The following continues Doug Martin’s look into the Gülen charter school movement, which began with Islam and the Free Market of Privatized Education: “Friending” the Gülen Charter Schools. It first appeared at Common Errant.
Besides noting U.S. charter school connections to the Fethullah Gülen Movement during her testimony in the Schmidt v. Krikorian case in Ohio on August 8, 2009,* former FBI language specialist-turned whistleblower Sibel Edmonds—an Iranian raised in Turkey before becoming a U.S. citizen—alleges a 1990s U.S./ Gülen al-Qaeda operation in Central Asian and a bribery scheme involving Indiana’s own U.S. House member Dan Burton.
Edmonds testified in candidate David Krikorian’s defense case before the Ohio Election Commission when Rep. Jean Schmidt, an Ohio Republican, filed charges against him for claiming, during a 2008 campaign bid, that she accepted money illegally from people with Turkey interests.
Edmonds’ deposition held many bombshells, since she had been translating wiretap conversations between those associated with the Turkish lobby.
It seems Gülen and the U.S. State Department, from 1997 to 2001, had been training al-Qaeda in Central Asian, with the help of the Turkish military, Pakistani ISI, and Azerbaijan officials (96), Edmonds says in response to questions from Krikorian’s attorney, Dan Marino. In a subsequent interview with retired CIA-counter-terrorism specialist Phil Giraldi (who believes her story), Edmonds details Gülen /U.S training missions and Turkish drug-smuggling into Chicago and Paterson, New Jersey, two hot-beds of the Gülen Movement, each containing Fethullah’s followers’ charter schools:
GIRALDI: You also have information on al-Qaeda, specifically al-Qaeda in Central Asia and Bosnia. You were privy to conversations that suggested the CIA was supporting al-Qaeda in central Asia and the Balkans, training people to get money, get weapons, and this contact continued until 9/11…
EDMONDS: I don’t know if it was CIA. There were certain forces in the U.S. government who worked with the Turkish paramilitary groups, including Abdullah Çatli’s group, Fethullah Gülen.
GIRALDI: Well, that could be either Joint Special Operations Command or CIA.
EDMONDS: Maybe in a lot of cases when they said State Department, they meant CIA?
GIRALDI: When they said State Department, they probably meant CIA.
EDMONDS: Okay. So these conversations, between 1997 and 2001, had to do with a Central Asia operation that involved bin Laden. Not once did anybody use the word “al-Qaeda.” It was always “mujahideen,” always “bin Laden” and, in fact, not “bin Laden” but “bin Ladens” plural. There were several bin Ladens who were going on private jets to Azerbaijan and Tajikistan. The Turkish ambassador in Azerbaijan worked with them.
There were bin Ladens, with the help of Pakistanis or Saudis, under our management. Marc Grossman [Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs at the time and former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey] was leading it, 100 percent, bringing people from East Turkestan into Kyrgyzstan, from Kyrgyzstan to Azerbaijan, from Azerbaijan some of them were being channeled to Chechnya, some of them were being channeled to Bosnia. From Turkey, they were putting all these bin Ladens on NATO planes. People and weapons went one way, drugs came back.
GIRALDI: Was the U.S. government aware of this circular deal?
EDMONDS: 100 percent. A lot of the drugs were going to Belgium on NATO planes. After that, they went to the UK, and a lot came to the U.S. via military planes to distribution centers in Chicago and Paterson, New Jersey. Turkish diplomats who would never be searched were coming with suitcases of heroin.
Edmonds, before this interview took place, had been fired from the FBI in 2002 for revealing to higher ups security breaches and Turkish espionage at the bureau’s language division. This Turkish-American conspiracy included, as well, paying off U.S. officials to leak secrets and allow nuclear weapons technology to be sold on the Pakistani, Iranian, and North Korean black markets. Besides Dan Burton, others she implements include Illinois Republican Dennis Hastert, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, and Marc Grossman, Bush’s Deputy Undersecretary of State.
Edmonds has been gagged under a “state secrets privilege” order by the Bush Administration’s attorney general, John Ashcroft, from disclosing detailed information to the public, but her finger-pointing has been backed up or deemed credible by many, including the government’s own Department of Justice’s Inspector General and Senators Patrick Leahy and Chuck Grassley. In fact, former Turkish Intelligence Chief Osman Nuri Gundes, in a recent memoir, writes that Gülen, in his Central Asia charter schools in the mid-1990s, gave cover to over 130 CIA agents posing as teachers, an irony given that today Turkish men on H-1B visas pose as educators in the US charter schools run by Gülen followers.
Why was the CIA interested in Central Asia? Oil and gas, according to Edmonds.
It turns out, one of the Turkish groups being wiretapped was the American Turkish Council (ATC). When Edmonds told higher-ups that an ATC spy was working as a translator in the FBI and attempting to conceal ATC’s illegal activity, Edmonds was fired. The spy, Jan Dickerson, Edmonds told officials, had tried to buy her out. Dickerson’s husband was an Air Force official.
As part of the Turkish lobby, the ATC is a big-player in D.C. Its board is made up of and funded by U.S. weapons contractors and energy companies (including Imagine Schools’ Dennis Bakke’s former company AES Energy, Eli Lilly, and Lockheed Martin). It is believed that Valerie Plame Wilson’s outing, among other things, was a result of her investigation into the ATC. At the time of the conspiracy, Brent Scowcroft, a former national security adviser, was ATC’s chair. Lincoln McCurdy, who we will soon meet, was ATC’s CEO.
In an interview with Electric Politics, Edmonds also discusses the Association of Turkish Americans and its nationwide interfaith and business chapters, which have ties to the Gülen charter schools. Citizens Against Special Interest Lobbying in Public Schools (C.A.S.I.L.I.P.S) has traced Gülen-affiliated Magnolia Science Academy’s Dean Sumer, in California, to the Association of Turkish Americans.
BURTON AND THE TURKISH LOBBY
Dan Burton (R, IN): “If I lived in Turkey and if I were a Turk, I would want to get those terrorists who cross the border to blow up my family, kill my kids.”
Due to the Ashcroft “gag-order,” Edmonds has not been able to say exactly what illegal activity Burton was enmeshed in with the Turkish lobby. Supposedly, the crimes occurred from 1997 to 2002 (page 159 PDF), the same time-span in which the CIA was allegedly helping Gülen train al-Qaeda. Referring to a picture gallery she set up online exposing those entangled in the scandal, Edmonds, in her Ohio deposition, says this concerning Burton:
A. I can’t discuss the details of those individuals not legal activities in the United States, but those pictures, his and others, are there because State Secrets Privilege was mainly involved to cover up those individuals illegal, extremely illegal activities against the United States citizens who were involved in operations that were, again, against order foreign government and foreign entities against the United States’interests.
Q. And Dan Burton is a representative, member of Congress from Indiana; is that correct? Is that the right place?
A. I believe he is. (46-47)
Gülen’s name does not surface alongside Burton’s during the testimony, but as I noted in a previous article, Burton has accepted campaign donations from many individuals tied to Gülen charter schools in Indiana. Lyndsey Eksili, wife of main Indiana Gülen leader Bilal, has given Burton $1000, and Hasan Yerdelen, treasurer for the American Turkish Association of Indiana, donated $1,000 in 2010, as well. A former Holy Dove official, Yerdelen’s new group belongs to the Assembly of Turkish-American Associations (ATAA), also mentioned by Edmonds.
Burton has been getting money from the Turkish PAC, too, which has ties to the American Turkish Council implemented in the Edmonds case. In an article about a recent D.C. gala party, the Gülen-influenced Today’s Zaman details the plans of the TC-USA PAC. The TC-USA PAC goes by many names. Incorporated out of Houston, Texas, it sometimes is called the Turkish Coalition PAC, the Turkish American Political Action Committee, and the Turkish Coalition USA PAC. Until May 2008, its name was the Turkish PAC – Turkish American Heritage Political Action Committee. Federal Election Commission records show Burton has recently gotten $11,000 from this group.
The Turkish Coalition USA PAC is managed by the Turkish Coalition of America’s Lincoln McCurdy, a Hanover College, Indiana, graduate and former U.S. diplomat in Istanbul, who was ATC’s CEO from 1998 to 2004, during the alleged Burton bribery scandal. McCurdy’s name appears as the treasurer of the PAC in FEC documents. The Turkish Coalition of America was founded with money from Hittite Microwave head Yalcin Ayasli, which since 2004, according to the Sunlight Foundation, has received $30 million in contracts from the U.S. government. McCurdy is no stranger to Dan Burton. Burton visited Turkey with McCurdy and the Turkish Coalition of America. Plus, in a 2009 talk at the Gülen Institute Congressional Dinner, Burton praised how Dick Lugar was to be a future keynote speaker at the Holy Dove Foundation, and how he himself is treated like a “king” when he visits Turkey.
In the summer of 2010, Burton even hired Baran Cansever to go on fact-finding missions at congressional hearings. Cansever was a former American Turkish Council intern in 2009, where he helped plan ATC-funded trips for congressional staffers and worked with the ATC “Chairman during Energy and Defense sessions at the Annual Conference on U.S./Turkish Relations.” As I and many others have noted, those associated with the Gülen-led charter schools use trips to Turkey to dupe legislators across the country into buying into the Gülen story of peace and love.
In November of last year, Burton and Dick Lugar were hosts at a Turkish American Federation of the Midwest-sponsored event which also included the American Turkish Council’s James Holmes as speaker, British Petroleum’s Greg Saunders, and Fatih Baltaci, CEO of Enerco Energy, along with many government officials. The Turkish American Federation of the Midwest is a local branch of the Gülen-led Assembly of Turkic American Federations (ATAF); the Niagara Foundation, with ties to leaders of the Indiana Gülen charter school movement, is an arm of the Turkish American Federation of the Midwest.
Although Edmonds does not mention Lugar in the bribery scandal, his appearance at the ATAF’s gala party held at the Willard InterContinental Washington in May 2010 did not go unnoticed to Today’s Zaman, which noted: “It was no coincidence that Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) talked about the Holy Dove Foundation’s impressive interfaith and ethnic outreach efforts in Indianapolis.” Holy Dove, to refresh your memory, is one of the main Gülen groups behind the Indiana charter schools. Last month, Lugar, in fact, received over $9,200 in campaign donations from Indiana Gülenists Mehmet Dundar, Oznur Dundar, Ali Kemal Durhan, and Zehra Durhan at the Indiana Math and Science Academy.
Last year, the FBI began investigating the Gülen charter schools for visa fraud, so it will be interesting to see what, if anything, is done about Gülen’s U.S. campaign to profit his movement with U.S. taxpayers’ dollars. In Indiana, D.C. and across America, don’t expect legislators to have the interest/and or safety of the public or public schools in mind anytime soon, though. Despite Barton retiring (becoming a Turkish lobbyist?) and Lugar fighting re-election with another tea-party Republican, the Gülen empire in Indiana and around the world will continue. According to a 2010 piece in the Hurriyet Daily News, Gülen himself has called on all 180 of his organizations to be put under the Assembly of Turkic American Federations (ATAF) umbrella. Gülen is everywhere. When asked if Fethullah Gülen was a threat to United States interests, Edmonds, in her Ohio testimony said, “One hundred percent, absolutely.” Discussing the Gülen charter schools, Sibel had this back-and-forth with Krikorian’s attorney, Dan Marino:
Q. Did you say that Gulan had set up schools in the United States as well?
Q. Are some of those in Cincinnati, if you know?
A. I’m not sure. I know of some in Texas. I know one in Virginia, but I don’t know. They are multiplying, and they’re spreading rapidly. (97-99)
They are multiplying, indeed, and more of them are being proposed in Burton’s own backyard.
** Edmonds’ story has been mentioned on 60 Minutes and made into a documentary entitled Kill the Messenger. In January, a 60 Minutes episode on the U.S. Gülen charter schools was also filmed. No word yet on when or if it will air.
For Further Reading on the banal corruption of Dan Burton, see: