Turkish intelligence agency may be on way to becoming 'big brother'
The entrance of the headquarters of MİT in Ankara is seen in this photo dated Jan. 5, 2012, when MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan met with representatives of media. (Photo: Today's Zaman, Ali Ünal)
According to a draft law pertaining to the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), the intelligence agency will be authorized to not only keep records on people and obtain information about individuals from some public institutions, but also to conduct pre-emptive operations against possible threats inside and outside the country, Taraf daily maintained on Wednesday.
The draft, which may well turn Turkey into a state controlled by an intelligence agency, would hugely do away with some democratic achievements Turkey has made in recent years. Even without the need to obtain a court ruling, the intelligence agency will be able to keep records on people and carry out, at its own will, operations against citizens whom MİT considers a threat, the story in the daily claimed.
The draft law which brings amendments to Law No. 2937-State Intelligence Services, the law pertaining to the activities of MİT together with some other laws, has been submitted to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the daily said, informing that it has in hand the draft law jointly drawn up by the Prime Minister's Office and MİT, to be precise, by MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, Prime Ministry Undersecretary Efkan Ala and Ulvi Canikli, first legal advisor to MİT.
The draft document, which the government may bring before Parliament in the following weeks, gives MİT the authority to carry out operations against possible domestic and foreign threats, similar to the authority the military had in the past. “Getting engaged in all types of intelligence and operational activities against domestic circles which prevent or may potentially prevent the functioning of the constitutional order or the realization of national interests,” article 4/c of the document says when enumerating tasks the agency will be responsible for.
So, should the draft become law, the concept of domestic threat, which was formerly used against Islamic parties in Turkey, will be coming back on the scene. With the article, MİT, which is, at present, only allowed to gather intelligence, will also gain the authority to conduct operations, which means it will have some of the powers the police and the gendarmerie enjoy. But while the police and the gendarmerie serve under the rule of law the intelligence agency, the daily maintained, will be authorized to act at its own will.
The 14-page draft document also bestows, with the consent of the prime minister, on the intelligence agency the authority to stage operations in foreign countries. “To get engaged, for the protection and realization of national interests, in intelligence activities, and if need be, to carry out, with the approval of the prime minister, all sorts of operations abroad, against the resources and capabilities of elements of foreign threats targeting the Turkish Republic,” the article 4/d of the draft document says.
The draft paves the way for the intelligence agency to engage in psychological operations, which may, in a worst-case scenario, take on the form of fabricating slanders against some citizens whom the intelligence agency may consider as a threat to defame them.
The article 4/I also paves the way for the agency, although its identity would not be revealed, to establish and run websites to spread false rumors. “Get engaged in psychological operations, in counter-intelligence activities against psychological operations conducted by local and foreign sources of threat,” the article says as one of the agency's tasks.
As per the article 4/h of the draft document, high-level civil servants will be appointed after MİT conducts an investigation about the person in question. This article raises concerns, because it may serve, based on false information, to defame some people with merit, potential candidates for a post, in an effort to place in high-level public posts those whom MİT or the public authority favor.
The draft law as such will clearly do away with previous democratic gains such as freedom of communication, right to privacy which is protected by the constitution. One of the tasks the MİT will be authorized, as per the article 4/f, by the draft is “to collect all kinds of signals intelligence.” Thanks to this article, the MİT will, without needing a court ruling, be able to detect who meets with whom and where, and monitor all telephone communications.
The intelligence agency will not only be able to ask for information from public institutions, but data-processing centers and communications infrastructure of these institutions will be, upon request, made available to the MİT. As per the article 6/b, the ministries, judicial bodies, all state institutions together with those occupational organizations which have the characteristics of a public institution are to make available to the MİT all the information and data that they gather as part of their regular activities. “The Article 157 of the Code on Criminal Procedure is not applicable for such demands [of the MİT]. [T]he information, documents and data [requested by MİT] are not to be considered as a revelation of a secret within the 73rd article of the Banking Law,” the article prescribes.
The draft also offers the intelligence agency a range of exceptions and wide protection while conducting its activities. With the draft, the MİT will no longer need to get authorization for import of any kinds of arms and equipment from public institutions, and the members of the intelligence agency will be tried in special courts of law. The agency is also endowed with all the powers which security forces normally enjoy. “MİT members can exercise rights and authorities which security forces enjoy,” the article 6/c says.
Another article which offers protection to members of the MİT is Article 26, which says that the consent of the prime minister is needed to launch an investigation for crimes which are alleged to be committed by a MİT member. MİT members and those others who are given a task by the MİT can't be held responsible for activities involving crime of the [crime] organization which happens to be in the field of activity of a person connected with the MİT, as per Article 26 of the draft.
It's claimed in the story that, although legislation regarding intelligence agencies currently in effect in many countries was studied before the draft was drawn, it's that of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps that was taken as an example when the draft was prepared.