Intelligence and July 15 coup attempt

Intelligence and July 15 coup attempt

“July 15 has compiled several lessons for us to draw from,” is the starting sentence of former National Security Organization (MİT) undersecretary Emre Taner’s opinion on the intelligence gap concerning last year’s coup attempt. Taner served between the years 2005 and 2010. 

Taner spoke to the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission on Nov. 9, 2016, saying, “Those eyes that see have seen it, those eye that do not see have also seen it. It is not possible to go anywhere by attacking and accusing each other. But we have to do our self-criticism openly. We failed to do it; we could not collect the intelligence for it. This secret service was not able to gather the intelligence that Fethullah Gülen was planning to stage a coup on July 15.”

These words of Taner, from the same session, are also worth highlighting: “During my term there, MİT would inform the Office of the Prime Ministry of every piece of news it had gathered; this was a commandment. First, it was sent to the Prime Minister of the time if the content called for it, then it was conveyed to the president and relevant force commands, and if there are related institutions and related ministries too.” 

“At this stage, it did not matter whether the piece of news was founded or unfounded. The information was passed on because of its importance and it was to be approached with caution. This was how information was passed on at our time,” Taner also said.  

It is possible to draw several conclusions from these statements of the former MİT undersecretary.  

First of all, if you read Taner’s words from another perspective, then the tipoff that arrived at MİT on the day of July 15, 2016, should have been passed on to the Office of the Prime Ministry, even if it were to be approached with caution. This stands out as a criticism. The President’s Office can also be included among the receiving end addresses. 

On the other hand, we should also draw attention to an aspect in this statement, which is quite disputable. Even though it is pointing out to “what should have been done” for the time being, the content of Taner’s message: “It was done like this in our term,” does not quite match up with the problematic record of the institution - where he served for 43 years - in informing the government of the coups in the past. 

However, this is also a fact that on July 15, a serious intelligence gap was experienced. Although, MİT is saying that it has informed “external positions” beforehand that “the Fethullahist Terrorist
 Organization/Parallel State Structure [FETÖ/PDY] could attempt for a coup,” it is also an objective fact that it has not been able to infiltrate the network and learn about the date of the coup attempt beforehand. 

The most concrete action of MİT regarding July 15 is that it has rapidly conveyed the tipoff it received on the afternoon of that day to the Office of the General Staff. However, the non-conveyance of this tipoff to the Presidential and Prime Ministry offices by the institution is an ongoing issue that is hotly debated. 

While reviewing July 15 and the intelligence, it should be stated that the military measures taken following the tipoff to MİT has triggered the changing of the time, the bringing forward of the start of the insurrection, thus playing a certain role in its failure. 

If the time of the coup attempt had not been moved and it was carried out as planned at 3:00 a.m. in the morning, probably on the morning of July 16, we would have woken up to a very different Turkey. 

An aspect that has not been adequately publicized about the performance of MİT concerning July 15 is the consequences of MİT’s seizing of the archive of the ByLock smartphone application, which is used by the movement.  

MİT was able to enter its server in Lithuania in December 2015 and for about a month downloaded data onto its system. This has been a significant stage in the fight against the Gülen network, increasing the pressure on the movement. 

As Hürriyet Daily News’ editor-in-chief, Murat Yetkin, wrote on Sept. 13, 2016, it was revealed that the community noticed that MİT had entered its ByLock server and closed the entire program in January 2016, then carried out its internal communication with other programs like Eagle. 

After working for several months on data received from the ByLock server, MİT confirmed there were 102,000 individual users of the program. Then these lists were sent to state institutions starting May 2016.  
MİT is still working on decoding 14 million coded messages in this data. Thus, not only member users but the content of the messages will be deciphered. 

This technical move of MİT, even though it has not been a step resulting in learning the time of the coup attempt, nevertheless has been an important development in revealing the insight of the network. This aspect of the technological intelligence dimension should also be included in the July 15 debate.