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ISD releases Singaporean foreign agent Dickson Yeo, says threat 'effectively neutralised'

SINGAPORE — Singaporean academic Dickson Yeo, who has been detained under the Internal Security Act since last year for acting as a paid agent of a foreign state, was released on Tuesday (Dec 14), the Internal Security Department (ISD) said. 

ISD releases Singaporean foreign agent Dickson Yeo, says threat 'effectively neutralised'
Singaporean Dickson Yeo was arrested on Dec 30 last year and later detained under the Internal Security Act for acting as a paid agent of a foreign state.
  • Singaporean Dickson Yeo, who was detained, is now released on a suspension direction by ISD
  • Investigations found that his dealings with the foreign state were  “clandestine” in nature
  • However, he did not manage to obtain and pass on classified information about Singapore to his foreign handlers

SINGAPORE — Singaporean academic Dickson Yeo, who has been detained under the Internal Security Act since last year for acting as a paid agent of a foreign state, was released on Tuesday (Dec 14), the Internal Security Department (ISD) said. 

In a media release, ISD said that it had concluded investigations into the activities of Yeo and it found that his dealings with a foreign state were "clandestine" in nature. However, he did not manage to obtain and pass on classified information about Singapore to his foreign handlers.

“The threat that Yeo poses as a foreign agent is assessed to be effectively neutralised. As such, he does not pose a security threat that warrants continued detention.” 

ISD added that Yeo has been released on a suspension direction — a ministerial direction to suspend the operation of an existing order of detention. 

The Minister of Home Affairs may revoke the direction and the individual will be re-detained if he does not comply with conditions stipulated.

Yeo, who was a doctoral degree candidate at the National University of Singapore's’ Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, was first approached by his foreign handlers in 2015 through an online professional networking site.

They later invited him to an academic symposium overseas where he was approached to write reports for them. 

Yeo went to carry out various tasks given to him by his foreign handlers in exchange for “substantial amounts” of money from 2016 to 2019, including to source for information and provide reports on issues of interest, which were primarily on global and regional geo-political issues and developments such as issues related to Singapore, ISD said. 

He was fully aware that his handlers were working for the intelligence apparatus of a foreign state, it added. 

Yeo approached various people in Singapore who he thought would have privileged information on the issues. He also set up a front company here and placed job advertisements on social networking sites to identify potential writers and individuals for his foreign handlers.

Yeo informed the people he approached that their tasks would include doing research for various foreign clients.

“On the direction of his handlers, Yeo had also applied for sensitive government positions in order to enrich his reports with privileged policy insights and classified information. However, his attempts to secure employment in the public sector were unsuccessful,” ISD reported.

Although attempts to target Singapore or use Singaporeans as proxies to pursue the interests of foreign states are not new, ISD said that Yeo’s case demonstrates how the threat has become more pronounced with the prevalence of social media, which has made it easier for foreign intelligence services to talent-spot, groom and cultivate potential agents, even from abroad.

“The threat has manifested widely in several other countries, where retired or serving civil servants and individuals in the private sector with access to classified or sensitive information have been targeted by foreign intelligence services via social networking sites.

“Singaporeans must therefore remain vigilant to such dangers posed by foreign agents, who may use social media profiles to offer attractive business or career opportunities, or even try to obtain sensitive information,” ISD cautioned. 

Related topics

ISD Dickson Yeo Internal Security Act United States China spying Politics

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