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Our View: Secret service needs to be more transparent

DEPUTIES at the House institutions committee took exception to the regulations that will be part of the law on the operation of the central information service KYP. The law had been passed last April but the regulations on the declassification and publication of documents have only just been submitted to the legislature.

Opposition deputies were not happy that the regulations stipulated the de-classification of documents would take place after a period of 50 and, in some cases, 75 years. They claimed that when the law was discussed in April there was an understanding that the practice of the UK would have been followed – documents would be declassified and made public after a 30-year period unless the national interest dictated otherwise.

We do not know how the national interest was defined by the regulations, because the committee meeting was held behind closed doors. Deputies were correct to object to 50- and 75-year periods for the release of KYP documents. KYP may as well place them in an incinerator and burn them all, because it quite obvious that its leadership and, we suspect, the government do not want any classified information to be made public for a variety of reasons.

For instance it may expose the unorthodox ways in which the service had been used for many years by successive presidents. It is widely-known, for instance, some presidents used KYP to monitor the moves of political rivals or foreign ambassadors and listen in on their telephone conversations, even though it is doubtful such activities were documented and archived. Another possibility is that there might be embarrassing revelations of how the service, not renowned for its effectiveness, operated. Several laughable, imaginary conspiracies had been uncovered by KYP over the years, both during the Kyprianou and Clerides presidencies. Whatever the reasons, there is no excuse other than national interest or national security to keep documents out of the public domain for more than 30 years and deputies should insist on this point.

For too long there has been no transparency or accountability at KYP. This may have been because it was put together as a part of the police force, without any specific rules and regulations governing its operation, but this has changed now and KYP is expected to operate as a proper intelligence service. It should therefore have nothing to fear of the 30-year rule which is important for another reason – it would ensure against any abuses. If on the other hand documents remained classified for 75 years all types of abuses could take place as the perpetrators would have no fear of their actions being exposed in their lifetime.

 

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