Intelligence wars: quo vadis?
The rapidly changing agenda in Turkey doesn’t mean disputed issues have been resolved. Problems are either frozen or kept waiting until they will be argued again. Though they are less public than before, the intelligence wars are actually continuing behind closed doors; let’s take a close look at them.
Open sources indicate that the struggle among intelligence organizations is continuing. Despite a political leader like Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, attacks on the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) are evolving to systematic “psychological operations.”
There are two sides to these psychological operations; institutional and representative. One of the parties, police intelligence, is comprised of unlimited manpower, a high technical intelligence capability, a swollen budget, active informal networks fortified with ideology and elements dedicated to a common idea. Furthermore, it has media support.
There are also some success stories in the saddlebag of police intelligence which led to a burst of self-confidence and gained the government’s appreciation, like the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) operations or catching a chief of the General Staff who succeeded in “rising to the leadership of a terrorist organization” two years after his retirement. Thus, it seems that it is sitting in the catbird seat with the techniques it has used to repress the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and other “troubled” opponents, its alliances and its legitimate attitude.
There are serious inklings that the systematic, synchronized and unclear “psychological operations” which were implemented against the TAF in the past years will be staged against MİT now. According to stories repeated by newspapers, MİT was able to produce only six intelligence reports in a year (Habertürk, Feb. 27). Do not be surprised when you see a number of interesting stories regarding either the professionalism of MİT or its staff on the Internet shortly.
Actually, MİT has been trying to leave TAF’s orbit for the last two decades, while the intelligence production capability of the TAF has been reduced to “battlefield-intelligence level in a conventional war.”
In the meantime, three significant changes have occurred in MİT. Firstly, it received a civilian chief for the first time in 1992. After that date, while the number of officers in various positions was shrinking, newly recruited civilians have risen to the middle ranks in the organization, as more seniors seem to continue to block the system. The second important development was the withdrawal of all regulars in 2004, apart from a few retired ones, following the crises between the then undersecretary of MİT and the chief of the General Staff. With the assignment of Hakan Fidan, a new personnel policy has been implemented in the last year. Non-professionals from outside have been assigned to various posts. Also, the transfer of SIGINT units from TAF to MİT has associated a number of soldiers with MİT, but they remain outside the main structure, and deal only with data collection.
As a result, police intelligence seems better off than MİT on all points. However, employees of both agencies are “public servants” in the end. Appointments are done by political authority. Given that the last word belongs to Mr. Erdoğan, it is no longer possible to perceive who will prevail by ruling out the “boss” factor despite “technical” capacities.