Intelligence is best described as the collection, organisation, analysis and refinement of both secret and freely available information, on the behalf of decision-makers or members of government. Due to South Africa’s recent history, intelligence policy is a highly controversial area of government which, by virtue of its very nature, is shrouded with secrecy. The intelligence doctrine of the present government is largely influenced by the ideology of social engineering and state intervention, and is contrary to the IFP’s vision of a limited state role in civil society. The intrusive and all-pervading mission of existing intelligence organisations in South Africa reflects the massive centralisation of government and a preoccupation with planning as a basis for sustained government intervention.
The IFP intelligence policy subscribes to a minimalist view of the role of covert intelligence, and focuses more on foreign intelligence collection, in the pursuit of an informed foreign policy, and less on covert actions against the citizens of South Africa. In the past, South Africa has witnessed a proliferation of intelligence structures and this has undermined the issues for accountability and transparency. The IFP therefore supports the establishment of a single domestic intelligence agency and a single foreign intelligence agency.
The domestic intelligence agency should serve as a coordinating and processing point for all information collected by government institutions, but should have an exclusive monopoly over covert collection. Its covert collection role must function within the rule of law at all times, and all specific violations of the rights of individual citizens must be individually sanctioned by an independent judicial body. Covert intelligence collection capabilities should be limited by the parameters of clearly defined legislation and constitutional provisions, and should be subject to strict budgetary control.
South Africa’s foreign intelligence requirements are determined by levels of internal stability and its relations with the outside world. Given South Africa’s limited and diminishing military capabilities, and the growing role which it is playing in the sub-continent, it is imperative that its foreign intelligence capabilities be refined and perfected. These capabilities must serve as an efficient and accurate early warning system to enable the country to prepare itself for any contingency. It must also, at all times, be dedicated to the provision of analysed information to assist and underpin foreign policy formulation. The accuracy and quality of such intelligence can, and should, be enhanced by the exchange of intelligence with allies and friendly nations – both regionally and internationally.
The IFP believes that intelligence structures need to be accountable to parliamentary institutions to prevent their subversion and abuse by the government of the day in the pursuit of its own narrow agenda.
Due to the specialised and sensitive nature of intelligence institutions, they must be rigidly accountable to a single member of the executive – preferably the President – who should bear ultimate responsibility for intelligence activities.
The IFP strongly supports the establishment of a parliamentary intelligence monitoring committee, with specialist independent research staff capable of monitoring all intelligence activities. Well-defined mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure the independence of this committee, and its members, who risk subversion by the very institutions they are charged with monitoring.
To enable Parliament to adequately fulfill its intelligence activity monitoring role, much of the cult of secrecy traditionally associated with this domain of government needs to be removed. Obsessive secrecy has proven to be a breeding ground for sustained abuse of intelligence capabilities by the government of the day, and is unnecessary in modern democracies. The internal intelligence operatives must be subject to a rigid code of conduct to ensure political neutrality and independence.
South Africa needs to make a clean break from the past in the sphere of intelligence. The former government had a long tradition of abuse with regard to intelligence resources. By virtue of its position in government and in parliament, the IFP can play a crucial role in terminating and preventing such abuses.
The unique nature of intelligence activities requires a stricter interpretation of the principle of the separation of powers than is normally applied. The role of intelligence should be truly placed within the scope of national interest, rather than the narrower pursuits of the ruling party.
The counter-intelligence role is a crucial one in any modern democracy and the IFP believes that South Africa’s requirements in this field should be shaped by its position as an emerging country competing for foreign markets in a highly competitive environment.