Information und Analyse

Indonesia’s new Intelligence Agency
How?, Why?, and What for?

01. November 2000

By Ingo W.

binIt took the Indonesian government, parliament (DPR) and the intelligence agencies Bakin and Bais more than two weeks of back-room discussions and negotiations until they finally offered some hints to the Indonesian media of the direction into which the long-awaited revamp of Indonesia’s intelligence is heading. What we know still lacks substance, and final decisions haven’t been made yet. But two points are of importance:

- Bakin will be restructured, given new tasks and duties as well as a new name, Badan Intelijen Nasional (BIN), “National Intelligence Agency”.
- The Ministry of Defence will get its own intelligence agency in the near future, probably in early 2001.

Indonesia’s intelligence: military in diversity Besides the armed forces (TNI) and the police (POLRI), intelligence forms the third backbone of Indonesia’s security apparatus. Indonesia is an intelligence-prone country, which is reflected in its many intelligence bodies and agencies that mushroomed over the years of Suharto rule. Besides the purely military intelligence organizations the country has services for the police, foreign department, department of justice, the general prosecutor, and customs.

The big Two of Indonesia’s intelligence agencies are thoroughly military in nature. As far as our current knowledge goes, we have Bakin (Badan Koordinasi Intelijen Negara, State Intelligence Co-ordinating Agency) which reports directly to the President in his capacity as Supreme Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces, Head of State and Chief of the cabinet of ministers. In this structure, Bakin’s intelligence could be passed on to the Minister of Defence as head of the Ministry of Defence (Dephan) via the President, at least in theory.

Bais (Badan Intelijen Strategis, Strategic Intelligence Agency), on the other hand, reports to TNI Headquarters (Mabes TNI), especially to the Commander-in-Chief (Panglima TNI). It is left to him which intelligence he passes on to the President.

Indonesia’s intelligence complex, however, has always been more a player than a servant of its masters. The more so as it is operational in nature, creating situations whenever it seems necessary. Which one is more powerful, Bakin or Bais? This age-old question has never been answered satisfactorily, and the relationship between these two has been shifting constantly. In New Order times Suharto’s dominant position over state and military administration made the relationship quite relative, since each and every military commander was responsible to him on a more or less personal level. With the collapse of Suharto’s kingdom, the intelligence community was equally thrown into disarray. It is especially the lack of clear lines of command, control and authority which turns out to be their major obstacle for fulfilling their intended roles in state security in a professional manner.

Indonesian intelligence was pushed to the eyes of the public with its obvious failures in detecting acts of violence and its sources, made obvious with the explosion of a bomb in the Jakarta Stock Exchange in September. It became topic of political speculation surrounding the President’s frequent complaints of being deprived of intelligence from the state agencies.

Certainly the plan to revamp Indonesia’s intelligence system has been projected considerable time before. It shows the handwriting of former defence minister Juwono Sudarsono who during his time in office devoted himself to the empowerment of the Defence Ministry. It can be assumed that the plan was on the cards at least half a year ago. That it could be kept secret at all in Indonesia’s talkative administrational system is no mean feat at all.

To place an intelligence service under a defence ministry is world-wide no exception but rather the rule. The really puzzling abnormality in Indonesia is the historical fact that the Dephan did not have exclusive and first hand access to military intelligence at all for now well over 15 years. The army reform of 1983 until 1985 under commander ‘Benny’ Murdani made Bais the most powerful agency which exclusively handed its material to the ABRI Commander-in-Chief, who at that time was Murdani himself. Bakin was sent into the back row and, as a co-ordinating agency was left to co-ordinate whatever intelligence it could get its hands on.

As the official ABRI-line of explanation at that time went, the information placed on Murdani’s desk every day outgrew his personal attention span and work capabilities, so that with the reform of Bais to BIA, the line of responsibility was directed towards the Chief of the General Staff. The informal explanation was that this had more to do with de-Benny-isasi and the attempt to prevent any future C-I-C from getting an exclusive grip on military intelligence as Murdani, who had lost his position in 1988. The latest reformation, however, from BIA back again to a new-style Bais in 1999, once again handed command over army intelligence back to the C-I-C. It coincided with the renaming of ABRI to TNI and was actually not made public until July 99, some quarters of the Indonesian press even afterwards still referred to Bais as BIA. Of the internal changes we only know that the five departments were made to eight, and that foreign intelligence was given more weight.

This time the question was different. With a Navy man in TNI’s top command position and in charge of an army (Angkatan Darat) and Kopassus-heavy Bais, and in knowledge of the TNI’s internal bonds of patronage and loyalty which always serve the insider more than the outsider, is he given access to military intelligence at all?

Bakin and Bais: Who is in charge?

From the latest media coverage we can conclude with some justification that – President Abdurrahman Wahid did not receive intelligence from Bakin but was more or less deprived of it. It was more a necessity than a privilege for him to rely on “whisperers” and his personal chains of information – Bakin did not have access to internal army intelligence. Probably the dissolving of Bakorstanas – a regional military chain of command – in March this year did have something to do with that. Bakorstanas was, first of all, another chain for collecting intelligence along the territorial chain of command which was formally conveyed to the C-I-C, probably via the Army Chief of Staff. The intelligence cycle behind it was never made public. Ineffective and bureaucratic as it was, its abolishment led to the retirement of a few hundred military personnel and a numerical weakening of army intelligence.

The attempted changes seem intended to address some of the structural weaknesses.

Bakin to BIN

In a unified move to restructure Bakin and to enhance the quality of its personnel, Bakin will be named Badan Intelijen Negara, BIN. It will process and produce all intelligence information and co-ordinate all intelligence institutions, and it will be responsible to the president and parliament. For this purpose a type of closed-door meetings will be established in which the DPR exercises a to be established control of the state intelligence services.

Present Bakin head Arie Kumaat revealed that BIN will also be given the right for operational activities, which currently lies with Bais. Besides the fields of military affairs and security, BIN’s duties will encompass “the other fields of life”. (Jawa Pos 30/10). Bais will be relegated to specific tasks of military, respectively combat intelligence (Suara Pembaruan 30/10) To make BIN independent from outside, i.e. non-state sources, BIN will be given a larger budget from the state. These are still announcements, not definite political decisions.

Defense Ministry to have its own intelligence body, and Bais remains at is is?

The plan to establish a new intelligence body under the Dephan, separated from Bais and TNI headquarters has been announced for some unspecified date in early 2001. It will probably take over duties from Bais. For instance, the Indonesian Defence Attachés will be placed under the Dephan-agency. Until now, Bais controls the attaches, and thus an important element of Indonesian military foreign policy. (Antara, Jakarta Post, Suara Pembaruan 31/10)

Bais is not to be abolished, but is to remain the exclusive intelligence body reporting to the C-I-C. The duality of military intelligence will continue. But will Bais change? This question has so far not been touched in the official announcements. But with tasks reverted to the Dephan-agency, and personnel to be shifted from Bais towards the Dephan, a weakening of Bais at least seems to be intended.

But, most probably, it was the power of Bais which relegated the establishment of the Dephan-agency to a later date. In earlier news of October 18 and 19, members of the Parliamentary Commission I announced the establishment of the new body for October 24. But the date passed and nothing happened. It took official circles another week until a revised decision for its postponed establishment was made public. The most powerful security body in the country certainly does not applaud its own demise. It remains to be seen whether the Dephan-agency will appear at all in 2001 or be “quietly forgotten” in the political squabblings which will accompany its further march through the political and military institutions.

The numerous statements in the media concerning Bais’ personnel to be invited to join either BIN or the Dephan agency leaves doubt as to whether a change of approach and attitude towards the Indonesian population is really intended. Will BIN become more civilian, or be just another military intelligence service, this time under presidential control? What we have read in the early days of reporting leaves doubts. There is some irony behind statements of minister Mahfud as: “During the New Order what was named ‘intel’ was frightening. Now, the government wants to make ‘intel’ a ‘friend of the people’ (teman rakyat), so that the people are no longer unwilling to give information.” (TI 18/10).

From this we learn that ‘intel’, the popular Indonesian acronym for intelligence, was deprived of information and spies from the common people. But how to appreciate his statements like the following one when he, talking about the new intelligence as becoming ‘really intimate with society, be ‘full of smiles’ (penuh senyum) and not like intelligence in New Order times’, turned to the press and stated: ” Before You (the press) were afraid of intel. Tomorrow you will be ‘accompanied’ (diikuti) by intel, but you will be glad, because you will feel ‘protected’ (terlindungi).” (Kompas Cyber Media 19/10)

A new intelligence paradigm

The focus of Indonesia’s intelligence system shall shift from domestic view on internal political affairs to its original security perspective. In the words of the Head of Parliament Commission I, Yasril Ananta Baharuddin, the new paradigm will be “to search information much earlier so that every potential threat to nation and state can be detected”. (KCM 30/10)

New task # 1: technology

Besides a broad paradigmatic spectrum, the media reporting over the last weeks gave some insights into what is really lacking in Indonesian intelligence to be fully professional on a modern, world-wide scale. First of all that seems to be the general command of modern technologies of communication. It should be remembered that was the internet that assisted to bring down Suharto. Presently intel does not seem to have high capabilities neither for cyber warfare not signals intelligence in general.

New task # 2: foreign intelligence / counter intelligence

On a broader level there is a shift of focus towards external security. The policy makers discussed foreign threats towards security. Yasril stated that parliament and intelligence agree that ‘there is a foreign power that wilfully intends to weaken Indonesia in various fields, including economy and defence.” The stage for pinpointing the US and Australia as evil powers eager to destroy Indonesia, has already been set by frequent statements from the Defence Minister and military officials over the last weeks. The ongoing scenario to create a foreign threat has recently been fuelled by the expulsion of an American national from Papua on charges of espionage. In an interview with Gatranews, 1 November, defence minister Mahfud elaborates on the current stage of development:

“Admittedly, this region (i.e. Papua) is vulnerable to foreign intelligence activities. That’s why I always speak out loudly that those foreign power have their own interest. They wanted Indonesia to become divided as with the cases in Atambua, Irian Jaya, and probably Aceh.” – Question: For what purpose? – Mahfud: Nowadays the possibility of war between nations is very small. But we must remember, the wish of one country to destroy other still exist. But this time any effort to destroy enemy is no longer done through war. It’s like Yugoslavia who disintegrate without war. They were made to disintegrate within and dissolve themselves. We must be careful of this.”

This scenario-in-the-making makes it likely that BIN and the Dephan-agency will direct their activities less towards internal security threats but to external, Western countries and their nationals.

New tasks, not mentioned (yet?)

What about intended or planned intelligence activities against organized crime, drug trafficking, arms smuggling, money laundering and all those fields of threats towards state, economy society in which, as we are frequently told, individual army ‘oknum’ or ‘thugs’ are heavily involved? Indonesian media reports put doubts on the regularly offered statements by TNI and security circles that these are all merely acts of individuals but suggest that the military and intelligence are much more part of the country’s organized crime than it is admitted. In case it does, how will BIN act against them? <>

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