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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs