Hundreds of former state secrets which have long been classified information will be open to the public when a new bill regulating state security information comes into effect.
Concern has been raised by some that the Protection of Information Bill, which is currently before Parliament, will curb media freedom, but state security minister Siyabonga Cwele sought to assure journalists yesterday that the new bill would in effect declassify hundreds of documents filed as classified information when it was enacted, the state BuaNews agency reported.
Currently, state documents which were classed as classified information years ago were destined to remain so inevitably, but the bill for the first time ever sets out to clearly define how classified information can be declassified, he said. “So I’m sure the media will have a lot of things to write about once that information has been declassified,” he said. This would bring SA in line with Britain where state secrets are normally declassified after 30 years.
However, he said certain information that may undermine state security would remain protected, but that clear guidelines would be given as to why certain information remained classified.
In another development, Cwele said he had instructed his department’s domestic branch to look into how two members of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad had allegedly used OR Tambo International Airport to flee from Dubai after allegedly taking part in the assassination of a Hamas militant in January.
Cwele said the department was liaising with officials in Dubai, adding that there was “no truth” in recent newspaper reports that Mossad agents were operating at OR Tambo International Airport. “The information we have is that the alleged Mossad agents did not enter South Africa but came to the OR Tambo in transit, so they never entered into the country, they used the airport as a transit. And they did this twice – once earlier before the operation and once after the operation was concluded,” said SA Secret Service head Raiez ” Mo” Shaik.
The department would also keep a close eye on the situation in Madagascar, following last year’s coup there.