Malaysian spy agency has over 1,000 personnel worldwide

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A little-known Malaysian spy agency, whose letter to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was leaked, has more than 1,000 agents and non-covert personnel posted around the world.

This and other little-known facts about the Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation (Meio) came to light during a media conference held by the lawyer of the agency's former head, Datuk Hasanah Abdul Hamid.

The media conference by lawyer Shaharudin Ali was to announce that Ms Hasanah had lodged a police report on the leak of the confidential letter which he said fell under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

Responding to a question about Meio, Datuk Shaharudin said he had been made to understand that it had more than 1,000 agents, officers and operatives all over the world.

Mr Shaharudin said Ms Hasanah was concerned that the trust and credibility of Meio would be affected by the CIA letter leak.

He said: "She is very concerned for the safety and morale of her officers.

"I am not authorised to say how many agents, officers and operatives are maintained by the agency, but I can tell you it's well over 1,000 all over the world and it's important that such a leak should not have happened."

The letter was allegedly written on May 4, just a week before Malaysia's 14th general election.

Several screenshots of the letter, which bore Ms Hasanah's signature and was addressed to CIA director Gina Haspel, had gone viral recently.

The letter reportedly appealed to the United States to support Najib Razak's administration.

The written statement by Ms Hasanah, which Mr Shaharudin distributed, said the Meio used the formal name of the Research Division, Prime Minister's Department.

The division is part of the country's national security covert intelligence agency and was set up in the 1960s.

Meio works with other agencies, including the Special Branch, military intelligence, the National Security Council and other agencies.

Ms Hasanah, in her statement, said the Meio had covert intelligence sources throughout the world and that the information provided was collected, analysed and reported to the Prime Minister, Cabinet, Special Branch, military intelligence and others.

"Meio has contributed much to national security. This includes resolving the communist threat, confrontation with Indonesia, regional conflicts and most recently, the Daesh threat," Hasanah said in her statement. Daesh is another name for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

She added that under the schedule of the OSA, letters and documents in Meio files automatically fell under the category of official secrets and could not be leaked, displayed, distributed or announced.