Spy Cables: Govt urged to do urgent damage control

A former spy boss suggested the SSA needed to move quickly to determine the nature and extent of the leaks.

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

PRETORIA - Former South African spy boss, Mo Shaik, on Tuesday said that the State Security Agency (SSA) should quickly conduct a damage assessment and track the source of a leak of top secret reports and correspondence as its credibility has been significantly damaged.

He was commenting on Al Jazeera's release of what has been described as the biggest intelligence leak in the democratic South Africa.

Al Jazeera is currently in possession of hundreds of leaked documents from among others, the CIA, MI6 and SSA, which reportedly contain sensitive information.

The trove of documents contains spy data from South African, American, British, Israeli and Russian spy agencies.

Shaik said the SSA needed move quickly to determine the nature and extent of the leak.

"They need to assess the severity of the breach and the motivation for it."

The African Defence Review's Darren Olivier said government and the agency should work to regain its credibility.

"They must work comprehensively so they can reassure its foreign partners that they can be taken seriously."

While the agency is yet to comment, international relations said it would not comment on the matter.

QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT JOURNALISTS OBTAINING SECRETS

Questions were raised on Tuesday 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 Jacques Louw said a media house which obtained 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."

Meanwhile, former South African ambassador to Argentina, Tony Leon, said the leak of top secret state security agency documents could potentially undermined the agency's ability to perform its duties.

Leon said while leaks were welcomed in some instances, they could also have negative consequences.

"When that information is spilled out in the public domain without filter then it's not a question of transparency so it means spiked the diplomatic organs to do their proper work."