Gray area in intelligence over coup attempt

Gray area in intelligence over coup attempt

Could directives be superior to the law?

Answering this question may help resolve a deadlock when the entire debate over intelligence into coup activities focuses on a particular directive.

My previous article was on this directive. The MY 114-1 (C) authorizes the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to watch suspicious personnel within the barracks, starting from 2011, as it gives the authority to the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and police outside the barracks.

The military wing of the debate says it “cannot watch suspicious personnel outside the barracks.”  On the contrary, as we have seen in a response by MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan to parliament, the intelligence wing draws attention to the fact that it “cannot gather intelligence within the TSK.”

Thus, a big gray area and a field of uncertainty emerges. 

At this point, it would work to have the views of a former senior executive of MİT.

Cevat Öneş, a former senior deputy undersecretary for MİT, pointed out that this directive regulates the “Principles of Protective Security and Cooperation within the TSK” and says that “it is binding only for the TSK.” 

This directive is not binding for MİT.

According to Öneş, it is necessary to approach the debate from the point of view of the State Intelligence Services and MİT’s law no. 2937. He draws attention to the subclause (a) of the fourth article of the law, which lists the tasks of MİT as: “To establish all security intelligence at the level of state about all current and possible activities from inside or outside, against the unity, existence, independence, security and constitutional order of the country and the nation of the Turkish Republic and all elements that constitutes its national power, and to meet the intelligence requests and needs of the president, the prime minister, the chief of staff, the secretary of the National Security Council and the relevant ministries.”

Intelligence on the coup activities is within the field of duty of the MİT since such activities target the “constitutional order” of the country. Hereby, there is a clear mandate given to the undersecretary of MİT and a general authority recognized as a requirement for this task.

The subclause (e) of the same article tasks the MİT with submitting “the news and intelligence that the General Staff considers necessary for the Armed Forces within the scope of a protocol agreed with the General Staff.”

Then, does this expression restrict MİT from conducting intelligence within the TSK?

MİT is obliged to meet demands from the General Staff. In any case, it is a fact that the Turkish Armed Forces has left the security control of personnel before the Supreme Military Council meetings - where the appointments of high ranking soldiers are decided - to MİT to a great extent.

“I think that this article will by any means constitute a restriction on MİT from materializing its general duties mentioned in the subclause (a) of the fourth article – intelligence of the activities that target the constitutional order. I think that this [the subclause (e)] is a clause that will bring in transparency to the regulation of conditions of cooperation over technical working principles.”

When evaluated in line with Öneş’s view above, no restriction that would prevent the MİT from penetrating the TSK and collecting intelligence is seen in the legislation. 

However, when it comes to practice, it seems that MİT avoids conducting intelligence activities in the TSK and making the Armed Forces a “target” by assigning internal intelligence members.

Here, we enter the unnamed sensitive territorial waters of the relations between the security institutions of the state. The state’s settled practices also emerge as an important factor at this point. What would come out in terms of relations when one of these two institutions, which are in close proximity to many hot, urgent security threats (such as the Syria issue), watch the other?

Of course, another aspect of the issue should to be discussed. MİT says the reason for not being able to mark the date of the coup attempt is the fact that it “cannot gather intelligence within the TSK.” If the July 15, 2016, coup attempt was within the command-command hierarchy in a classical sense, this thesis of MİT could be understood to a point.

However, we see that the uprising of the July 15 coup attempt was planned and executed by a community organization. As all the indictments show, this was a coup attempt that was vastly prepared and coordinated outside the barracks and shaped in the “community houses” of the Gülenist organization. 

The fact that MİT avoided collecting intelligence with the military does not rule of the necessity of this question: Are there any clauses in laws or directives that prevent MİT from penetrating into the civilian leg of the Gülen community and recruit sources inside it to gather intelligence?

Of course, there is a question we need to address to the military side of the debate. The military wing takes a defensive line on the coup attempt, saying that “it cannot watch the suspected staff outside the barracks.” Then this is the question that should be directed to commanders who make such a defense: Have the thousands of Fethullah Gülen-following officers and noncommissioned officers, who gave their brains and hearts to the preacher in Pennsylvania, been perfectly watched inside the barracks or headquarters for all those years? 

The number of such questions can be increased. Now we can get ready to close the brackets in this debate.