Turkish Spy Agency Wants Control Over Telecom Authority

After listening bugs were discovered in the office of Prime Minister Erdogan, Turkey's spy agency has made a move to assume control of the telecommunications authority, writes Deniz Zeyrek.

al-monitor Turkey's spy agency has made a move to assume control of the telecommunications authority. Photo by Getty Images.

Topics covered

turkish security forces, turkey, recep tayyip erdogan

Jan 4, 2013

Following the disclosure by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that eavesdropping bugs were discovered in his office, one of the first items of the year’s legal agenda will be to regulate the use of such devices. Minister of Communications Binali Yildirim said his ministry is working together with the Ministry of Justice on legal measures to limit the use of eavesdropping with bugs and wiretaps.

Minister Yildirim said wiretapping should be a last resort and they will try to make it an ”exception” rather than the rule. In political back rooms, there is much discussion about merging the Telecommunication Authority, which is the hub of wiretapping, with the National Intelligence Organization [MIT], as was done with General Staff Electronic Systems Command that was split from the military and merged with MIT. According to Minister Yildirim, everyone from street vendors to the prime minister is worried about being tapped. He said citizens should lodge complaints when they encounter such incidents.

He said security forces often quickly resort to eavesdropping, without trying other means. “Nobody is objecting to wiretapping for security purposes, but we are intent on making it difficult to obtain an order to wiretap,” he said. He noted that in Britain the authority to decide to wiretap is not with courts, but with the Home Secretary office.

But the important development is reports of MIT’s request to take over the Telecommunication Authority. The authority is the sole center that regulates all communications in the country. A court ruling enables MIT, the police and gendarmerie to tap telephones, while rejecting requests it deems illegal. The MIT, which is the sole authority for foreign and electronic intelligence, is now preparing to take over the control of UAV intelligence gathering as well. As such, the MIT will be the single and strongest communication monitoring authority in the country.

At the moment, the Telecommunication Authority, gendarmerie and police are not happy with the MIT’s plan and are worried that the legal work being done is actually preparing the ground for MIT to take over. But the ministries of justice and communication say the work they are doing aims at preventing abuses in legal eavesdropping and taps and minimizing their use.

More from  Deniz Zeyrek

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