February 11, 2015 Special Dispatch No. 5964

Turkish Media Reports: Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) Leaks Official Confidential Turkish Documents From 2012, Exposing Turkish, Saudi, And Qatari Support For Terrorist Groups

February 11, 2015
Turkey, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 5964

Turkish media have been reporting on Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) leaks of secret and confidential material that it obtained by hacking email communications of top strategic Turkish government agencies - including the president's and prime minister's offices, the Foreign and Defense Ministries, and the Air Force Command, between March 2009 and November 2012.[1] Also leaked were a personal letter from U.S. President Barack Obama to then-prime minister (now president) Recep Tayyip Erdogan requesting his help,[2] messages from [then] U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone to Turkish Foreign Ministry officials, and the U.S's transition plans in Syria, which had been shared only with Turkey, the U.K., France, and Germany.

The following are excerpts from Turkish media reports on SEA's leak:

Turkish Daily Zaman: In Leaked Letter, Obama Asks PM Erdogan For Help To Calm Muslims And Curb Violence In Reaction To "Anti-Muhammad Video"

On February 9, 2015, the Turkish daily Today's Zaman reported that the SEA hackers had posted on their website ( a private letter from President Obama to then-prime minister Erdogan on September 14, 2012, noting:[3] "In the letter, which begins 'Dear Tayyip,' Obama voices his concerns about a possible attack on U.S. diplomats following the release of a short video titled 'Innocence of Muslims' [which was being blamed for the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi three days earlier]. The video has anti-Islamic undertones and it is perceived as denigrating the Prophet Muhammad.

"When the 14-minute video was uploaded to the Internet on Sept. 11, 2012 in Egypt, it led to large-scale protests that were also replicated around the world. As a result of clashes with police, about 100 people were injured and 50 died.

"Obama asked Erdo─ƒan to 'speak out immediately and forcefully before people go to Friday prayers': 'I believe that you are one of the most credible voices in the Islamic world today, and that if people hear you calling for calm and condemning violence it will have a real impact,' stated Obama in his letter to Erdo─ƒan, adding: 'It will be important to emphasize that diplomatic personnel and facilities must be respected and that the way to defend religion is through peace rather than violence. As people of faith, we have an obligation to prevent the people who did this video provoking a cycle of violence that violates the values that undergird our faith.'

"The letter seems to have been sent via e-mail early on a Friday morning in Turkey, just in time for Friday prayers.

"In his letter, Obama also said: 'I understand you are traveling between Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it is just after midnight in Washington. I am writing to you because given what has happened in the last two days, there is a very real danger that there could be an escalation of violence on Friday that would be very damaging to our shared interests.'

"Obama then mentioned the video, saying: 'Let me be clear that the U.S. government had nothing to do with it. We reject its message, which entirely contradicts my personal views and the values that America stands for.' Obama then underscored that the U.S. respects Islam and that it is opposed to efforts that offend Muslims by defaming the Prophet Muhammad.

"He added that they could do nothing to block the video, saying that this was not possible 'in this age of technology,' and noted that they are bound by the commitment to free expression. 'Nevertheless, our embassies across the Middle East are at risk and we are deeply concerned that after Friday prayers our people and installations in the region could be vulnerable to attack. We must not let extremists use this video as a pretext to attack America, or our other allies and partners,' Obama wrote.

"Obama ended his letter by thanking Erdo─ƒan and calling him 'my friend,' adding that he looks forward to 'talking again' in a few days' time - when Erdo─ƒan would return to Turkey from abroad."

Photo: Today's Zaman, February 9, 2015

SEA In Hurriyet Interview: "Emails We Exposed Prove Coordination Between Turkish Government And Armed Groups In Syria"

The Turkish dailies Hurriyet and Hurriyet Daily News reported on February 11, 2015 that Hurriyet had conducted an interview via email with SEA's spokesman, who said that the group had hacked the emails two years previously but that it had chosen to hold on to them "to ensure that the Turkish government doesn't attempt to whitewash its involvement inside Syria."[4] He added that the SEA had targeted Turkey's communications in 2009, after Turkey had shot down a Syrian helicopter.

According to the report, the SEA spokesman who answered Hurriyet's questions said: "The email communications that we exposed prove the fact that the Turkish government is in coordination with the armed groups fighting in Syria." He added, "The whole world disrespected Syria's borders; in return we too will disregard all the borders of the world and will target those who want to harm our country, no matter where they may be."

Hurriyet Daily News wrote: "[The spokesman said] 'We act independently and have a very large support base of members on social media... We are currently hosted on foreign servers. No one has lent their support to us but it is OK, because it doesn't take much - just a laptop, an Internet connection, knowledge and time,' the SEA spokesperson said.

"'We targeted most Turkish regime websites, like the Foreign Ministry, the presidency, the military industry, and many others. All the emails and the messages of the targeted websites were dumped and downloaded, and we will leak them soon.'

"The spokesman for the group, which hacked Saudi, Qatari, and Arab League emails in addition to accounts in Turkey, said that Riyadh, Doha, Ankara and the Arab League were involved in the Syrian war.

"The report said that SEA had expressed hope that the world could hold these accountable for the weapons smuggled into Syria, including mortars which are being used by terrorists to target civilian areas. 'All their involvement is now proven thanks to these leaks,' he said.

"The group has in the recent past also hacked the Twitter account of U.S. President Barack Obama, the Facebook account of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and the websites and Twitter accounts of The Guardian, BBC, The New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press, CNN, and Al-Jazeera in the recent past."

Photo: Zaman, February 9, 2015


[1] Hurriyet, February 10, 2015.

[2] Zaman, Today's Zaman, February 9, 2015.

[3] Today's Zaman, February 9, 2015.

[4] Hurriyet, Hurriyet Daily News, February 11, 2015.

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