Sunday, June 24, 2007

Intelligence agencies need public oversight

Saturday, June 23, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Intelligence analysts have agreed that without an explicit legal basis for the work of intelligence agencies, the state could be brought into conflict with constitutional and human rights norms.

This would especially be the case, they said, if the activities of intelligence bodies -- such as surveillance -- began affecting the daily lives of innocent members of the public.

"Intelligence agencies were created to protect national security, but because of their secretive nature, every country is facing the similar problem of striking a balance between democracy and secrecy," said Edy Prasetyono from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies at a launching of two books on intelligence on Thursday.

"Oversight is needed to find a balance between security and public freedoms, to hold intelligence agencies accountable, to strengthen democratic consolidation, to prevent self-tasking and to gain more reliable resources for (intelligence agencies') operations.

"Until now, many intelligence agencies have mainly focused on counter-intelligence. In order to prevent suspicion, the public need to know many things related to intelligence agencies such as their structure, tasks, funding, etcetera. It is also important to diminish public distrust caused by past human rights abuses."

The two books launched are translations of "Intelligence Practice and Democratic Oversight - A Practitioner's View" and "Making Intelligence Accountable - Legal Standards and Best Practice for Oversight of Intelligence Agencies".

The books were published cooperatively by the German Foreign Office, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Indonesian Office and the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).

Earlier Wednesday during a separate discussion on intelligence agencies, experts recommended multiple oversight mechanisms for intelligence-gathering bodies.

Ikrar Nusa Bhakti from the Indonesian Institute of Science said self-tasking and past human rights abuses had justified the need for public oversight over the agencies.

"The most crucial oversight required is to monitor the agencies' special rights and authority, including covert operations and counter-intelligence, which potentially conflict with democracy and human rights," Ikrar said.

Earlier Wednesday during a separate discussion on intelligence agencies, experts recommended multiple oversight mechanisms for intelligence-gathering bodies. (02)

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