Spy agents will soon have powers to carry and use firearms in an attempt to deal with increasing security threats. The National Intelligence Service Bill 2012 which is now before Parliament also gives the agency's Director General, "in the event of extreme emergency" unfettered access to any place, seize any property including information and document and restrain suspects from escaping.
There is however a caveat that the DG shall "as soon as practically possible" but not later than 36 hours, obtain a court warrant for what has taken place.
If there is no emergency, the DG or any other member of the service authorized by the director should first obtain a warrant from the High Court before searching a home, a premise or seizing information and documents.
The Bill, which now awaits debate by MPs, is aimed at repealing the National Security Intelligence Service Act. It will change the name of the agency from National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) to National Intelligence Service (NIS).
On firearms, the Bill stipulates that the officers shall use such weapons only when it is impossible to carry out an operation with no force at all.
"A member of the service, may, where necessary for the performance of his or her functions under this Act and with the approval of the Director-General, carry and use an official firearm," reads the Bill.
The Bill says the firearms shall be used for the purpose of saving or protecting the life of the service or any other person. The firearm can also be used "in self-defence or in defence of another person against imminent threat of life of serious injury."
The NSIS Act under which the agency has been operating is silent on the use of firearms. The service members have been relying on the police when dealing with cases where such use of firearms is required.
The Bill says that before using a firearm, members of the agency shall first identify himself or herself and "give a clear warning of his or her intention to use a firearm.
The Bill says that the member of the agency "shall first use non violent means and may employ force only when non violent means are ineffective or where he or she is unable to achieve the intended results." The Bill has also granted the agency powers to investigate a suspect's communications or monitor them. The Bill is aimed at ensuring NSIS comply with the new constitution which effected a raft of changes to security agencies.