A prominent Turkish American businessman Ibrahim Kurtulus, who has close ties with former US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, says FETO has penetrated the US federal system just like it infiltrated Turkey's before the July 15 coup attempt.
As Turkey marks the 5th anniversary of the July 15 failed coup attempt, many ordinary Turks within the country and abroad still feel upset while recalling the bloody event that claimed the lives of over 250 people, including civilians, who were either shot dead or run over by tanks.
The only silver lining in that incident was the triumph of Turkish democracy. It was the peoples' power that defeated a renegade faction of the military loyal to the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation or FETO, which tried to keep the country hostage at gunpoint.
The event is not only observed by Turks living in Turkey but also by the Turkish diaspora spread across the world.
Ibrahim Kurtulus, a prominent Turkish American in New York, is one among them. Kurtulus has a deep understanding of the dark FETO network operating on American soil.
TRT World spoke to him about how FETO continues to operate in America and why the US has failed to extradite its leader Fetullah Gulen despite Turkey providing a trove of documents to prove his direct involvement in the July 15 failed coup.
Kurtulus believes that Gulen is being protected by "larger forces and powers that may not want institutions like the FBI, State Department or any other institution" to go further investigating him and his network.
The reason behind the US falling short of delivering Gulen to Turkey, Kurtulus said, is that FETO has "infiltrated" the American system, including non-profits, government departments and developed relationships with the people who are in the "halls of power".
Kurtulus said FETO gained its foothold in America in the 1980s by taking advantage of the country's "interfaith" culture, projecting itself as a group "wanting to break bread with Christians and Jews and celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas and Thanksgiving and Ramadan together."
The bilateral ties between the US and Turkey were strained from 2014 onward when Washington decided to support YPG in northern Syria, which is affiliated with PKK, a terror group in the eyes of Turkey, the US and the EU.
The US' dithering over Gulen's extradition following the July 15 failed coup attempt made matters worse between the two traditional allies.
Despite Michael Flynn, former US National Security Advisor and the former head of Defense Intelligence Agency, making efforts to extradite Gulen to Turkey, the FETO leader continued to buy time in the US and evade the Turkish justice system.
Kurtulus said he and Flynn became friends way before Flynn served as the National Security Advisor between January 22 to February 13, 2017. According to Kurtulus, Flynn's sound educational background allowed him to sift through a vast amount of information about FETO, which he had collected from various sources, including Kurtulus, and come to the conclusion that Gulen led a "vast global network" that fit the description of "a dangerous sleeper terror network."
Why couldn't the US government accept Flynn's viewpoint? Kurtulus said the answer probably lies in a conversation he has had with a former congressman, who told him, "When American interest is done with him (Gulen), then maybe (the US will extradite him)".
When asked about how Gulen funds FETO, Kurtulus said the group is laundering money through American schools.
"The money is coming from charter schools in the United States. Right now, the money goes through these schools into subcontracting with their allies and with their friends, who come to repair the school or have stationary material to sell to the school etc... That's how they are laundering their money, through these channels of charter schools in the United States, which is netting them almost a billion dollars of American taxpayers' money," Kurtulus added.
Kurtulus warned that FETO members have "infiltrated" federal American institutions as well.
"Have you ever heard of the ROTC program? It is called The High School Junior Reserve Officers Training Program of the United States military. So, students in high school can get their education but also be part-time officers and go into military training. So, there's no doubt in my mind that this group is infiltrating institutions in America by using programs like the ROTC. They are copying similar steps that they implemented in many other states around the world, especially in Turkey, of infiltrating the judicial system, the halls of power, police system or any other intel agency."
Kurtulus said FETO has again taken advantage of America's campaign finance and bought the support of several influential Democratic Party lawmakers, who would do his bidding in the government and save him from the extradition.
"I have a saying that American domestic and foreign policies are on sale," he said. "That's why campaign finance needs to be restructured in America. This group, this cult movement has continued to make political contributions to influence politicians in the halls of power. One great example is Councilman Joe Borelli from Richmond County. This man has travelled to Turkey, has taken campaign contributions from the [FETO] terrorist group."
Kurtulus said the Turkish American community is quite young in the US as Turks began to migrate to the US in large numbers during the Clinton administration in the 1990s. Therefore, he said, they are not assertive enough when it comes to shaping the American foreign policy and helping Ankara and Washington iron out differences.
"Lobbying firms haven't been that effective because when you go to a politician's office, he knows that's a lobbyist that's coming into his office, he will give him time, he will listen to his argument, but the chances of implementing or taking what he says tremendously serious, is very low on the Richter scale versus a contingency of his constituents in his district, coming to him with similar arguments, will be much more heavier in weight for him to take into account versus a lobbying firm. So, empowering individuals, educating them is what I think will be more powerful than a lobbying firm."