Intelligence Services Control Amendment Bill: briefing

Intelligence Legislation

12 October 1999
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


12 October 1999

Documents handed out:
Intelligence Services Control Act No. 40 of 1994
Intelligence Services Control Amendment Bill [B46-99]

Members of the ad hoc Joint Committee of Intelligence Services met to discuss clarification measures necessary to adopt the Intelligence Services Control Amendment Bill. The Bill essentially establishes a "watch dog" for the intelligence services common in democratic societies. The Bill contains three primary objectives: (a) to align the functions and conditions of service of the Inspector-General with those of the Public Protector; (b) to align the procedure for the appointment of the Inspector-General of Intelligence with the procedures stipulated in the Constitution; and (c) to change the procedure for the appointment of members of Parliament to the Joint Standing Committee, and to provide for a security clearance for members.

The ad hoc Committee voted Ms N Nqakula (ANC) as chairperson and discussed the political party composition of appointment of members of Parliament to the Joint Committee on Intelligence. The meeting was adjourned with the setting of the agenda for the next meeting on 13 October 1999. The members agreed to discuss specific sections of the Bill and adopt it on 13 October.

After the first item of the day, the appointment of Ms N Nqakula (ANC) as chairperson for the Ad hoc Committee, Mr Taki Netshikenahe, Ministry of Intelligence, briefed the Committee on the Intelligence Services Control Amendment Bill, taking the members through each section of the Bill.

Upon completion of the briefing, the members were asked by the Chair to address necessary issues of clarification. Not withstanding several issues of a technical nature, which received the unanimity of the Committee, several issues of contention remain among the committee noteworthy of discussion.

The primary obstacle to the Bill remains the formula for membership of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence addressed in Section 2 (B) of the document. With the proposed new formula, membership of the Standing Committee will exclude nine political parties represented in parliament. Mr L Green (ACDP) a previous member of the Committee expressed his belief that representative democracy requires the right of all elected parties to be involved in the activities and decision-making of the committee however small their proportionality might be. Mr L Landers (ANC) countered the claim by stating that the Constitution requires the Standing Committees to be multiparty "in a manner consistent with democracy," but that does not by necessity require the representation of every party. Though the Committee supported Mr Green's assertion that the Committee should have broader representation, there was a general consensus that the Committee should be small and not exceed 15 members. The Ad Hoc Committee did not reach agreement on the composition of the future Standing Committee and decided to re-address the issue on 13 October.

The second issue that remains unresolved is that of Section 5 of the Bill addressing the disclosure of intelligence information on the behalf of the Inspector-General. Inconclusive discussion centered on whether or not the disclosure of sensitive intelligence information by the Inspector General in the event of consultation within government could be detrimental to national security. Mr D Schutte (NNP) advocated that the current wording of the document does not allow for sufficient security considerations. While members of the Intelligence Ministry stated that safeguards are already in place to protect national security, there was lack of clarity should classified material be required for government consultation: it was agreed that the issue would be re-addressed on 13 October.

The Committee further addressed Section 6 of the Bill concerning "Offences and penalties." While it was felt by Mr L Landers (ANC) that the current penalty for contravening sections of the Bill, essentially involvement in espionage against the state, is too short at five years, Mr D Schutte (NNP) expressed his believe that the penalty was adequate and surely anyone charged with such a penalty would be subject to a much more serious charge of treason against the state.

With the final discussion of the above point, the Chairperson adjourned the meeting.


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