Sunday, March 3, 2024

DIS surveillance stripping opposition politicians stark naked

Botswana’s opposition politicians are sitting ducks for the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) state-of-the-art electronic eavesdropping equipment which enables the spy agency to listen in on any form of communication.

To reveal the extent of the surveillance activities being undertaken by the DIS, the Sunday Standard presents for the first time an insight into the secretive high-tech spy gear and computer systems surveillance complex that is now being deployed by the spy outfit in their operation to save the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) from losing the 2019 General elections.

The intensely private DIS finds itself under the spotlight it has never been under before, as its methods and practices come under unprecedented scrutiny, thanks to the release last week of files on its Tholwana Borethe black programme.

The DIS with a personnel strength estimated at 3 000 has one of the most powerful technical capabilities in the region which includes the Verint Engage GI2 Off-Air Interception system.

This enables interception, filter and analysis of GSM and UMTS (3G) mobiles, IP networks, Wi-fi networks and ADSL lines. The DIS also boast cutting edge  Verint Info-analytics Capability which enables the spy agency to compromise security credentials of Facebook (inbox) Twitter Instagram and LinkedIn. The DIS has also invested in XRY & CelleBrite-UFED Systems Capabilities for physical logical extraction of data; Apps data, Passwords & lock patterns, IM (instant messaging), Contacts SMS & MMS, Emails, Multimedia, Call logs, Phone, Details (IMEI/ESN), ICCID and IMSI, SIM location, Information (TMIS, MCC, MNC, LAC) and Forensic cloning of SIM ID to isolate the phone from network activity during analysis.

Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Secretary General Kentse Rammidi and former youth league president Chilliboy Rakgare were this week contemplating legal action against the DIS after the Sunday Standard intercepted a secret document revealing that the spy agency has been eavesdropping on their conversation.

The Sunday Standard has in its possession a DIS secret document detailing the conversation between the two BCP activists plotting how they could exploit the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) infighting to further the BCP political agenda.

The DIS also has at its disposal sophisticated state-of-the-art TETRA network systems designed by Motorola. With its avant-garde acquisitions, the spy agency can share information without any interruption and set up instantaneous calls (in less than one second). During voice calls, their communications are not interrupted even when moving to another network site and so-called “mission critical” networks can be built where all aspects are fail-safe/multiple-redundant. A 12-page Special Access Programme (SAP) document, authored by the DIS Director of Special Task Team, Tsosoloso Mosinki for the DIS Director General Isaac Kgosi, maps out in detail how the spy agency strengthened its electronic warfare capability to ensure secure and efficient handling of classified information under Operation Tholwana-Borethe.

The DIS upgraded its “Communication and Information Systems (CIS) to offer “operational support” for the covert weakening of Ndaba Gaolathe and the BMD. The DIS also enhanced its logistic facilities “to refine our logistic support arrangements for the operation”.

When the report was written on June 28, 2016, Operation Tholwana Borethe was already in motion and the STT Director was briefing the DIS Director General on progress in moving on to the next phase of the operation, Phase 2B.

At the time of writing the “secret” document, a copy of which has been passed to the Sunday Standard, the TETRA network roll out for DIS had already covered installations of 90 base stations all across the Republic of Botswana. The base stations have been manufactured by Motorola ÔÇô namely 88 base stations and MTS2 and 2 base stations are MTS4. The total number of transmitters on base stations was 88x 2+2 x 4 = 184.

“The analyses of the coverage prediction show that there has to be at least 10 different frequency patterns for two transmitter base stations in order to avoid interference in Gaborone Area. BOCRA initially suggested the frequency band around 389/399 MHz and made reservations on 15 frequencies, starting with 389.5875/399.5875 and finishing with 289.9500/399.9500 MHz,” states Mosinki. The DIS Director of Special Task Team proposed that BOCRA be told to add five more frequencies “to make the system interference-free and self-sufficient in regards to frequency assignments. The Communication and Information System (CIS) architecture will follow the higher to lower principle where any higher operative in the chain of command will be responsible for providing CIS at that level and links down to its subordinate level.

The mission system and the primary means of communication is the MTC 100 TETRA handheld computer capable of timely and efficient exchange of classified information (up to secret).

The report further suggests that the DIS had already set up black sites for Operation Tholwana-Borethe. In intelligence terminology, a black site is a location at which an unacknowledged black project is conducted.  

The DIS Director of Special Task Team informed the spy boss that: “We have continued to develop and refine our logistic support arrangements for the operation in line with the activities conducted by the force and phase of the operation.


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