Spy Cables: ‘SA national security under threat’

2015-02-24 20:47

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Doha – South African government and security agencies have left secrets exposed at every level and foreign spies have access to all areas of government, according to the spy cables obtained by Al Jazeera’s investigative unit.

A secret security assessment by the South African intelligence says foreign espionage is booming, with more than 140 foreign spies estimated to be operating in SA – and that the South African state is doing a poor job of protecting itself.

Yesterday the news organisation announced that it was in possession of leaked documents from State Security Agency (SSA) operatives showing how South Africa became vulnerable to foreign espionage after the end of apartheid.

The cables, obtained by Al Jazeera, span a period from 2006 to the end of 2014, and include detailed briefings and analyses written by the operatives.

According to the leaked cables, there were persistent concerns around information security risks in the government assessed as a major risk of long-term duration.

“Foreign governments and their intelligence services strive to weaken the State and undermine South Africa’s sovereignty… Some ministries and departments are becoming targets of foreign intelligence services.”

The cables state human error also resulted in a major risk to the integrity of sensitive and classified information through the theft of personal and laptop computers - among other technologies.

Investigations by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) have exposed serious deficiencies in the security integrity of information communications technology systems (ICT), which has been abused for fraudulent purposes and financial gain.

“Such deficiencies render statutory institutions vulnerable to fraud and corruption, and worst to espionage and malicious infrastructural disruption… Personnel, physical, document and ICT remain prevalent deficiencies.”

These deficiencies left a vulnerable security system with non-adherence to minimum standards regarding the criteria for the classification of documents and control of information.

“Insufficient lock-up facilities to store classified information and the lack of control over copies and/or removal of sensitive information from government departments in Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West and KwaZulu-Natal,” according the cables.

There were also no minimum standards used on encryption for computerised transmission of sensitive and classified data.

Threat to national security

The government's “open door” policy also raised many problems, which pose a threat to South African national security.

“The lack of control of access to the offices of the government employees and those employed at strategic institutions in the country.”

According to the spy cables, visiting delegations (including delegations from Iran and China) to strategic installations such as Denel, Koeberg and Mossgas utilise official access, usually on invitation of these institutions, to demand access to sensitive plants where advanced technology is being developed.

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