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The critical role of Intelligence services in a vibrant democracy


The 2014 general elections have come and gone.  Thanks to all stakeholders – the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the security wings, the media and the general public – the elections closed in a dignified manner, vindicating Botswana’s international ranking as a thriving democracy and oasis of peace.


The public was polarized on various pre-election issues. There was a stark apprehension, fed by frenzied media reports that, perhaps, the elections might be manipulated by the security agencies.  Despite the polar views, Batswana voted in peace – their wishes clearly expressed through the ballot,the results unanimously endorsed by leading local and international analysts as free and fair.


Generally, many analysts agree that the 2014 results reflected the country’s pre-election mood. The lack of evidence to remotely suggest that the security organs meddled with the election outcome, contrary to pre-election fears, shows how speculative media reporting that the security apparatus is there to just keep tabs on citizens can cause unnecessary alarm.


Sensational reporting by the media on intelligence security services can stigmatize the work of a country’s intelligence services, leading to dire consequences for the country’s competitiveness and overall security.


This article strives to create awareness about the essential functions of intelligence services in protecting a democratically elected government and a commercially competitive state.


The nation needs to appreciate and render support to the positive aspects of intelligence services and the challenges intelligence personnel face on the frontline when fighting various forms of threats to national security.


The importance of an intelligence system in a democracy cannot be over emphasized.There is more to intelligence services than simply keeping a political party in power. Like the 2014 elections have now shown, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party is in power today courtesy of a split of the opposition vote. Batswana demonstrated they have a voice in the affairs of the country through the ballot without any interference from any security organs contrary to public perceptions.


While the public easily accepts the police, soldiers and other security operatives, there is always a measure of mistrust and phobia when it comes to living side by side with the intelligence services, fueling a rocky relationship with debates that sometimes seem to tear the country apart.


The stigma towards security intelligence services, fueled by the media’s disdain, combines to isolate intelligence services from main stream governance functions. These factors ultimately have the potential to weaken and demoralize the fight against organized crime in the country, let alone to attract talent in this vital national undertaking.


As an integral part of governance in a modern state, Intelligence services do not necessary exist exclusively for a sitting President. Among other things, they support the policy positions of a democratically elected government. Any citizen who ascends to the highest office of the land would need efficient security wings, not only to shield the state from all forms of sophisticated crime, but also to protect an elected government to complete its mandated constitutional term of office and deliver on its policy priorities without any forms of sabotage.


In other words all state security organs, including the intelligence wings, exist together to protect the choices of the society through an elected government in power,regardless of which party that wins an election.


All democratic states worldwide, from super powers such as the United States of America to impoverished countries of the third world, retain security intelligence services to defend them against various threats to national security. Democracy as amodel of governance in itself needs to be defended and protected, not only through the ballot and the media, but by state intelligence agencies too.


The mandate of a security intelligence service therefore has a more complex and broader function of defining and developing adequate intelligence on present and future threats to national security. In any democracy such as Botswana’s, this task is carried out with due care to ensure respect for human rights and protect fundamental freedoms of nationals. Law abiding citizens should therefore never live in uncalled for fear or phobia of the intelligence wings.


In the United States of America, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is directed or authorised by Presidential statements and directives to obtain information about activities threatening American security from time to time. America has seen it all in the world of threats. Intelligence agencies in the United States require to be very vigilant, well financed and always on their toes in order to be a step ahead of a complex web of different manifestations of criminals that could bring the world’s top economy to its knees if the intelligence organs fail to function efficiently.  September 11 is a case in point.


Botswana has its own unique challenges in terms of national threats. Glaring high profile project failures in the economy give the impetus to increase the surveillance capacity of the local intelligence community in order to provide the executive timely and vital information for decision making on key national projects.


The country has lost millions of Pula in failed mega projects.The Hyundai plant, the collapse of the Fengyue glass project in Palapye and the struggling Mmamabula power project are cases which if stakeholders (executives) had engaged and fully collaborated with the intelligence community in screening partnering companies perhaps it would have yielded a different story.


Organized crime syndicates are always calibrating their schemes and it calls for a well resourced and passionate intelligence service to counter these emerging threats in the national interest.


A clearly defined mandate helps a security intelligence service to function efficiently. What must be avoided though is when the rhetoric of “national security” is used to justify clamping down on dissent and civil liberties. At the same time, the relevant legislation defining the threats to national security should be flexible and broad enough to allow a security intelligence service to scan the horizons and prepare for looming threats in the ever changing complex world of criminals. These threats may well be terrorism arising from new conflicts, or serious crime and financial fraud undermining the economy of a democratic state, or people attacking communications and computer systems.


In defining the roles of Intelligence services in a democratic state, this article deals with two forms of threats that a state intelligence system needs to define and develop strategies against. Later articles will investigate other forms of threats to national security that the intelligence services have to contend with, concluding with the relationship between the public, the media and the intelligence services.


Espionage and sabotage
With a view to protecting national security, sensitive information concerning political, economic, scientific or military affairs of the state must be kept secret. All countries have secrets that other states seek to acquire in order to advance their objectives. Any unauthorised attempt to obtain such information for a foreign power is an indication of possible espionage. Sabotage is considered as activities conducted for the purpose of endangering the safety, security or defense of vital public or private property, such as installations, structures, equipment or systems.


In countering espionage, a security intelligence service catches spies, thereby disrupting activities of hostile intelligence services.


Countering espionage is the “oldest” task of most of the world’s security intelligence services. For example, the British Security Service was set up in 1909 (it was then known as the “Secret Service Bureau”) specifically to counter the espionage threat. The FBI was founded in 1908 (it was then known as the “Special Agent Force”) to investigate particular federal crimes, but during World War I was given responsibility for espionage and sabotage.


Most intelligence experts today agree that a state can do away way with countering espionage since the majority of information can come from analyzing open sources of information such as foreign publications, broadcasts, routine diplomatic reporting and newspaper reports.


However, one category of espionage that has not declined but rather expanded is economic espionage. In the competitive global economy, acquiring scientific and technological information for the purpose of gaining an economic advantage has become increasingly important for many countries. Economic espionage is defined as the use of, or facilitation of, illegal, clandestine, coercive or deceptive means by a foreign government or its surrogates to acquire economic intelligence.
Economic espionage can expose the targeted state’s companies to unfair disadvantages, jeopardizing the jobs, competitiveness of the state, and hampering its research and development investment.


Business and governmental representatives generally agree that the cost of economic espionage activities to individual firms and the economies that host them is very expensive. Among the most sought-after information include research and development strategies, manufacturing and marketing plans, and customer lists. Information and technology that has been the target of economic espionage includes trade and pricing information, investment strategy, contract details, supplier lists, planning documents, research and development data, technical drawings and computer data-bases.


Some analysts suggest considering an international effort to ban active economic espionage by way of an international treaty that does for economic spying like what the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade aims to do for protectionism. The treaty might even actively encourage openness and the sharing of information, the better to promote scientific research, technological breakthroughs, and economic development.


However, in the light of the rise in economic-related crimes, Botswana has to transform its national requirements for security intelligence to reflect this modified threat environment. Economic security is now one of the main priorities of a security intelligence service.
While it’s easy to vilify the government for not allowing certain individuals access to the country, many countries in the world prevent certain foreign visitors, students and delegates suspected of intelligence activities from gaining access to the country. We may not know everything behind immigration choices on certain individuals.


Therefore, notwithstanding the decline in espionage and related activities after the end of the Cold War, countering espionage and sabotage must remain one of the principal tasks in the mandate of a security intelligence service. The service could also keep a careful watch on economic and industrial espionage conducted by other countries and their companies within the state and warn the domestic firms that have been targeted. Defending the state’s economic secrets can reveal interesting facts itself; if a particular country is targeting a specific industry that may indicate something about that country’s economic priorities.


The public, the media and academics need to support Botswana’s intelligence community in the fight against organized crime. There is need to call on government to increase the capacity of the intelligence system to support the development of the state. The intelligence community may fail to attract talent if it is viewed negatively. Botswana should guard against tainting its intelligence and security organ.

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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