Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has now retroactively registered as an agent of Turkey. Flynn was working for Turkey while also working for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, but failed to register at the time as an agent of a foreign power as required by law.
Part of that advocacy, according to former CIA Director James Woolsey, was discussing a plot to send controversial cleric Fethullah Gulen back to Turkey outside the formal extradition process.
Gulen currently resides in the Poconos mountains of Pennsylvania, almost certainly as a guest of the CIA. The cleric has been openly accused by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan of being behind last year’s failed coup attempt. Gulen is one of Erdogan’s few remaining rivals and has a large network of supporters that extends throughout Turkey and into the United States through his massive charter school business.
Through a spokesman, Flynn called Woolsey’s claim false and said no such discussion ever took place, but he did not deny advocating for the legal extradition of Gulen. The Obama Administration demurred on extraditing Gulen last summer in the wake of the failed coup, citing insufficient grounds despite an arrest warrant issued by Turkey. Gulen does have a green card.
Flynn, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is hardly the only former high ranking U.S. intelligence official to be employed by the Turkish government.
In 2015, the Turkish government hired former CIA Director Porter Goss to lobby for its interests in Congress. Goss, a former Republican congressman, was part of a $1.4 million annual contract paid by Turkey to the Gephardt Group, a lobbying firm led by former House of Representatives Democratic Majority Leader Richard Gephardt.
Turkey’s considerable bipartisan spending has clearly gained the country some influence in Washington. Though the evidence is undeniable, Congress has yet to recognize the 1915 Armenian genocide thanks to Turkish lobbying efforts.
But it would be wrong to see the Turkish lobby as powerful as AIPAC or other foreign lobbies, which have more widespread support in Congress and the U.S. generally. Notwithstanding all its lobbying, Turkey never got what it wanted from the U.S. in Syria (regime change), and it looks like Gulen is staying in the U.S., for now.