History of the controversial Turkish secret service

The Teşkilat-i Mahsus was the first secret service established during the final years of the Ottoman Empire to gather intelligence on guerilla fighters in the Middle-East, and laid the foundations for modern Turkey’s MIT.

History of the controversial Turkish secret service

Omer Aymanli - World Bulletin 

Due to new developments inside and outside the empire, the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II founded the first modern intelligence gathering agency in the 19th century. The Yildiz Intelligence Organization was set up to expose conspiracies being plotted against the state and against its administration. However, this service was brought to an end after Abdulhamid II was removed from power by the Unity and Progress Party after 33 years. Following the coup, 100,000 pages of documents belonging to the intelligence organization were taken out of the palace and burned.

However, further steps were taken during the reign of the Unity and Progress Party to improve the intelligence service as a counter to the increasing number of separatist groups becoming active in the empire. After a devastating campaign in the Balkans, they understood the importance of a good secret service, so the Teşkilat-i Mahsus was founded on 17 November 1913.

Within three years the organization increased its staff to over 30,000 agents arranged in various departments and spread across the empire, as well as outside its borders. These agents included doctors, engineers, journalists, politicians, soldiers and guerilla fighters. Agents found in the three continents of the empire were under the command of the organization’s headquarters in Istanbul’s Nuruosmaniye. During the First World War they organized guerilla fighters in Benghazi, Tripoli, Basra and Egypt. In its efforts to secure the unity of the society against separatist elements during the last years of the empire, the organization truly operated in the manner of a modern secret service.

When the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the leaders of the Unity and Progress Party were forced to flee. Before he fled, party leader Talat Pasha had one last order. He founded a secret organization which played a major role in the national struggle. They smuggled weapons, ammunition and soldiers around Istanbul and Anatolia. Many similar groups were also set up around Anatolia.

On 23 September 1923, one of these groups, known as ‘Hamza’, was established as the official intelligence agency by the Turkish Parliament in Ankara. However, when the English cracked the group’s secret code which they used to pass on information, they had to regroup under a different name. It took on names like Mucahid, Muharib and Felah. Another organization was also set up by Husamettin Erturk and Fevzi Pasha known as Mudafaa-i Milli. Abbreviated as ‘Mim Mim’, they would smuggle arms, soldiers and ammunition around the country and pass on information taken from enemy bases to Ankara.

During the national struggle, an intelligence agency was established on the western front by the name of the Military Police Organization, but this was closed down within a year due to the unprofessional behavior of its agents. They were replaced with the Investigation Authorities Board in 1921 but they were also dissolved shortly afterwards. Between the Mudanya ceasefire and the treaty of Lausanne, the Erkan-ı Harbiye-i Umumiye Riyaseti led the way in this field.

After the founding of the Republic, Turkey’s first president Mustafa Kemal ordered Fevzi Pasha to establish a new intelligence agency. On 6 January 1926 the National Security Service was set up and bound to the Erkan-ı Harbiye-i Umumiye Riyaseti Office. Fevzi Pasha spoke of its establishment: “With its central headquarters in Ankara, the National Security Service has established branches in Istanbul, Izmir, Adana, Diyarbakir and Kars. These are all directly bound to the central headquarters. From now on, the intelligence services that have been conducted by army officers will now be conducted by this organization.“

Following this, head of the German secret service during the First World War, Colonel Walther Nicolai, was invited to Turkey. Upon accepting the invitation, an agreement was made, enabling Turkish agents to go to Germany where they would be personally trained by the German colonel. The course was started in March 1926.

While the organization’s constitution was being drawn up, soldiers and civilians were organizing conferences on intelligence gathering. By the end of the year, the organization was arranged into four main departments. A) Intelligence B) Defense C) Propaganda D) Technical support.

Between 1932 and 1939 it started working more closely with the security services until it was completely placed under the command of the security services in 1939. In 1960 it was bound to the National Security Board and renamed as the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) in 1965. 

Last Mod: 22 Ekim 2013, 14:09
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