Tuesday, September 22, 2020

A closer look at the national intelligence agency

While I appreciate the concerns raised by some civic leaders and politicians, I find it proper and just to make a brief clarification on national intelligence, its functions and benefits to our country. The institution is necessary.

Firstly, let us look around ourselves. All the countries that surround us have state intelligence. That is, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We must, at all times, know what is happening around us.

Though it is important to have that organ, it is equally important to educate Botswana society on the importance of national intelligence so as to allay unnecessary fears and perceptions.

Society needs to be educated so as to avoid wrong perceptions towards the directorate. Perceptions are usually the result of a legacy of fear among large segments of society, regarding the possibility of military or intelligence intervention in the state politics. Fears can be traced to three unique similarities between the military and intelligence, thus:

Historical experience
Professional values and
Ability to intervene in state politics

In Botswana, violent intelligence and military intervention in our politics is non-existent, never existed and a remote problem. Our military and political leaders have remained disciplined for as long as our politics and military have existed, there is not even a sign of that changing.

The role of national intelligence is mostly and prevalently focused in collecting information on international trade, fighting and countering terrorism, high profile crime syndicates, following origins of international relations, etc.

It is mostly focused on issues of national interest, of high profile, not “petty” issues that can be attended to by CID, special Branch, Serious Crime Squad, Military Intelligence and other existing organs. There must be interaction between Intelligence Agency and Policymakers. On the surface, there should be no significant differences between the role of Intelligence directorate and other professional groups, such as diplomats or economists that also participate in the national policy making process.

The services of State Intelligence are separated into three main categories. That is:

Foreign Intelligence
Counter Intelligence
Convert Action

1. Foreign Intelligence

Means the collection of information, normally but not exclusively by clandestine means, commonly known as espionage, this activity is designed and intended to acquire information while simultaneously preventing the “target” from realizing that information has been acquired. Successful espionage benefits the country, since policy then can be made without alerting the “target” to the collectors’ knowledge.

2. Counter Intelligence

Focuses on protection of the country’s sources of information from penetration by foreign intelligence services. It is by far the most arcane (secretive) function of the clandestine service.

3. Covert Action

Unlike foreign intelligence, covert action, attempts to implement the policy decisions ÔÇô NB: not every policy decision involves the use of covert action, but covert action offers a number of diverse options for policymakers. (Covert action means intervention in the political and social activities of other international actors.)

Intelligence production and covert actions, including foreign intelligence collection are vital to a viable, realistic national security policy posture. The Intelligence Agency performs several crucial and necessary functions in the national security process. Foreign Intelligence collection provides knowledge of the structure, substance, and dynamic of the policy environment.

In conclusion, I would like to advice those who, for political gain, want to attach the formation of National Intelligence Agency to the Vice President that they are misled. During my 15 years of service in the employ of BDF and in particular, Military Intelligence, Khama has never always been interested in the welfare of subordinates. I personally know him as a humble, honest and light-hearted individual. A good listener and always willing to help the needy.

Those who have the fear that the formation of the Directorate might be his initiative, PLEASE RELAX!! The directorate, as it is our tradition in Botswana, will be guided by the country’s constitution. The investigations will be within the constitutional rights of individuals; they will not operate within in an open-cheque system. There is also obviously going to be an executive and legislative monitoring system that will watch the Agency.

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Read this week's paper

The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.