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Who’s afraid of Indonesia’ Intelligence Agency bad wolf?

S ource: ANN

The State Intelligence Agency (BIN) became a terrifying institution not only for its silent operations but also and mainly for its abusive practices in serving the Soeharto regime. Memories of these traumatic experiences resurfaced during the recent deliberation of the intelligence bill, which was endorsed by the House of Representatives last week.

Many legislators played an active role in the deliberation of the bill, to help heal the public trauma over intelligence operations to silence dissident groups and government critics, both during the New Order and Reform eras. The abduction of pro-democracy activists in 1997 and the murder of human right champion Munir Said Thalib on Sept. 7, 2004, were only two of many operations that have remained unresolved and have helped cement public perceptions that BIN and the military are horrifying institutions.

The bill, which was prepared by the House with its initiative right, made major changes in its (contentious) substance after meeting strong resistance from the public, especially from civil society groups and human rights activists.

It rewrites BIN’s main task to provide early warning information and intelligence analysis on terrorism, secessionism, sabotage and other activities threatening the national security. In their operations, intelligence agents have no authority but are allowed (with exceptions) to intercept the communications of their targets, investigate financial flows in their bank accounts and seek further information on them.

Interception is allowable only after agents have acquired an adequate amount of early evidence and obtained written permission from any district courts, and BIN also has authority to request data and information from the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center (PPATK). No torture will happen as intelligence agents are no longer allowed to arrest and detain their targets while seeking further information, which is allowed during interrogations by police.

The bill implies the retraining of unskilled intelligence agents in regions since it requires qualified personnel under the state protection. All intelligence apparatus will work in compliance with the code of ethics under the supervision of an ad hoc ethics council and an intelligence subcommittee from the House of Representatives.

The intelligence subcommittee has the authority to summon and question BIN chiefs and open intelligence information in cases malpractice. It also has the authority to investigate acts of terrorism and social conflict allegedly designed under bad intelligence practices.

At least during the transition, the BIN chief and the House’s intelligence subcommittee have their jobs mapped out for them in puttting Indonesia’s intelligence office back on track.

The President, as the main user of intelligence information, can no longer appoint BIN chiefs merely based on his own political interests, because their appointment requires endorsement from the House and the single candidate is required to undergo a fit-and-proper test before the House.

The President will also issue a presidential regulation to regulate BIN’s coordinating function with other institutions with intelligence functions including the police, the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the Attorney General’s Office.

However, the bill could also be abused because anybody or any institution found leaking state intelligence can be criminalized, with a 10-year prison sentence and up to Rp 500 million (US$55,600) in fines for those found guilty.

The media and non-governmental institutions, which are mostly critical of the government, could be subject to criminalization if material they expose to the public is intelligence information that should be kept secret.

Despite the mandated law on bugging, the bill needs a harmony, at least with the 2008 laws on the free-flow of information and on electronic transactions, as well as the proposed laws on state secrets and national security.

Despite the major changes, civil society group such as Kontras and Imparsial have remained critical of the bill since it does not explicitly require intelligence agents to respect human rights and democracy.

The bill also challenges BIN and other institutions serving an intelligence function to shift their focus from the detection of national and local political issues to foreign interests in the economic, defense, environmental, mining and criminal fields. By doing so, BIN could make a great contribution to this country’s national interests and would help prevent intelligence agents from abusing their power in detecting dissident groups and government critics and serving the ruling regime’s political interests.

We should bear in mind that the terrorism that has rocked this country over the past two decades has its masterminds abroad. Several foreign terrorists have been shot dead at home and many terror cells have received financial sources and training overseas. BIN has also been challenged to detect economic interests behind the foreign financial support for the issuance of 144 new laws, and also foreign interests behind global environmental campaigns.

These challenges have gained political support from the House’s information and defense commission, which has agreed to increase BIN’s budget by Rp 200 billion to Rp 1.4 trillion in 2012 from Rp 1.2 trillion this year.


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