Turkey’s The Fortress: New intelligence HQ opens in Ankara

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Kale or The Fortress is built on a space of 5,000 acres in Ankara's Etimesgut district. (AA Photo)

Turkey’s top intelligence agency MİT opened its new headquarters in Ankara, a high-security complex dubbed ‘The Fortress’ as the country pursues a more active intelligence policy.

Anew, larger headquarters for Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) was inaugurated Monday in the capital Ankara. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and ministers opened the headquarters dubbed “Kale,” or “The Fortress,” by the directorate.

The massive complex, built in a space of 5,000 acres in the Bağlıca neighborhood of the city’s Etimesgut district, is surrounded with three-meter high concrete walls, barbed wire and fitted with a secretive security system against unauthorized access, infiltration and wiretapping.

The organization moved its headquarters at least three times since its foundation in 1965. Its last headquarters was in the Yenimahalle district of the capital. That building came under fire by putschists during the July 15, 2016 coup attempt by Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Erdoğan said that intelligence was indispensable both in wartime and peacetime for a country’s existence.

“In a critical era for our country and the world, we need, more than ever, the support of our National Intelligence Organization. We are proud of the accomplishments of our unnamed heroes who devotedly work day and night around the world,” he said.

Erdoğan pointed out that the world was “reshaping” and “in this painful process, threats we face both change and increase. Undoubtedly, terrorism is the most significant threat. Terrorist groups like PKK, YPG, FETÖ and Daesh seemingly declared an all-out war against our country. Another threat is internal conflicts in countries in our region and crises those conflict cause,” he said.

Citing Syria, Erdoğan said every development regarding this southern neighbor of Turkey, from terrorism to migration and political consequences of the Syrian conflict directly interests Turkey.

“Similarly, every incident in Iraq has direct and indirect consequences for Turkey. Regional alliances in the Eastern Mediterranean and the consequence of the power struggle there is vital for our future. We cannot sit idly in the face of this complicated and variable situation stemming from the rivalry of regional and global powers. We have to develop our own game plan and implement it,” Erdoğan said.

The president noted that the National Intelligence Organization was among the strongest intelligence agencies in the world.

“Our organization, which went beyond being an organization merely collecting information and reporting it, made Turkey a country that used information [provided by MİT] in diplomacy. Thanks to the successful work of the intelligence organization, we have the capacity to act for our own interest, without needing permission or assistance from any other country, wherever in the world,” he said.

Among the accomplishments of MİT, Erdoğan listed the organization’s assistance in counter-terrorism operations in northern Iraq.

“Their operations against senior cadres of the PKK in northern Iraq demolished what they felt was the safest places for them to hide out,” he said. “The intelligence provided by MİT was used in operations by unmanned drones to inflict losses on the PKK. This is an important indicator of the level we reached in combining technology and intelligence.”

MİT was also prominent in the aftermath of the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018. The conversations at the consulate recorded prior to and during the murder of the dissident journalist were obtained by MİT and were shared with investigators probing the incident. The recordings revealed the role of a hit squad that arrived from Saudi Arabia to kill Khashoggi.

“The role of national intelligence in solving the murder of Khashoggi was outstanding and made our country proud at the international level,” Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan also acknowledged that MİT was “thoroughly fulfilling its duties in Libya,” after media reports claimed Turkey sent intelligence officers to the North African country after the Turkish parliament authorized last week’s deployment of troops to assist Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA).

MİT tracks down its history to Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa or Special Organization, a brainchild of Enver Pasha, which was established in 1913, one year before World War l. Though it was dissolved after the war, Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa is praised for its military and paramilitary work during the war. A few other small-scale intelligence organizations were founded after the war and in the early years of the Republic of Turkey in the 1920s.

However, MİT’s first genuine predecessor was the National Security Service (MAH) which was founded by Marshal Fevzi Çakmak in 1926. MAH was active until 1965 before it was replaced with MİT, which was commanded by career military officers in its early days, decades before its executives were replaced with civilian bureaucrats. Its current head Hakan Fidan is a former non-commissioned officer who once served overseas at the Intelligence and Operations Command of the NATO Rapid Reaction Corps in Germany, before switching to a civilian career.

An academic who taught international relations at Hacettepe and Bilkent University, Fidan joined MİT as deputy undersecretary in 2009. At the age of 42, he was the youngest undersecretary when he was appointed as undersecretary in 2010. His post was renamed “president” after a regulation issued in 2018.

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