Secure phone lines used by Turkish PM deliberately left open for eavesdropping

Turkish dailies Yenisafak and Sabah said Wednesday that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s secure phone line was tapped and cryptology experts who designed his crypto phones at country's main research funding and science management organization -- the Ankara-based Scientific and Technolog

Turkish dailies Yenisafak and Sabah said Wednesday that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s secure phone line was tapped and cryptology experts who designed his crypto phones at country's main research funding and science management organization -- the Ankara-based Scientific and Technolog

By M. Bilal Kenasari

ANKARA - Turkish dailies Yenisafak and Sabah said Wednesday that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s secure phone line was tapped and cryptology experts who designed his crypto phones at country's main research funding and science management organization -- the Ankara-based Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) -- left the line open to be bugged.

Daily Yenisafak revealed that crypto phones, which are supposed to protect their users from eavesdropping, also used by President Abdullah Gul, Army chief Necdet Ozel and Turkey's top spy Hakan Fidan were bugged as well by what the Turkish government officials has described as a "parallel state," 'a state within the state' nestled within the judiciary and police force, whose members allegedly have links to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, leader of the 'Hizmet' ("Service") movement.

Tensions between the government and Gulen's movement were heightened after a high-profile anti-graft investigation launched on December 17, 2014, saw a number of business people and sons of three former cabinet members put behind bars. Erdogan dismissed the investigation as a "dirty plot" to undermine the stability of his government.

Since then the government has demoted or reassigned thousands of police officers and prosecutors and introduced amendments to Turkey's top body that governs the affairs of judges and prosecutors.

Celal Kizilay, from the Turkey-based communications security company Telcom Informations, said it is technically possible for secure lines to be bugged but only by those who are within the institution already or have the key to control those secure lines.

On Wednesday, five TUBITAK personnel with the division tasked with developing encryption software were suspended from duty, said Turkey's minister of science and technology, Fikri Isik.

TUBITAK is is an autonomous public institution, governed by a science board whose members are selected from academia, industry and research institutions.

To add to the political controversy, newspapers published Monday a list of 3,000 prominent journalists, activists, writers and politicans -- including the Turkish premier -- whose phone calls were intercepted by the "parallel state," with still thousands of names to be listed.

Two prosecutors -- Adem Ozcan and Adnan Cimen -- who allegedly ordered for the wiretappings under Turkey's controversial counter-terrorism laws -- have denied any involvement in the eavesdropping activity and any links with the Hizmet movement.

Erdogan claimed in late 2013 that the country's democracy was under threat from the Hizmet movement.

According to Yenisafak, some members of the "parallel state" were insiders within the TUBITAK team that was tasked with designing the crypto phones, with the aim of obtaining sensitive state information.

Aliye Cetin, from daily Sabah, claims that the aim of wiretapping the head of the state is to sell secret information to foreign countries.

Yenisafak said the revalations of phone bugging meant that the encryption software on the crypto phones have been tempered with to create some back doors so that calls could be left open to monitoring.

The newspaper also said that Turkey's intelligence agencies had warned senior figures to stop using their secure lines after they discovered the possibility that the phones were being tapped.

Erdogan announced late 2012 that intelligence agencies found bugs in his home office.

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