Intelligence debate after bill - Cwele
Cape Town - A much-needed rewrite of South Africa's white paper on intelligence will come after an amendment bill laying down the framework for integration of the spy services, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele said on Friday.
"The 1995 white paper needs to be transformed; it was written in a hurry," he said after briefing MPs on the general intelligence laws amendment bill.
"We need to review it because things have changed since then in the world of intelligence."
Cwele insisted that this bill was technical in nature and aimed at streamlining intelligence structures. It did not need to be preceded "by a long policy debate", he said.
"It is about making structures workable. We need to move away from a plethora of structures that are not assisting us in gathering intelligence."
He said the separation of foreign and local intelligence gathering had led to an increase in corporate support structures that sapped his ministry's budget and undermined its work.
The bill amalgamates previously standalone departments - the National Intelligence Agency and the SA Secret Service - into the State Security Agency.
"We are transforming our service. It is about saving us [money]. It has nothing to do with squabbles," he said, referring to last year's departure of two top intelligence officials.
The white paper redraft will be followed by the tabling of the state security bill sometime next year that will entrench policy changes, the minister said.
He rejected objections from the opposition that by taking this route he was putting the cart before the horse, because the bill itself charted a new policy direction.
Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier said the policy debate was overdue because the proposed changes break with the post-1994 order, by centralising the intelligence structures and consolidating power in the hands of the minister.
"We need to have the debate now. It is urgent."
Maynier noted that the bill makes provision for dealing with the common law offence of sedition, and said this too pointed to a new way of thinking.
"My concern is that the intelligence services will under the new expanded counter intelligence mandate begin to gather information to counter service delivery protests," said Maynier.
He asked Cwele whether the 2008 Matthews Report - a ministerial review that warned the intelligence services are afflicted by excessive secrecy and political abuse - would form part of deliberations.
Cwele said that it had no particular status.
"We are taking all reports into account," he said.
The ad hoc committee processing the bill on Friday rejected a request from the Institute for Security Studies to extend the March 16 deadline for submissions on the bill to April 10.