Alison Tilley
Alison Tilley

Classifying everyone and everything is not a sensible solution

In an Idasa seminar with Collins Chabane and other persons of note, he mentioned that other governments are very concerned about South Africa’s ability to secure their information. I had no idea. Of course, we all know about the concern around South Africa’s ability to manage its own information — late registration of births leading to dodgy IDs, leading to dodgy passports, which all ends up in everyone paying for a UK visa.

But that is not what he meant. He meant our ability to manage their information. Is this perhaps the reason behind the Protection of Information Bill? Is the logic that other governments are concerned, so we should double and redouble our efforts to protect our information, and classify everything we can lay our hands on?

This is apparently problematic. I have never been much for keeping secrets, so this is all new to me, but apparently you don’t want a “big tent” problem. What is this? Not the usual keep them in, pissing out scenario, but in fact more a sort of a wedding marquee. The more guests, the more you spend, the more you have to check everyone’s invitation. And the more everyone knows everything, the harder it gets to keep secrets.

And then you have to check that people are not having affairs with glamorous spies, or sending money to odd charities that spend a lot of time in the mountains of Afghanistan. This is expensive. And you have to give everyone a polygraph … don’t ask me, I thought they were discredited years ago. This is also expensive.

And then you have too many people with too much information. Including the nuclear secrets of the UK, or Iran, or whoever else’s secret we keep. If there are embassies out there who have been quietly asking our lot to improve security, please mention that classifying everyone and everything is not a sensible solution. And, while you are at it, ask people to stop wearing sunglasses on TV … makes you look suspicious.