July 15 coup attempt and intelligence

July 15 coup attempt and intelligence

Almost a year has passed since the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, but the intelligence dimension of this insurrection is still debated.

Former National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Emre Taner emphasized the “external” dimension of the coup in the Nov. 9, 2016 session of parliament’s inquiry commission.

Taner was the head of MİT between 2005 and 2010. He worked in the organization for 43 years, taking on critical positions and initiatives when in active duty. He said Fethullah Gülen was monitored by MİT from the 1970s, and Taner believes that is also when international interest in Gülen. 

“Service members of foreign countries acting as diplomats became interested in the movement and the group. This peaked in 1975. We saw the Americans and others, and we saw several mass communication outlets,” he testified.

Taner said many abroad were searching for a good-natured, nice-looking Islam. “The West was looking for this and wanted to try it with Fethullah Gülen. [Western intelligence agencies] monitored closely. They detected no terrorism, no criminal behavior and nothing illegal. In the 1980s alongside the rise of Islamism we also see that Turkish nationalist consciousness was also rising. And at this time we can see a rapid increase in Gülenists’ schooling activities domestically and internationally. The opening of these new schools was a kind of missionary activity, under foreign influence,” he said.

According to Taner, the modern image of the Gülen front helped it earn tolerance domestically and internationally. This led to quite serious levels of foreign support. “No Islamist group has enjoyed foreign support to such an extent,” he said.

Taner claimed that Gülen moved to the U.S. after his domestic activities were restricted in the late 1990s. This significantly contributed to the capacity of his organization in finding foreign support, while MİT’s control was weakened. 

The parliamentary commission asked Taner whether there was any information exchange between the CIA and the Gülen movement. Taner said that after moving to Pennsylvania, the “decision and operation center” of the Gülen movement was moved to the country. 

“They could carry out their activities there and there was no need for them to be in Turkey. We do not exactly know what was happening there. Gülen’s move to the U.S. relieved him but it made it difficult for us to monitor him because we had many restrictions and difficulties obtaining certain information,” he said. Taner used very strong language to claim that Gülen’s activities in the U.S. were conducted through instructions given by the CIA. “They had contacts with a number of foreigners. Perhaps they did not hire them as staff, but there were contacts. There are secret service contacts. This business is conducted with instructions taken from the secret service,” he said.

Taner also claimed that the July 15 coup attempt was carried out with the U.S. “The July 15 coup attempt could not be carried out only by the Gülen movement, the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization [FETÖ], and its mentality. Frankly, if there is now a concern about a second, third or a fourth coup attempt, FETÖ’s influence would not be extensive enough to carry it out. The ‘shared wisdom’ behind it, the ‘global wisdom’ behind it, should absolutely be taken into consideration,” he said.

According to Taner, the most important aspect of July 15, 2016 that differentiates it from other coups is this “external support” dimension. “There is a very different mentality in question. There is external support here,” said the former MİT undersecretary.

Even if Taner is not on active duty today, the evaluations of a person with 43 years of experience, carrying an institutional memory with him, should be highlighted and carefully considered.