The rulingJustice and Development Party (AK Party) introduced a new bill in Parliament last week to ensure the Turkish National Intelligence Agency's (MIT) capabilities match those of its U.S. and European counterparts. The new bill, introduced by AK Party Çankırı Deputy Idris Sahin and Nigde Deputy Alparslan Kavaklıoglu, will expand the executive power over the key institution.
The bill gives the MIT authority to conduct operations in cybersecurity, counterterrorism, foreign and national security.
The legislationallows the agency to tap international and pay phone calls and to introduce a jail term of up to 12 years for the publication of MİT's classified documents. The new legislation introduces amendments similar to the ones in Spain, Holland, France, the U.S. and the U.K. It also paves the way for MİT to reach out to terrorist organizations that threaten Turkey's security.
Supporters say the bill will increase the agency's capabilities to those comparable to other intelligence agencies by strengthening its methods for individual and technical intelligence. The legislation is expected to ensure the confidentiality of MİT and to protect MİT personnel from unfounded allegations. According to the draft bill, public prosecutors may bring to court the head of MİT based on the prime minister's permission alone.
Another article is expected to prevent legally unsupported summons to be issued to agency personnel as occurred on Feb.
On Feb. 7, 2012, Istanbul's specially authorized prosecutors, Sadrettin Sarıkaya and Bilal Bayraktar, who are considered followers of the Gülen movement in the judiciary, issued summons for MİT chief Hakan Fidan for collaborating with the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), an administrative structure of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The bill caused a stir in the Turkish Parliament. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Sinop Deputy Engin Altay accused the AK Party of getting rid of the principle of accountability last week. He harshly criticized the bill, saying, "The MİT is becoming the prime minister's private organization."
Speaking to Daily Sabah on Thursday, Şahin said the aim of the bill was to meet the necessities of today's world and uphold the technical and individual capacity of agency, whose codes were enacted in 1984 and currently fall short of addressing the needs of a modern state.
In reply to Altay's criticism, Şahin asserted those kinds of accusations were superficial and unfounded. He said the current MİT structure is already linked to the prime minister."This draft bill will grant intelligence authority to conduct other operations apart from the ones abroad," said Şahin, vowing to increase the agency's efficiency. CHP Bursa Deputy Aykan Erdemir claimed on Saturday that the bill is in contradiction with the European Union acquisition process and expected criticism from the European Commission in the 2014 Progress Report. "I hope that the draft bill will be amended in the Parliament to allow for greater transparency, accountability, and parliamentary oversight," he added.
In Turkey, intelligence agencies serve under the Turkish police force and gendarmerie, in addition to the MİT. While MİT has been authorized for operations abroad, the police and gendarmerie agencies are authorized for domestic operations. The introduced draft bill is expected to allow the MİT to conduct operations in Turkey's border by expanding its scope.