National Intelligence Organization (Turkey)

The National Intelligence Organization (Turkish: Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı, MİT) is the state intelligence agency of Turkey. It was established in 1965 to replace the National Security Service.[4]

National Intelligence Organization
Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı (MİT)
Emblem of the National Intelligence Organization
Agency overview
FormedJuly 22, 1965 (1965-07-22)
Preceding agency
JurisdictionGovernment of Turkey
HeadquartersÇankaya, Ulus, Ankara, Turkey
Employees8,000 (2014)[2]
Annual budget 2,182,381,000 (2020)[3]
Agency executive

According to the former director of Foreign Operations, Yavuz Ataç, the military presence in the organization is negligible,[5] although the organization has a military heritage. In 1990, the percentage of military personnel was 35%, while in 2007 the lower echelons were 4.5% military[6] Former deputy undersecretary Cevat Öneş said that the MİT suffered with each coup, as each military junta that took control of the organization had its own set of priorities.[7]

While the organization has historically recruited from relatives of existing employees,[8] the former undersecretary, Emre Taner, says that this is no longer the case.[9] He is credited with reducing the turf war between the MİT and the General Directorate of Security, as well as infighting inside the MİT itself.[10] Taner announced a restructuring of the MİT at the start of 2009.[11]

The MIT co-operates with the Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence agencies of Russia. Its operations and missions are classified. In practice, religious minorities in Turkey are barred from careers in the MIT.[12]


The MİT is in charge of collecting 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 this 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. Legally, it 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 cyberwarfare. 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 like Havelsan and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey.

Organizational structure

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.[13] Before November 2016, when two more main departments were added, there were four main departments.[14]

Permission for investigation

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

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

NameTook officeLeft office
1Avni KantanJuly 14, 1965March 2, 1967
2Mehmet Fuat DoğuMarch 2, 1966March 27, 1971
3Nurettin ErsinAugust 2, 1971July 25, 1973
4Bülent TürkerJuly 26, 1973February 27, 1974
5Bahattin ÖzülkerFebruary 28, 1974September 26, 1974
6Bülent TürkerSeptember 26, 1974November 24, 1974
7Hamza GürgüçNovember 25, 1974July 13, 1978
8Adnan ErsözJuly 13, 1978November 19, 1979
9Bülent TürkerNovember 19, 1979September 7, 1981
10Burhanettin BigalıSeptember 7, 1981August 14, 1986
11Hayri ÜndülSeptember 5, 1986August 29, 1988
12Teoman KomanAugust 29, 1988August 27, 1992
13Sönmez KöksalNovember 9, 1992February 11, 1998
14Şenkal AtasagunFebruary 11, 1998June 11, 2005
15Emre TanerJune 15, 2005May 26, 2010
16Hakan FidanMay 26, 2010February 10, 2015[15]
17Hakan FidanMarch 9, 2015[16]

Coups in Turkey

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.[17]

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.[17]

In the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt the MİT fought against the coup plotters.[17]

Involvement in the Syrian Civil War

See also: 2014 National Intelligence Organisation scandal in Turkey

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.[18]

MIT has been accused that it helped deliver arms to parts of Syria under Islamist rebel control.[19] Turkish journalists who exposed it have charged with spying and "divulging state secrets" from the Turkish court.[20][21] One of the journalists claimed:"Those who sent the convoy from Turkey knew that the weapons were "heading to end [up] in ISIS hands".[21] Also, Turkish officers, who intercepted some of the intelligence agency's weapons-filled trucks have faced spying charges.[21] In June 2019, a Turkish court convicted the group officers and prosecutors, who stopped the MIT trucks, of at least two decades behind bars for obtaining and disclosing confidential state documents. They were also accused as FETÖ members.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24][25][26][27]

In 18 March 2016, Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin sent a letter to the UN Security Council saying that three Turkish humanitarian organizations (NGOs) sent weapons and supplies to extremists in Syria on behalf of Turkey's MIT intelligence agency. The three NGOs were the Besar Foundation, the Iyilikder Foundation and the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms (IHH).[28][29] In addition, in an interview at 2018, the former Turkish National Police official, Ahmet Yayla, said that the MIT has used Turkey’s IHH as an intermediary to arm Islamist terrorists.[30]

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.[31]

In September 2018, Turkish intelligence agents in an operation in Syria captured a man who was suspect over the 2013 Reyhanlı bombings and brought him back to Turkey.[32]

In January 2019, the Turkey's Defense Minister, the Chief of General Staff, the Land Forces Commander and the MIT Chief met at Hatay in order to discuss the latest developments in Idlib region and the next steps.[33]

In May 2019, Syrian intelligence officials met with Turkish MIT intelligence officials including MIT's head Hakan Fidan despite hostilities between the Syrian government and Turkish government. The ruling Justice and Development Party released a statement saying the meeting was held to prevent a conflict between Syria and Turkey, the Justice and Development Party's spokesman Omer Celik said regarding the meeting, "Our intelligence agencies and our elements in the field can hold any meeting they like at any time they like to prevent some humanitarian tragedies or in line with some needs."[34]

Activities by country

In 2014 it was revealed in the Turkey's Parliament’s Internal Affairs Commission that the MİT has units working abroad and was wiretapping the telephones of 2,473 people, mostly related to “terrorism and spying activities.”[35]

In 2016, Diyanet instructed affiliated imams and religious instances to collect detailed information on the Gülen movement. It handed 50 intelligence reports from 38 countries over to the Turkish parliament.[36][37][38]

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.[39]

Espionage in Armenia

In 2002, Armenian special services arrested an Armenian government official on charges of spying for Turkish national intelligence.[40] He was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of spying for Turkey.[41]

Espionage in Australia

Turkish imams preaching in Australia's mosques have been instructed to spy on Australian supporters of Fethulah Gülen.[42]

Espionage in Austria

In 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.[43]

Operations in Azerbaijan

In 2018, MIT arrested a FETÖ member in Azerbaijan and brought him to Turkey. He was a teacher worked for FETÖ schools operating in Azerbaijan.[44]

Espionage in Belgium

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.[45][46]

Espionage against Egypt

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.[47][48]

Operations in the UK

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.[49][50]

In 2018, Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter, who was against Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, informed the New York Knicks he will not be traveling with the team to London because he believed that a trip there would be life-threatening. When a reporter asked him if he really believes a trip to London would be dangerous, he replied: “They’ve got a lot of spies there. I can get killed very easy. That will be a very ugly situation.”[51]

Operations in France

MIT was blamed for the 2013 murders of three female PKK activists in Paris.[49]

Espionage in Gabon

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.[52]

Espionage in Georgia

According to a published news report, operatives of Turkish counterterrorism unit and MIT assigned to the Turkish Embassy had engaged in a large-scale spying campaign on FETÖ-linked organisations and foundations. [53]

Espionage in Germany

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.[54]

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."[54] German lawmakers have called for an investigation, charging that Turkey is spying on suspected Gulen followers in Germany.[55] Many people who were spied upon were German citizens.[56]

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.[43]

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, 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".[57][58][59] 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".[60] The appallment was deepened when it was revealed that the 300 persons included politicians, including Michelle Müntefering.[61][62][63]

In June 2017, according to news reports, Turkish Intelligence had reportedly been collecting an increasing amount of information on Bundestag members who are involved in defense as well as domestic and foreign policy. A spokeswoman for Bundeskriminalamt confirmed the report that the agency met with German MPs "in recent weeks" to discuss "safety" concerns, since "protecting members of the Bundestag is a legal task of the BKA".[64]

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.[65] 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.[66] In July 2018, Germany banned the organisation on allegations it is involved in organized crime and represents a threat to the general public.[67]

Operations against Greece

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.[68][69] 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.[70]

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 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.[71]

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.[72]

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.[73][72]

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.[74]

Operations in Iraq

In August 2017, the Kurdistan Communities Union said that had captured two Turkish nationals working for the MIT. Their plan was to assassinate a senior Kurdistan Workers' Party figure. They had been captured in Sulaymaniyah.[75][76]

In August 2018, a PKK leader and other Kurdish fighters killed in Turkish airstrikes in Sinjar. The Turkish Armed Forces carried out the joint operation with the MIT.[77]

In April 2019, 4 PKK separatist were nabbed at Iraq's Mount Sinjar and were brought to Turkey as part of an joint operation by the MIT and Turkish Armed forces.[78]

In June 2019, Diyar Gharib Muhammed — one of seven members of the PKK’s Central Committee was Killed. A Turkish F-16 struck his vehicle with the assistance of human intelligence provided by National Intelligence Organization (MIT) in the Kortek Bend area of Qandil in northern Iraq.[79]

In August 2019, 4 PKK separatist were killed in a airstrike by Turkish warplane in a joint operation with MIT in the Qandil area of northern Iraq.[80]

In September 2019, 3 PKK separatist were killed in a airstrike by Turkish warplane in a joint operation with MIT in the Gara region of northern Iraq.[81]

Operations in Kenya

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.[82] He was then forcibly transferred to Turkey to face trial.

Espionage in Kosovo

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,”[83]

Operation in Libya

In August 2019, a report was published, which stated that MIT was operating within the capital Tripoli in order to support the Government of National Accord (which is UN recognized).[84]

Hacking in Lithuania

The cyber team of the MİT hacked the server of the ByLock in Lithuania and transferred all signed-up IP’s to the headquarters in Ankara. The MİT had finalized its operation in December 2015 and January 2016, before ByLock has ceased its operation. Bylock was a secure communication app and Turkish authorities believe that it was exclusively allocated for the members of the Gülen Movement.[85]

Operations in Malaysia

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.[86]

In August 2019, MIT arrested the Malaysia chief of the FETÖ in an operation and brought him back to Turkey. The person was wanted by Turkey on charges of being involved in the activities of terrorist organization in multiple countries.[87]

Operations in Moldova

In 2018, Turkish together with Moldovan intelligence services detained at least six Turkish nationals employed at a private chain of high schools in Moldova. All were teachers or students at the Horizont Turkish high-school private chain, which is seen as close to the Fethullah Gulen.[88][89]

Operations in Mongolia

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.[90]

Espionage in Norway

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.[91][92]

Operation in Pakistan

In September 2017, In a Joint operation of MIT, ISI and Local Police, A Prominent Turkish Teacher and his family were arrested and brought to Turkey. He was vice president of FETÖ- affiliated educational foundation operating in Pakistan.[93][94]

Espionage in Serbia

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.[95]

Operations in Sudan

In a joint operation of MIT and NISS, a man believed to be a chief financier for the FETÖ, was captured and transported to Turkey.[96]

Espionage in Sweden

An investigation was launched on suspicion of unlawful intelligence gathering and illegal “mapping” against opposition circles in Sweden.[97]

Espionage in Switzerland

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.[43] 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.[98] That same month, Switzerland’s foreign minister warned Turkey against illegal spying on expatriate Turks in Switzerland.[99] In April 2017, a Swiss policeman of Turkish origin was arrested on the accusation that he was spying for the Turkish government.[100]

Operations in Ukraine

In July 2018, a FETÖ-linked suspect was brought to the Turkey from Ukraine following operations conducted by the MİT.[101]

Operations in USA

In July 2019, It was reported that Turkish diplomats with the support of MIT, had extensively spied on critics of the government of Turkey. Among the organizations that were spied on, were schools, companies, nongovernmental and not-for-profit organizations and foundations located in New York, Washington D.C., Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas and Chicago.[102]


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  84. Turkish intelligence unveils secret codes used before coup attempt
  85. Cellmate: Teacher abducted by Turkey’s MİT from Malaysia subjected to torture in Ankara
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  87. Turkey snatches 'Gulenist' teachers in Moldova
  88. Turkish Secret Services Nab Six 'Gulenists' in Moldova
  89. Turkish teacher kidnapped in Mongolia freed after authorities ground flight
  90. Turkey’ spying imams active also in Norway: monitoring group
  91. Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan’s spying, profiling expands in Norway
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  94. Lots of Foreign Spies Operating Inside Serbia, Report
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  96. "Report: Sweden Launches Espionage Probe Into Turkish Gov't Representatives". stockholmcf. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  97. Swiss ministry says no diplomatic immunity for Turkish spying suspects
  98. Swiss foreign minister warns Turkey against illegal spying
  99. As anti-Turkish politics grip Europe Turkish-Swiss policeman arrested
  100. Turkish intelligence brings key FETÖ suspect from Ukraine to Turkey

Further reading

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