#SpyCables: Leaks may trigger harsher laws on media freedom

Warnings have emerged that it may be the trigger for government to attempt to impose stricter legislation.

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

JOHANNESBURG - While the release of the so-called Spy Cables has been welcomed by some as an exercise in transparency, warnings have emerged that it may be the trigger for government to attempt to impose stricter legislation.

This week the Al Jazeera network released a series of classified documents, many from South Africa's State Security Agency (SSA).

While the source is not yet known, the network says it obtained hundreds of secret documents through an electronic leak.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS)'s Anton du Plessis says this leak could force government's hand on stricter information legislation.

"This may be used domestically as another justification to force through more draconian laws that clamp down on media freedom, information exchange and that's definitely the last thing we need in South Africa."

Red 24's Ryan Cummings says it doesn't appear that the leak has undermined national security.

"There's been little information to suggest that South Africa has had any increased risk of being targeted in any form of violent attacks from either domestic, regional or transnational actors."

Government has launched an investigation into the leak.

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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's SSA, 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 SSA operatives.

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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 signal 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.