The United States has been inextricably involved in Turkey’s surveillance and targeting of Kurdish rebel groups for years and even had a hand in a botched mission that resulted in the killing of 34 innocent people. Despite this ongoing collaboration, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden and jointly reported by The Intercept and Der Spiegelon Sunday, the country itself remains one of the National Security Agency’s top surveillance targets.
The NSA’s strategic alliance with Turkey has borne a surveillance headquarters in the Middle East from which the U.S. can monitor goings-on in Russia, Georgia and Syria. The reporting paints a picture of a troubling quid pro quo arrangement in which the establishment of the NSA listening station was given in exchange for U.S. intelligence information and assistance targeting individuals with the separatist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) group.
However, the leaked documents further reveal that, despite this partnership, the government of Turkey is one of the United States’ leading targets for spying, with the NSA infiltrating the computer systems of the nation’s top leaders, UN representatives, and ambassadors in the U.S.
One NSA document reportedly describes the country bluntly as being both a “partner and target.” As the Der Spiegel/ Intercept report notes:
The very politicians, military officials and intelligence agency officials with whom US officials work closely when conducting actions against the PKK are also considered legitimate spying targets by the NSA. To that end, in addition to the official SUSLAT [Special Liaison Activity Turkey] liaison office and the intelligence workers it has cleared with the Turkish authorities, the US has two secret branch offices, operating Special Collection Service listening stations in both Istanbul and the capital city of Ankara.