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Riaan Labuschagne. On South Africa’s Secret Service: An Undercover Agent’s Story. Alberton, South Africa: Galago Books, 2002. 304 pages, bibliography, photos, index.
Gordon Winter’s 1981 book Inside BOSS: South Africa’s Secret Police was an exposé by a South African journalist-agent recruited by the Bureau of State Security (BOSS) to spread “disinformation” about South Africa’s dissidents in the British press. The book was less than complimentary about BOSS’s methods and objectives. On South Africa’s Secret Service tells the story of the organizational successor to BOSS, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), from the point of view of one of its professional counterintelligence officers, Riaan Labuschagne—Labuschagne penetrates the opposition in covert action operations and traditional intelligence collection. The operational parameters of the NIS included assassination, counterintelligence operations, and traditional forms of espionage. Labuschagne gives many examples of each, although he was apparently confined to counterintelligence. Little different from its predecessor, the NIS was feared by the public for its harsh methods. There was little remorse when the NIS ceased to exist on 1 January 1995, replaced by the National Intelligence Agency of the new South African government.
On South Africa’s Secret Service is not documented and is written with reconstructed conversations whose accuracy can only be judged by the few references to well-known events. Whatever the degree of professional accuracy it possesses, it does support an old axiom: An intelligence service can influence, but not dominate or control, political events.
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