R2K: Spy cables leak a double-edged sword

2015-02-24 13:56
Right2Know Campaign members. (File, Lohanna Hoffmann)

Right2Know Campaign members. (File, Lohanna Hoffmann)

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2015-02-24 09:40

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Cape Town - The Right2Know Campaign (R2K) has weighed in on the leak of State Security Agency spy cables, stating the release of classified security documents could be argued both for the public interest, but also be used to further justify state information control.

News surrounding the digital leak of classified state information to news outlet Al Jazeera first broke on Monday, revealing some damning allegations about the SSA's operations over the years, among others.

On Tuesday, The Right2Know campaign hailed the revelations as a further indication of the need for transparency around information control at state level.

“We view these leaks as a necessary and inevitable response to the excessive and unacceptable secrecy adopted by South Africa’s state-security structures, and as well as many international intelligence structures,” the civil campaign said in a statement released on their website.

 “We expect the ‘Spy Cables’ to be a very valuable exposure in the public interest, serving to peel back the veil of secrecy on the inner workings of our state security structures and add a much-needed shot of transparency.

“We also note that the publishers have taken steps to redact and withhold certain documents, rather than opt for a total release, which pre-empts the claim that these disclosures are likely to do irreparable harm to national security.”

The civil movement, however, expressed concerns over how the document will be received by government, fearing the fallout from the breach of security could justify the signing of the Protection of Information Bill.

“We fully expect that locally, South Africa’s state security structures will paint these leaks as a hostile act, and use this event to seek greater control over the flow of information,” the statement continued.

“These leaks may even be used as a pretext to sign the Protection of State Information Bill (the Secrecy Bill) into law.”

Call to embrace transparency

The Right2Know campaign has long lead the fight against the adoption of the Secrecy Bill into South African law, citing various constitutional breaches inherent in the bill as problematic.

Among the group’s grievances against the SSA is a lack of transparency over public budgeting, non disclosure of the agency’s priorities, the over-classification of information, and closed door meetings held by Parliament’s intelligence oversight committee.

The group, though, feels the appropriate response from government to the controversial leak should be to embrace transparency, rather than further oppose it.

“If South Africa’s security structures want to minimise the embarrassment and political fall-out of courageous acts of journalism, they can do so by becoming more transparent and open – not by seeking greater powers and more secrecy,” the statement concluded.

- For more on the spy cables, click here or visit Al Jazeera.

Read more on:    al jazeera  |  ssa  |  cape town  |  security  |  spy cables

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