Top-level security leaks spell crisis for Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 March, 2014, 1:26am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 March, 2014, 1:26am


Turkey's spymaster discusses possible military intervention in Syria with army and civilian chiefs and days later their words are on the internet for all to hear.

The breach highlights a disturbing truth for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan - that Turkey can no longer keep even top-level security planning secret, despite his purge of thousands of officials to root out a covert network he accuses of trying to sabotage the state and topple him.

"This crisis is one of the biggest in Turkish history," said a senior government official, who declined to be named.

"A serious concern has certainly emerged regarding what follows now... If a meeting such as this has been listened to, others may have. We do not know who is in possession of them."

Erdogan was out of public action yesterday, resting his voice strained by campaigning for local elections this weekend.

Even without the principal actor, the drama played on over the leaked audio that appeared on YouTube on Thursday and which is by far the most serious of a stream of illegal intercepts of state communications, many involving Erdogan himself. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, in whose office the security meeting took place, said "everyone and everything within the Foreign Ministry will be investigated with utmost scrutiny".

A body close to the Hizmet movement of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused by Erdogan of running a "dirty campaign", said suggestions Gulen was involved were "beyond comedy".

The leaking of such sensitive material could also raise alarm among Nato allies. Telephone conversations between Erdogan and his family have been intercepted. Calls from foreign leaders may also be in unknown hands.

Officials accept the recording is genuine, but say it was manipulated. Its dissemination on radio and television has been banned and the government has ordered the shutdown of YouTube.