National Security

Flynn shifted stance on Turkey, torture

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President-elect Donald Trump’s chosen national security adviser has previously criticized aggressive counterterrorism methods that he now appears open to and also seemed to change his tune on the government in Turkey after his consulting firm received a lucrative contract.

While using torture once seemed to strike retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as counter to U.S. values, he now seems open to return to outlawed methods that Trump supports.

{mosads}And earlier this year, Flynn cheered a coup attempt trying to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, before later empathizing with the leader in Ankara and calling for the U.S. to extradite a Muslim cleric alleged to be stirring revolutionary sentiments.

The apparent reversals, highlighted in separate reports Monday, underscore the inconsistency on national security issues shaping up for the Trump administration and add to mounting concerns about conflicts of interest for the incoming president. 

Trump’s evolving administration has been criticized for murky lines that separate business interests from policy.

The president-elect has claimed that his significant real estate empire will be run by his adult children, though they have remained involved in high levels of the transition process. He has also appeared to continue to be involved in expanding his company, even as he scrambles to prepare for the White House.  

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has been considered a possible secretary of State in Trump’s administration, has also been the target of controversy for consulting and advocacy work, most prominently in support of Iranian dissidents known as the M.E.K., who were at the time labeled terrorists.

Previous comments by Flynn could add to the scrutiny he faces, which has already mounted over extreme comments about Islam.

“Fear of Muslims,” he said on Twitter in February, “is RATIONAL.”

In late 2014, Flynn appeared to support the conclusions of Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee who denounced the George W. Bush administration’s use of waterboarding and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

“I think history will look back on it, and it won’t be a pretty picture,” Flynn said at the Carnegie Council at the time, CNN noted on Monday.

“If there’s an American strategic advantage, it is our values. We must protect our values at all costs.”

Since then, he has developed a tight bond with Trump, who has called for a resumption of the extreme methods as well as new techniques that are “a hell of a lot worse.”

Now, he appears to be open to the tactics in some circumstances.

“If the nation was in grave danger from a terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction, and we had certain individuals in our custody with information that might avoid it, then I would probably okay enhanced interrogation techniques within certain limits,” he told Politico in October.

Use of the extreme methods, which Trump himself has characterized as torture, are currently illegal under U.S. law and would likely require an act of Congress to be employed.

Flynn’s comments on Turkey, however, appear more directly tied to his private intelligence firm.

When members of the Turkish military staged a coup against Erdogan this summer, Flynn cheered it as something “worth clapping for” and warned that the current government has moved the country “toward Islamism,” The Huffington Post reported.

But months later, after the revolution had failed and as Erdogan appeared to tighten his control over the country in response, Flynn was more conciliatory.

In an op-ed in The Hill this month, Flynn defended Erdogan’s “crackdown on dissidents” and called the government in Ankara “vital to U.S. interests.” He also called for the U.S. to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania and has been a target of Erdogan’s for years.

The Hill op-ed was published after Flynn’s firm signed an agreement with Dutch consulting group Inovo BV, which was founded by the chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council.

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