Sacrificing freedoms for security
Does this country not have the right to ask why it has an intelligence service? Especially if despite the confession of an officer hours before the failed July 15 coup, the intelligence service learned of what was coming but neither took any measures nor adequately informed the government, meaning the president of the country learned about the coup in the making from his uncle? Is it indeed awkward to ask, “Does the Turkish intelligence service have any credibility?”
Particularly after the sham in which the top commander of the Armed Forces, who was taken hostage by his subordinates and spent the coup period drinking tea at an Air Force base held by the rebels with a collar on his neck, how did the undersecretary of the intelligence organization manage to protect his seat despite all the evidently gross failures? If in a country tens of thousands of people were subjected to a pogrom just because they had some sort of affinity with the Fetullah Gülen organization, had a bank account with a bank which was providing legal banking services until days before the failed coup, or donated money to a Gülenist charity network, how can such failed people be kept at the head of key institutions? Well, it might be argued that one should not try to change horses in midstream. But, if someone was almost swallowed by the stream, if he hardly managed to survive the current because of a troublesome disobedient horse, can he still trust it?
It was not just during the failed coup period; all through the years, there have been complaints in this country about the failure of the intelligence service. Is it not the right of a tax-paying citizen to ask why this country has been spending millions of dollars on the intelligence service if every other month the nation has been suffering a major terrorist attack claiming the lives of scores of citizens? Claiming that intelligence was helping stop dozens of terrorist attacks but because of their nature, such dreadful developments cannot be totally prevented cannot be an acceptable excuse. Particularly if rights and liberties are grossly neglected and the country has been turned into a police state with emergency rule measures, no one can have the right to try to extenuate intelligence flops causing deadly blasts or turn cities into open-air dungeons by clamping down with rigid measures, as seen with the suspension of the right to demonstrate for 45 days in Ankara.
Yes, indeed, it was like a very bad joke. The (non-)intelligence agency “informed” the police headquarters this week that there was a high risk of a major terrorist incident in Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya and İzmir – as well as at the Eurasia Tunnel crossing to be inaugurated in December – and immediately after the police shared that “intelligence” with the governors of all provinces, the Ankara governor clamped down with a ban on all demonstrations and outdoor gatherings within the limits of the Ankara province in between Oct. 17 and Nov. 30.
According to the alert issued to all governors by the police headquarters, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) terrorist organization was preparing to stage some major terrorist attacks in Turkey in response to the successful Operation Euphrates Shield undertaken by the Turkish security forces in Syria. Particularly, there were concerns for civilian aviation security, and police warned governors to take additional security measures at all airports.
Obviously added measures should be taken. Police deployed at airport entrances should stop watching people from a distance and adequately perform surveillance duty. Does anyone remember the Istanbul Atatürk Airport attack just two weeks before the failed coup attempt? No one since that date has asked how terrorists equipped with automatic long rifle weapons managed to enter the airport area despite police controls and reached the international flights arrivals gate where they staged their heinous act. Or was it possible to explain how a rocket projectile could go off at Sabiha Gökçen Airport? No one should try to blame staff cleaning planes because there was obviously a very serious security flop.
Of course, unlike the 45-day ban on demonstrations imposed by the Ankara governor, airports should not be closed for the sake of providing increased security. However, no one should forget about the shameful security failures at Atatürk and Sabiha Gökçen airports over the past number of months.
Turkey must overhaul its intelligence network. With its current administration and immediate history of failures, the intelligence network does not deserve to be trusted. Naturally, though, this country needs a trustworthy intelligence capability. Otherwise, as the Ankara governor’s decision demonstrated, in the absence of credible and reliable intelligence providing the opportunity to implement sufficient protective measures, the country ends up sacrificing rights and liberties for the sake of security.
Turkey deserves better than this.