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The role of national security entities in public administration, with specific reference to civilian intelligence structures, is a public policy issue of concern and interest across the globe, particularly with regard to questions of governance and public accountability. Governments need intelligence services to serve national and/or political interests, but these must, by nature, operate in conditions of secrecy. The gap between these two elements can be a source of misgovernance and/or abuse of power. We argue that the credibility of South African intelligence structures has been negatively impacted by failures and omissions of accountable governance since the emergence of a democratic dispensation in 1994. In particular, the article focuses on the effects of politicisation on effective governance of the country’s intelligence function. We propose an ethical governance model, framed by a transformative approach and grounded in ethical stewardship, as a way to give effect to constitutionally defined expectations regarding the purpose and management of the country’s intelligence function.
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