Wanted: 2,000 more spies for Indonesia

Indonesian anti-terror police leading away two of the six men arrested on Feb 21 for their suspected involvement in the militant attack in Jakarta on Jan 14, 2016.
Indonesian anti-terror police leading away two of the six men arrested on Feb 21 for their suspected involvement in the militant attack in Jakarta on Jan 14, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

Spymaster also seeks more powers for agency to summon terror suspects

Indonesia's spy chief Sutiyoso wants Parliament to grant the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) more powers to summon terror suspects for interrogation.

The agency is also planning to recruit 2,000 more spies in response to increasing demands for intelligence on terrorists, following the recent attack in Jakarta by a domestic terror cell loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

These came to light after Mr Sutiyoso briefed lawmakers on his agency's latest requirements during a House budget hearing on Monday.

"We do not want to arrest suspected terrorists like the police, we just want to summon the suspects to gather information," he said.

Mr Sutiyoso, who is a former governor of Jakarta, has been under pressure since the latest terror incident, with some criticising BIN for failing to prevent the attack.

INFORMATION NEEDED

We do not want to arrest suspected terrorists like the police, we just want to summon the suspects to gather information. ''

INDONESIA'S SPY CHIEF SUTIYOSO, briefing lawmakers on his agency's latest requirements.

This, even though the agency had issued security alerts, warning people of possible terror attacks in the weeks leading up to the Jan 14 strike.

According to The Jakarta Post, lawmaker Tubagus Hasanuddin said the increase in manpower will allow the BIN to deploy more officers to provinces across Indonesia, while additional funding can help enhance the training of its agents.

"The capability of our agents must equal or be greater than the threat," he said.

The massive hiring spree, which will raise the total number of BIN officers to 5,000, is expected to cost 700 billion rupiah (S$73 million), Mr Tubagus told reporters after the hearing led by the House commission for defence and foreign affairs.

Hundreds of Indonesians have travelled to the Middle East to support or fight for ISIS since 2013.

Many, however, have also been deported, mainly from Turkey, after they were caught trying to cross the border to Syria. Others were stopped in transit countries such as Singapore before being handed over to Indonesian police.

Some have returned on their own, including those with combat experience, and are hiding in plain sight because it is now not an offence in Indonesia to have ties to ISIS.

For instance, three men and a 15-year-old boy, who were en route to Syria from Singapore, were deported to Indonesia on Feb 21. They were released three days later, even though they had planned to join ISIS in Syria and had links to Indonesian militants connected to the Jan 14 terror attack on the capital.

The country is now contemplating sweeping changes to its anti-terror laws, proposed by the Joko Widodo administration in the wake of the hit that left four bystanders dead.

Among the 12 legislative changes debated in Parliament this week are new laws allowing the police to hold suspects involved in plans to mount a terror attack for up to six months as "preventive detention".

They may also make it an offence when citizens join a terror group overseas such as ISIS, adopt radical Islamic values, or send proxies to mount terror attacks.

The proposed new Bill, however, does not include granting intelligence agencies such as BIN powers to summon, arrest or detain terror suspects for investigations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2016, with the headline 'Wanted: 2,000 more spies for Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe