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Why Turkish Intelligence Agency Failed to Uncover Coup Plot

© REUTERS / REUTERSPeople Stand On A Turkish Army Tank At Ataturk Airport In Istanbul
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US State Secretary John Kerry said that nobody in Turkey or beyond saw the military coup that rocked the country on Friday night coming. But how did Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) miss the signs of the looming insurrection?

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Journalist Evgeni Krutikov maintained that the MIT was too distracted with its recently bloated responsibilities to surveil the Turkish Armed Forces in a country that has a long history of successful military coups.

Turkey's National Intelligence Organization was the first agency to undergo "total cleansing" when Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power, he wrote for the Vzglyad newspaper.

"All those who were recruited to work for foreign intelligence and particularly counterintelligence departments from the field army were removed by the dozens. As a result the share of MIT employees with a military background fell from 35 percent to a tiny 4.5 percent," he said.

The reason behind this decision appears to be simple. Turkey's National Intelligence Organization was behind all four previous coups in the country. The agency was the one "that carried out the operations; it also outlined key mission" of each coup, the journalist explained.

For instance, in 1960, an anti-corruption campaign was the key issue, while in 1971 the coup was carried out to restore the order and tackle local terrorism.

"Erdogan did not just reform the MIT, he allowed those close to him, who lacked a military background and came from his party, to turn a once powerful organization into almost a mom-and-pop store," Krutikov observed. "Hiring relatives has become a common practice."

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At the same time, the National Intelligence Organization's duties have become overblown, he added. The MIT apparently entered into competition with police intelligence. It was also tasked with promoting Erdogan's foreign policy vision.

At the moment, the MIT is engaged in "selling arms, supporting Islamist and quasi-Islamist groups in Syria, dealing with the Kurds and transporting crude oil across the border," the journalist detailed.

According to Krutikov, the MIT has been too busy with its newfound duties to keep an eye on the army. This is the reason why mid-level officers were able to work on a coup undetected.

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