Wednesday, February 10, 2010


by Brig Gen (Rtd) Dato' Muhammad Arshad Raji

'Defence secret leaked' – reads the The Star online Friday 5, 2009. It surprises many, especially those from the defence and security fraternity. A colleague of mine who had served many years and in various capacities in the Defence Intelligence organisation, Ministry of Defence called me frantically to ask me if I knew anything concerning the report. I replied that I do not know much, other than what was reported in the media. He voiced his disappointment at what he claims as a serious breach of security, and he believes that the person(s) involved may have acted out of greed for money.

The above revelation comes at a time when the nation, and the Defence Ministry in particular is facing public outrage over the loss of two RMAF jet fighter engines, caused by what seemed a serious lapse in base security, and where unbelievably, only one RMAF personnel and a civilian businessman is reportedly involved. Strange though it seemed; but government investigations concluded that only two people were involved.

And recently in the USA, Dong Chung, a neutralised US citizen of Chinese origin; formerly a Boeing engineer who was found guilty in July 2009 of passing space shuttle secrets to the PRC was sentenced to a 15 year jail term by the Californian court for an offence under a 1996 espionage law. Dong Chung is the first person to be convicted under that law.

I do not know what is the nature and gravity of the defence secret leak that the Defence Ministry is referring to, but by using the term 'defence secret', I presume it is serious enough to hurt and breach our national defence and security plan(s). And if my aforesaid presumption is true, our defence intelligence fraternity should not have acted in isolation (hopefully not); rather they should have sought the co-operation of the police Special Branch (SB) and the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), before a formal announcement (with explicit details) is made by the Defence Ministry, or by any other related government official. I believe an announcement can only be made upon the completion of an exhaustive investigation carried out by our investigating agencies, and not before. To say that the matter is still under investigation smacks of the lack of professionalism in dealing with such extreme defence and security issues; what more if it is related to a breach in defence secrets as reported.

The term 'defence secret' connotes a highly sensitive issue that is of national interest, and for those involved in breaching national defence and security secrets are deemed to have committed a grievous crime. And since little is known about the nature of the defence secret leak, it would be rather difficult for anyone to speculate the nature of punishment to be meted upon the perpetrators; but a warning is certainly inappropriate to the nature of the crime, if indeed it involves the giving out of a defence secret to an unauthorised person.

Taking the case of Dong Chung above, a 15 year long prison sentence is a severe punishment, and it can serve as an example for the case facing the Defence Ministry today. Catching the culprit(s) and punishing them to a jail sentence does not really end the matter. In fact, it is just the beginning, in the search to find the root cause of the leak and to seek ways on how to manage and enforce greater security against another attempt at breaching defence and security secrets.

This incident may not be the last since trying to obtain the host country's defence secrets by foreign Defence Attache in the country is part of their responsibility. This is common knowledge, and I suppose our Defence Attache serving overseas does likewise.

The other concern that many members of the Armed Forces does not realised (some deliberately) is the way many foreign defence agents work with our military officers to obtain defence secrets. When dealing with foreign defence agents (some have reaped huge profits), our military officers will inadvertently trade defence secrets with them over a game of golf followed by a sumptuous dinner (fine cigars included). And the trading gets even more boisterous if the military officers are offered an all expense paid trips to visit defence factories overseas; with some even getting a Rolls Royce to await them at the airports. And don't these officers know that receiving preferred treatment by foreign defence agents is a form of corruption – a subtle one though?

If the government and the Defence Ministry is serious in curbing the outflow of defence secrets in the future, its has to have very strict ruling and procedures governing any interaction by members of the Armed Forces with foreign military forces(especially among the officers corps), as well as their relationship with foreign defence agents that are sometimes treated like VIP's by Defence Ministry officials (military and civilians alike).

* This article is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The blog owner does not endorse the view unless specified.

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