman Tutdu, chief intelligence officer with the TSK’s 5th Armored Brigade, and cleared by Col. Burç Pekin, deputy commander of the brigade. It was sent not only to the General Staff and force commanders but also to the office of the chief public prosecutor in Adana, where US and other NATO ally troops are based as part of the anti-ISIS coalition.

 

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The specific intel picked from the US troops indicated that Turkish Air Force Brig. Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, the commander of İncirlik Air Base in Adana, sought asylum in the US through officers assigned to the base. The request was transmitted to the headquarters of the US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, for instructions on how to proceed. The command ordered troops to avoid involvement in events unfolding in Turkey and rejected asylum requests from Turkish officers.

The story of Gen. Ercan Van’s asylum request was first reported by The New York Times on July 17, 2016, citing an anonymous source, but did not provide much detail.

The secret Turkish intelligence document was sent through a secure messaging system used by the Turkish military and labeled “highest priority.”

Turkey survived a limited mobilization of army units on July 15, 2016 as part of a coup bid, but the attempt was quickly quashed. Using the failed coup as a pretext, the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan government has purged and/or jailed thousands of officers including over 50 percent of the military’s generals and admirals, mainly pro-NATO officers, irrespective of whether they actually joined in the putschist attempt or not.

 

Lt. Gen. Timothy M. Ray (L), 3rd Air Force commander, and Brig. Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, 10th Tanker Base commander, stand together during a base tour on Dec. 1, 2015 at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. (U.S. Air Force photo)

 

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