Turkey: National Intelligence Office (MIT)
The founder of modern-day Turkey, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, created the country’s intelligence service in 1925. In 1985, the agency was renamed National Intelligence Office, Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı (MİT) and placed under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s office.
Turkey’s struggle with the Kurdish minority within its borders often defines its allies or foes in the international intelligence community. MIT has maintained a strong intelligence relationship with the American CIA since the 1950s.
The MIT also collaborates with a variety of countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan, and Singapore. Relations with many European countries are difficult. This is partially due to Europe’s refusal to recognize the Kurdistan Workers’ Party as a terrorist organization.
In Syria MIT has supported Islamic State fighters who are fighting to overthrow the government. According to multiple credible news reports, Turkey has provided ISIS with weapons, training and medical help in their war against President Bashar al-Assad, a hated rival of President Erdogan.
Another MIT target is Fethullah Gulen, the leader of a clandestine political movement, who lives in the United States. Turkish President Erdogan blamed Gulen and his supporters for a failed coup in July 2016. The coup was considered an intelligence failure. President Erdogan told Al Jazeera that he learned of the coup, not from MIT, but his brother-in-law.
The long-time head of MIT is Hakan Fidan whom Erdogan calls “Turkey’s Secret Keeper.” Fidan paid a “very unusual” visit to Washington in December 2018 in an unsuccessful effort to secure Gulen’s extradition.
The MIT budget in 2017 was an estimated 2 billion Turkish lira (approximately $371 million).