Toward a new setting in Turkish security bodies

Toward a new setting in Turkish security bodies

It was 10 years ago when the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) received some documents from one of its sources. It was about an illegal organization with links to the military, judiciary and academia in order to keep things in the control of the secret hands of what is called by Turks a “deeper state”; its alleged name was Ergenekon, the mythological motherland of Turks in Central Asia.

Turkish public opinion learned nothing about it until the Ergenekon indictment was presented to the Istanbul Specially Authorized Court in 2008, thanks to a letter sent by MİT in answer to the prosecutor’s demand.

The undersecretary (the top position) of MİT who sent the document, instead of saying nothing, which he could have done according to secrecy law, was Emre Taner. Taner, as a veteran intelligence officer, had been heavily involved in a dialogue process with the Kurdish groups – not only the Iraqi Kurds but also later on with the chiefs of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) under the orders of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan to find a solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem aside from military means.

Afet Güneş was his prime aide in all those efforts as Turkey’s No. 1 intelligence analyst about the PKK. And if Erdoğan’s choice would not be in favor of Hakan Fidan, an academic turned bureaucrat from the school of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Güneş was the strongest candidate to run Turkish intelligence, also being the first woman to have that position.

Now all three are asked to come and answer an Istanbul Specially Authorized Court prosecutor, who reportedly will question them because of establishing contact with a terrorist organization and thus contributing to its bloody attacks.
When the prosecutor, Sadrettin Sarıkaya, received a statement from MİT that he had no authority to call intelligence officers to questioning because of what they had done under official duty, he changed his call, separating Fidan’s case and sending it to the Ankara Prosecutor’s Office. It is likely Ankara will ask it to Erdoğan’s office and will be told to stay away. But Sarıkaya asked for the arrest of others (Taner, Güneş and two more, all retired). They had their homes searched immediately on Friday, and the powerful Istanbul MİT headquarters was searched as well.

That added more fuel to the fire, despite President Abdullah Gül’s call for calm for everybody, denouncing the whole affair as “unfortunate.”

But the government’s move to add a clause to the MİT law for an exemption from the penal code, ensuring the prime minister’s permission to question the MİT members, seems to be tailored for Fidan and similar cases in the future, thus endorsing the logic behind the move on the MİT.

The move on MİT could be regarded as inevitable, rather than unfortunate, since it is seen by the new executors of the security apparatus as the last resort of the “ancient regime.” Following the shift of center of gravity of power in the police force, judiciary, university and military during the 10 years of power of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), the intelligence had to be in the same line.

Yet, was the appointment of Fidan as a purely political choice not enough for that? It seems not for everyone in the new system. Amid the speculations that those close to the theological Fethullah Gülen group are the instigators of the move, the polarization within the security apparatus seems to be in between those who are for a solution to the Kurdish problem with methods including dialogue with the PKK and those who are for trying to crush the military wing first and then talking if necessary.

But as the prosecutor decided to make his move on the intelligence, the circle is complete. The 10 years of transformation starting with the Ergenekon document presented to MİT has ended up on its doorstep. Turkey is now at the threshold of setting a brand new system for its security apparatus.