Ex spook warns on Western spies

2012-07-26 22:19
Barry Gilder (File, Sapa)

Barry Gilder (File, Sapa)

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Cape Town - Western intelligence services are "actively involved" in trying to infiltrate South Africa's government, former senior spy master Barry Gilder said on Thursday.

Responding to questions at a Cape Town Press Club luncheon, following the recent publication of his memoir, Songs and Secrets, he said this was done with the intention of influencing the South African government's decisions.

"On the international stage, and this is normal for most countries, there are countries who would want us to think and behave in ways that serve their interests. I'm not just talking about the big Western countries, but other countries too.

"And I can tell you, as a former spook, that the intelligence services of the big European/Western countries are very actively involved in trying to infiltrate our government and other parts of society, but in particular [they are] trying to influence it."

Gilder served as general manager and then director general of the SA Secret Service from 1995 to 1999, and from 2000 to 2003 as director general: operations for the National Intelligence Agency.

He did not name the countries, and declined to say any more on the matter.

"If you want to get more out of me, you'll have to torture me," he joked.

Hidden hand

Earlier, Gilder said there was "still a hidden hand" affecting South Africa's ability to transform itself into a more equitable nation.

Asked to explain, he said there were "specifics... of strange things that have happened" that one could point to, including the "hoax e-mail saga, the Browse 'Mole' Report, the Meiring Report, and a number [of] others that I recollect".

The "hoax e-mail saga" is a reference to alleged hoax e-mails implicating senior African National Congress members in a conspiracy against ANC president Jacob Zuma.

The Browse "Mole" Report, a product of the Directorate of Special Operations, also known as the Scorpions, was written in 2006. It was leaked the next year.

Among other things, it alleged that the Angolan intelligence establishment planned covertly to support Jacob Zuma, who at the time was deputy president, in his bid for the presidency.

The so-called Meiring Report was handed to then president Nelson Mandela in 1998, by former SA National Defence Force chief George Meiring. It alleged there were left-wing elements plotting a coup against the government.

Gilder said these had all indicated to the intelligence community at the time that "there are certainly people out there actively trying in some ways to create divisions or to create confusion to undermine our democracy in different ways".

He described this as a "plain historical reality", stemming from South Africa's divided past.

"27 April 1994, didn't mean those divisions suddenly dissolved. They continued, to some extent, and expressed themselves in different ways in society."

He added that it was not a "conspiratorial hidden hand" to which he was referring, but it was a reality that there were people in the country opposed to the current dispensation.

After serving on the national executive council of the National Union of SA Students in the early Seventies, Gilder went into exile in 1976.

He served with the ANC's intelligence division in various capacities until his return to South Africa in 1991.

Gilder retired from government service in 2007.

Read more on:    espionage

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