Research Division of the Prime Minister's Department

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The Research Division of the Prime Minister's Department (Malay: Bahagian Penyelidikan Jabatan Perdana Menteri) is an agency within the Malaysian Prime Minister's Department.[1] According to a United States embassy cable dating back to 2006 that was leaked by WikiLeaks, the Research Division is actually the public name for the Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation (MEIO), the country's main foreign intelligence agency. A news report stated that the MEIO may be abolished under the new Mahathir government.[2]

Activities and structure

The Research Division or Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation is part of Malaysia's national security covert intelligence agency. It is believed to have more than 1,000 agents, officers, and operatives around the world. MEIO works with several other Malaysian government departments and agencies including the Special Branch, military intelligence, and the National Security Council. MEIO has covert intelligence sources around the world and shares its information with the Prime Minister, the Malaysian Cabinet, Special Branch, and other agencies. The Division's Director-General was Datuk Hasanah Abdul Hamid until the 2018 Malaysian general election.[3][4]

History

Origins and operations

The Research Division was established during the 1960s as part of Malaysia's national security covert intelligence agency.[3] Muhammad Hatta, the Secretary of the Malaysian National Security Council, was known to have served as MEIO's Director General from 2002 to 2005.[5] It was also known to have helped the Malaysian Special Branch in combating the Malayan Communist Party.[6] According to WikiLeaks, the Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation also covertly supported the secessionist groups in Mindanao. In 2006, it also facilitated peace talks between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.[7] More recently, MEIO reportedly helped to combat the Islamic State.[3][4]

Post–2018 Malaysian general election

According to reports by several Malaysian news media including The Star, The Sun, and the news blog Malaysia Today in May 2018, the Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation had 300 personnel, operated as a spy agency, and reported directly to former Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. The organization was allegedly used to monitor government critics at home and abroad. Following the 2018 Malaysian general election, members of the Royal Malaysia Police's Commercial Crime Division searched the home of a female individual, who was reported to be the head of the Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation, for documents that Najib had given her two days before the 2018 election. The Police also searched two buildings belonging to the agency.[8][9][10]

In late July 2018, a letter from MEIO's Director-General Hasanah Abu Hamid dating back to 4 May 2018 was leaked to the media. The letter was reportedly addressed to Gina Haspel, the designated Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and appealed for the Trump Administration to support Najib's administration even in the event that Barisan Nasional won by a simple majority or just one seat. She also described the Pakatan Harapan leader Mahathir Mohamed as an anti-Semite. [11] In response, the Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng called for an investigation into allegations that the Research Division had written to the CIA, describing the letter as an attempt to solicit foreign intervention.[12]

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Najib denied having any knowledge of the Research Division's letter, claiming that it was a government secret not meant for public eyes.[13] During a press conference on 31 July, Hasanah's lawyer Datuk Shaharudin Ali confirmed that the letter was genuine and asserted that the letter between MEIO and the CIA was part of the work of intelligence gathering and national security.[14] The former Director Hasanah lodged a police report on the grounds that the letter should not have been leaked for national security reasons.[15][16] On 6 August 2018, Ab Jalil Backer, the leader of a group called Angkatan Karyawan Nasionalis, claimed that the CIA had leaked MEIO's letter and also alleged that the US spy agency had been colluding with Pakatan Harapan.[17]

In late August 2018, former MEIO director-general Hasanah was remanded in police custody over the alleged misappropriation of election funds during the 2018 general election.[18]

Further reading

  • Malaysia's National Security Council described by new NSC Secretary (Report). WikiLeaks. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  • Michael Vatikiotis (5 March 2013). "Malaysia the Moderate Peacemaker". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 17 August 2013.

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Prime Minister's Department - Government Directory". Prime Minister's Department. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  2. ^ "New Malaysian Cabinet to slash costs". Straits Times. 24 May 2018. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "Secretive agency has over 1,000 personnel worldwide". The Star. 1 August 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Malaysian spy agency has over 1,000 staff worldwide". The Straits Times. 2 August 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  5. ^ Malaysia's National Security Council described by new NSC Secretary (Report). WikiLeaks. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  6. ^ Michael Vatikiotis (5 March 2013). "Malaysia the Moderate Peacemaker". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  7. ^ Scenesetter for Under Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Ronald Sega (Report). WikiLeaks. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  8. ^ "Covert agency linked to former PM raided". The Star. 22 May 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  9. ^ "Top officer's house raided for Najib documents: Report". The Sun. 22 May 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  10. ^ "Top Officer's House Raided For Najib Documents: Report". Malaysia Today. 21 May 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  11. ^ Hamdan, Nurbaiti (27 July 2018). "Former MEIO DG to lodge police report over alleged CIA letter". The Star. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  12. ^ Adnan, Ahmad Suhael (26 July 2018). "Guan Eng: In-depth investigation into alleged letter to CIA necessary". New Straits Times. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  13. ^ Mohsen, Amar Shah; Achariam, Timothy (26 July 2018). "Najib denies any knowledge of alleged letter to CIA". The Sun. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  14. ^ Reduan, Hidir (31 July 2018). "Leaked CIA letter real, 'sending it not treason'". New Straits Times. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  15. ^ "EX-MEIO DG to lodge police report over letter to CIA". The Edge. Bernama. 1 August 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Former Malaysia intelligence chief lodges police report over leaked letter to CIA". Channel News Asia. 31 July 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  17. ^ Ibrahim, Ida Nadirah (6 August 2018). "Activist claims CIA itself behind leaked MEIO letter". Malay Mail. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  18. ^ Kaos Jr, Joseph (29 August 2018). "Ex-spy agency DG Hasanah remanded five days over misuse of GE14 funds". The Star. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
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