In the days ahead, African Defence Review will be providing additional analysis of the State Security Agency documents leaked to Al Jazeera and their potential diplomatic and security fall out. With only a fraction of the hundreds of documents in the set released so far, it seems highly likely that a number of stories will soon be emerging.

At this point, however, there are a few conclusions that ADR feels are likely to be borne out:

  1. This leak will likely cause immense and potentially irreparable damage to the SSA. Not only are many of its own secrets and operations now compromised, but no foreign agency will feel safe in sharing sensitive information with the SSA any time soon.
  2. This may in turn harm South Africa’s national security, cutting off the SSA’s access to invaluable intelligence from other agencies.
  3. The South African government will need to do everything it can to figure out where the leak happened and make the changes needed to prevent future ones. This will be a minimum requirement if it is to regain the trust of counterpart agencies around the world.
  4. It is still impossible to quantify the true extent of the leak and its potential damage at this point, as only 17 out of hundreds of documents have been released thus far. Only the SSA, Al Jazeera and The Guardian know how much the full set of documents will reveal.
  5. Similarly, it’s impossible to speculate on how the documents were leaked or who did it without knowing more about the internal structure of the SSA and how it stores its documents. Of interest is that the documents appear to be from both the SSA Foreign Branch (formerly the SA Secret Service) and the SSA Domestic Branch (formerly the National Intelligence Agency), indicating that whoever leaked the material either had access to both agencies’ document repositories or that the SSA may have irresponsibly pooled the documents of both branches.
  6.  Much initial focus has been placed on the Mokopa missile case, but that’s fairly small-scale in the greater scheme of things. Some employees of Denel and related companies attempted to sell the missile’s blueprints – they succeeded in selling them to one or more Israeli businesses and Mossad and the SSA arranged a return. This isn’t that unusual, industrial espionage is a regular occurence and this wasn’t the first or last attempt at acquiring technology from Denel.

We will continue to analyze the documents as they are released and monitor related developments over the next few weeks.

Correction: The initial version of this article stated that the SSA may have ‘irresponsibly pooled its documents with another agency’, whereas the author’s intention was to state that the SSA may have ‘irresponsibly pooled the documents of both branches’ meaning the Foreign Branch and Domestic Branch. We regret the error.