Huge trove of surveillance leaks coming

Al Jazeera and The Guardian are set to publish "the Spy Cables," a massive trove of South African intelligence cables detailing the over-classification of information and the corruption of post-Apartheid South Africa by US political interference.

Unlike the Snowden leaks — which focused on signals intelligence — these detail material gleaned from "human intelligence," that is, information learned firsthand by spies. The news agencies have not published much yet, but have hinted at what is to come: details of how the US pressured South Africa to make Iran into South Africa's leading security priority, despite the demonstrated risk posed by internal right-wing extremists; and the routine overclassification of information that should have been in the public domain.

The files unveil details of how, as the post-apartheid South African state grappled with the challenges of forging new security services, the country became vulnerable to foreign espionage and inundated with warnings related to the US "War on Terror".

Following the 9/11 attacks, South African spies were flooded with requests related to al-Qaeda, despite their own intelligence gathering and analysis telling them that they faced minimal direct threats from such groups, and that the main threat of violence on South African soil came from domestic far-right groups.

The South Africans' focus on Iran was largely a result of pressure from other nations, and the leaked documents also report in depth on alleged efforts by Iran to defeat international sanctions and even its use of Persian rug stores as front companies for spying activity.

The Spy Cables: A glimpse into the world of espionage [Al Jazeera]