The Turkish government hushed up a case involving a Turkish air force officer who leaked confidential information about US troops deployed at Turkey’s Incirlik Airbase, documents obtained by Nordic Monitor revealed.
According to an indictment filed in February 2011 by a Turkish prosecutor in Izmir, Gökhan Sayan, a captain in the air force, passed confidential information about American soldiers at Turkey’s Incirlik base to an organized crime syndicate that was seeking to sell it to a foreign country.
The revelations were made when the Turkish police raided the home of Narin Korkmaz, a key suspect in the syndicate, only to discover a hard drive with a file that listed the names of 279 military officers who were lured into honey trap schemes where women were directed to have sex with targets in order to extract information and obtain secret documents.
The profile data recorded next to Sayan’s name in the encrypted file seized from the suspect stated that “[He] brought information about American personnel and weaponry.” “He will collect [more] information about Incirlik and bring the information to us,” the note about him said.
Describing him as a man who was “willing to do anything she asked for,” the suspect noted that Sayan also provided a military plan on collecting information for the year 2007 and underlined that the updated version of the plan for 2010 must be obtained from him as well. Sayan’s family was also profiled in the note, indicating that he was married to a woman from Turkey’s northwestern province of Bursa and highlighting the fact that she was trying to land a job as a civil servant.
At the time Sayan was assigned to the Anti-Aircraft Battalion, part of the 10th Tanker Base Command at Incirlik. The scandal, exposed in court when the prosecutor submitted the details of the indictments and supporting evidence, was hushed up by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In the end Sayan managed to escape scrutiny and faced no legal action. The General Staff duty list, obtained by Nordic Monitor, showed that he was later assigned to the joint command and control radar center (BİKİM) in Diyarbakır, where he was critical in the monitoring of Turkish airspace near the Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian borders.
The female operative who slept with Sayan turned over the documents she obtained from him to her handlers in the criminal enterprise and added his name to a list of people who were profiled in the syndicate archive.
Section of the indictment that explains what documents were obtained from Gökhan Sayan:Gokhan_Sayan_profile
During the trial it was revealed that the extent of the gang’s infiltration into the Turkish military was extensive and that the kind of classified documents leaked from NATO’s second largest army in terms of manpower was damaging. They compromised not only Turkey’s security but also that of the NATO alliance.
For example, a suspect named Aydın Şit, an air force officer, handed over FBI bomb-making analyses to the gang that explained how to manually make improvised bombs 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 and NATO. He supplied 22 PowerPoint presentation files dated 2009. A note in his file says he was soon expected to supply passcodes, which the gang believed would be very beneficial.
Suspect Nuri Dereli, a flight lieutenant, supplied the gang with a sensitive file called “Tur_AEM_F16.pdf,” which was 954 pages long in English and classified as “Secret Releasable to USA, TUR.” It details technical, tactical and procedural data for F-16 fighter jets. 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 to not experience similar problems with the US,” the note added.
Despite the information that he leaked confidential information from Incirlik Airbase, Gökhan Sayan was assigned to a radar base in Diyarbakır:Gokhan_Sayan_duty_Redacted
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 document explains how the munitions 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.
The indictment identified the leader of the crime syndicate as Bilgin Özkaynak, a businessman, with Korkmaz as his aide. The prosecutor demanded life sentences for 11 suspects, including Özkaynak and Korkmaz, on charges of establishing and running an illegal organization; illegally obtaining secret military and personal information; sharing that information with third parties; and endangering state security.
The criminal case against the gang members was quashed by Erdoğan in February 2016, and all suspects were let go. Many returned to their duties in the Turkish military, advancing in the ranks despite their controversial records. The prosecutors and police chiefs who exposed the gang and investigated their activities were prosecuted.
The closure of Incirlik to US troops has been publicly entertained by Erdoğan government officials in recent years as the ties between Turkey and the US have been strained over a number of issues including Turkey moving closer to Russia with the purchase of its S-400 missiles. In December 2020 Mesut Hakkı Caşın, the Turkish president’s advisor on security and foreign policy and a former military officer, threatened to kill American soldiers in Greece, saying that “two of our battalions will invade [Greece] and teach all the Americans [deployed in Greece] how to swim in Aegean waters.”
“We can also close our [military] bases [to US troops]. Let the US take its radar [NATO radar base in Turkey’s Kürecik] away. The radar doesn’t work for us anyway,” he added, claiming that Turkey no longer needs to provide security for US troops deployed at İncirlik Airbase, which is located in Turkey’s southeastern province of Adana.