Covert operation or crime?

Covert operation or crime?

After the Feb. 7, 2012, “MİT crisis,” the government not only saved its top spy with a midnight amendment to the law covering the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) and its operations, but also inserted into that law a rather awkward sentence. According to that sentence – Article 26 of the law – no current or former member of the intelligence can be prosecuted for alleged crimes related to an intelligence operation without obtaining prior permission from the prime minister.

That is, under Turkish law, Intelligence Agency personnel have the privilege of getting away with any crime, small or big, they were involved in while undertaking an operation. Well, similar agencies of every country under orders of their government – and sometimes even like in the “Irangate” scandal during the Ronald Reagan presidency secret from their governments – undertake covert operations inside, and more so, outside the country. Defending or holding high national interests is no easy task! Would spies act like the 007 of Her Majesty’s or do they have “the right to kill” and such or do they have a different code of conduct is an issue beyond my comprehension. None the less, in democracies the Orwellian “All animals are equal, but some are more equal” concept cannot and should not be valid.

After all, is not democratic governance requiring not only going to elections every few years, but more so the existence of principles, norms and institutions? Are not equality of all in front of the law and the supremacy of law among fundamental pillars of democracy?

The MİT boss was saved from persecution because the prime minister realized hostile elements were not simply after the head of the top spy, but indeed he was placed right at the middle of the target board. The Feb. 7 incident was the first major standoff between the Islamist Fethullah Gülen brotherhood and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan believing he was strong enough alone and unwilling to further share power with anyone. Then came other mini crises, but until the current preschool crisis an uneasy cohabitation continued. The massive corruption, misuse of office and such claims surfacing all of a sudden three months before the scheduled mayoral polls was of course no coincidence. Not only mayoral polls, indeed Turkey entered a crucial two year period during which, for the first time, there will be a national election of the president in August 2014 and Parliamentary elections in July 2015.

While there were signs of efforts to soothe the crisis and indeed the premier disclosed an exchange of letters with Gülen brought revelations that showed there are battles yet to be fought. A truck loaded with weapons and ammunition was captured at the Hatay border. The operation was stopped, the truck was released and the Gendarmerie officer and the prosecutor who initiated the operation were reported to have been banished. Why? Interior Minister Efkan Ala said they meddled with an intelligence operation. When asked by reporters what the intelligence operation was, he replied “everyone should mind his own business” and gave a lecture in journalism to the media. He then added the truck was carrying “things” for the Turkmens of Syria. He accused some media outlets of blowing out of proportion a small incident and helping “outside elements,” aiming at showing Turkey to be a collaborator with the al-Qaeda terrorist network. Turkmens immediately replied they received no truck, no aid from Turkey.

Obviously, either a covert operation or a crime was covered at the Syrian border. Al-Qadi is a “family friend” of the premiers’. Prosecutors cannot reach “sons.” And, Turkey is a democracy; what a fairy tale!