A former chief of Malaysia’s spy agency asked police on Tuesday to trace the leak of a secret letter she wrote to the CIA appealing for Washington’s support for the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak days before it was ousted in the May polls.
Hasanah Abdul Hamid, who wrote the letter to the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Gina Haspel when she was head of the Malaysian External Intelligence Organization (MEIO), lodged a police report calling for the investigation.
MEIO, officially known as the research division of the Prime Minister's office, is a covert intelligence agency set up in the 1960s.
The letter, dated May 4 – five days before the landmark election – was classified as official secret, Hasanah said in her complaint to police.
She called for a probe to track down those who had violated the Official Secrets Act by leaking it to the public, according to her lawyer, Shaharudin Ali, who accompanied his client to the police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur where she lodged the report.
Hasanah confirmed in her police report, a copy of which was seen by BenarNews, that she wrote the letter.
Shaharudin told a news conference that his client was worried about her safety and those of other field operatives as a result of the leak.
“The leak could also jeopardize other intelligence agencies,” he said.
If found guilty, violators of the law that protects official secrets face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Hasanah, who has since been removed from her post, was not present at the press conference due to concerns over her safety, Shaharudin said.
Copies of the controversial letter began circulating on social media earlier this month.
The three-page letter called for U.S. support for Najib’s government “even if we win the election by a simple majority or just one seat,” saying Najib would be a stronger ally to Washington compared with Mahathir Mohamad, who became prime minister after his opposition coalition surprisingly won the election.
The letter described Mahathir as “anti-West and anti-Semite.”
Najib has denied any knowledge of the letter, saying not all government letters went through him when he was prime minister. He, however, added that intelligence matters should remain secret.
Officials in Mahathir’s government had called for a probe into why such a letter was sent to the CIA, saying the action may have violated Malaysia's sovereignty.
“Correspondence between two friendly top-level intelligence agencies are operational matters, which include an exchange of opinion and these are not matters that require the attention of the prime minister,” Shaharudin said.
He dismissed allegations that Najib had ordered the letter to be written.
It was drafted by Hasanah and 10 top senior officers of the MEIO, he said.
Last week, the National Patriots Organization (Patriot), composed of former Malaysian military personnel, filed a separate police report against Hasanah, claiming that she had abused her power and infringed on Malaysia’s sovereignty.
“I believe it is wrong for her to write that letter inviting foreign power to intervene in our democratic process,” the group’s president, Arshad Raji, told BenarNews.