Fin24

The ANC's secrecy bills

2012-05-27 10:22

Johannesburg - South Africa has proposed three measures designed to update intelligence laws and oversight of the police's graft-busting unit called the Hawks.

The government has said the measures are necessary and prudent, while critics say they may be exploited for political ends.

The following are a few major provisions in the bills.

The protection of state information bill

Objectives:

  • The bill is aimed at ensuring "a coherent approach to protection of state information and the classification and declassification of state information and will create a legislative framework for the state to respond to espionage and other associated hostile activities".
  • It applies to organs of the state. The state security minister allows for classification and an independent classification review panel provides oversight.
  • Imposes penalties of up to 25 years for violations. Illegal possession of classified material is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Criticism:

  • Any government agency, including state-owned enterprises, could apply for classification of material they deem sensitive, hiding from public view questionable contracts or troubles at their agencies.

* There is no public interest clause allowing a whistle-blower to reveal classified data, even if it would expose criminality or protect the public. It would also criminalise the release and possession of such information.

  • The bill would make the state security minister a gatekeeper for secrets.
  • Oversight is not sufficient to prevent abuse.

General intelligence laws amendment bill

Objectives:

  • The bill streamlines the intelligence services by setting up what it calls "national intelligence structures" with the president appointing the heads of its agencies.
  • It allows the structures to have jurisdiction over any state security information under the state secrets bill.

Criticism:

  • The bill would widen intelligence mandate, while limiting those who control the flow of information to a small grouping around the president who have almost no oversight.
  • It would expand the ability of intelligence groups to intercept domestic communication and make it possible to intercept foreign communication without a court warrant.

Police service amendment bill

Objectives

  • The bill is designed to increase the independence of the priority crime investigation unit, referred to as the Hawks, as mandated by a Constitutional Court decision.

Criticism

  • The minister of police, a political appointee, would still be able to interfere with Hawks investigations. The minister can suspend the head of the Hawks as he sees fit, and then seek approval for the move from ANC-dominated parliament.
  • Senior MPs can also request investigations and dictate actions of the Hawks.
  • Police ministry will have power to look into investigations through a financial oversight clause and force officers off cases through strategic redeployments.
 

Comments
  • Ryan - 2012-05-27 10:44

    first comment:)

  • goyougoodthing - 2012-05-27 12:09

    Government, ANC and intelligence do not belong in the same news article.

  • goyougoodthing - 2012-05-27 12:09

    Government, ANC and intelligence do not belong in the same news article.

  • Dee - 2012-05-27 15:41

    Thank you for an informative article, and thank you to the "watchdogs" overseeing /opposing the flaws in this bill. (& confess my analytical thought processes were interrupted at the 'classification ... of state organs' paragraph).

  • Brian - 2012-05-28 12:30

    Too much secrecy will be dangerous for the country. The ANC will abuse this and drain whats left in the coffers! There is simply too much corruption by the ruling party to allow the political leaders too much power.

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