Gülenists in the National Intelligence Organization

Gülenists in the National Intelligence Organization

One of the generals interned at the General Staff Headquarters during the coup attempt on July 15 is a well-known name to the public: Brig. Gen. Ertuğrulgazi Özkürkçü, the head of the Press and Public Relations Department.

Özkürkçü was captured and his hands and feet were tied by members of the Special Forces involved in the coup. He was taken to the Akıncı Air Base and was held there until next evening. It was certified with a doctor’s report that he was subjected to violence. He later earned the title veteran.

Despite this, in some official state documents, Özkürkçü is mentioned as a member of the “parallel structure.” In a National Intelligence Organization (MİT) report found among the documents in the office of the putschist Personnel Planning Management Department head Brig. Gen. Mehmet Partigöç, the name of Özkürkçü is on the list of personnel who are or who are believed to be members of the “parallel structure.”

This information is included in a 43-page report sent to the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office on March 6. This report was prepared by a three-member military expert team headed by Brig. Gen. Nerim Bitlislioğlu who examined the documents.

The thought-provoking aspect of this document is that alongside the names of several generals and admirals who were caught red-handed on the coup night, the document also included the names of many generals and admirals who were targeted, interned or would have been excluded if the coup attempt were successful. Some of these commanders are currently occupying critical positions in the land, navy and air forces.  

Well, how come then can these officers be reported as “members of the parallel structure?”

We can seek the answer with this approach: The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) is not able to manage an effective intelligence system domestically; it also cannot legally collect intelligence from outside the barracks. This situation makes TSK mostly dependent on the intelligence collected by MİT and police to learn about FETÖ members infiltrated into its own institution.  

Let us only remember that the police, especially the intelligence department, have become the absolute domain of Gülenists for long years. In this case, the General Staff Office was asking Gülenist police about Gülenist officers.

Well, what was the situation at the MİT front?   

MİT does not conduct intelligence gathering activities within the TSK. In this case, it sends its reports to TSK based on external intelligence activities and also based on tipoff and hearsay.  

At this point, is it possible that when the military asked for information about its own personnel, then the Gülenist components infiltrated into MİT would have provided misleading information, for instance, could have reported some anti-Gülenist officers as Gülenists?

What made me bring up this question are the answers of MİT undersecretary Hakan Fidan since 2010 to a parliamentary commission about MİT personnel associated with the Gülen network. Fidan wrote in his written answers that during the two-and-a-half-year period between Dec. 17, 2013 and July 15, 2016, some 181 personnel have been investigated and since July 15, 377 personnel have been investigated. The total figure is 558.

According to data provided by Fidan, 167 of them have been dismissed, 70 of them either had their contracts not renewed or have resigned, and some 272 temporary assignments of military/police personnel have been terminated. The total number of personnel dismissed is 509. Some stages of investigations are continuing for 49 personnel. Only five people have been returned to their posts.

However you slice it, the figures provided by Fidan brings us to the reality that the Gülen movement has seriously infiltrated the country’s intelligence organization.

These data are in striking contrast with the explanations given to the parliamentary commission by Fidan’s predecessor, Emre Taner, who served between 2005 and 2010. “During my term, the rate of Gülenist infiltration into MİT was almost zero. You wouldn’t hire them; you would examine thoroughly and not hire them. After my term, I don’t know. The next administration should be answering after that time,” he had said.   

“Now, when they say: ‘Some 70 to 80 people have left MİT because of links to Gülenists,’ it is not possible to be astonished. It is not something of the past. There could be two, three or five people; I have no objection to that, but there is an impression that these penetrations in the last period were much easier and definite, I can say that easily. MİT is the cleanest organization among state institutions in terms of Gülenist infiltration and other destructive organizations,” he added. 

It is quite a concerning situation that even in the “cleanest organization,” these figures have emerged. While seeking answers on which route Turkey took in order to arrive in July 15, this dimension of the issue should also be considered.