John Bass, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, has played down allegations in a Turkish daily that a staff member at his country's consulate in southern Turkey hired a local journalist to spy on Syrians.
Bass answered journalists' questions yesterday on a report by the Milliyet daily that claimed Sinan Seyfettinoğlu, a Turk working as a "security and liaison officer" at the U.S. consulate in Adana, paid a local reporter to gather information about Syrians in the area as well as strategic information regarding Turkish troops on the Syrian border.
The ambassador said the embassy had many contacts to help understand the events in the country, to help understand what is going on around them and that it was normal procedure for any U.S. consulate to have such contacts. He said the nature of the relationship in the case of Adana was not espionage and allegations to that extent were baseless.
The article in Milliyet says the local journalist, identified as U.K., has been in the payroll of Seyfettinoğlu, who made headlines two years ago when he attended a Gezi Park protest in Adana and allegedly "directed" rioters.
The article continues to say that Seyfettinoğlu and U.K. have met seven times since 2012 and exchanged over 800 phone calls and text messages. U.K. was reportedly supplying critical information to Seyfettinoğlu on Syria and Turkey. Quoting unnamed sources, the Milliyet report said U.K. told Seyfettinoğlu he could provide information about Syrian refugee camps and the situation of Turkish troops deployed on the border but the embassy official declined. The journalist supplied information to him anyway on Free Syrian Army rebels, the situation of refugees, extremists attempting to sneak into Syria via Turkey, munitions Turkish police confiscated in Adana in operations and the captivity of a Turkish officer in the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Seyfettinoğlu particularly sought information on the capture of several Syrians who were planning to carry out bomb attacks in refugee camps, information about a security wall on the Turkish-Syrian border and the situation at border crossings, according to the Milliyet article.