Monday, September 28, 2020

Israel absolves Botswana on misuse of Spy Machines

Despite previous claims by some politicians, Botswana has been listed amongst the countries that have been absolved from mis-using spying equipment precisely on eavesdropping on its citizens.

An online edition of Haaretz newspaper spanning 100 sources in 15 countries indicated that though Botswana was a beneficiary of  Israel Spy Industry the equipment purchased from Israel were used for anti poaching as opposed  to other countries that were  using spy equipment to eavesdrop on human rights activists, monitor emails, hack into apps and record conversation.

According to Haaretz the spy equipment that Botswana purchased were used for anti poaching while a number of countries in Africa such as Mozambique and Sudan used the equipment for eavesdropping on citizens.

Israel Spy Industry counts Botswana as one of their customers since Botswana has been spending millions acquiring spy equipment from the Israel Spy industry.

The Telegraph reported last year that Botswana government was in secret talks with Israeli cellular phone reverse engineers elite hackers and vulnerability researchers – Cellebrite Mobile Synchronization Ltd – as part of a plan to build a huge surveillance complex in Botswana.

It further stated that a Botswana Police Crime Intelligence Branch (CRIB) comprising head of the branch Nunu Lesetedi, Assistant Commissioner of Police Technical and Cyber Intelligence Kealeboga Keeditse and Cyber Intelligence and Forensic Officer Nonofo Dichabe went to Israel to negotiate a cooperation agreement with the Israeli company.

According to the agreement the Botswana government and Cellebrite, the Israeli company was to set up a mobile forensic laboratory in Gaborone for CRIB, the Botswana Crime Intelligence Branch.

Both the DISS and CRIB also have business dealings with Verint, the Israeli company that provides monitoring and intercept capabilities to service providers and government organizations. Verint has in the past been implicated in an American eavesdropping scandal after it allegedly bugged the US telecommunications grid for the American National Security Agency (NSA).

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party also engaged the services of Israeli company, Timor Consulting to help them win the 2014 general elections. The Israeli company was allegedly recommended to BDP by the DISS.

According to Haaretz  ,Africa was a flourishing arena for Israeli espionage equipment. Two sources who were involved in Verint projects confirmed to Haaretz that systems relating to communications interception were sold to Swaziland, which has gained the dubious distinction of being “the last absolutist monarchy in Africa.” Our investigation found that Israeli companies sold espionage and intelligence capabilities to eight countries on the continent.

Botswana was among countries such as Angola, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Nigeria, Swaziland and Uganda that concluded trasactions with Israel spy companies.

Though Haaretz is not linking the spy gadgets bought in Botswana to unethical conduct the spy agencies have been accused for eavesdropping on politicians and union leaders in Botswana.

Prior to elections the opposition parties had complained that the intelligence were using the equipment to listen to opposition during former President Ian Khama regime.

According to Haaretz the most disturbing case is South Sudan, the young country founded in 2011. Two years after it gained independence, a vicious civil war erupted in the country, in which war crimes, including massacres and systematic rape were perpetrated by all the parties involved. As early as 2016 the United Nations stated that Israeli companies were selling equipment to South Sudan that was used for eavesdropping on opponents of the regime. Now, three sources confirmed that Verint supplied espionage means to the country, and two of them were able to say that the equipment was used in a monitoring center.

A comprehensive investigation carried out by Haaretz, based on about 100 sources in 15 countries, had as its aim lifting the veil of secrecy from commerce based on means of espionage. The findings show that Israeli industry have not hesitated to sell offensive capabilities to many countries that lack a strong democratic tradition, even when they have no way to ascertain whether the items sold were being used to violate the rights of civilians. The testimonies show that the Israeli equipment has been used to locate and detain human rights activists, persecute members of the LGBT community, silence citizens who were critical of their government and even to fabricate cases of blasphemy against Islam in Muslim countries that don’t maintain formal relations with Israel. The Haaretz investigation also found that Israeli firms continued to sell espionage products even when it was revealed publicly that the equipment was used for malicious purposes.

Private Israeli companies, the investigation discovered, have sold espionage and intelligence-gathering software to Bahrain, Indonesia, Angola, Mozambique, the Dominican Republic, Azerbaijan, Swaziland, Botswana, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Panama and Nicaragua. In addition, the investigation corroborated earlier reports over the years about sales to Malaysia, Vietnam, Mexico, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, Peru, Colombia, Uganda, Nigeria, Ecuador and United Arab Emirates.

The systems of the Verint company assisted in the effort to stop abductions in Mozambique and in a campaign against poaching in Botswana.

Haaretz indicated that though sources who worked with Verint products in Mozambique and Botswana encountered only legitimate projects, instructors of agencies in Azerbaijan and Indonesia related that the firm’s products were used maliciously. The Haaretz further stated that in some countries the equipments were used to find out sexual inclinations and further used for persecuting gay community. In one case, the systems were used to create a database of LGBT rights activists who had been targeted for surveillance.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.