Turkey as “partner and target” of U.S. Surveillance

by Vins
Published: Updated:

In August 2014, Der Spiegel and The Intercept reported “how deeply involved America has become in Turkey’s fight” against separatist Kurds along the Turkey-Iraq border. This report was based on documents from the archives of whistleblower Edward Snowden. In one of the NSA document Turkey is identified as both “partner and target” for U.S. surveillance. For instance, U.S. surveillance tracked the mobile phone location data of leaders in the separatist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and shared updated information with the Turkish government every six hours, and in the case of one particular mission, once every hour.

The documents also provide confirmation of earlier allegations that the United States played a role in the December 2011 killing of 34 civilians that the Turkish government had mistakenly identified as guerrilla fighters with the separatist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). As Laura Poitros and her colleagues at The Intercept report, in that case, “an American Predator drone flying overhead had detected the group, prompting U.S. analysts to alert their Turkish partners.”

The NSA’s strategic alliance with Turkey has created a surveillance headquarters in the Middle East. From this strategic vantage point, the U.S. can closely observe events that transpire in Russia, Georgia and Syria. Yet, as indicated in the April 2013 edition of National Intelligence Priorities Framework, which establishes U.S. intelligence priorities, Turkey is one of the countries most heavily surveilled by the U.S.

Corporate media has been largely silent this topic. Although some outlets, including especially the Wall Street Journal, reported on the U.S. involvement in the civilian deaths from the December 2011 mission, corporate news continues to focus primarily on Edward Snowden rather than the evidence in the documents that he revealed.


Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Michael Sontheimer, and Holger Stark, How the NSA Helped Turkey Kill Kurdish Rebels,” The Intercept, August 31, 2014, https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/08/31/nsaturkeyspiegel/.

Lauren McCauley, “NSA Docs Reveal US Hand in Tracking and Killing Kurdish Separatists,” Common Dreams, http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/09/01/nsa-docs-reveal-us-hand-tracking-and-killing-kurdish-separatists.

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