Thursday, March 4, 2021

Intelligence phone data spying probe opens can of worms

A Botswana Defence Force (BDF) investigation into the missing military intelligence phone data spying equipment and GSM jammers is expected to open a can of worms on how the government enclave maybe conniving with DIS and MI officers to illegally jam citizen cellular phones and spy on phone data.

Commanding officer of the BDF Ground Forces Brigadier Peter Magosi and former military intelligence spy Dzikimani Mothobi have been summoned to appear on Tuesday before a board of enquiry “which has been convened to investigate circumstances which led to the disappearance of some electronic gadgets from Military Intelligence Unit stores between 2006 and 2012”, states a letter from the board presiding officer, Major General Mashinyana. Among those called to testify before the board of inquiry are Permanent Secretary to the President Eric Molale and head of Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) Isaac Kgosi. The inquiry is expected to reveal the extent to which Molale and Kgosi may have been involved in the illegal use of GSM jammers and phone data spying equipment and the role they played in the alleged disappearance of the equipment.

The use of GSM jammers is illegal in Botswana and the Ministry of Defence Justice and Security is currently embroiled in a controversy after it emerged that last month the ministry passed a request through parliament for a budget to purchase the jammers. The Board of Enquiry convening order which has been passed to the Sunday Standard, however, revealed that the military intelligence has had the illegal equipment for close to 10 years now. In what is probably the country’s biggest privacy scandal so far, the convening order also revealed that the Military Intelligence also has Cellebrites phone data spying equipment which enables them to hack cellular phones and tap most sensitive data, including contact lists, SMS traffic, notes and location information about where a user has been.

Call history, text messages, internet history, bookmarks and even hidden or encrypted data is no match for the CelleBrite UFED. Also summoned to testify before the Board of Inquiry are Colonel Bana Pilane who was head of military intelligence at the time and the ColonelCullen Nkete who is the current head of Military Intelligence.

According to the Board of Inquiry convening order the inquiry is to rep[ort on the following matters: “Whether any GSM jammers and Cellebrites are missing from the Military Intelligence inventory and if so, establish the circumstances leading to the loss of the equipment and the effort to recover same “Whether there are laid down procedures for the storage and accountability of GSM jammers and Cellebrites at MI and whether the procedures are followed and if not, why? Among other things, the inquiry will “establish the cost of the missing GSM jammers and Cellebrites”, and to express opinion on any matters related to the missing equipment arising from the inquiry.” Magosi has instructed Dick Bayford of Bayford and Associates to represent him at the Inquiry while Mothobi has instructed Onalethata Kambai of Kambai Attorneys.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper