National Intelligence Organization (Turkey)

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National Intelligence Organization
Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı (MİT)
Seal of the Turkish National Intelligence.png
Emblem of the National Intelligence Organization
Agency overview
FormedJuly 22, 1965; 53 years ago (1965-07-22)
Preceding agency
JurisdictionGovernment of Turkey
HeadquartersÇankaya, Ulus, Ankara, Turkey
Annual budgetClassified
Agency executive

The National Intelligence Organization (Turkish: Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı, MİT) is the governmental intelligence organization of Turkey. It was established in 1965 to replace the National Security Service.[2]

According to the former director of Foreign Operations, Yavuz Ataç, the military presence in the organization is negligible.[3] This is a recent development, as the organization has a military heritage. In 1990, the fraction of military personnel was 35%. Today it has dropped to 4.5% in the lower echelons [4] a former deputy undersecretary Cevat Öneş said that the MİT suffered with each coup, as the military junta that took over the organization had its own set of priorities.[5]

In order to ensure reliability, the organization has historically recruited from relatives of existing employees.[6] The former undersecretary, Emre Taner, says that this is no longer the case.[7] He is credited with reducing the turf war between the MİT and the police intelligence, as well as infighting inside the MİT itself.[8] Taner announced a restructuring of the MİT at the start of 2009.[9]

The MIT co-operates with American and Russian intelligence agencies. Its operations and missions are classified.


Nationwide Intelligence[edit]

The MİT, which exists to serve the Republic of Turkey and is furnished with duties and responsibilities in line with this aim, is in charge of collecting nationwide security intelligence on existing and potential threats from internal and external sources posed against the territory, people and integrity, the existence, independence, security, and all the other elements that compose the constitutional order and the national power of the Republic of Turkey. The MİT is in charge of communicating collected intelligence to the President, the Prime Minister, the Chief of the General Staff, the Secretary General of the National Security Council and other relevant state organizations as necessary.

The MİT is in charge of counterintelligence activities in Turkey. The MİT cannot be given any other duty and cannot be led to any other field of activity than collecting intelligence concerning the security of the Republic. The MİT engages in a proactive cyber defence program for Turkey and the use of cyberwarfare as a platform for attack. The Turkish Ministry of National Defence considers cybersecurity as the country's "fifth frontier" after land, air, sea and space. The MİT uses local cybersecurity solutions mostly developed by companies Havelsan and Tübitak.

Organizational structure[edit]

Providing secrecy in the conduct of the duty and activities the MİT is responsible for is indisputably of utmost importance. The Organisation's legal basis and structure can be found in Law No. 2937, the Law on the State Intelligence Services and the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation, as well as several other laws.[10] Moving from the standpoint that otherwise it will be impossible to render intelligence services be fulfilled at the required level, the secrecy of records and information concerning the duties and activities of the MİT has been enforced with a penal clause included in the Organizational Establishment Law. Under the 27th Article, a sentence of imprisonment shall be faced in the cases of acquiring records and information concerning the duties and activities of the MİT, disclosing these records and information on negligence and causing these records and information to be obtained by unauthorized people.

Before November 2016, when two more main departments were added, had four main departments.[11]

Permission for investigation[edit]

Pursuant to Law No. 2937, high crimes levied against a MİT agent that fall within the jurisdiction of the Heavy Penal Courts (described by Interpol as the 'Central Criminal Courts') must be approved by the Prime Minister or several other relevant officials.

Permission for testimony[edit]

Testimony in court may only be made with and by the permission of the Undersecretary of the MİT. According to Article 29 of Law No. 2937, MİT agents must not give their testimony if it pertains to state secrets without further permission from the MİT Undersecretary.


The Organization owns a non-public Museum of Espionage consisting of a variety of spy equipment, which was revealed once in October 2013.

List of undersecretaries[edit]

Name Took office Left office
1 Avni Kantan July 14, 1965 March 2, 1967
2 Mehmet Fuat Doğu March 2, 1966 March 27, 1971
3 Nurettin Ersin August 2, 1971 July 25, 1973
4 Bülent Türker July 26, 1973 February 27, 1974
5 Bahattin Özülker February 28, 1974 September 26, 1974
6 Bülent Türker September 26, 1974 November 24, 1974
7 Hamza Gürgüç November 25, 1974 July 13, 1978
8 Adnan Ersöz July 13, 1978 November 19, 1979
9 Bülent Türker November 19, 1979 September 7, 1981
10 Burhanettin Bigalı September 7, 1981 August 14, 1986
11 Hayri Ündül September 5, 1986 August 29, 1988
12 Teoman Koman August 29, 1988 August 27, 1992
13 Sönmez Köksal November 9, 1992 February 11, 1998
14 Şenkal Atasagun February 11, 1998 June 11, 2005
15 Emre Taner June 15, 2005 May 26, 2010
16 Hakan Fidan May 26, 2010 February 10, 2015[12]
17 Hakan Fidan March 9, 2015[13]

Coups in Turkey[edit]

In the 1971 Turkish military memorandum the MIT did not inform Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel about the coup, and also asked for the PM’s resignation on the day of the coup.[14]

In the 1980 Turkish coup d'état, the plans for “Operation Flag” (Bayrak Harekâtı) were conveyed to the military units by the MİT’s airplane. The agency, however, once again did not notify the PM, even though the MİT was under the authority of the PM; because the MİT took part in the coup.[14]

In the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt the MİT fought against the coup plotters.[14]

Involvement in the Syrian Civil War[edit]

According to reports, at 2012 there were many intelligence agents on Turkey's Syria border from many countries, but the MİT coordinated all intelligence gathering activities and worked in coordination with German, French, British and American intelligence services. The intelligence agencies did not take initiatives on their own and had to take the MİT as reference, which was acting as a leader.[15]

MIT has been accused that it helped deliver arms to parts of Syria under Islamist rebel control.[16] Turkish journalists who exposed it have charged with spying and "divulging state secrets" from the Turkish court.[17][18] One of the journalists claimed:"Those who sent the convoy from Turkey knew that the weapons were "heading to end [up] in ISIS hands".[18] Also, Turkish officers, who intercepted some of the intelligence agency's weapons-filled trucks have faced spying charges.[18] In addition, Turkish newspaper, Cumhuriyet, published a video footage which it said showed security forces discovering weapons parts being sent to Syria on trucks belonging to the MIT state intelligence agency.[19]

Serena Shim, a journalist of Press TV was killed at a car crash with a heavy vehicle in Turkey in what are claimed, by her employer and her parents, to be suspicious circumstances. The car crash happened just days after she claimed that the MIT, had threatened her and accused her of spying, due to some of the stories she had covered about Turkey's stance on ISIL militants in Kobane. She also claimed that she had received images of ISIL militants crossing the Turkish border into Syria in World Food Organization and other NGOs trucks.[20][21][22][23]

After the reports of Gatestone Institute, Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), Südwestrundfunk (SWR) and a footage of Consortium of Public Broadcasters in Germany (ARD) documenting the slave trade of women and children being conducted by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Turkey, the Gaziantep Bar Association filed a criminal complaint against "Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and law-enforcement officers that have committed neglect of duty and misconduct by not taking required measures, and not carrying out preventive and required intelligence activities before the media covered the said incidents.".[24]

MİT played an active role in Turkey’s Olive Branch military operation into the Syrian province of Afrin. The MİT’s role included the coordination and direction of Turkish-backed Free Syria Army, as well as intelligence support in the identification of targets for air strikes and post-destruction evaluation.[25]

Espionage against other countries[edit]

On April 5, 2018, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said that MIT has captured 80 Turkish citizens, suspected of links to FETÖ, from 18 different countries so far.[26]

Espionage in Austria[edit]

On 2017, Peter Pilz released a report about the activities of Turkish agents operating through ATIB (Avusturya Türkiye İslam Birliği – Austria Turkey Islamic Foundation), the Diyanet’s arm responsible for administering religious affairs across 63 mosques in the country, and other Turkish organizations. Pilz’s website faced a DDoS attack by Turkish hacktivists and heavy security was provided when he presented the report publicly. Per the report, Turkey operates a clandestine network of 200 informants targeting opposition as well as Gülen supporters inside Austria.[27]

Espionage in Belgium[edit]

In 2017, the Flemish interior minister, Liesbeth Homans, started the process of withdrawing recognition of the Turkish-sponsored and country’s second largest mosque, Fatih mosque in Beringen accusing the mosque of spying in favor of Turkey.[28][29]

Espionage against Egypt[edit]

On November 22, 2017, Egypt’s public prosecutor has ordered the detention of 29 people suspected of espionage on behalf of Turkey against Egypt national interest and joining a terrorist organization. They are also accused of money laundering, conducting overseas calls without a license and trading currency without a license. According to the results of an investigation by the General Intelligence Services, the group has been recording phone calls and passing information to Turkish intelligence as part of a plan to bring the Muslim Brotherhood back to power in Egypt.[30][31]

Operations in England[edit]

In 1994, a Kurdish man named Mehmet Kaygisiz, was shot in the back of the head at a café in Newington Green, in London. His murder remained unsolved and at the time his murder was thought to be drug-related, but in 2016 new evidence revealed that MIT ordered his murder.[32][33]

Operations in France[edit]

MIT was blamed for the 2013 murders of three female PKK activists in Paris.[34]

Espionage in Gabon[edit]

In March 2018, MIT abducted three suspected members of the Gulen Movement from Gabon and transferred them from Libreville to Ankara on a private jet.[35]

Espionage in Germany[edit]

In July 2015 The Tagesspiegel newspaper reported that German federal prosecutors were looking into claims that three men - two Turks and a German national - were instructed by MIT to spy on Erdogan critics in Cologne, particularly Kurds and members of the Muslim minority Alevi community.[36]

On 2016, Bundestag intelligence oversight committee members demanded answer from German government about the reports that Germans of Turkish origin are being pressured in Germany by informers and officers of Turkey's MIT spy agency. According to reports Turkey had 6,000 informants plus MIT officers in Germany who were putting pressure on "German Turks". Hans-Christian Ströbele told that there was an "unbelievable" level of "secret activities" in Germany by Turkey's MIT agency. According to Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, not even the former communist East German Stasi secret police had managed to run such a large "army of agents" in the former West Germany: "Here, it's not just about intelligence gathering, but increasingly about intelligence service repression."[36] German lawmakers have called for an investigation, charging that Turkey is spying on suspected Gulen followers in Germany.[37] Many people who were spied upon were German citizens.[38]

In December 2016, a 31-year-old Turkish citizen who had resided in Germany for a decade was arrested in Hamburg on suspicion of espionage and plotting the assassination of two prominent Kurds on behalf of Turkish security services.[27]

In March 2017 the Turkish secret intelligence service was accused of conducting espionage of more than 300 people and 200 associations and schools linked to supporters of exiled Fethullah Gülen. Boris Pistorius [de], interior minister for Lower Saxony State, called this "intolerable and unacceptable", stating that "the intensity and ruthlessness with which people abroad are being investigated is remarkable". A German security official said that "we are horrified at how openly Turkey reveals that it is spying on Turks living here".[39][40][41] On 30 March 2017 Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere expresses suspicions that the move may have been intended to weigh on Turkish-German relations − "to provoke us in some way".[42] The appallment was deepened when it was revealed that the 300 persons included politicians, including Michelle Müntefering.[43][44][45]

In October 2017, according to German press reports officials working in Germany's immigration authorities pass on information about Turkish asylum seekers to Turkey. In many cases, even their locations were also revealed, that even their families did not know for security reasons. These incidents showed that Turkish spies may have infiltrated German authorities.[46] In addition, Herbert Reul, the interior minister for the German state of the North Rhine-Westphalia, submitted a report to the state parliament, alleging that the Turkish-German organisation "Osmanen Germania" works with MIT. The organisation denied the accusations.[47] In July 2018, Germany banned the organisation on allegations it is involved in organized crime and represents a threat to the general public.[48]

Operations against Greece[edit]

In December 2011, the Turkish newspaper Birgun reported on an interview with former Turkish prime minister Mesut Yilmaz saying that Turkey was behind a number of large forest fires in Greece in the 1990s. Yilmaz later denied the statements, saying he had been misquoted by the newspaper and that he had been actually referring to unsubstantiated reports of Greek involvement in Turkish forest fires.[49][50] In addition, former head of Greek intelligence service said they had intelligence that Turkish agencies were involved in the arsons in the 1990s but had no proof. He said they had received information from their agents in Turkey that Turkish agents or others were involved in the forest fires on Greek islands.[51]

In August 2013, Greek police arrested a German citizen on the island of Chios on suspicion of spying for Turkey. Police said they had found in the man’s possession cameras, laptops, maps and glasses with an embedded camera, and an email the he had sent to an unidentified recipient with details on Greek warships and army vehicles on the island. The man confessed he had photographed barracks and other military-related buildings on the island for five people he believed were Turkish nationals who paid him up to 1,500 euros ($2,000) for each assignment. Greek authorities suspected that the individuals worked for the Turkish secret services.[52]

In October 2014, Greek police arrested a German citizen on the island of Kos because he photographed sensitive locations on the island. He admitted that was spying for MIT.[53]

In February 2017, the newspaper Kathimerini reported that the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation recruits EU retirees to spy on a variety of Greek sensitive locations, including military bases, airports and power plants.[54][55]

In March 2017, the former editor in chief of the English version of Turkish Zaman newspaper, Abdullah Bozkurt, posted a tweet on his account warning of increased clandestine operations of Turkish intelligence agents in Greece.[56]

Operations in Kenya[edit]

MIT captured Abdullah Öcalan in Kenya on 15 February 1999, while being transferred from the Greek embassy to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, reportedly with the help of the CIA.[57] He was then forcibly transferred to Turkey to face trial.

Espionage in Kosovo[edit]

In March 2018, six Turkish nationals from Kosovo had been captured by Turkish intelligence and brought to Turkey over alleged links to schools financed by the Gulen movement. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said in a speaking to supporters and party members in Istanbul: “Our National Intelligence Agency captured six of the highest ranking members (of Gulen’s network) in the Balkans in the operation it conducted in Kosovo,”[58]

Espionage in Malaysia[edit]

A Turkish teacher in Malaysia was abducted in 2016 from Kuala Lumpur over alleged links to the Gülen movement. According to reports he has been subjected to beating, torture, death threats and staged executions during his pretrial detention in Ankara.[59]

Operations in Mongolia[edit]

In July 2018, a Turkish teacher with links to the Gulenist movement was allegedly kidnapped in the Mongolian capital and taken to the city's airport. He has been released after authorities temporarily grounded the airplane which was operated by the Turkish Air Force.[60]

Espionage in Norway[edit]

Stockholm Center for Freedom accused the Norwegian Islamist religious organizations that are affiliated with Turkish government that were illegally profiling and intelligence gathering activities on Turks who are believed to be affiliated with Gülen movement in Norway.[61][62]

Espionage in Serbia[edit]

In 2015, Matthew Aid wrote that according to reports spies from Turkey is among the most active in Serbia. Turkey organize and finance the movement of Bosniaks for the secession of the Raška region.[63]

Espionage in Sweden[edit]

An investigation was launched on suspicion of unlawful intelligence gathering and illegal “mapping” against opposition circles in Sweden.[64]

Espionage in Switzerland[edit]

Parliamentarian Alex Kuprecht announced that the government was considering opening a criminal case against regarding espionage and other illegal activities performed by Turkish agents against dissidents. Also, there were espionage against academics who were critical of Turkey.[27] On March 16, 2017, the Office of the Attorney General launched a criminal inquiry into possible foreign spying on Switzerland's Turkish community. Investigation also concerned an attempt to kidnap a Swiss-Turkish in Zurich to take him abroad.[65]

Operations in Ukraine[edit]

In July 2018, a FETÖ-linked suspect was brought to the Turkey from Ukraine following operations conducted by the MİT.[66]


  1. ^ "History of the MİT, MİT official Web site". Retrieved 2014-03-30.
  2. ^ Undersecretaries, MİT official website (in Turkish)
  3. ^ Ünlü, Ferhat (2007-07-16). "İngiliz general Apo'nun başına beş milyon sterlin istedi". Sabah (in Turkish). Retrieved 2008-12-18. Ataç, ordu kökenlilerin oranının hiçbir zaman yüzde dördü geçmediğini belirttiği MİT'te, sivilleşme olgusu ve asker-sivil sorunsalının yanlış ele alındığı görüşünde.
  4. ^ Ünlü, Ferhat (2007-07-19). "MİT'te iç çekişme entrikaya yol açtı". Sabah (in Turkish). Retrieved 2008-12-18. Yaklaşık 5 bin kadrolu personeli bulunan kurumda (Yardımcı istihbarat elemanları ile birlikte bu sayı çok daha fazla) alt kademelerdeki ordu kökenlilerin oranının yüzde 4.5'i geçmediği belirtiliyor.
  5. ^ "'Hiçbir darbe gizli olmadı'". 2007-07-15. Archived from the original on November 22, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-18. Öneş'e göre, askeri müdahaleler MİT'i geri bırakan asıl etkenlerdi. Çünkü MİT'in güvenlik anlayışı darbelere göre şekillendi. Demokratik süreç kesintiye uğrayınca istihbarat teşkilatı da geri kaldı.
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  15. ^ There are 50 senior agents in Turkey, ex-spy says
  16. ^ "Exclusive: Turkish intelligence helped ship arms to Syrian Islamist rebel areas". Reuters. 2015-05-21.
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  18. ^ a b c "Turkish officers arrested for 'treason' after intercepting weapons destined for Syria". RT. 2015-11-30.
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  20. ^ "Iranian broadcaster raises suspicions about death of reporter on Syrian border". The Guardian.
  21. ^ "Mystery of American journalist killed in car crash in Turkey... just days after she claimed intelligence services had threatened her over her coverage of siege of Kobane". Daily Mail.
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  23. ^ "Family suspects foul play in death of US journalist in Turkey". Fox News.
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  25. ^ Intelligence agency MİT playing active role in Turkey’s Afrin operation
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  28. ^ Flemish minister: Turkish-sponsored mosque is ‘nest of spies’
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  34. ^ Turkish intelligence services implicated in unsolved London murder, court documents say
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  53. ^ Ιστορίες με κατασκόπους στο Αιγαίο
  54. ^ Turkish intelligence recruits EU retirees to spy on Greece
  55. ^ Ιστορίες με κατασκόπους στο Αιγαίο
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  58. ^ Kosovo investigates seizure of Turkish nationals
  59. ^ Cellmate: Teacher abducted by Turkey’s MİT from Malaysia subjected to torture in Ankara
  60. ^ Turkish teacher kidnapped in Mongolia freed after authorities ground flight
  61. ^ Turkey’ spying imams active also in Norway: monitoring group
  62. ^ Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan’s spying, profiling expands in Norway
  63. ^ Lots of Foreign Spies Operating Inside Serbia, Report
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  65. ^ Swiss ministry says no diplomatic immunity for Turkish spying suspects
  66. ^ Turkish intelligence brings key FETÖ suspect from Ukraine to Turkey

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°56′30.85″N 32°51′15.60″E / 39.9419028°N 32.8543333°E / 39.9419028; 32.8543333