A 'Rabbi' in the Underground

Over the past decade, the Turkish media has publicized criminal scandals involving police, army and intelligence services' members, creating the feeling that two or even three parallel governments are operating in the country.

Daniel Levi, Daniel Guney or Tuncay Guney? Who is this person whom the prosecution in Turkey last week said it wanted to summon to interrogate? According to reports in the Turkish newspaper Milliyet, he is a Mossad agent who was a member of the right-wing nationalist underground known as Ergenekon. It is alleged that Ergenekon planned to topple the pro-Islamic government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Another Turkish newspaper, Yeni Safak, reported that documents were found in Guney's apartment that allegedly link members of Israel's business community with important Turkish figures also involved in the Ergenekon affair.

According to other reports in the Turkish press, Guney was an agent of the Turkish intelligence service who penetrated both the ranks of the Turkish police's intelligence service and the Ergenekon organization so as to expose the identity of its members. In 2004, Guney was smuggled out of Turkey and clandestinely sent to the United States; he subsequently moved to Canada, where his name appears in the membership list of Congregation Beit Yaakov as Daniel T. Guney.

An attempt to obtain Guney's reaction proved fruitless; however, last week, the 36-year-old Guney spoke with Turkish journalists and reacted to the accusations: "I have never been an intelligence agent, and I was given the name 'Silk' not because I was an agent but because I was the subject of intelligence surveillance." That is not what the National Intelligence Organization, for which Guney apparently worked, is saying; it denies that he was one of its agents and that he penetrated both the ranks of the Turkish police's intelligence service and Turkey's counterterrorism unit. The latter agency was a division of the National Intelligence Organization but was dismantled in the wake of allegations that it was involved in criminal activities and even played a role in the assassination of political opponents.

Despite the denial, it seems apparent that the allegations are true; a Turkish court is now demanding that the National Intelligence Organization report to it on its links with this suspected agent, who is now being referred to as "the rabbi." It is doubtful that Guney is actually a rabbi; the child of Jews of Egyptian origin, he worked as a journalist in Turkey. He subsequently began to deal in the sale of stolen cars and, between the time he was smuggled out of Turkey to the present day, he does not seem to have engaged in any academic program that might have included rabbinical studies. However, that has not stopped Turkish newspapers from labeling him as a Mossad agent-cum-rabbi who supposedly worked for Turkey's National Intelligence Organization.

The Ergenekon underground (the name is derived from Turkish mythology) was uncovered last year. According to the evidence of written material and tape transcripts, which are contained in a 2,500-page document, the underground included army officers, retired officers, journalists, writers, government employees and members of the Turkish business community - in short, a sort of secret shadow government. Its ideology was the restoration of the secular Turkey that was envisaged by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic and its first president. For the members of Ergenekon, Turkey became a theocratic state with the installation of the government of Erdogan and the party he heads, the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The fact that the affair exploded just before the Turkish Constitutional Court was about to decide whether the AKP regime should continue did arouse suspicions that the affair was being manipulated to defend the party; however, as the investigation progressed, it became increasingly evident that the underground is far more complex than was initially thought. Last month, 86 individuals suspected of membership in Ergenekon went on trial, and evidence is now emerging on the way Turkey's counterterrorism unit and its National Intelligence Organization have been operating.

In an interview with the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman, Ertugrul Guven, former deputy undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization in the 1990s, states that the various branches of Turkey's intelligence mechanism (there are at least five) did not coordinate the exchange of data between them and that, in point of fact, there was no mechanism for data exchange between the branches simply because of jealousy. "As a result, information-gathering in Turkey has a major Achilles' heel," explains Guven, who alleges that in the past, especially in the 1980s, Turkish diplomats were assassinated by Armenian terrorists, and that some foreign espionage agencies tended to ignore the actions of these terrorists. "Turkey," he points out, "was forced to develop a policy for dealing with these attacks. This is perhaps the reason why the National Intelligence Organization used the services of individuals with strong nationalist feelings to thwart the assassination plots fomented by Armenian terrorists. However, these people continue to engage in illegal activities and adopted a Mafia-style modus operandi. They continue to use the name of the National Intelligence Organization, although their membership in that intelligence service ended when their mission was completed."

The uncovering of the operational methods of the National Intelligence Organization and the admission that it employed criminals do not constitute anything new for the majority of Turkey's citizens. Over the past decade, the media has publicized criminal scandals involving members of Turkey's police, army and intelligence services, and the various reports have created the feeling that two or even three parallel governments are operating in the country. Even today, when the wave of arrests attests to the scope of involvement in the Ergenekon affair, the prosecution in Turkey is finding it difficult to determine who are the organization's leaders and whether there might not be another network or branch of Ergenekon that has yet to be uncovered. In the meantime, several political leaders who are members of the country's nationalist parties have declared that they have begun the process of purging extreme nationalists from the ranks of their respective parties. Nonetheless, there is no guarantee that those who are leaving, or will leave, the official parties will not set up their own secret organization and continue their activities.