Turkish Army taps into technology, intelligence to weed out FETÖ

People surround a tank controlled by putschists outside the army headquarters in the capital Ankara on July 15, 2016. FETÖ is accused of carrying out the coup attempt through its infiltrators in the army.

Dubbed the "FETÖ Meter," a system developed by an admiral of the Turkish Navy helps the army weed out members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in its ranks. The system uses a database that combines intelligence data with a set of criteria that tests whether a suspect is really linked to the group responsible for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

The system conceived by Adm. Cihat Yaycı, a senior officer in the Turkish Navy, has helped authorities so far examine 810,000 serving and retired officers and their relatives for possible links to the group. FETÖ is known for its widespread infiltration in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and used its infiltrators in the 2016 attempt that killed 250 people.

To uncover infiltrators, officials delve into every phase of any suspected officer's military career, people he or she worked with, and check if they match a large array of criteria used to detect FETÖ members. The collected data is then installed in software developed by Turkish engineers and experts and analyzed to establish a connection between the suspect and the terrorist group. The system has succeeded in identifying 4,500 FETÖ suspects in the Turkish Navy and 600 "secret imams," nonmilitary people who serve as handlers for FETÖ's infiltrators in the army.

Yaycı had previously established the Judicial Monitoring Service in the army to detect infiltrators of terrorist groups in the military. The service is composed of military officers who were jailed and detained in a string of sham trials by FETÖ in the past. The terrorist group managed to reshuffle officers and help promote people loyal to the group by imprisoning officers opposing FETÖ on trumped-up charges. This was the case in the 2016 coup attempt, when the terror group tapped into infiltrators in the judiciary and law enforcement for sham trials against officers.

The FETÖ Meter collects intelligence data from all branches of the army as well as from ministries and public agencies to detect possible infiltrators. It mainly focuses on officers who actively joined the 2016 coup attempt. Almost all officers involved in the coup bid claim they did not participate in it and, except for a few, also claim they are not members of FETÖ. The FETÖ Meter helps authorities establish connections between coup plotters who claim they did not know other putschists. The system delves deep into the backgrounds of suspects and even obscure data, such as officers who had the exact same number of right answers on military school exams or lecturers, who will also be tried on FETÖ charges, who approved postgraduate studies dissertations for officers seeking to boost their military career. A common feature of suspected infiltrators is that most sought out assignments in recruitment departments of the army to help more FETÖ members infiltrate.

Investigators also examined about 1 million cellphone numbers registered to former and serving naval officers and found 1,500 were users of ByLock, an encrypted messaging app exclusively used and believed to have been developed by FETÖ. The system also used the account information of officers in Bank Asya, a now-defunct lender run by FETÖ, as well as other links of suspected officers to the terrorist group, including donations to charities linked to the group.

A number of officers detected by the system agreed to collaborate with authorities and helped uncover more infiltrators.

The state of emergency declared after the coup attempt sped up the crackdown on the terrorist group's infiltrators. Tens of thousands were detained or arrested and dismissed from their jobs in the public sector after the attempt. Some FETÖ members managed to flee abroad, while others are believed to still be hiding their ties to the group. Fetullah Gülen, the U.S.-based leader of the terrorist group, is known for instructing his followers to disguise themselves.

Authorities launch almost daily operations across the country to capture FETÖ suspects. Yesterday, 46 people were detained in nationwide operations. Thirty-two suspects were captured in an investigation into infiltrators of FETÖ in law enforcement, and eight others are wanted in the same investigation. The suspects were accused of supplying FETÖ with the questions and answers of a 2011 exam for the promotion of policemen to the rank of inspector. The exam helped FETÖ plant its infiltrators in higher ranks in law enforcement. The terrorist group that expanded its clout in Turkey over the past three decades has already been accused of fraud in various exams to infiltrate the public sector. In another operation, police detained 14 suspects after the Chief Prosecutor's Office in the western city of İzmir issued detention warrants. The suspects were former members of now-defunct associations run by FETÖ. In the central city of Kayseri, authorities issued detention warrants for 33 suspects, including 27 serving officers in another investigation into the terror group.

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