MIT to be granted ‘superpowers’ via controversial bill

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- A bill on expanding the powers of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) that was recently drafted by the government is currently among the top issues on the country’s agenda.
Opposition deputies, civil right movements and legal experts have been expressing their concerns with the new draft, saying that it violates people’s Constitutional rights. If adopted, the new bill will grant “superpowers” to MIT, transforming the country into an “al-Mukhabarat” state — al-Mukhabarat being the Syrian secret intelligence service — according to commentators. With the bill, MIT will be able to obtain personal information pertaining to individuals from every state institution, including courts, which breach the confidentiality of ongoing investigations. In addition, MIT will have criminal immunity in a variety of its actions, something that lawyers consider to be a violation of Article 137 of the Constitution. The article stipulates that a public officer should object to an order coming from hisher superior if it is criminal in nature, and that heshe will be held accountable, too, in the event that heshe obeys it. The MIT bill, which is currently being discussed in Parliament, has come after a major corruption and bribery investigation implicating Cabinet ministers went public on Dec. 17, shaking the government with four resignations.

Bugun daily columnist NazlI IlIcak wrote a piece on Wednesday titled “Al-Mukhabarat state.” IlIcak said that the new MIT bill removes the sixth paragraph of Article 6 of the current MIT law, which says: “Information obtained by MIT cannot be used except for the purposes named in this law. Confidentiality is a priority in the preservation of information and documents that are obtained.” According to IlIcak, the paragraph also says: “Public prosecutors directly launch investigations into those suspected of violating this [misusing obtained information], even if these acts were committed during their duties or because of their duties.” IlIcak pointed out that with the removal of this paragraph from the MIT law, prosecutors will not be able to directly launch investigations against those breaching the principle of confidentiality or those using information obtained by MIT for other purposes. IlIcak said: “You [members of the government] stated that you are against illegal wiretapping. So why are you granting MIT with such a protective shield? Members of MIT will be able to monitor people, like they did with columnists from the Taraf daily in the past, or they could use this information to blackmail individuals. But, they will not even be held accountable [if they do]. Those calling the new bill an ‘attempt to transform [Turkey] into an al-Mukhabarat state’ are not wrong at all.”

YalçIn DoIan, a columnist with the Hurriyet daily, wrote on Wednesday that MIT will have control over the whole state if the controversial draft bill passes. “MIT will be armored with extraordinary powers over state institutions, the media, even the judiciary. If it wishes, MIT will be able to obtain any piece of information from state bodies and banks. It will have access to bank account information. ‘Trade secrets’ will be history. It will be able to hold anyone responsible for ‘crimes involving state secrets,’ bribery, misconduct, disrupting the unity of the country or attempting to change the Constitutional order. Not the judiciary, but MIT will be able to do this. It will also be able to take military action abroad, without permission from anyone else,” DoIan commented.

GuNAY HILAL AYGuN (CihanToday’s Zaman)