News / Europe

Turkey's Government Tries to Expand Intelligence Agency Powers

FILE - Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters in parliament.
FILE - Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters in parliament.
Dorian Jones
The Turkish government is pushing through legislation extending the powers of the country's National Intelligence Agency, or MIT, and increasing the agency's protection from prosecution.  The move has drawn widespread condemnation and concern following controversial laws extending government control over the judiciary and the Internet.  
 
The Turkish parliament is considering new legislation that will dramatically extend the powers of the MIT.  The proposed legislation empowers the MIT to access data, including the bank records of any company or individual.  The MIT would also be able to conduct operations against anyone deemed to be a “national security threat.”

The proposed law has drawn strong criticism from human rights groups and legal advocates.  Istar Gozaydin, a law professor at Istanbul’s Dogus University, says the legislation would effectively put the agency above the law.

"Non-accountability is one the huge problems in this legislation: the MIT becomes somehow omnipotent. Under this legislation, in order to start an investigation against any personnel that claims to be in the context of the intelligence service, the prime minister has to authorize," said Gozaydin.

In the face of strong criticism, the government has made some concessions, stepping back from putting the intelligence agency under the prime minister's direct control.  The penalty for people writing on the activities of MIT was also reduced from 12 to nine years in jail.

But critics claim the law was written ambiguously, making it difficult for people to know precisely what violates the law on reporting on the MIT.

Soli Ozel, a political commentator for Haberturk TV, says such ambiguities, and the severity of the sentences, are aimed at intimidating the people.

"When you give MIT so much power, they can do a lot of things with impunity.  This has a deterrence effect on anyone who might think about raising their heads or speaking out their minds and whatever.  The entire spirit of the law certainly reminds me of intelligence states, and the way their intelligence services operate," said Ozel. "In the literature, we call [them] 'Mukhabarat states.'"

But the government argues that extending the intelligence agency's powers is necessary in its battle against what it says is a parallel state operating in the country.  Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims followers of an Islamic scholar Fetullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, have infiltrated the judiciary and police and are trying to unseat him through unfounded corruption probes - a charge Gulen strongly denies.

Last December, prosecutors launched a series of investigations into alleged graft and, since then, voice recordings said to be of a telephone conversation between Erdogan and his son in which they discuss how to hide large sums of money have been released on the Internet.  The government claims the recordings have been maliciously edited and has blamed Gulen.

Observers say the new intelligence law will make it easier for the MIT to use its powers against the Gulen movement.

That law follows steps by the government to extend its powers over the judiciary and the Internet.  But Asli Aydintasbas, a columnist for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet says, such legal moves will ultimately prove counter-productive for the prime minister.

"He is trying to restrict the use of Internet, the judiciary and expand [the] powers of national intelligence-gathering agency.  It is adding to the perception that Turkey is becoming more and more authoritarian.  So while it might help him or gives tools to fight these prosecutors or prosecutions, or the spread of news on the Internet, in the long run, I think, it's [the] beginning of his decline," said Aydintasbas.

Despite the criticism over the bill extending the intelligence agency's powers, the government has committed itself to passing the legislation, saying it is essential to the country's security.  On Thursday, Prime Minister Erdogan accused those behind the leaked voice recordings of working for unnamed foreign powers. Observers say Turkey's ongoing political is likely only to deepen.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs