WRAP UP: Ankara on alert after spying on security meeting leaked
The fresh leak gives yet another headache to the government three days before crucial local polls.
The Turkish government was seriously rocked after an illegal recording of a key high-level security meeting on Syria was leaked through YouTube on March 27, and vowed to impose the “heaviest penalty” on the perpetrators of such “treachery.”
“These gangs of treachery are the enemies of our state and people. The perpetrators of this attack targeting the security of our state and people will be found out in the shortest time and will be handed over to justice to be given the heaviest penalty. This treacherous attack targeting the Republic of Turkey will be disrupted,” the Foreign Ministry said in a written statement late March 27.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also strongly criticized the leakage in an election campaign in Diyarbakır on Thursday, describing the move as “immorality, dishonorableness, and vileness.” Erdoğan blamed the Fethullah Gülen community, or “Hizmet” movement, for the leak and reiterated his government’s commitment to “walk into their den.” Foregin Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu described the move as open declaration of war against the state and its people, in a statement late Thursday.
An Ankara prosecutor responsible for prosecuting crimes committed against the constitutional order immediately launched an investigation on spying charges into the leak. The prosecution will be carried out by Prosecutor Fethi Şimşek, former head of the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB).
'Hi-tech device' suspicion
In the recording, officials are heard discussing the security situation in Syria. According to the Foreign Ministry statement, the meeting was taking place at Foreign Minister Davutoğlu’s office. There are also reports that the Foreign Ministry also launched an internal investigation after the leak and made searches of bugs inside its premises.
The voices of the illegal recording believed to belong to Davutoğlu, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Hakan Fidan, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, and Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Gürel. According to the information obtained from sources, the recording consists of a chat between four officials in Davutoğlu’s office before the commencement of the official meeting with the participation of more civil and military bureaucrats in another room at the Foreign Ministry. The meeting is believed to be recorded by a hi-tech device that allows perpetrators to record a meeting within a few hundred meters distance. The recording is the latest in a series of leaks, which has become a huge headache for the government on the eve of the local polls on March 30.
Leakage angers Gül
President Abdullah Gül met with Sinirlioğlu on March 27, after the release of the recording, but the meeting was scheduled beforehand, sources told the Hürriyet Daily News. The illegal recording was discussed among other issues, according to sources.
The HDN learned that President Gül had "exploded with anger" over the news that a key security meeting was recorded and leaked to the public. But rumors that he would call the National Security Council (MGK) for an extraordinary meeting were denied by the presidency and the MGK on March 27.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said the leak proved that the state was being "trampled on" because of the government’s inability to run the country.
“The state’s most confidential data can easily be leaked. Why? Because you have never cared for the state and the citizens. The only thing you thought about was getting Turkey into a war with Syria,” he told reporters late Thursday.
The ministry statement confirmed the meeting, in which the situation regarding the Süleyman Shah Tomb was discussed, but said the leaked content was “distorted.”
“It’s only a natural exercise, and part of the duty of relevant institutions to make evaluations to defend a piece of the homeland under terrorist threat,” it read, adding that the meeting confirmed Turkey’s commitment to defend both the tomb and its soldiers deployed at the military outpost.
In the meantime, the Supreme Council of Radio and Television (RTÜK) imposed a media ban on the broadcast of the illegal recording and its content.
The Süleyman Shah Tomb, located 25 kilometers inside Syria, is officially Turkish land following bilateral and international agreements made the early 1920s. With the escalation of tension inside northern Syria, there have been claims that a number of terrorist groups threatened to attack the tomb unless Turkish troops left.
“The recording and leaking of such a top secret meeting in the foreign minister’s office, where the state’s most sensible security-related issues are being discussed, constitutes a nefarious attack against Turkey’s national security, an act of espionage, and a very serious crime. This incident reveals the magnitude of cyber and electronic threats our country is facing,” the Foreign Ministry statement added.