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Hastert’s Turkish Allies Tied to Bin Laden

“If they were to allow the whole picture to emerge… certain elected officials will stand trial and go to prison.”Sibel Edmonds 

By Lynn Grant

08/15/05 "International Post" -- --- CHICAGO, Illinois, Aug 15 (IP) – During the current flurry of September 11th related news, one item has gone largely unnoticed. 

Reports of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds’ allegations concerning improper financial ties between House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Turkish officials and businessman have become a source of discontent for beltway insiders on both sides of the aisle. 

However, the recent coverage has not addressed why Sibel Edmonds’ information regarding Speaker Hastert’s dealings with the Turks necessitated an in-depth investigation by the September 11th Commission. 

In an August 10, 2005 interview about her reported allegations, Edmonds was asked, “What are you alleging about the Speaker of the House?” Though under a strict gag order, she replied: 

 “I have been giving all the details to the appropriate channels. And they have been confirmed. And what I have said all along is the fact that as far as the 9/11 is concerned, September 11 is concerned, these departments -- and when I say “these departments,” the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense -- have intentionally blocked the investigations of real -- the real criminals in this country. …

 

Most of al Qaeda’s funding is… through narcotics. And have you heard anything to this date, anything about these issues which we have had information since 1997? And as I would again emphasize, we are talking about countries. And they are blocking this information, and also the fact that certain officials in this country are engaged in treason against the United States and its interests and its national security, be it the Department of State or certain elected officials. 

While alluding to treason, Edmonds’ reply indicates that her allegations about Speaker Hastert are linked to al-Qaeda and the September 11th attacks. 

To understand this link, it is necessary to examine the substance of Mrs. Edmonds’ allegations, as reported in the recent issue of Vanity Fair: 

A large part of her work at the F.B.I. involved listening to the wiretapped conversations of people who were the targets of counter-intelligence investigations.…

 

Many involved an F.B.I. target at the city’s large Turkish Consulate, as well as members of the American-Turkish Council and the Assembly of Turkish American Associates. Some of the calls reportedly contained what sounded like references to large scale drug shipments and other crimes. …

 

One name, however, apparently stood out – a man the Turkish callers often referred to by the nickname “Denny boy.” It was the Republican congressman from Illinois and Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.

According to some of the wiretaps, the F.B.I.’s targets had arranged for tens of thousands of dollars to be paid to Hastert’s campaign funds in small checks. Under Federal Election Commission rules, donations of less than $200 are not required to be itemized in public filings. 

The Vanity Fair article adds: 

The targets reportedly discussed giving Hastert tens of thousands of dollars in surreptitious payments in exchange for political favors and information. …

 

“She told us she’d heard mention of exchanges of information, dead drops—that kind of thing,” a congressional source says. “It was mostly money in exchange for secrets.” …

 

There was talk, she told investigators, of laundering the profits of large-scale drug deals and of selling classified military technologies to the highest bidder. …

 

“There was pressure within the bureau for a special prosecutor to be appointed and take the case on, “the [FBI] official says. Instead, his colleagues were told to alter the thrust of their investigation – away from elected politicians and toward appointed officials. “This is the reason why Ashcroft reacted to Sibel in such an extreme fashion [invoking the rarely used State Secrets Privilege],” he says “It was to keep this from coming out.” 

Though a Hastert spokesperson has dismissed Edmonds’ allegations and no evidence is presented confirming Hastert received illegal payments, the article reports on another wiretap in which “a senior official at the Turkish Consulate is said to have claimed in one recording that the price for Hastert to withdraw the resolution [recognizing the Turkish slaughter of Armenians in the early 1900s as Genocide] would have been at least $500,000.” 

The targets of the wiretaps translated by Edmonds were heavily concentrated near Hastert’s Chicago-area congressional district: 

Vanity Fair reveals that the FBI’s investigation centered on Speaker Hastert’s Chicago-area district: 

One counter-intelligence official familiar with Edmonds’s case has told Vanity Fair that the F.B.I. opened an investigation into covert activities by Turkish nationals in the late 1990’s. That inquiry found evidence, mainly via wiretaps, of attempts to corrupt senior American politicians in at least two major cities - Washington and Chicago. …

 

In December 2001, Joel Robertz, an F.B.I. special agent in Chicago, contacted Sibel and asked her to review some wiretaps. Some were several years old, others more recent; all had been generated by a counter-intelligence that had its start in 1997. “It began in D.C.,” says an F.B.I. counter-intelligence official who is familiar with the case file. But “it became apparent that Chicago was actually the center of what was going on.” 

These disclosures about Edmonds’ targets help to clarify her past statements to the press. 

For example, when asked in a January 2005 interview if she had any information that would tie the targets of her FBI wiretaps to the September 11th attacks or Osama bin Laden’s organization, Edmonds replied, “Through certain activities with money laundering, and narcotics and illegal weapons procurement. Yes.” (audio) 

More specifically, Edmonds wrote in a July 2004 article that she has “firsthand knowledge of ongoing intelligence received and processed by the FBI since 1997, which contained specific information implicating certain high level government and elected officials in criminal activities directly and indirectly related to terrorist money laundering, narcotics, and illegal arms sales.” 

Yet Edmonds may not be the only well-known FBI Whistleblower with connections to this 9/11-related investigation in Chicago. 

Beginning in the mid-1990s, FBI Special Agent Robert Wright was given orders to investigate several Chicago-based businessmen with ties to Turkey – and Osama bin Laden. 

Special Agent Wright shared details of his investigation with Brian Ross of ABC’s Primetime Live in 2002: 

ROSS: Their story begins in the mid-1990s. With growing terrorism in the Middle East, the two agents were assigned to track a connection to Chicago, a suspected terrorist cell that would later lead them to an Osama Bin Laden connection.

 

WRIGHT: We had a cell in Chicago, right. And that was, that was the premise of how we got the investigation going.

 

ROSS: But Wright says he soon discovered that all the FBI Intelligence Division wanted him to do was to follow suspected terrorists around town and file reports, but make no arrests.

 

WRIGHT: The supervisor who was there from headquarters was right straight across from me and started yelling at me, “You will not open criminal investigations. I forbid any of you. You will not open criminal investigations against any of these intelligence subjects.”

 

ROSS: You’re on the Terrorism Task Force and you were told you will not open criminal cases?

 

WRIGHT: Yes.

 

ROSS: In 1998, Al-Qaeda terrorists bombed two American Embassies in Africa, killing more than 200 people. The agents say some of the money for the attack led back to the people they had been tracking in Chicago, and to a powerful Saudi Arabian businessman, this man, Yassin Kadi, who had extensive business and financial ties in Chicago. Yet, even after the bombings, the agents say headquarters ordered no arrests.

 

WRIGHT: Two months after the embassies are hit in Africa, they want to shut down the criminal investigation. They wanted to kill it.

 

ROSS: The move outraged the Federal Prosecutor in Chicago, who says Agents Wright and Vincent were helping him build a strong criminal case against Kadi and others.

 

MARK FLESSNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: There were powers bigger than I was in the Justice Department and within the FBI that simply were not going to let it happen. And it didn’t happen. 

Wright’s investigation appeared to have had little effect on Chicago businessman Yassin Kadi. The Boston Globe reported in 2002, “Qadi was so well respected that he escorted former president Jimmy Carter around a Saudi women’s college in 2000.” 

Though a presidential escort, Kadi’s al-Qaeda ties are so widespread, agents working on his investigation once pondered whether he may have been Osama bin Laden. During a June 2003 conference at the National Press Club, Special Agent Wright declared: 

On June 9, 1998… I became the only FBI agent before 9/11 to utilize the civil forfeiture laws of the United States to seize $1.4 million in international terrorism assets from a Middle Eastern terrorist group. The original source of these seized funds was Yassin Kadi, a Saudi businessman. During 1998, an assistant United States attorney and I discussed the possibility that Mr. Kadi might actually be Osama bin Laden, or at least a close associate of bin Laden’s. …

 

However, my repeated attempts requesting FBI’s international terrorism unit to investigate Kadi’s financing of international terrorism was ignored. …

 

Four years later, only three weeks after the September 11 attacks, Mr. Kadi was designated by the United States government as the financier of Osama bin Laden. 

Kadi, now 48, acted as ‘the financier of Osama bin Laden’ not only in the Chicago-area, but in Turkey as well. Two months after 9/11, The Turkish Daily News published an article detailing Kadi’s investments entitled “Osama bin Laden’s ‘Cashier’ in Turkey”. The Turkish Daily added: 

Kadi, who was living in Istanbul, fled from Turkey following the Sept.11 attack. Kadi is a partner in two Turkey-based companies, the Karavan DisTicaret, a foreign trade company, and Ella Film-Produksiyon, a movie company. He once owned a 90 percent stake in Karavan and 30 percent in Ella but more recently these stakes have changed due to capital expansion. 

In March 2005, Turkish authorities concluded an investigation into Yassin Kadi’s suspected links with al-Qaeda. The Arab News described the probe’s findings: 

Turkey’s chief public prosecutor has formally ruled that there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Saudi businessman and philanthropist Yassin Abdullah Al-Qadi has had contact with or has assisted the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization. …

 

The probe concluded that, far from being a member or supporter of Al-Qaeda, Al-Qadi was above board and his actions were at all times wholly legitimate. 

Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, took no issue with his chief prosecutor’s questionable ruling. Though few familiar with Turkish politics would be surprised at Prime Minister Erdogan’s position. 

In November of 2001, The Turkish Daily News published an article with the headline ‘Tayyip – bin Laden Relationship’ referring to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The article provided translation of a Turkish language report one of the country’s largest newspapers which stated, “A Cumhuriyet headline said, referring to Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “… Al Kadi’s business partner Faruk Sarac is a close friend of the Erdogan family.” 

Though the Turkish Prime Minister is a close family friend of a business partner of bin Laden’s financier, this may be nothing more than a coincidence. 

However, another report seems to cast doubt on the coincidence theory. The Turkish Daily News reported in October 2001: 

Hurriyet said: “Cuneyd Zapsu is the partner in Turkey of Saudi businessman Yasin al-Qadi whose assets in the United States have been frozen because he has links with terrorism. Zapsu, one of the founders of the AKP, is Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s closest friend.” 

Some Turks consider Zapsu to be their own version of Karl Rove. Earlier this year Prime Minister Erdogan sued a news contributor because of a political cartoon depicting Zapsu perched on Erdogan’s back. And in late 2004 The Economist reported: 

Secular Turks… fear that Mr Erdogan might use his muscle to expand the role of religion in public life. The real worry should be that more power could encourage his authoritarian streak. Even today only a handful of his advisers, among them Cuneyd Zapsu, a wealthy businessman, and Omer Celik, his youthful speech-writer, dare to disagree openly with Mr Erdogan. 

The terrorist tendencies are not confined solely to Erdogan’s closest friends and advisors. The Prime Minister himself has been involved in extremist behavior. 

According to The Turkish Daily News, “A Cumhuriyet headline said, referring to the Istanbul Municipality during Erdogan’s time as mayor, “The headquarters of religious reactionaryism [sic].” 

While Mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s, Erdogan was jailed for four months by Turkey’s secular military after reading an Islamic poem containing the phrase, “Mosques are our bayonets, the domes our helmets and the believers our soldiers.” 

Erdogan imprisonment began in 1998, after a military coup forced his political party from power. Less than four years later, Erdogan’s party resumed power and the national hero soon became Turkey’s Prime Minister. 

The Prime Minister’s life story reads like a movie script: a man of destiny and vision, who can overcome any obstacle his path. Erdogan is surrounded by leaders who have been by his side from early on in his political career, including his Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and Parliamentary Speaker Bulent Arinc. An April 1998 report in The Turkish Daily News stated: 

Cumhuriyet reported that the prison sentence Istanbul Mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been given has come as a relief to the older generation. … Meanwhile, Abdullah Gul and Bulent Arinc are expected to come to the foreground as the younger generation’s potential candidates. 

Another 1998 Turkish news article reported: 

Commenting on the prison sentence given to Istanbul Mayor Erdogan, Gul said… “This incident will add strength to our cause -- to Erdogan’s own cause and to our party.” …

 

Arinc said that they had not expected Erdogan to receive a sentence of this kind… “We have joined our fates with our friend, Tayyip Erdogan.” 

Erdogan, Gul and Arinc would soon become the three most powerful men in Turkey. Such power combined with the Erdogan administration’s various ties to Osama bin Laden should cause alarm among American officials engaged in the War on Terror. 

Yet even post-September 11, 2001, the result has been the opposite. During a 2002 visit with the Prime Minister in Turkey, Dennis Hastert stated: 

It was a very good meeting that we had with the new Prime Minister. … We are committed as our country, the United States, to work with Turkey, to carry on. We see Turkey as a very stable country, as a matter of fact the model for stability and moderation and democracy. 

Despite the Turkish government’s refusal to grant coalition forces access to key military bases during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Speaker Hastert never wavered in his support of Turkey. According to Turkish Speaker Arinc, Hastert declared, “We respect your parliament’s decision. Our Congress does the same thing from time to time. It is nothing to be offended by.” 

In late 2004 Hastert made another trip to Turkey, as The Washington Post reports: 

Folks in Europe are still talking about that splendid, 10-day, pre-Christmas tour of Europe led by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to attend the 60th anniversary ceremonies of the Battle of the Bulge. The group stopped to… visit more troops at Incirlik air base in Turkey…

 

Support personnel... [were] amazed the plane got off the ground in Turkey -- what with all the fine rugs and pashminas -- not to mention some Turkish-made shotguns Hastert and Dingell bought. 

With such a display of hospitality, it is not surprising that Speaker Hastert invited his Turkish friends for a visit in May 2005. The Anatolia News Agency reported on the trip: 

Turkish Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc has indicated today that his visit to the US Congress will be the first ever one by a Turkish parliament Speaker…

 

Arinc will be in Washington DC upon an invitation from US House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert. 

A Turkish government website added: 

Parliament Speaker Bülent Arınç visited Washington between May 24-27 as the guest of Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the US House of Representatives. Arınç also attended a reception hosted in his honor by Hastert. …

 

Arınç, who completed his meetings in Washington D.C. arrived in Chicago on May 27. …

 

Arınç, who got information from Turkish Consul General Naci Koru about the work of the Turkish Consulate General in Chicago on Saturday… met Turkish community in Chicago on May 29. 

The previous passage would have seemed relatively innocuous, if not for the recent Vanity Fair article which included passages such as: 

“It began in D.C.,” says an F.B.I. counter-intelligence official who is familiar with the case file. But “it became apparent that Chicago was actually the center of what was going on.” …

 

The FBI’s investigations into a senior official at the Turkish Consulate is said to have claimed in one recording that the price for Hastert to withdraw the resolution would have been at least $500,000. …

 

In all, says a source who was present, she [Edmonds] managed to listen to more than 40 of the Chicago recordings supplied by Robertz. Many involved an F.B.I. target at the city’s large Turkish Consulate… and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations. 

It should come as little surprise that while in the U.S., Arinc visited the ATAA, according to the Anatolia News Agency: 

Turkish Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc, who is currently in the United States upon formal invitation of the U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert, met representatives of the Jewish community and of the Assembly of the Turkish-American Associations (ATAA) on Wednesday. 

Though even without the recent allegations by Sibel Edmonds, the following report from The Turkish Daily News regarding Prime Minister Erdogan’s 2004 trip stateside to meet President Bush may have raised an eyebrow: 

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan… first arrived at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. …

 

After the concert, Chicago Municipal Mayor Richard M. Daley held a dinner for Erdogan. 

Welcome to America.

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