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

Photogallery Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had earlier warned storm could be one of worst the city has ever faced More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid