Inside the Spy Cables leaked to Al-Jazeera: A roundup of what’s been released so far
Yesterday, we linked to the news that Al-Jazeera is releasing a large stash of intelligence leaks allegedly sourced from South African intelligence.
Today, a good chunk of that information has been released by the Middle Eastern news source. Here’s the four major areas they’ve covered:
1. Greenpeace was targeted by intelligence agencies
According to the spy cables, suppressing political dissent is a regular activity of intelligence agencies worldwide (perhaps no huge surprise). The cables reveal numerous requests to the South African SSA for info on politicians, exiled groups from intelligence agencies, and “rouge NGOs”—including Greenpeace.
According to Al-Jazeera, the targets include:
- An application from South Korea for a “specific security assessment” of Greenpeace Director Kumi Naidoo, a South African citizen;
- A request from Cameroon to spy on an opposition leader just weeks ahead of elections;
- An attempt by Rwanda to list “genocide fugitives” and “negationists” as targets for surveillance;
- A deal with Zimbabwe to spy on “rogue NGOs” whose activities are “aimed at subverting constitutional order,” including think tanks and media, including social networks.
- Continuous demands from Sri Lanka for South Africa to spy on Tamil diaspora groups, with Colombo making ongoing, unconfirmed allegations that separatists had run military training camps in South Africa since 1998.
The spy cables reveal the frequency with which intelligence agencies seek to cooperate with peers in targeting domestic dissidents; however, it should be noted that many of the requests appear to have been rejected by South Africa, suggesting some system of healthy limitation on intelligence power in South Africa is in place. (More at Al-Jazeera.)
2. Sudan tried to assassinate a top African Union diplomat
The spy cables additionally reveal that spies in Addis Ababa were informed of a plot to kill African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma; Ethopian intelligence later pointed the finger at the Sudan. The threat came in 2012, shortly after Dlamini-Zuma was elected; the intelligence agencies were not able to neutralize the threat, and all that the Ethiopian spies could do was beef up security around Dlamini-Zuma and hope nothing happened (the security was apparently not given food and had to sleep in hallways). (More at Al-Jazeera)
3. South Africa has extreme security failings
Like the previous spy cable, and like much of the Manning/WikiLeaks-released “Cablegate” files, this leak reveals government incompetence instead of sinister plotting.
According to the spy cables, South African intelligence has left massive open doors in its security (well, having files leaked in the first place would be a bad sign, wouldn’t it?). There are more than 140 foreign intelligence operatives in South Africa, from with the government is doing a markably poor job of protecting itself. Foreign spies have allegedly gained access to the government, including the presidency, broken into nuclear power plants, stolen military blueprints and gain access to computer networks. South African civil servants are apparently particularly to blame for being sloppy with leaving public secrets and access keys in plain sight. Metal Gear Solid difficulty level: Easy. (More at Al-Jazeera.)
4. Israeli intelligence uses El Al airlines as a front for spying
Hardly surprising, Israel uses its airline service for intelligence gathering. (Who wouldn’t after incidents like the 1972 Munich Olympics?)
Secret cables obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit confirm that South Africa’s spy agencies concurred with allegations that Israel uses its flag-carrier, El Al Airlines, as cover for its intelligence agencies.
Leaked documents from South Africa’s intelligence agency support claims made on a 2009 South African television programme by a former El Al employee-turned-whistleblower.
Despite official Israeli denials, the whistleblower’s claims prompted an emergency meeting between senior officials from both sides, as well as a separate note of enquiry from Canada’s intelligence agency.
Further cables are to come from Al-Jazeera; you can follow them here.