'The people who keep us safe from spies'
By Melanie Gosling
The statutory bodies which oversee the country's spies and ensure that there is no abuse of power by the intelligence agencies, appear not to want to touch a ministerial commission report which found that some of the laws on spying were unconstitutional and that some methods of spying were not governed by legislation at all.
Former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils commissioned the report after the Billy Masethla "intelligence crisis" of 2005/06 when politicians, a businessman and a journalist were spied on illegally by the National Intelligence Agency, and when they created hoax emails.
The commission's purpose was to tighten control over intelligence structures and reduce the risk of spies abusing power.
The report, completed in September last year, called for a complete overhaul of the laws on spying - including making it a criminal offence for spies to act in a politically partisan way.
It also called for a new White Paper on intelligence.
But the two bodies mandated to keep citizens safe from abuse by spies, say giving effect to the recommendations is not their baby.
The joint standing committee on intelligence (JSCI), a parliamentary committee tasked with overseeing the intelligence services, has not even called for the report, nor does JSCI chairman Cecil Burgess believe it is their right to do so.
"If Cabinet is trying to assess the report, there is no basis for us to intervene," Burgess said.
He said he had seen the report because it was "all over the show", including on the Internet.
The Cape Times asked the inspector-general of intelligence, Zolile Ngcakani, who heads an independent body which plays an ombudsman role in overseeing the intelligent services, if his office would take steps to put the report's recommendations into effect. Ngcakani replied that State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele was the "custodian of that report".
Academic Laurie Nathan, one of the commissioners with Frene Ginwala and Joe Mathews, said yesterday it was "absolutely reprehensible" that the JSCI had not called for the report.
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