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

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Five-Nation Tour to Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of state will visit Egypt, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam to discuss security issues, Iran nuclear deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs