Turkish naval officers who were indicted in 2013 for alleged involvement in a military espionage ring that obtained classified Turkish, NATO and US documents were not only allowed to stay in the military but were promoted to senior ranks in many cases.
According to secret navy documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, the officers, who were found to have leaked classified documents in exchange for illicit sex and other favors, were protected by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The criminal case that was based on 1,900 pages of documentary evidence that included wiretaps, physical evidence and digital footprints was hushed up under pressure from the government.
The five-page secret document that shows what happened to all suspects was dated April 6, 2018 and signed by naval Capt. Ünal Aydoğdu, who is responsible for the navy’s human resources department. The document lists the current status of 85 officers. Among them 40 officers including an admiral, a rear admiral and many captains retired, while the rest are continuing to serve.
According to a review of their current status, some of the officers were appointed to critical positions in Turkey and abroad. For example, Yalcin Özkütük, who was promoted to the rank of rear admiral, is serving in the General Staff intelligence section. Another suspect, Mustafa Kaya, also promoted to rear admiral, is working in the planning department at the General Staff, overseeing air and sea borders with respect to Greece and Cyprus. Özgur Özcan Altunbulak, promoted to captain, is currently serving as chief of staff at the Turkish Military Representative (TMR) office at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Col. Erdal Şener, a suspect in the case, is assigned to the Ministry of Defense and working in the unit responsible for the security of NATO in Turkey. Capt. Murat Dinçman is assigned to the NATO Maritime Command, Northwood, United Kingdom, and works in operations. Several captains are in charge of navy frigates, according to the documents.
In the indictment, 357 suspects including 55 active duty officers and numerous retired officers were named when the prosecutor filed criminal charges against the gang in 2013. The indictment also mentions 831 victims and 196 co-plaintiffs.
According to the indictment, the gang hired foreign women as prostitutes to send to military officers from whom the gang eventually obtained classified military information. The gang’s main objective was to earn profits through the sale of confidential military documents to third parties, according to the indictment. The gang, which included civilian suspects, infiltrated the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and had many members from inside the military, which facilitated its activities in establishing contact with high-ranking officers and obtaining confidential documents from them.
The indictment reveals how NATO and US security was compromised. For example, NATO documents seized from suspect Narin Korkmaz during the execution of a search warrant identified Alparslan Yücel Soysal, also a suspect in the case, as revealing in detail the assets and capabilities of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EAD) units operating in every NATO member state. The note next to his name clearly singles out Russia, China and Iran as potential clients for these documents.
A suspect named Bülent Karaaslan, a bomb expert, supplied secret US and NATO directives in bomb-making and bomb-diffusion techniques to the spy ring. Suspect Aydın Şit, an air force officer, handed over FBI bomb-making analyses to the gang that explained, among other things, how to make improvised bombs manually and where in the car these bombs should be planted. Suspect Ersin Kapucu, an air force pilot, was identified as an important source for electronic warfare data and information on how it is used in the Turkish Air Force (THK) and NATO. He supplied 22 power point presentation files dated 2009. A note in his file says he was soon expected to supply pass codes, which the gang believed would be very beneficial.
The gang obtained from a mark named İsmail Demir a hard copy of top secret details on AIM-120 missiles used in Turkish F-16 fighter jets. The note advises that he be rewarded for supplying this sensitive information. Another mark named Andaç Keskin, an officer at the field corps school of engineering in İzmir, was identified as an important asset in hooking up with NATO officers. The note about him says he knows many NATO officers and coordinates logistics for them. It says Keskin operated out of the Aktur Hotel in İzmir, where many NATO officers stayed, in a room fitted with surveillance equipment.
Suspect Nuri Dereli, a flight lieutenant, supplied the gang with a very sensitive file called “Tur_AEM_F16.pdf” which is 954 pages long in English and classified as “Secret Releasable to USA, TUR.” It details technical, tactical and procedural data for F-16s. The note attached to this file says it should not be obtained by anybody else. It even warned that when a file of a similar nature was previously leaked, it created problems between Turkey and the US. “I repeat it should not be leaked in order not to experience similar problems with the US,” the note added.
Similarly, suspect Okay Yalçın, an air force officer, leaked sensitive information on US-made Hawk medium-range surface-to-air missile systems, including a 24-page secret document titled “60G-2-2-70 Hawk Passive Engagement System.pdf.” Another set of documents seized from suspect Saygın Özdemir details performance reports of pilots assigned to the 151st squadron and their evaluations on war preparedness. A document titled “F-1” reveals frequencies and positions pilots use with ground control at the 5th Air Base and was described as vital information that cannot be allowed to be leaked to the enemy in wartime. Another document explains how the ammunition loaded on F-16s should be used and under what conditions. It says this document cannot be transferred to any country other than Turkey and the US. A document leaked by Gökhan Gülbalar explains the nuts and bolts of a signal intelligence system named Milsis-23u, used within the General Staff’s Electronic Systems Command (GES), the military’s most comprehensive and top secret communications interception unit.
The indictment also said the spy ring sent some of the confidential military documents to terrorist groups, endangering the security of the state and its citizens. The suspects are also accused of hiring foreign women as prostitutes to send to military officers. The prostitutes would illegally obtain personal information about these officers and blackmail them into providing the spy ring with classified information. The group was based in İzmir and had branches in a number of other provinces.
Documents seized from suspected members of the espionage ring showed that it kept tabs on dozens of military officers due to their ideological or religious backgrounds.
The indictment also identified the leader of the spy ring as Bilgin Özkaynak, a businessman, Korkmaz, a young university student, as his aide. The prosecutor demanded life sentences for 11 suspects, including Özkaynak and Korkmaz, on accusations of establishing and running an illegal organization; illegally obtaining secret military and personal information; sharing that information with third parties; and endangering state security.
According to the indictment, Korkmaz had a false military ID that showed her as a lieutenant colonel, and she was free to enter military barracks and units wearing a uniform, thanks to the ID. Prosecutors added a few photos of Korkmaz taken when she was wearing a military uniform.
The indictment also included excerpts from documents seized from the espionage gang that clearly show how members forced military officers to give them confidential military information after video taping them in sexual encounters with the foreign women hired by the gang. “We obtained the [military] plans for attack and defense in the event of a war in the Black Sea thanks to photos obtained by T.D. T.D. will serve as our eyes and ears in the military from now on. M.T.A. says he liked the blonde we sent him. We have footage of sexual intercourse between General A.L.T.’s son T with E.İ. We also have footage of General Ş.’s daughter. We will follow them all,” read the documents.
The criminal case against the gang members was quashed by the Erdoğan government, and all suspects were let go. Many returned to their duties in the Turkish military, advancing in the ranks despite their controversial records.
The full five-page secret report is posted below: