By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
DESPITE officially disbanding the National Intelligence Agency last month, National Security Minister Marvin Dames said Tuesday the public could see a revamped version of the controversial agency shortly.
Making a clear distinction between the structure put forth by the former Christie administration and what the Minnis regime intends to implement, Mr Dames said the government has long viewed "a fully functional, a fully autonomous National Intelligence Agency" as one of the "key planks" in its crime strategy.
Last month, Mr Dames revealed during an address in the House of Assembly the government had disbanded the agency, primarily because it was operating without a legal framework since its inception.
At the time of the announcement, the Mount Moriah MP insisted whenever the NIA is mentioned again, it will be once laws were in place to govern the agency which he called an intelligence agency in name only.
Asked of the agency's future prospects by reporters, Mr Dames stated yesterday: "We said on our platform leading up to the general election that we will bring legislation, that we will enact legislation that will establish a fully functional, a fully autonomous National Intelligence Agency.
"We are committed to that as a government, that is one of the key planks in our crime fight, and you should be seeing something shortly."
When later asked if the Minnis administration had now found merit in reestablishing the agency, Mr Dames insisted something like the NIA would serve an ideal purpose if established in a "proper way".
He said: "When you establish an agency like this, it should be accepted by all within the law enforcement community, there should be a clear mandate as to what the unit function ought to be.
"The unit, because it's a national intelligence unit, ought to have relations with other law enforcement entities outside of the jurisdiction of the Bahamas, and it must be accepted."
The NIA was intended to be an intelligence gathering hub where law enforcement agencies would combine their efforts to pinpoint and address threats to the country's national security. It was launched by the Progressive Liberal Party shortly after the 2012 general election.
In the past, former Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner accused the PLP of "running a spy agency with no clear legal footing and no accountability."
The Christie administration denied that the NIA was spying on civilians.
While in opposition, Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis called on the former government to shut down the NIA.
Despite frequent promises, the Christie administration never brought legislation to Parliament to govern the NIA.
In defence of the agency, former State Minister for National Security Keith Bell last month claimed the Christie administration created the NIA after considering a number of serious, terrorist-like threats that threatened The Bahamas.
Mr Bell also said the NIA did not require legislation to function.
He further warned the Minnis administration was making a "grave mistake" disbanding the agency.