Thursday, January 06, 2011

Islamic group is CIA front, ex-Turkish intel chief says

By Jeff Stein
The Washington Post
January 5, 2011

A memoir by a top former Turkish intelligence official claims that a worldwide moderate Islamic movement based in Pennsylvania has been providing cover for the CIA since the mid-1990s.

The memoir, roughly rendered in English as “Witness to Revolution and Near Anarchy,” by retired Turkish intelligence official Osman Nuri Gundes, says the religious-tolerance movement, led by an influential former Turkish imam by the name of Fethullah Gulen, has 600 schools and 4 million followers around the world.

In the 1990s, Gundes alleges, the movement "sheltered 130 CIA agents" at its schools in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan alone, according to a report on his memoir Wednesday by the Paris-based Intelligence Online newsletter.

The book has caused a sensation in Turkey since it was published last month.

Gulen could not be reached for comment.

But two ex-CIA officials with long ties to Central Asia cast doubt on Gundes’s charges.

Former CIA operative Robert Baer, chief of the agency’s Central Asia and Caucasus operations from 1995 through 1997, called the allegations bogus. "The CIA didn't have any ‘agents’ in Central Asia during my tenure,” he said.

It’s possible, Baer granted, that the CIA “turned around this ship after I left,” but only the spy agency could say for sure, and the CIA does not comment on operational sources and methods.

A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said Gundes’s “accounts are ringing no bells whatsoever.”

Likewise, Graham Fuller, a former CIA station chief in Kabul and author of “The Future of Political Islam,” threw cold water on Gundes’s allegations about Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

“I think the story of 130 CIA agents in Gulen schools in Central Asia is pretty wild,” Fuller said by e-mail.

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