Turkey confirms closure of surveillance agency

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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The body that monitors communications in Turkey is merged into the regulator after president says it ‘is among the places that has all the dirt’

Turkey has confirmed reports that it has shut down its internet surveillance agency, the Department of Telecommunications and Communication (TİB), and merged it into the general telecoms regulator, the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK).

The decision was among a set of emergency decrees – published yesterday by the Turkish government in its Official Gazette – that follow the attempted coup of 15 July. The government is blaming an organisation that it calls the Fetullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) and has set about removing anyone that it believes was sympathetic to the rebels.

The move follows a speech earlier this month by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said: “We want to form a strong intelligence mechanism against the activities of this organisation [FETÖ]. For instance, we will shut down the TİB, because it is among the places that has all the dirt.”

A year ago a government minister Lütfi Elvan – now in charge of transport, maritime affairs and communications – said that the building then occupied by TİB was used by FETÖ members as “headquarters for illegal wiretapping”. He said, according to Turkish newspaper Hurriyet: “We don’t know where the cables from that building reach. We know that nearly 1,000 people in the TİB were illegally wired.”

The TİB was responsible for checking communications made by any network, the evaluation of signal information and recordings. It also oversaw the implementation of the country’s website blocking laws.

“The TİB’s powers, responsibilities, staff and its entire technical possibilities will be transferred to the BTK,” said deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmuş.