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Monday, November 5, 2007

Whistle-blowing blown to bits

The Sun (31/10/2007): For over 30 years, they never uttered a word on their source who provided them the dope that brought down Richard Nixon from the highest office in the United States. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who uncovered the Watergate affair had their lips sealed until former FBI deputy director W. Mark Felt stepped forward two years ago to identify himself as "Deep Throat" – the man who fed them info on the break-in at the Watergate Building and the secret tape recordings.

For those who specialise in investigative journalism, "deep throats" exist everywhere, and the cardinal principle is – he or she shall remain anonymous and his or her identity will not be revealed under any circumstances. It is said that a man’s word is his honour and hence, some journalists have chosen jail over revealing their sources.

But sources are not limited to journalism only. Every agency or department has its sources and informants and it is the profound duty of law enforcers to protect those who sometimes risk life and limb to provide valuable information.

In the wake of the Lingam tape, assurances were made by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) that the identity of the source would be kept secret and that he or she would be offered protection.

However, judging from the statement made by Bukit Aman Commercial Crimes chief Datuk Ramli Yusof, you can’t even trust your grandmother with the ACA. He has a bone to pick with the ACA because the sources of information to the police have been compromised – something that goes against the basic grain of investigative work.

Ramli’s statements come in the wake of several officers from his department being charged with falsifying documents and statements. The matter is now in court and it will not merit discussion, but this is what he has to say:

"My officers and I were directed to deliver the confidential case files containing names of the confidential informants to the Attorney-General’s Chambers. I have since been aware that ACA officers tracked down these informants and taken statements from them.

"I am gravely concerned by the manner in which the identities of police informants are dealt with in investigations carried out by the ACA. The identities of the informants were obtained through the circumvention of the Inspector General’s Standing Orders. Given these events, there exists a clear and present danger as to the intelligence gathering ability of the police force and its ability to protect its informants."

As any law enforcement officer or journalist would attest, informants and sources are the lifeline of the "business". Without them, the success rate would be paltry. And what is more frightening is that the identities of these informants are now public domain – their names have appeared in the charge sheet of the police officers who have been brought to court.

The police and even the ACA regularly seek the assistance of the public who witnessed crimes or who have information to come forward to "assist in investigations." But if you come forward, what guarantee is there that your identity won’t be revealed?

Ramli’s statement also touches on other issues including the ACA’s probe on his so-called accumulation of wealth totalling RM27 million. We will not touch on that, but it is worrisome that the ACA, after being maligned and criticised, and has just started gaining the confidence of the public, has slipped again.

Just when we thought the ACA had stepped out of the waywardness of the former regime, a serious charge that it has compromised informants destroys all the good it has done in the recent past.

Out of the blue comes this startling revelation, by none other than a senior police officer, who is standing up for those under him and the informants who have helped combat criminal activities.

We are of the view that the ACA did not do it intentionally to damage the credible manner in which the police collate information. Circumstances may have compelled them to do so, but Ramli’s stand that it was done "through the circumvention of the IGP’s Standing Orders" is worth looking at.

The Standing Orders is a classified document and hence it would be unfair to comment if there are provisions in the Anti-Corruption Act which supersede it. However, it is paramount that identities of informants remain in the hands of their handlers and not in the public domain.

The ACA must clear the air, failing which, as Ramli puts it, there is a danger to the intelligence gathering ability of the police force. We are also curious if what has happened in the last few months could also be an indication that things may not be all that "peaceful" among the top brass up in Bukit Aman.


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