Ball in whose court on coup bid intelligence?
The July 2016 coup attempt of Fethullah Gülen’s followers took decades of systematic planning, which involved the infiltration of the Turkish Armed Forces from bottom to top. By the time of the coup attempt, Gülen’s followers occupied almost half of the general and admiral positions.
How could it go unnoticed that this organized crime network had created its own domain within the military? Thousands of people were involved, covering every organ of the army. How come it was not picked up by the state intelligence radars?
The parliamentary inquiry commission on the coup attempt asked these questions to representatives of several institutions. But it looks like everyone was trying to simply throw the ball into someone else’s court.
Let us look at the military wing of the debate. We see the justification of “the inability to monitor staff outside the barracks” as a common theme. Among other reasons, “It was impossible to monitor military personnel after office hours outside the barracks, headquarters and institutions,” said former Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, who led the military from 2011 to 2015, when asked why the Gülenist infiltration of the armed forces went unnoticed.
Özel’s successor, Gen. Işık Koşaner, said more in the commission’s Oct. 26, 2016 session. “The military does not have a duty or authorization to monitor or collect intelligence outside the borders of military quarters. It is illegal. Our intelligence activities are limited to inside the military quarters or exercise zones. As a result, all we had was information sent from the National Intelligence Organization [MİT] and the police force, so we had to count on them. We examined the information provided by them and the personnel were discharged if it could be confirmed,” Koşaner said.
On Nov. 3, 2016, Gen. İlker Başbuğ, the Chief of General Staff between 2008 and 2010, gave similar messages when he spoke with the parliamentary commission. “My staff left the quarters at 5 p.m. and came back at 8 a.m. the next day. This was the important time period. The Turkish army does not have any authorization, means or capability for that time period. This situation has to be understood well,” Başbuğ said. He pointed out that in the U.S. and in Germany there were staff monitoring special units that would work around the clock, and he also noted that the MİT never sent reports on Gülen members.
“Between 2002 and 2010, not one report from the MİT came to us pointing to somebody as a Fethullah member,” he said.
Hilmi Özkök, who was Chief of General Staff between 2002 and 2006, said they sensed the infiltration spreading at the time. “Something was happing, there was an infiltration going on. We were aware that the Turkish military was being targeted and we expelled all those who we spotted,” Özkök said.
In his written reply to the commission, MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan said the MİT had shared intelligence about the Gülenists. “As the National Intelligence Organization we shared information that the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization [FETÖ] could attempt a coup d’état. But since we cannot collect intelligence within the TSK, we did not have any clear intelligence on the date of a potential coup,” Fidan stated.
Upon the reminder that no specific report on any person had arrived from the MİT, former MİT Undersecretary Emre Taner told the commission that it was true that specific, clear information was not provided.
“As an institution, they keep a distance from crime; they are above it. It is not possible for us to tell them that one colonel is like this, or that one general is like this. We collect information strategically. We told them that Fethullah Gülen was making serious moves to place his members in government positions. The rest is down to the institution and its security units,” said Taner, adding that the MİT could not collect intelligence within the armed forces.
He said the reason for this was an instruction, named MY 114-1 (C). “Accordingly, I could not even enter the military garrison. If they let you in to brief you on a certain theme and demand your work, then you can help. Otherwise there is no chance for you to learn of a coup in the making,” Taner said.
As you can see, the MİT wing has also withdrawn behind the lines, defending itself by saying it cannot collect intelligence inside the military anyway.
When you listen to both sides, you see that the ball is in no one’s court when searching for the answer to the question of who is supposed to collect intelligence within the army.