Former PAN boss Arthur Fraser 'studying' SSA report

SSA director general Arthur Fraser. (Paul Herman, News24)
SSA director general Arthur Fraser. (Paul Herman, News24)

National commissioner of correctional services, Arthur Fraser, is "studying" the State Security Agency (SSA) high-level review panel report and cannot comment on it yet.

While not specifically named in the report, he is implicated by it: In his former capacity as a senior spook, Fraser reportedly headed a covert programme which allegedly evolved - or devolved - into a parallel intelligence network, and allegations of criminality have emerged about its operations.

Correctional services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo told News24 on Monday that Fraser was studying the SSA report and would not be able to comment until he had done so.

The report does not name those implicated, but it is scathing about certain intelligence operations, and provides timeframes.

From these, it is possible to ascertain which individuals were responsible for the problem areas identified by the SSA panel.

The report found widespread abuse of the country's intelligence services for political ends, including internal ANC factional battles.

Read more here: From the Mufamadi report: To see or not to see

One of the intelligence operations red-flagged in the report is the Principal Agent Network (PAN), suspended in 2011. Most recently, the PAN became a household name with the release of investigative journalist Jacques Pauw' s book, The President's Keepers.

In it, Pauw writes that Fraser, in his capacity as a deputy director general at the National Intelligence Agency (which later formed part of the SSA), "concocted" the PAN.

According to the SSA report and Pauw's book, there was nothing necessarily sinister in setting up PAN as it was initially envisioned.

According to Pauw, a "principal agent network" is simply jargon for spy handlers – people who engage and manage other spies on behalf of the intelligence agency.

The SSA report describes it as, "accepted practice in intelligence agencies… principal agents are recruited outside the agency who in turn are trained… to recruit and handle sources or agents…" But the PAN "evolved" into a way in which employees could "bypass the procedural recruitment of staff, disbursement of funds and procurement," the report states.

Pauw describes it as "a parallel and detached intelligence network that operated independently of the NIA (National Intelligence Agency)".

The author also described the unit as a "black hole" into which hundreds of millions were poured, with the public's return on investment close to nil.

The allegations put before the SSA high-level review panel about the PAN were "disturbing", according to the report.

"It appeared to the panel that there had been instances of serious criminal behaviour which had taken place under the guise of conducting covert work and that this behaviour may have involved theft, forgery and uttering, fraud, corruption and even bordered on transgressions of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act,"  according to the SSA report.

Fraser is not commenting on the report, for now. According to Nxumalo, he needs to study the report because it does not specifically name anyone, so he needs time to figure out where he is supposedly implicated.

Pauw, in a Facebook post, claimed Fraser was conclusively implicated by the report. He had some choice words for Fraser.

He wrote: " I want to take opportunity to finally sent (sic) Arthur Fraser to hell. This man has caused me great agony in the past 18 months, despite overwhelming evidence of malfeasance against him and others at the State Security Council (SSA) (sic)."

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