Intelligence shared with Turkish police by the US’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on how terrorists could carry a bomb on a civilian plane landed a veteran police chief in hot water in Turkey.
According to a secret communiqué that was incorporated into a criminal investigation, a copy of which was obtained by Nordic Monitor, Turkish police chief Abdurrahman Bişgin was put on the spot for sharing the NTSB intelligence with relevant police units in order to beef up security and increase vigilance around the airport in the Turkish capital.
The bizarre case of Bişgin showed how Turkey’s ruling Islamists fabricated charges to create a pretext in order to purge and prosecute veteran law enforcement officers who cooperated with the agencies of Turkey’s allies in monitoring radical groups.
The NTSB intelligence appeared to have been picked up from al-Qaeda cells and recalled the famous case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “underwear bomber,” who attempted to bomb Northwest Airlines flight 253 on Christmas Day in 2009. Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national, was trained in Yemen and carried the bomb through several airports without detection and tried to detonate it with no success on board the plane. In February 2012 he was convicted on multiple charges and sent to US federal prison.
The Directorate of General Security (Emniyet), Turkey’s main law enforcement agency which also provides security for airports, shared the intel with sub-units including the Ankara counterterrorism department on May 25, 2012.
After receiving the NTSB intelligence, Bişgin, the head of the police’s C-Section, which is responsible for monitoring religious extremist and far-right terror groups including al-Qaeda, shared the intelligence with other units in the counterterrorism department on the same day. In his communiqué he pointed out that the NTSB informed Turkey that terrorists had developed a mechanism to hide explosives in a man’s underwear. The US agency cited intelligence reports as the source of the information, he added.
NTSB intelligence on underwear bombs was shared by police chief Abdurrahman Bişgin with relevant police units in a bid for increased vigilance:Abdurrahman_Bisgin_NTSB_intelligence
However, something changed three years later when the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan targeted the police chief as part of a massive purge of the police department in the aftermath of corruption probes in 2013 that incriminated then-prime minister and now President Erdoğan, his family members and his business and political associates in an Iran sanctions busting scheme.
The corruption investigations revealed how Turkish state banks were used in illegal schemes to bypass US sanctions on Iran in exchange for bribes given to senior government officials including the interior minister. The scheme was approved by Erdoğan himself, who reportedly took the lion’s share of the bribes.
In February 2014 the C-section was disbanded and all the police chiefs who had spent years tracking al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups were removed by the government. The surveillance and wiretapping of suspected militants were halted under the political directives from the Erdoğan government.
The case file index shows the NTSB intelligence on underwear bombs was classified as criminal evidence against a police chief who alerted police units to be vigilant about a new al-Qaeda tactic:NTSB_intelligence_deemed_as_criminal_evidence
Police chief Bişgin was part of a large group of veteran police chiefs who were summarily and abruptly dismissed by the government and were later targeted in an abusive criminal investigation on fabricated charges lumped into politically motivated indictments. The Turkish prosecutor cited, among other so-called evidence, the NTSB intelligence communiqué as evidence of criminal activity conducted by Bişgin.
Trumped-up charges leveled against the police chief included attempting to topple the government, obtaining state secrets, membership in a terrorist organization and the like.
The police chief defended himself in court, saying he shared the NTSB intelligence with relevant units to raise awareness on a new method developed by the terrorists and that it was totally in line with the laws and regulations.
Yet in October 2020 at the end of a sham trial that was orchestrated by the Erdoğan government to punish police chiefs who exposed wrongdoing by his government, the police chief was convicted. Bişgin was sentenced to 10 years in prison for alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement, a group that is critical of Erdoğan’s government on a range of issues, from pervasive corruption to Turkey’s aiding and abetting of radical jihadist groups.