Hakan Fidan at the helm of MİT

The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has an “exceptional” place among the state institutions. This is not merely because it performs a critical function called “intelligence.” 

 The MİT is one of the few institutions which have managed to correctly assess the post-Cold War world.
The case files of Susurluk and Ergenekon are proof that the key state agencies can be employed for the sake of personal interests or for ideological contention. Compared to other institutions, the MİT has survived these processes with the least attrition. It even managed to purge some of its “degenerate elements.”

Under the leadership of Emre Taner, the MİT attempted to protect its institutional image. During this period, the “national” characteristic of the institution became more pronounced.

Thus, the Taner period further ensured that the process of making the organization more civil become deep-rooted, starting with Sönmez Köksal in late 1992 and Şenkal Atasagun in early 1999.

Perhaps the most important contribution of the Taner period was that this process was maintained at a psychological level rather than an institutional one. The statement Taner issued in connection with the 80th anniversary of the MİT in 2007 was actually a “bill of vision.” Taner reorganized the organization in accordance with that vision.

No one could be found to replace him for a long time, not only because he played critical roles in the process Turkey faced but also because it was hard to find a visionary intelligence chief who has adapted to the new era like Taner.

Hakan Fidan’s role

The Fidan era will serve to help the MİT complete the institutional and psychological process of becoming more civic and civilian. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would not want to lose a qualified deputy undersecretary such as Fidan, but he most probably felt the need to ensure the continuation of the decisive contributions the MİT is making to the critical issues the country is facing.

The appointment of Fidan as the head of this organization will bring about this continuation.

Unlike what many assume, Fidan is not at all foreign to the world of intelligence. When he was serving in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), he worked at the Intelligence and Operations Department of NATO’s Germany-based Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). His master’s thesis at Bilkent University drew comparisons among Turkish, American and British intelligence systems and discussed the structural differences among them.

If the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) is now one of the most important supporting structures of Turkish foreign policy, this is largely attributable to Fidan, who managed to make TİKA a strong and active agency with the help of his deputy Musa Kulaklıkaya.

He is also known to be part of a number of important processes, conducting critical talks on special missions when he was in charge of the coordination of foreign policy in his capacity as the deputy undersecretary at the Prime Ministry.

Let me quote the following for those who wonder how the MİT will be under his rule:

“I will not be impressed if you come to me and say ‘you did a good job’ or ‘you managed it very well.’ I know that the structures around the world with which I must compete are different. As a person who has seen how those structures put a spoke in the wheels of the world with their organizational, institutional and intellectual capacities, I would concentrate on producing something on that scale and competing with them.”

Turkey, as a supra-regional power that can have “global effects,” needs bureaucrats like Taner and Fidan.

Some people within the organization may not be warm to this “outsider” but the aptness of this appointment will be justified by Fidan’s performance.

In the end, this is expected from an undersecretary who believes in the principle that “there is no perfection in results, but in the process.” 
29 May 2010, Saturday