Time to improve intelligence capacity: Zuma


President Jacob Zuma says the country will be upping the intelligence ante. He says his government will “improve the capacity of intelligence through an increase in spending on technical capacities and tradecraft training.”

Zuma was speaking at Ministry of State Security’s head office, Musanda, near Rietvlei, Pretoria to mark Intelligence Services day.

The president, himself a former intelligence chief, also laid a wreath at the ministry’s Memorial Wall and unveiled a plaque naming the road leading to the building Joe Nhlanhla Way. Nhlanhla was the country’s first intelligence minister, taking the post in 1999 as part of Nelson Mandela administration.

He says he day allows “us to set aside time to pay tribute to the essential role played by those South African patriots, who toil silently in the shadows on behalf of our government and in the name of our people, with no fame or fortune, to safeguard our hard-won freedoms.
“Through our wreath-laying ceremony at the Memorial Wall and the medals we award, we bring a message of appreciation from a grateful nation who rest easier in the knowledge that our democracy is safe and protected,” Zuma said.

He also explained why he in May changed the ministry’s name from Intelligence Services to State Security an why a series of agencies set up since 1995 are now being merged into “a single department of intelligence, the State Security Agency (SSA).”
“We speak of state security because our primary task is to defend our people against any hostile force aimed at undermining their sovereignty and disrupting the national programmes.
“This country is not immune to these kinds of threats, and at all times requires adequate institutions and resources to mitigate them.
“These lead us to undertake a comprehensive review of legislation governing intelligence structures, ethics of work, quality of intelligence product and the infrastructure required to be efficient,” Zuma noted.

Meanwhile, the government Bua news service reports that the restructuring of the intelligence community is underway.

State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele says an “interim phase” got underway in October and runs until March. “Part of the interim phase is the establishment of the State Security Agency as a national department,” Bua said.
“We have converted the National Intelligence Agency, the South African Secret Services, the South African National Academy of Intelligence, the Electronic Communications Security into government components listed in Schedule 3 of the Public Service Act,” he said. [He may have meant the Public Finance Management Act. Ed.]
“Cwele said the final phase will be realised by April 2010 and this would involve the incorporation of government components as branches into the SSA,” Bua added.

The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the foreign-focussed SA Secret Service (SASS) were established in 1995 following the amalgamation of formerly antagonistic apartheid and anti-apartheid intelligence organisations. Overseeing them was the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee (NICOC).

The NIA and SASS has up to now operated as separate services, each with their own accounting officer. The heads of these organisations and NICOC reported to a minister of intelligence services, there being no intelligence department.

Over the years, in an effort to create centres of specialisation, further structures were set up: the South African National Academy of Intelligence (SANAI), the National Communications Centre (NCC), the Office for Interception Centres (OIC), the Electronic Communications Security (Pty) Ltd, known as COMSEC and the Intelligence Services Council on Conditions of Employment (ISC).

The National Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Intelligence Legislation last year October shelved a National Strategic Intelligence Amendment Bill that would have seen a National Communications Centre (NCC) created as a legal entity separate from the National Intelligence Agency. There was some debate within the committee whether the NCC, which has been called a “snooping agency”, should be a department of state or a lesser body.

In his 2004 budget vote, then-intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils said the NCC was “our state-of-the-art communications monitoring section and is vital to our country’s security”.

Kasrils – who that year revealed the civilian intelligence budget for the first and last time – added that the NCC was “staffed by extremely dedicated and highly skilled personnel. It is involved in establishing the Office of Interceptions Centre and operates in strict compliance with the law under a judge’s authorisation.

“The NCC must ensure investment and training in information technology,” he added. The NCC would be able to monitor all private and public communications subject to the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act.

Kasrils put the 2004/5 civilian intelligence services budget at R1 978 647 000, at the time 0.53% of total government spending and 0.14% of gross domestic product. The budget is currently estimated at about R2.5 billion.