#SpyCables: Al Jazeera denies Snowden’s involvement in digital leak

Al Jazeera says Edwin Snowden played no part in leaking the documents.

A Screengrab from Al Jazeera’s Spy Cables video shows a South African State Security leaked document.

CAPE TOWN/JOHANNESBURG - International news agency Al Jazeera says reports that the leaking of classified information relating to the activities of spy agencies from across world emanated from Edward Snowden's information, are inaccurate.

Al Jazeera is in possession of hundreds of leaked documents from among others, CIA, MI6 and South Africa's State Security Agency, said to contain sensitive information.

Al Jazeera's Clayton Swisher says Snowden played no part in leaking the documents.

"Unlike Snowden's leak which dealt with signal intelligence, these cables, operational in their nature, deal with human intelligence or humans. There are unrelated to Snowden and I think they very much complement the transparency that's been on our side to release them."

Snowden is an American information technology expert who leaked classified information form the National Security Agency from 2013.

Watch: 'Spy Cables: Israeli cable reveals South Africa missile theft cover-up'


Questions are being raised this afternoon about the legal implications of journalists obtaining top secret information following Al Jazeera's coverage of the so-called spy cables.

Al Jazeera received the information through a digital leak and the volume of information is believed to be on par with Wiki-leaks.

Attorney Jacque Louw says a media house that obtains state secrets may run into problems with a country's laws.

"There may be an obligation to disclose to the state that it has come into possession of the state's secret."


The Spy Cables have revealed that Iranian spies apparently tried to use a front company in South Africa to buy materials to make weapons despite international trade sanctions.

A dossier on Iran is among the cable's claims, saying that Iranian agents used cellphone and Persian rug shops as well as news agencies in the country as a cover for covert operations.

Al Jazeera's veteran investigative reporter Phil Rees said during a Spy Cables video, "South Africa's secret report says Iran is working to beat sanctions and is buying materials to make weapons and the British think so too. A 2009 MI6 cable warns of a front company for the production of missile launchers and rocket bodies, it highlights an upcoming business trip to Iran by a dual United Kingdom/South African citizen."

The document reads: "We would be grateful of any action you take under your export licencing laws to prevent the proposed visits going ahead."

Clayton explains that the documents in its possession include a 120-page operational assessment on Iran where local anti-crime group Pagad is referenced several times.

"This is mostly in respect to allegations others have made about it, trying to link them to Iran. And the same can be said of other domestic groups inside the country. There is a strong pressure placed on the services to do domestic surveillance. Some of these requests, they follow up on it and some they take with a grain of salt," he explains.

Swisher says besides requests for intelligence operations to take place in larger cities including Johannesburg and Pretoria, there are also fascinating documents involving other African countries.

"The one that comes to mind is Cameroon where they asked South African services to spy on opposition figure while he was travelling in South Africa. And how the South African government deals with that is elucidated in these documents."

Watch:'Spy Cables: South African spies wary of Iran operations'


The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Cape Town says government needs to establish how documents, said to be of a sensitive nature relating to state security matters, were leaked.

DA Member of Parliament David Maynier says State Security Minister David Mahlobo must brief the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence as a matter of urgency.

"It is a huge concern. The committee needs to be briefed to determine whether the documents are likely to reveal any wrongdoing on the part of the State Security Agency."

Meanwhile, lobby group Right to Know has expressed concern over the leaking of those classified documents from the State Security Agency.

The organisation's Murray Hunter says government needs to adopt more openness and less secrecy.

"We view this leak as an extremely momentous act of journalism, and one of the biggest disclosures that reveals the backdoor dealings between these intelligence services. I think this is something that really peels back the layer of secrecy that has surrounded our intelligence services for far too long."