This article traces the policy evolution of the South African state's civilian intelligence services from 1994 to 2009, and some of the influences the evolution has had in the post-2009 era. Three significant policy waves, coinciding with major measures to restructure the services, are identified and assessed. Each period has seen the widened definition of security, popular after the end of the Cold War, being used as the basis for policies adopted and implemented. The analysis demonstrates that there has been ostensible policy continuity from one phase to the next. However, political and security realities have given each phase its particular character. Moreover, inadequate regulation of critical policy dimensions and a failure to subject intelligence policy to ongoing review have resulted in tensions over the scope of the intelligence services' powers and the role they should play in a democratic South Africa.