MİT growing, troubles deepening
DENİZ ZEYREKThe general perception in the public is that the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the intelligence department of the police, far from working in coordination, are continuously in conflict with each other. According to the police, the source of 80 percent of MİT’s domestic intelligence is made up of information coming from the police and if the police cut this intelligence, then MİT is tied hand and foot. Despite that, MİT is the only source regarding international intelligence and the international intelligence fed by MİT to the police is both inadequate and also needs confirmation. The explosions in Reyhanlı once more exposed the incompatibility and dispute between the two institutions. The project to combine intelligence agencies also deepens the police’s concern about losing authority and equipment.
The first of these disputes during the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government was experienced in Erzincan province. When MİT officials in Erzincan were attempted to be taken into custody in connection with an investigation about the Ergenekon case, police and MİT officials came to the brink of a clash.
But the real fight was experienced during the KCK investigation. With the information provided by the police, prosecutors wanted to question MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan. The prime minister not only prevented this but also the AK Party government amended the law to provide a thicker shield of protection for MİT staff.
The head of the MİT Istanbul Office was also in trouble during the famous match-fixing case. The two institutions were also in dispute after the Uludere incident. It was claimed that the Air Force bombed civilian smugglers by mistake based on incorrect intelligence provided by MİT.
Finally, in the Hatay, Reyhanlı bombings, leaks saying MİT had sent a very detailed intelligence note to the police two days before the attacks have put the police in a very difficult situation, and the police accused MİT of providing imperfect data.
The editor-in-chief of daily Radikal, Eyüp Can, has written that MİT had warned the police and the attacks struck when police were preparing for a wide-scale operation. One day later, the warning letter the police had sent to its own units based on the information MİT had provided was again published in Radikal. I asked a top-level MİT official about MİT’s warning of the police and he answered, “Correct. Our staff in Hatay region made a detailed and successful study and shared it with the police.” The same official said the attackers had planned an attack in Ankara, and even made some observations for a while and then gave up on plans for Ankara. According to MİT, it was MİT’s essential responsibility to inform the police about the situation and MİT did that in Reyhanlı.
In Turkey in general, because of the advantage of personnel, intelligence flows from the police to MİT. In the Hatay region, this situation has changed in the last three years. In the Adana region, MİT is conducting intense intelligence work both alone and also together with NATO allies’ registered intelligence officers. The main target of this work is against the Bashar al-Assad administration and intelligence units of supporting countries. However, after the Cilvegözü attack, MİT’s sensitivity has been increased on attack preparations toward Turkey. Thus, the jurisdictions of MİT and the police frequently overlapped.
In light of these developments, it is expected that Erdoğan will instruct for arrangements to eliminate these disputes between the two institutions. According to lobbies, these developments may be experienced: The regulation concerning the monitoring of phone and Internet communication may change and all of it may be under MİT. New administrators to be appointed to police intelligence will be selected according to their capacity to work harmoniously with MİT. Coordination meetings between intelligence institutions may be increased.
MİT has developed a new organizational chart. It may become stronger in coming days as the party responsible for the coordination by developing its technical and personnel infrastructure.
Deniz Zeyrek is the Ankara bureau chief of daily Radikal in which the unabridged version of this piece was published on May 22. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.