Court disagrees with EFF and PP, keeps state security report secret

The EFF and the public protector said the classified report on alleged unlawful activities in the State Security Agency was already public

State security minister Ayanda Dlodlo said lives would be at risk if operatives were named and intelligence gathering would be compromised. The court agreed.
State security minister Ayanda Dlodlo said lives would be at risk if operatives were named and intelligence gathering would be compromised. The court agreed.
Image: Moeletsi Mabe

The EFF and public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane suffered another legal blow on Monday, as state security minister Ayanda Dlodlo was successful in interdicting the publication and distribution of a classified document.

The document relates to an inspector-general's report on allegedly unlawful activities by the special operations unit within the State Security Agency.

The EFF and Mkhwebane argued that the report was already in the public domain, and that, therefore, its publication and distribution should be allowed.

Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi, however, agreed with Dlodlo's submissions that the report exposes the identities of agents, operatives and sources of the SSA and, because of this, making it public endangered their lives and compromised their safety. In her submission, the minister added that the dissemination of the report would undermine the role of the SSA in gathering intelligence that was directed at enhancing national security.

“Having considered the evidence before me and submissions made by counsel, and recognising the right of the public to information, I am of the view that the disclosure of the classified I-G’s report would be to the prejudice of the national security interest of the country if the identities of the intelligence operatives, the sources of the SSA and their methods are disclosed.

“I am satisfied that a restriction of the publication of the I-G’s report does not disproportionately impinge on the public’s interest in accessing the contents of the report,” read Mngqibisa-Thusi's judgment.

The court granted an interdict prohibiting the release and/or publication of the report, which was dated October 31 2014 and titled “Report of an Investigation into media allegations against the Special Operations Unit and/or other branches of the State Security Agency”.

The EFF was also slapped with a cost order.

The party’s counter-application, which sought an order declaring that the I-G’s report may be publicly disclosed and that they are entitled to be in possession of the report, was also dismissed.

Former deputy Sars Commissioner Ivan Pillay and Pravin Gordhan filed papers in support of the relief sought by Dlodlo, and opposed the EFF’s counter-application.

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