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Milli Istihbarat Teskilati - MIT
National Intelligence Organization

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted the country's armed forces and National Intelligence Organization, known by its Turkish acronym MIT, to be brought under the presidency's control in the wake of the failed coup of 15 July 2016. The remarks came after Erdogan was cited as saying by television news channels that the move would require a constitutional change and support by major opposition parties. The developments came as a meeting of Turkey's Supreme Military Council (YAS), the highest body responsible for appointments in the armed forces, was expected to agree on a sweeping overhaul of the armed forces.

US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a security forum 29 July 2016 that Turkey's cooperation as a NATO ally in the fight against IS in Syria and Iraq was suffering because of the ongoing purges. "Many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested. There's no question this is going to set back and make more difficult cooperation with the Turks," Clapper said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. "It's having an effect because it has affected all segments of the national security apparatus in Turkey," Clapper added.

Intelligence gathering is the primary responsibility of the National Intelligence Organization (Milli Istihbarat Teskilati--MIT), which combines the functions of internal and external intelligence agencies. In 1993 a career diplomat, Sonmez Koksal, was named undersecretary in charge of MIT, the first civilian to head the organization. Each branch of the military has its own intelligence arm, as do the National Police and the gendarmerie. Military intelligence activities in martial law areas aim to prevent seditious activities against the state. Intelligence personnel also engage in electronic eavesdropping and rely on reports of overseas military attachés and exchange information with foreign intelligence services.

Military and civil intelligence requirements are formulated by the National Intelligence Coordination Committee. This committee includes members of the staff of the National Security Council, to which it is directly responsible. Nevertheless, a lack of coordination among the intelligence services is said to be a weakness that hampers MIT effectiveness.

MIT has no police powers; it is authorized only to gather intelligence and conduct counterintelligence abroad and to uncover communist, extreme right-wing, and separatist--that is, Kurdish and Armenian--groups internally. The MIT chief reports to the prime minister but was in the past considered close to the military. MIT has been charged with failing to notify the government when it became aware of past plots, if not actual complicity in military coup attempts. The organization functions under strict discipline and secrecy. Housing and headquarters offices for its personnel are colocated in a compound in Ankara.

Kurdish groups in Western Europe have charged the Turkish intelligence service with fomenting dissension and unrest among their various factions. Although these claims have not been verified, it seems likely that infiltration of the Kurdish separatist movement is a high priority for MIT. Members of the agency are also suspected of having acted as agents provocateurs in leftist organizations during the 1970s. Dev Sol is believed to have been infiltrated by intelligence agents, as raids on its establishments in the early 1990s seemed to demonstrate.

Erdogan dramatically increased the budget of the country's intelligence agency: "The government is planning a 48 percent increase in spending for the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) in 2016, on top of a 419 percent increase over the past decade," US author Jonathan Marshall noted in February 2016. "Turkey's embattled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is resurrecting the 'deep state' alliance of secret intelligence operatives and extreme rightists that he so notably challenged just a few years ago while putting hundreds of military officers and other opponents on trial for conspiring against Turkish democracy. In a remarkable about-face, Erdogan is now emulating the ruthless tactics of previous authoritarian rulers at the expense of Turkey's evolution as a liberal state," Marshall wrote in his article for Consortiumnews.com.

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Page last modified: 01-08-2016 15:55:13 ZULU