Spying at Home: A Dilemma between Secrecy and Freedom » INTELIJEN INDONESIA

Monday, November 21, 2005

Spying at Home: A Dilemma between Secrecy and Freedom

It is certainly right in theory that there is a wealth of information no farther away than the media, academia, non government organizations (NGOs), and commercial enterprises right at home. But in our new democratic society any association of such institutions with secret intelligence activities may impinge on the freedom of our own people. The freedom of speech, academic inquiry and access to information are in jeopardy if intelligence still continuing New Order paradigm.

In the New Order era, secrecy was not only accomodated in a pseudo democracy of Pancasila, but also isolated Indonesian people from their freedom. I would argue that most information on foreign and domestic intelligence were collected on our own home territory. At that time, nobody talked about the risks of spying within our border territory. Furthermore, we can say that there was no risk at all because of the superpower of Indonesian security agencies. We might still remember the notion of "aman dan terkendali" (safe and under control).

The logic of spying at home in Indonesia during New Orde regime, while irrefutable, may ran exactly contrary to the prevailing attitudes after 1998. The Media, for instance, had come to believe that they should have nothing to do with Indonesian Intelligence. This was a complete reversal from a full controlled media under the threat of "breidel" from the Ministry of Information. Actually, there is unarguable reason why the intelligence and the media cooperated closely. Both parties were basically trying to learn as much as possible about "the most important and interesting issues", they had much in common. Ideally, all relationships between the intelligence and the media are informal.

Lets take a case study from the US. The media turned its back on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1976 beacuse of the Church Committee Report (http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/church/reports/contents.htm). The media were quick to note that the committee said fifty American newspersons had been on the CIA payroll and immediately began filing request with the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act to find out which of their colleagues were involved. After the Church Committee disclosures, most newsmen refused to share information with the CIA. Newspeople worried and feared losing credibility, especially in the eyes of their colleagues. The Church Committee investigations had also damaged the longstanding relationship the CIA had with the academic community. The committee revealed that some professors had worked for the CIA without informing their Universities

Will it happen in our country? possibly to happen if the debate between secrecy and freedom tends to heavily fall on the side of freedom. I believe that secrecy and freedom are supposed to be in balance because both can lead to a dangerous situation when the socio-economic and political life go wrong. Learning from the dynamic development in the US, we should rethink the traditional relationship between intelligence and almost all elements of people in the era of the New Order.

The rethinking process is extremely important in the framework of avoid tilting too far toward either secrecy or freedom. Accomodating secrecy in a democracy requires compromises with the theory of full freedom of speech, inquiry, and endeavor. The media, academia, informal leaders, NGOs, and business people need to think through the problems and participate in drawing the lines of compromise themselves, not wait to have them imposed by the government. The draft of Intelligence Law, for instance, is one of the brilliant ideas from intelligence community as well as from the academia in the compromising process between secrecy and freedom. However, this single action is not strong enough to create a better understanding between intelligence and the people.

The fear of the coming back movement of the New Order type regime has blinded our eyes from seeing three most vital problems that Indonesia must face nowadays, terrorism (security) and corruption (moral and law enforcement), and economic recovery (development strategy). In the case of hard actions from any terrorist group, spying at home is not against people's freedom. Intelligence needs support from all domestic sources in order to stop the terror. In the case of fighting corruption, the use of intelligence operation method in disclosing the corruption case is essential. In the case of supporting Indonesian development program, economic intelligence plays a very important role in supplying information and analyses.

Intelligence also needs a fresh air to inhale in the democracy and free society. In order to do so, the dilemma between secrecy and freedom must be solved as soon as possible.
(by Senopati Wiranggana, November 21st, 2005)


Capek juga berusaha nulis dalam bahasa Inggris, mungkin saya akan istirahat satu dua hari. Sebenarnya saya ingin mengirimkan tulisan singkat di atas ke Jakarta Post atau media massa berbahasa Inggris lain yg terbit di Indonesia sebagai sebuah opini singkat, tetapi rasanya akan ditolak. Yah sudah, dengan ditulis di blog ini mudah-mudahan banyak yang baca dan bisa bermanfaat. Mohon koreksi dari para pembaca.

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