LALE – Turkish spy agency loses its neutrality

Turkish spy agency loses its neutralityIn a democratic state, intelligence services should, among other things, be politically neutral or non-partisan.Whereas in Turkey, the spy agency has been highly politicized while fuelling concerns that it has become a tool of the governmentand#39s anti-democratic measures to suppress dissent.

The return of Hakan Fidan to his post as undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), early this week, after resigning last month to run for Parliament in Juneand#39s general election on a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ticket, has put the seal on the spy agencyand#39s politicization, with it losing its neutrality.President Recep Tayyip ErdoIanand#39s opposition to Fidanand#39s plans to run in the election to become a deputy for the AKP forced him to return to his post at MIT while withdrawing his candidacy for legislative assembly.

This is despite the fact that Prime Minister Ahmet DavutoIlu publicly endorsed Fidanand#39s decision to run in the election.The Fidan incident has led to the resurfacing of an ongoing power struggle between ErdoIan and the AKP under DavutoIlu since the former was elected to the presidency last August.

ErdoIan, shortly before leaving his 12-year role as prime minister of the AKP government, had endorsed DavutoIlu as his replacement.ErdoIan has now put his stamp on the decision to reappoint Fidan as head of MIT in defiance of DavutoIluand#39s policies.

This has indicated that in-fighting within the AKP must be at an all-time high.Other problematic aspects of Fidanand#39s return to his previous position are the fact that it is neither legal nor ethical.

An opposition deputy has already filed a lawsuit with a court to reverse a Cabinet decree reappointing Fidan as the countryand#39s head of intelligence. MIT law only allows its members, including its head, to return to the organization five years after their resignation.

Fidan, who was appointed in May 2010 as the head of MIT, fails to meet these criteriaWhat makes Fidanand#39s return more worrying is the further politicization of MIT.Cevat neI, a former deputy undersecretary of MIT, recently told me that Fidanand#39s return would shake public trust in the organization.

This is because, he says, he earlier quit his position at MIT to run in the general election to become a deputy of a political party, thereby marking his close affinity with politics.Another worrying aspect of MIT is its alleged involvement in illegal activities.

During the years of military tutelage, MIT had been under the control of the Turkish military while being associated with illegal activities such as extrajudicial killings. The ruling AKPand#39s reforms under the guise of the civilianization of MIT have, however, brought back fears previously felt towards the spy agency due to its alleged involvement in some bizarre incidents while causing serious suspicion that it has been using its current unprecedented powers to monitor and suppress dissent in all its forms.

The mystery surrounding a truck seized last year for allegedly carrying weapons to Syria and whether it belongs to MIT, as well as claims that Turkish F-16 fightersand#39 bombardment of Turkish Kurds mistaken for terrorists in 2012 in the southeastern township of Uludere was based on misleading MIT intelligence, are among many incidents linked to the spy agency.The government has been preventing proper legal investigations that would unearth allegations linked to MIT from taking place.

In the case of the truck seizure, the prosecutor and the security forces that had stopped the truck upon orders from the former were all removed from their positions.Amendments made in April 2014 to a law regulating MIT have increased government surveillance powers while protecting intelligence personnel from investigation.

It may then be no coincidence that ErdoIan describes Fidan as his andquotsecret-keeper,andrdquo despite the fact that an intelligence chief should serve as the nationand#39s secret-keeper, not that of a person or political party.In the lead up to the elections, if I was the government, I would also be concerned about the possibility of embarrassing revelations regarding alleged links between MIT and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which last year renamed itself the Islamic State.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman