SA spooks red-faced from latest spy data leak

2015-02-24 18:56
(File: Al Jazeerah)

(File: Al Jazeerah)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Video

SA's security agency must be more transparent - Right2Know

2015-02-24 14:27

We are finally getting to see who is pulling the strings - Right2Know weighs in on the spy cables. Watch.WATCH

Johannesburg - A mass leak of South African espionage secrets will cause many foreign agencies to think twice before sharing information with Pretoria, hampering its efforts to walk a delicate diplomatic tightrope between East and West, experts said on Tuesday.

Britain's The Guardian paper and news organisation Al Jazeera said they had obtained hundreds of dossiers, files and cables from the world's top spy agencies to and from South Africa, dubbing it "one of the biggest spy leaks in recent times".

The biggest revelation so far is an assessment by Mossad that counters Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu - backed by a cartoon picture of a bomb - asserting at the UN in 2012 that Iran was a year away from making a nuclear device.

Iran was "not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons", the Israeli agency said in one report that outlined its understanding of Tehran's attempts to produce enriched uranium, the main ingredient for a nuclear bomb.

More seriously for South Africa, a prominent “non-aligned” state reluctant to take sides in international disputes, another cable reveals how Washington coerced Pretoria into spying on Iran, with which it enjoys firm diplomatic and commercial ties.

Even though the National Intelligence Agency stressed it did not see Tehran as a threat, it still set up a covert operation to compile the names, addresses and personal habits of every suspected Iranian agent in South Africa.

Suggestions South African spooks scoped out Persian carpet shops in the belief they were a front for Iranian spies were easy fodder for newspapers, with the Times reporting the leaks under the front page headline "Ali Baba and the forty spies".

Besides the immediate embarrassment, experts said the security breach meant foreign co-operation with South African agencies would be likely to come under review for fear of other potentially more damaging secrets being unearthed.

Credibility of the agencies

Other cables show Washington enlisted Pretoria's help in getting in touch with a potential North Korean double agent and reaching out to Palestinian group Hamas.

"A leak like this affects the credibility of the agencies and how they co-operate," said Mike Hough, a retired professor from Pretoria University's Institute for Strategic Studies. "It could lead to the termination of certain projects."

The agency was already in hot water for using a cellphone signal jammer in parliament this month at President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation address, a move that prompted a media outcry and walkout by furious opposition MPs.

Forced to explain, Security Minister David Mahlobo told Talk Radio 702 the device had been deployed to create a “no-fly zone” for drones to protect Zuma, but then said it had also been turned on in error.

There has no official response from the government to The Guardian and Al Jazeera reports.

"There's no country in the world that would comment on this sort of thing," one foreign ministry spokesperson said.

Read more on:    security  |  media  |  spy cables

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
56 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
PARTNER CONTENT
INFOGRAPHIC: New thinking required for retirement

Everything we believe about retirement is fast becoming outdated.

PARTNER CONTENT
WATCH: How education can change a life

A university education gives students the chance to create a better future for themselves, their families and to opportunity achieve their dreams.

/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.