Arthur Fraser, the director-general of intelligence, is mounting an assault on one of the country's most crucial – if dormant – institutions: the inspector-general of intelligence [IGI].
amaBhungane reported on Wednesday that Setlhomamaru Dintwe, the IGI, had launched an unprecedented court bid on Tuesday night – to force Fraser to stop his obstruction of Dintwe's investigation into Fraser and alleged irregularities at the State Security Agency.
The investigation relates to information handed to Dintwe by John Steenhuisen, the DA's chief whip, and is based on information contained in journalist Jacques Pauw's book "The President's Keepers". Fraser is alleged to have established a parallel intelligence structure called the Principal Agent Network, which is said to have squandered more than a billion rand of taxpayers' money.
According to court papers quoted by amaBhungane, Fraser harassed Dintwe by replacing the security detail looking after the IGI, neglecting to provide adequate security at his private home and revoking his security clearance.
"The facts illustrate gross abuse of public office in order to achieve improper ends. I have shown that ... the director-general is the subject of investigation. He obviously knows that if he can revoke my security clearance, I will have no entitlement to access necessary information. Therefore, the director-general is in effect attempting to block an investigation into himself," Dintwe says in court papers.
The IGI was established after 1994 in terms of the Constitution to investigate complaints against intelligence structures by members of the public. Oversight of intelligence bodies is opaque, with the closed parliamentary joint standing committee of intelligence [JSCI] providing legislative oversight of the SSA and their activities. Members of the committee are sworn to secrecy, and the only insight the public has into the performance of the SSA are the JSCI's sanitised annual reports.
Dintwe's function, therefore, is extremely important – because the body, rooted in the Constitution and established by law, is the only one that has the competence and mandate to rein in errant spy services.
The Intelligence Services Oversight Act (40 of 1994) gives Dintwe very wide powers; powers that seemingly made Fraser extremely uncomfortable.
The law is a powerful tool to enable the IGI to investigate whatever it deems fit, based on complaints made to it. The law says, among other things:
- The IGI may gain access to any "intelligence, information or premises" under Fraser's control.
- The law further explicitly forces Fraser to provide Dintwe with access to any "intelligence, information, reports and explanations" he might need in the course of his investigations.
- The law also goes wider than intelligence in the possession of the SSA and Fraser – it says the IGI can ensure access to any piece of intelligence if he needs it, and if he has obtained a warrant for access.
- Fraser and the SSA are not allowed to withhold any information from the IGI "on any ground".
- Fraser is also supposed to supply the minister of state security and the IGI with annual reports about the SSA's activities. In addition, Fraser is supposed to have supplied the IGI with reports about any failures that might have occurred.
The SSA and Fraser have not yet responded to Dintwe's court papers.