Protection of Information:
Letter from Ronnie Kasrils, 1 June 2011
Even at this late stage, one would remind our legislators of the adage, "more haste less speed."
The rush to complete the Protection of Information Bill by the parliamentary committee is worrying and will lead to huge problems and unnecessary tensions in the future. I hate to envisage the unforeseen consequences. It will certainly undermine public trust in the intelligence and security services at a time when confidence needs to be built.
The issues under discussion are complex and sensitive and we need to ensure the proposed legislation does not undermine our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Discussions at parliamentary committee stage so far have not inspired public confidence that the issues have been sufficiently canvassed and considered. All agree that the outdated 1982 Act must be repealed and that a democratic state has the need to protect sensitive state secrets.
To this end it is noteworthy that the Bill recognises the harm of excessive secrecy. However what is of concern is that the proposed legislation is excessively broad and unfocussed; certain of the penalties (other than that relating to espionage) are consequently extremely harsh; and the crucial need for a "public interest" defence clause is ignored.