/ 3 October 2008

Spies block critical report

The ministry of intelligence is continuing to block official release of the ministerial review commission report into the intelligence services commissioned by former minister of intelligence Ronnie Kasrils.

Despite the fact that the full report has been available on the Mail & Guardian website for the past week, intelligence spokesperson Lorna Daniels would say only that the report was ”being processed” and that she could make no further comment.

The report, written by former deputy minister Joe Matthews, former National Assembly speaker Frene Ginwala and academic Laurie Nathan, recommends significant reforms to the civilian intelligence services.

In particular it calls for an end to the wide National Intelligence Agency (NIA) mandate to gather domestic political and economic intelligence, which has been open to abuse.

Kasrils gave the go-ahead for its release shortly before his resignation and tabled the report at then president Thabo Mbeki’s last Cabinet meeting, where its publication was endorsed.

Kasrils appears to have been concerned that the report might be suppressed by his successor. If so, his fears seem to have been justified.

The report (PDF)

Read the NIA report

The M&G has been told that attempts last week to have the report placed on the ministry website were blocked by NIA director general Manala Manzini. Manzini also attempted to have the copy given to the M&G ”recalled”.

Matthews said Manzini phoned him and ”launched into a tirade against the previous minister”.

”He claimed Cabinet had never declassified the report — but I don’t know what Mr Manzini’s problem is. We have a letter from the [previous] minister authorising its release.”

Matthews said Manzini had initially based his response on an earlier draft of the report, which had already been revised: ”I told him: ‘But Mr Manzini, this was being finalised by your office!”’

”Anyway, a lot of the criticisms [in the report] come from NIA’s own submissions — Maybe it’s the culture that is wrong. People are afraid of transparency and democracy. They are sticking to old habits of secrecy, which do nothing more than encourage inefficiency and corruption.”