All 12 of South Africa’s officially recognised intelligence networks will be incorporated into the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), under three Bills regulating the new intelligence service.
Intelligence sources this week indicated the police’s Crime Intelligence Service (CIS), the Military Intelligence departments of South Africa and the former independent states, the ANC’s Department of Intelligence and Security (DIS) and the National Intelligence Service, among others, will either be absorbed into NIA or placed under the new agency’s control.
The agency’s political head will be a deputy minister who will report directly to President Nelson Mandela. It is an open secret that the post will most likely go to former DIS head Joe Nhlanhla.
Most ANC security officials approve of the choice: Nhlanhla is known to be aware of how easily intelligence agencies become over-powerful and corrupt. And he is committed to a high degree of transparency in the intelligence services.
Under the deputy minister responsible for intelligence will be four director-generals: one for military intelligence, one for domestic intelligence and one for foreign collection. All three areas will be overseen by the fourth director-general.
The idea behind removing some services from their natural homes — like taking military intelligence from the Defence Force — is to separate intelligence-gathering from operational responsibilities. “If you mix the responsibilities, then you have the danger of intelligence agencies deciding who they should act against,” said a security expert.
It is expected that once the intelligence service identifies a threat to national security, it will pass the information to police to act on it. Powers of criminal investigation and arrest will reside with the police.
There is a wrangle in government between the National Party and the ANC over who will get senior positions in NIA. Leaks to the press about which party will nominate candidates for either the co-ordinator’s job or the domestic intelligence job are understood to form part of the campaigning.
The domestic intelligence job is the most prized because of its importance to internal security and role in setting up the new structure. It would also be a valuable source of information which could be manipulated for party political purposes.
The NP would like to see former NIS head Mike Louw in either of the positions. Much to its discomfort, the ANC may be forced to give him one of the plum jobs for political and practical reasons.
The organisation lacks anyone suitably qualified to run the inherently conservative CIS, which NIA will take over from the police to serve as its domestic intelligence function. New internal intelligence operations will especially target cross-border drug and gun runners. The police will establish an investigations unit to tackle “non-political” crimes.
Louw, as a member of the old government and with the necessary skills, is the natural choice to head the domestic operation. ANC candidates for the job include senior DIS officials Mo Sheik and Billy Masetla.
Mandela is said to be taking a personal interest in the intelligence portfolio because of the importance of the internal security situation and the high-level political manoeuvrings centring on control of the agency.
The new intelligence agency is expected to be set up within three months of legislation being passed.