Friday, June 13, 2014

And That's A Wrap!

And that's that. I'm done blogging for the season, at least here.

I'm headed up to moose country for the summer. My family loves this time of the year; the wi-fi frees up and the dog is out of the house for a whole month and a half.

I'm moving all my posts over to a new blog now that RPNPS is in full hiatus. That space isn't ready yet, so simmer down. I'll let you know in a week or so. As an extra special treat, I'm also going to port my old School TechConnect posts so that they're preserved for generations to come. Snark for the ages.

The fall is going to bring all kinds of changes, so we'll just see where this thing goes. I have a feeling you're going to see a whole new kind of writing in the fall. But I'm sticking with the Gulen investigations, you can count on that.

Thanks for reading, all. If you need to get in touch, @tbfurman is still the best way. See you in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Message Control In The Gulen Movement

Here's a little demonstration of the message control that characterizes the Gulen Movement. It's really quite fascinating.

In the United States, one of the central themes of GM message control is that the charter schools aren't connected to the transnational religious/political/social movement. At best, according to the heavily managed theme, there are only loose, vague instances of various unnamed people possibly being "influenced" at one time or another by the teachings of Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Almost random chance, in other words.

It's been a successful effort. Even in the recent media coverage of the FBI raids throughout the Concept charter system, journalists are very, very guarded about using the G-word.

But take a look at this fresh piece from the Gulenist media outlet, Ebru TV (English language version.) It's a puff piece about Love Is A Verb, the recent "documentary" (i.e., propaganda film) about the Gulen Movement.  [The documentary is a story in itself. Even I wanted to join the Gulen Movement after watching clips from the documentary. It doesn't touch on the hardball political intrigue, the infiltration of the Turkish judiciary, the wiretap montages, or the whole "move silently through the arteries of the system" thing.]

I'm going to embed the current version (the one I linked to, above) of the Ebru puff piece here. Note the nice Latino gentleman at the 1:50 mark.  He's the guy I'm focusing on.

There's nothing particularly remarkable about the Latino gentleman at 1:50, except that he didn't appear in the original version of the puff piece. He's a substitute.  The producers clipped out someone else and substituted this unremarkable (here, at least) person into the slot where the original figure had been.

So who did they cut out of the original puff piece?

Why, one of the central characters in the whole charter school connection, of course! Check her out; she's at 2:02 in this early capture of the television broadcast of the original puff piece. [

She's Lynne Emily Webb Ozgur, and she works at Central Jersey College Prep, which has many, many Gulen-linked connections, including one to Ebru TV, which has studios about a mile and half from the charter school in New Jersey.  Lynne Ozgur is married to Kemal Ozgur, who, according to reports, is the person who invited Fethullah Gulen to come stay at the Golden Generation compound in Pennsylvania.

Golden Generation had already been established in Saylorsburg on the grounds of a former summer camp. Kemal Ozgur, a microbiologist and Gülenist, met Gülen in Minnesota and invited him to stay in Pennsylvania. The cleric has remained there ever since.

On any given day, if you wanted to visit Mr. Gulen at the compound, you'd probably run into Mr. Ozgur.

Anyway, I've isolated Ms. Ozgur's appearance in the puff piece here. It's brief. Note that the (Ebru TV) interviewer precedes Ms. Ozgur's appearance with: "including Lynne Ozgur, an American-Muslim, who teaches at a Gulen-based charter school in New Jersey.

Lynne Ozgur herself says hardly anything at all, but the Ebru people must have figured out that her presence in the video (as well as the interviewer's description of her) violated what must be some kind of prime directive: thou shalt not reveal the charter school connection. Or something like that.

The Ozgurs (and I imagine many of the other Gulenists) are property owners near the compound in Saylorsburg. Someone in Turkey (and I have no idea who this is) has been watching them very closely and tracking them on Twitter.

When you start looking into this subject, you find that a lot of people in Turkey are tracking the leadership of the Gulen Movement with surprising precision. I have no idea what the agenda of this Tweeter is; it doesn't interest me.

Ebru TV even thought to remove any mention of Ms. Ozgur from the web-print version of their story. Clearly someone higher up got involved. The charter school connection had to go. 

Here's the current web-print story on Ebru's website.

And here's the version that got scrubbed (it wasn't up for very long).

Isn't Google amazing? 

Anyway, they clipped any mention of Ms. Ozgur because of the prime directive, obviously. The phrase "Gulen-based charter school in New Jersey" must have set off some kind of alarm throughout the system.

One of the interesting things about the Gulen Movement, in my mind, is the weird behavior that grows out of a conflict between two of Fethullah Gulen's Pearls of Wisdom.

On the one hand, there's the Pearl about deception..

And on the other hand, there are many Pearls related to keeping secrets. This one, for example:

Or this one:

I'm not a religion scholar. But from a layman's point of view, the focus on keeping secrets is probably the thing that's at the root of the deceptive behavior about the charter connection, and certainly this must create some kind of cognitive dissonance. It's also possible that the entire enterprise is based on deception and secrecy, and the Pearls are more of an ancillary set of suggestions.

It's not important. What is important is that people realize that message control is highly managed within the Gulen Movement, and the desire to keep the charter school secret in the vault seems to be one of the very highest priorities.

Research by Sharon Higgins.

Note: The Youtube version of the original Ebru TV broadcast (the one still containing Ms. Ozgur) was posted by a Youtube account named GulenMovement. I have no idea who it actually is, but there are quite a few videos on the account. I would imagine that the Youtube version of this particular broadcast is going to be scrubbed. When it is, would someone alert me? I'll replace it with a backup version.

New to the topic? Please see some of my previous posts.

Dragnet! Peoria Concept School Raided By FBI
It Seems Like A Good Time To Ask
FBI Raids, Concept Charter Schools, and Rahm
Is the FBI Looking At Chicago Charter Schools?
Your International Intrigue Update
Here, Have A School
Dispatch From The Parallel State

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dragnet! Peoria Concept School Raided By FBI

Glen Barton, CEO of Concept's charter school in Peoria, confirms that FBI agents with search warrants came on June 4.

Barton also served on the state charter school commission, which in my opinion, was a conflict of interest throughout his tenure.  He's still attached to the Concept school in Peoria. He does a good job here of trying to diffuse the focus on Concept:
Read more:
Barton said the raid was “in response to a federal program that provides funding to schools — all schools, not just charter schools — to upgrade infrastructure and requires a certain level (of) low-income students to qualify.” The school explored that program, but did not apply for it, according to Barton.

“I think it’s sort of an issue why were singled out,” said Barton, who believed the search was unnecessary.

Yes, the E-rate program is for all schools. But as far as I can tell, warrants were only served on Concept charter schools. And no, Quest wasn't singled out. The entire Concept system is being investigated.

Concept's spokesperson apparently also let it out that:
FBI officials also inquired about “certain external individuals/entities” that had performed computer server upgrades and personnel development. None of those services were paid by Quest using grant funds, according to the statement.
Interesting. The whole idea of "external individuals" is interesting in the Gulen-linked world. There's so much interconnectedness; it's very likely that the Cleveland FBI office is looking at people who worked throughout the Concept system and possibly even at other branches (non-Concept) of the Gulen-linked system. Once you start looking at actual names, those very same names turn up over and over and over.  "External" is very much esoteric designation in the "fantastically disorganized" universe in which these schools exist.

In other words, it seems highly unlikely to me that whatever the FBI is looking will be confined to the Concept charters.

The idea that they're looking at the system through a technology angle is a bit disturbing. More on that later. When you look at the modern history of the Movement, at least as it exists overseas, I think it's fair to say that technology does not bring out the best in them.

I'm refraining from more speculation at this time, but it isn't easy. If we could get a clearer picture of all of the facilities raided, that would help clarify exactly what the FBI is really looking at.

And kudos to Thomas Bruch of the PJ Star. He made a call, got a statement, and now we know a little more than we did before. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It Seems Like A Good Time To Ask

July 22,  2014, Update: The individual referred to in this post has been identified; her name is misspelled in the Commission minutes. She appears to me to be a highly qualified attorney who was indeed simply working pro bono on this Commission while it worked on approving the Concept appeal. It appears to me that this individual had no prior experience in the charter sector, would have had no reason to look into Concept's history, connections,  or practices; and is seems highly unlikely she would have had an inkling about a grand jury or an FBI investigation. 

One very little detail here. Can you help?

I'm boxing up my notes from the last year, including all the transcripts from the state charter school commission meetings, as well as dozens of other documents, FOIA'd and otherwise. In all the hundreds of pages, there's just one person I can't actually identify.

Someone has to write the history of this thing; it's probably going to be me. But I need help with this one name.

Chicago's a small town; surely someone will know this person and clue me in. She's an attorney, so that should narrow it down.

The name appears in the March 19, 2013, transcript of the Illinois State Charter Commission.

It's during the meeting where they approved the controversial Concept appeal for the Horizon Science Academy Belmont and Horizon Science Academy McKinley Park.

In the transcript section below (from P. 78), the executive director of the commission is starting to talk to the commission about the appeals process and all of the people who participated in the analysis of the appeals. It's pretty dull; there are lots of names, and you can (if you're like me) Google all of the names and figure out who's who.

Except this one name.

It's probably nothing. It's just that this one individual appeared at an obscure commission's door one day during the pending Concept appeal, and was so helpful, with the appeals and all.

Ten out of ten people living in Chicago couldn't tell you where this commission's offices are or when they meet. But this person with no digital footprint found it and got right to work.

I'm just keeping track of names here. It's probably just a misspelling. But still, for future reference..... does anyone know her? I'd hate for my book to be incomplete.

You should see my office walls. Flowcharts, timelines, biographies... The devil's in the details, as they say.

Confirmed By (Ohio) Reporter: There's an FBI Investigation of Concept

6PM Update: The intrepid Dan Mihalopoulos has gone there. Oh yes he has. This should be interesting when Concept finally answers the phone. Remind me to do a post about the whole "keeping secrets" thing.

Let's just hope people recognize the difference between an "audit" and a criminal investigation. Because I'm thinking we're going to be hearing the word "audit" tomorrow. Hint: audits don't come with search warrants.

Looks like Dan's anticipating the "audit" response, too:

But the FBI’s Anderson said Tuesday, “What we did was not part of any audit.”
Original Post

Remember, back in the day, when if the FBI raided your schools as part of a criminal investigation, someone would report it? In the press?

Doug Livingston of the Ohio Beacon:

Federal agents have raided 19 charter schools, including three in Ohio, where an FBI criminal investigation in Cleveland has led to search warrants in Indiana and Illinois over the past week.
The 19 schools are managed by Concept Schools, a charter school operator headquartered near Chicago.
Concept Schools has been investigated previously by the U.S. Department of Labor for its use of foreign workers. Ohio audits found that public money for the schools had been used improperly for visas. Concept received more visas for immigrant workers than Google in 2009 and many of the school’s employees are of Turkish descent. Most of the nonprofit schools’ board members in Northeast Ohio are male and of Turkish descent.
The company manages 19 charter schools in Ohio, second only to Texas with 44 such schools. There are nearly 140 charter schools, spread across 26 states, associated with Turkish Cleric Fetullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric exiled from Turkey, living in Pennsylvania.
The raid began last week as unmarked vans and agents seized documents. The search warrants have been sealed.
“Last Wednesday afternoon we executed some search warrants in conjunction with the (U.S.) Department of Education and the FCC (Federal Communications Commission),” said Vicki Anderson, a special agent with the FBI Cleveland office.
“It is in regards to an ongoing white-collar crime investigation,” Anderson said, declining to divulge further details. “It’s a criminal ongoing investigation.”
Anderson confirmed that raids on Concept Schools in Indiana and Illinois were “all based on the investigation in the Cleveland Field Division.”

So, let's review the key terms:
FBI, search warrants, vans, agents, Concept charter schools, Illinois, boxes of documents, criminal investigation, Chicago. 

These are the key ingredients of a successful news story. 


Thank God for the Sun Times! (This has been my motto for years.)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

FBI Raids, Concept Charter Schools, and Rahm

It's weird how the feds are always looking at charter school guys that Rahm Emanuel hangs out with.

Earlier today, I reported on a Sharon Higgins alert that one of the Concept schools in Indiana has been raided by the FBI in connection with "a white collar crime" investigation, as the FBI put it.

The FBI also indicated to the Indy Times reporter that they were looking at "19 charter schools in various states."

It's my guess that those schools are in the Concept system, and I'm sure hoping some local journos start sniffing around. The FBI did, after all, raid a Concept school, and Concept does operate (over) 19 schools in various states. And they're certainly an intriguing bunch of fellows when you start looking at the whole picture.

The founder (and current board member) of the FBI-targeted Indiana charter school is a man named Bilal Eksili. How long do you think it took Sharon to find a picture of Mr. Eksili with Rahm Emanuel?

The answer would be five minutes. So here it is, a picture of Rahm Emanuel and the man who founded and basically runs the school that the FBI just raided, in what appears to be a much larger-scale investigation into the Concept schools. 

Don't you love Twitter? The love goes back and forth.

 Anyway, here's who's who in the above tweet, to the best of my knowledge:
1. Suleyman Turhanogullari, president of the Turkish American Federation of the Midwest. 
2. Salim Ucan of Concept Schools
3. F*ck You, Lewis!
4. Bilal Eksili, of the FBI-raided charter in Indianapolis. Also associated with Niagara.  Leader of many, many junkets for policymakers.
5. Tamer Copuroglu, president Turkish American Chamber of Commerce.

I find it useful to think of all of these organizations, with their frequent re-namings, and their revolving cast of characters, to be just subsidiary groups of one big organization. And you know what organization I'm talking about.

Anyway, Mr. Eksili is huge on Twitter. Here's one of him and a certain Turkish autocrat, back in the day when they could be in the same room together (in 2013).

Again, for the record:

1. Bilal Eskili, of the FBI-raided Concept school. Friend of Rahm? Who knows.
2. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the prime minister of Turkey.
3. No clue. [Update: We're guessing that's Faruk Taban, who runs the entire Gulenist umbrella organization, the Turkic American Alliance. And yes, he was also running a charter school in Reno (the Coral Academy of Science) back in 2007. He's also listed as a director of the EMO that services the Gulen-linked schools out West (the Accord Institute). ]

Whenever you see a picture of someone in the US posing with the Turkish prime minister, prior to 2014, the odds are you're looking at someone who runs a charter school, or who formerly did so. After 2014? Not so much.  

Here's Eskili with the Republican Adam Kinzinger; these guys are entrenched out in Rockford.

The guy gets around. The odds are that if you are in a political office in Illinois, and it's during office hours, then there's a guy from one of the Gulen Movement nodes out in your waiting room, with a camera, getting ready to invite you to one thing or another, possibly a junket to Turkey. Or write a check.

One example, and then I'll stop. Do you remember that I mentioned that Tammy Duckworth wrote a letter of support to the Gulen-linked Turquoise festival in Rosemont? The one where the charter kids competed in a chance to go to Turkey? Well, Tammy Duckworth got $2,000 from one of the Rockford guys (Celal Evliyaoglu--I'm not sure if he's pictured in any of these Eskili tweets) in 2012--- the guy who is listed as the accountant for the Turkish American Society in Chicago. So, for two grand, they got to read a letter from a Congresswoman at the Gulen-linked talent show in Rosemont.
(Confusing, I admit. The man lives in Rockford, apparently, and is the accountant for the Chicago organization. You really do need a whiteboard to write these posts.)

You have to admit, the political outreach arm of these charter schools--- and the larger Movement of which they are a part--- is amazing. They make UNO look like a train station dice game. Which it sort of is.

Someone really needs to start calling the Concept schools to get statements from them about whether or not the FBI has taken records from them, whether search warrants were involved, and the details of all of those things. If they're raiding the Indianapolis school, and if they're investigating 18 other schools, then it's almost a certainty that they're looking at the schools here in Illinois.

New to the topic? Please see some of my previous posts.

Is the FBI Looking At Chicago Charter Schools?
Your International Intrigue Update
Here, Have A School
Dispatch From The Parallel State