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Questions raised about leaking of spy cables

Al Jazeera’s source of hundreds of classified documents is not yet known.

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

PRETORIA - While South Africans continue to react with shock and disbelief at each new revelation contained in the spy cables, questions have emerged over the motive for the leak, and who exactly is setting the agenda.

The Al Jazeera network obtained hundreds of classified documents through, what it has called, an electronic leak, but the source is not known.

While the State Security Agency (SSA) has been cast in a poor light, many of the documents refer to the conduct of Iran and Israel in the world of espionage.

The Institute for Security Studies' Anton du Plessis says the leak appears to have been released by someone with a global political agenda which plays into two important scenarios.

"The one is the negotiations around Iran's nuclear programme and the engagement the US has with that. The second one is linked to the Israeli elections and government."

Red 24's Ryan Cummings says it does appear as if the leaks are part of a greater strategy.

Ranging from confidential to top secret, the documents come from the world's top agencies including Israel's Mossad, Britain's MI6, Russia's FSB and from South Africa, which now reportedly faces its largest and possibly most damaging leak.

Spanning a period from 2006 until the end of 2014, the documents include detailed briefings and internal analysis written by operatives of the SSA.

The files give details of how, as the post-apartheid South Africa grappled with the challenges of forging a new security service, the country became vulnerable to foreign espionage.

But unlike the documents from US operative Edward Snowden focusing on electronic signals intelligence, the 'Spy Cables' deal with human intelligence.

The identities of the operatives have been removed but details on the agency and its operations are expected to be revealed.

Government has launched an investigation into the leaks.

Among the revelations from the cables are details of an alleged plot to assassinate the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

It is alleged that a week after Dlamini Zuma assumed her role as chair of the AUC in 2012, intelligence services received information of what is described in secret documents as an imminent threat to her life.

With the next wave of leaked Spy Cables, it emerged that South Africa is spying on Russia to get information about it's own satellite surveillance project.

Project Condor culminated in the Russian launch of a satellite last year on behalf of South Africa, which hoped to allow the country to conduct it's own surveillance of Africa.

But as Al Jazeera reported, very little is known about South Africa's own project.

"It's a joint South African and Russian project, code named Condor. While it monitors all of Africa, it's creators are struggling to monitor it. Few in government even know what Project Condor is or what they're paying for."

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