Saturday, March 3, 2012

Laptop thieves crack state security

Laptop thieves crack state security
CAIPHUS KGOSANA | 04 March, 2012 00:15

Image by: Bruce Gorton
Thieves broke into a Pretoria complex housing intelligence minister Siyabonga Cwele's offices and made off with laptops containing sensitive information.
The burglary - a serious security breach that has left intelligence chiefs red-faced - occurred three weeks ago when thieves broke into the fortified Bogare building in Menlyn, which houses the State Security Agency's top offices, including that of the minister.

The incident follows a fire, also around the same period, that gutted the SA Revenue Service offices in Durban which also houses the State Security Agency on its top floor - where the fire started.

Insiders say the fire was no accident and that the target was the provincial head office of the State Security Agency.

Intelligence spokesman Brian Dube confirmed the break-in in Pretoria. He said the target was the Office on Conditions on Service but refused to disclose what was taken or what the office is responsible for.

Insiders, however, said the thieves made off with two laptops and a desktop computer containing extremely sensitive information.

"These laptops contained classified material. How is the agency expected to guard national security if it cannot protect its own offices from thieves?" said one who refused to be named.

Dube said: "The agency and the police are investigating and we wouldn't like to speculate."

■The Times reported two weeks ago that authorities were focusing their investigations on whether the fire in Durban, the break-in in Pretoria and another at a branch in George were linked to the search for the controversial spy tapes that paved the way for fraud and corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma to be dropped.
DA defence spokesman David Maynier said the fire at the agency's offices in Durban raised serious questions, including whether:

■The building caught fire as a result of accident or arson;
■Any sensitive information was destroyed in the fire; and
■Any sensitive information may have been stolen.
"We have to be absolutely sure there was no foul play and that the fire in the State Security Agency's office was not caused by arson," he said.

The latest incident adds strain to the country's already troubled intelligence service that has been beset by infighting at the very top.

State Security director-general Jeff Maqetuka and National Intelligence Agency head Gibson Njenje have already left the service, while Mo Shaik, who heads the agency's foreign branch, is negotiating an exit.

This follows a dramatic meltdown in the relationship between the minister and the three intelligence chiefs.

Tension between Cwele and the trio began shortly after they were appointed by Zuma in 2009.

Government officials close to the process said Cwele was unhappy about Zuma's selections. The minister was also accused of interfering in their work and at times demanding briefings on intelligence issues he should not have been privy to as a politician.

Before he left, Maqetuka admitted that the country's civilian intelligence structures were in crisis.

"There was broad consensus that all is not well within the civilian intelligence environment and that there exists a perception, both within and outside the intelligence community, that the State Security Agency has entered into a state of crisis and paralysis," Maqetuka told staff at a meeting.

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