Lindiwe Sisulu warns of 'clear and present danger'

Four pieces of legislation intended to enhance the operation of South Africa’s intelligence services were approved in the National Council of Provinces on Friday, following their earlier passage in the National Assembly.

Introducing debate in the NCOP, Intelligence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said there were several “clear and present dangers that we need to protect our country and people against”.

“With this package we are seeking to sharpen the edge of the intelligence services, and to give them a competitive advantage over their adversaries,” she said.

Only the Electronics Communications Security (Pty) Ltd (Comsec) Bill has attracted some controversy, with concern being expressed about the rights accorded to Comsec to buy shares in private businesses.

Sisulu illustrated the need for the measure by referring to the recent “attack” on 25 South African websites over two weeks by hackers that were partly traced to Brazil and France.

“This could have been directed at any organ of state. Imagine then what this would have done to the integrity of our systems; imagine too how this would have compromised our national security.

“This possibility presents us with a clear and present danger—made more sinister when you consider the madness of certain elements within our society bent on destabilisation and terror,” she said.

The intelligence community had a responsibility to ensure no loophole was left where national security was concerned.

Among other things, Comsec would in consultation with the National Intelligence Agency, verify and approve all communications products and systems used by government departments and organs of state.

Comsec would be financed from the fiscus and monies received from services rendered. The company would also be able to buy shares so that it could raise funds for fulfilling its mandate without burdening the state.

However, the company’s activities would be scrutinised by Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence (JSCI), Sisulu said.

The second measure, the National Strategic Intelligence Amendment Bill seeks to strengthen the legal mandate of the National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee (Nicoc).
It also provides for the South African Police Service (Saps) to co-ordinate crime intelligence and to supply information relating to national intelligence to Nicoc, and for regulations on security clearance and the protection of information.

The Intelligence Service Bill aims, among other things, to set up an academy to provide intelligence training, and will help keep the secret services on the cutting edge of technology.

It also seeks to bring about uniformity between the public service and intelligence services in respect of conditions of service and skills provision.

Finally, the Intelligence Services Control Amendment Bill will give the JSCI sole financial oversight, and clarifies the responsibilities of the inspector-general of intelligence services. - Sapa

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