A wealthy ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has placed a bounty on the heads of two former U.S. military and intelligence officials as part of what U.S. officials told the Washington Free Beacon is an effort by the Turkish government to threaten and intimidate Americans who they believe are working to undermine Erdogan.
A bounty of three million Turkish lira, or nearly $800,000, was placed on the heads of former Pentagon official Michael Rubin and former top CIA official Graham Fuller for what Erdogan's allies claim is their role in a 2016 failed coup that nearly toppled Erdogan's ruling government.
Both Rubin and Fuller have been vocal critics of Erdogan's, often publicly highlighting his widespread corruption. Rubin, in particular, has been in constant conflict with Erdogan, who once filed a lawsuit against the former Pentagon official in a bid to silence him.
The Turkish prosecutors office has issued arrest warrants for both Rubin and Fuller.
Current and former U.S. officials who spoke to the Free Beacon about the situation called allegations that Rubin and Fuller played any role in the coup attempt "absurd," and said the bounty is part of a larger effort by Erdogan to silence dissent against his government across the globe.
Some also criticized the State Department for doing very little to combat Turkey's threats on former American officials.
Erdogan's government has threatened and intimidated several prominent Americans in recent years and is currently holding hostage U.S. citizens who his government claims played a role in the failed 2016 coup.
A lawyer representing the anonymous businessman who put up the cash for the bounty called Rubin and Fuller "traitors wanting to interfere" with Erdogan's government, according to regional reports, which only described the businessman as "a person in love with his country, flag, and nation."
When asked about the bounty, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department said officials have "seen the reports."
"The notion that current or former employees of the United States Government were involved in the failed coup is absurd," the official said.
Asked to comment on possible security concerns over Rubin and Fuller, the State Department would not provide further information.
The public silence has angered Rubin, who told the Free Beacon the U.S. government is allowing Turkey's threats to go unchecked and countered.
"The State Department's silence in the wake of Turkey putting a bounty on two Americans—both of whom were government officials—sends a horrible signal that encourages Turkey," Rubin said. "All it takes is one crazy who equates silence with a green light and things can get bad fast."
"This, after all, is a regime that saw nothing wrong with beating up protestors in the center of Washington, D.C.," Rubin said, referring to a June incident in which Turkish security personnel attacked and beat anti-Erdogan protestors who were demonstrating in downtown D.C.
Eric Edelman, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, told the Free Beacon the latest bounty on Rubin and Fuller represents a "continuation of Erdogan's effort to export authoritarian lawlessness and lack of respect for due process."
Erdogan's effort to suppress, intimidate, and imprison his critics has gone unchecked by the United States, according to Edelman, who said allegations that Americans played a role in the coup are meant to distract from Turkey's lawless behavior.
In addition to widespread corruption, Erdogan's government has been implicated in a scheme to violate sanctions against Iran, which has been increasing ties with Turkey.
"It's a pathetic effort to try and inculpate Americans like Graham Fuller and Michael Rubin as somehow being responsible for the coup to distract attention, frankly, from the corruption," said Edelman, who also served as an undersecretary for defense policy.
U.S silence on the matter is only empowering Erdogan's campaign to entangle Americans in the failed coup plot.
"No one is calling him to account," Edelman said. "The president meets with him in New York in September and says, ‘Everything is great,' and then Erdogan goes back to Turkey and on his itinerary is a trip to Tehran" and meetings with the Russians.
"It's not two thumbs in the eye, it's three thumbs in the eye to Trump," Edelman said.