- Violation of ISS act
- DISS; the source of “fake news”
A secret internal report by Tsosoloso Mosinki head of a Special Task Team within the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) reveals that the DISS is violating its governing legislation by meddling into partisan politics and directly undermining the Opposition.
In implementing a 3 Phase operation to discredit and destabilise the Opposition, the Report reveals that the DISS has a network of assets (spies and informers) within the media houses. The objective of the operatives, both from within “friendly media houses” and covert agents in hostile media institutions, is to advance propaganda and false information in order to undermine the Opposition as part of “Phase 2” of the DISS operations. Phase 1 ostensibly being to cause factionalism within the Umbrella Democratic Change (UDC) and in particular to target and oust Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leader Ndaba Gaolathe.
The Report, marked “Secret” and addressed to the Director General, Isaac Kgosi addresses two key points. First to protect the Botswana Democratic Party from a loss in the 2019 general elections and second to protect members of the DISS from criminal prosecution. In a politically charged assessment, which commences with an analysis of the 2014 General Election and the threat posed by the “surprise” support for the Opposition, the Report emphatically states “This is a new and a serious political development that needs to be given due attention and neutralized”.
Assessing the 2014 election results retrospectively the Special Task Force finds that the “BDP is likely to be deposed from power come 2019 General Elections. This will have serious political implications that threaten our peace and stability. The UDC is also a serious existential threat to the DISS. There is a likelihood that the UDC government will dismantle the service and possibly pursue prosecution against officers. This threat cannot be taken for granted and needs to be given due attention.”
Whilst it is not unknown for intelligence agencies to do an internal assessment of the national political environment, what is of particular concern and raises a crisis’s of Constitutional proportions is the DISS’s disregard for the rule of law and the strict legislative bar as to their involvement in political matters.
The DISS on June 19, 2017 issued a rebuttal to an article published in The Botswana Gazette implicating the spy agency in an attempted plot to undermine the integrity of Member of Parliament Biggie Butale. The spy agency stated that “The DIS is manned by professionals guided by the Intelligence and Security Service Act, 2007. Section 5(2) of the Act clearly provides that in performing its functions, ‘no act shall be performed that could give rise to any reasonable suspicion that the Directorate is concerned in furthering, protecting or undermining the interests of any particular section of the population or of any political party or other organization in Botswana’. In all allegations to the contrary, which have been levelled against the Directorate, there has never been any evidence proffered to substantiate the claims”.
The Secret Report, dated eleven days after issuing the rebuttal reveals that the DISS whilst being fully aware of the limitations imposed by legislation, has blatantly disregarded those limitations and seeks to act as a political puppeteer, controlling the political landscape to further the agenda of its own operatives.
Since attaining office President Khama has utilised weak legislative provisions to consolidate his control over the various oversight institutions by placing them under the Office of the President. The creation of the DISS in 2009, was Khama’s most ambitious achievement and placing his close confidante at its head was his greatest political coup.
In countries with a genuine democratic dispensation intelligence organisations are viewed as both a risk and a necessity. Organisations, such as the DISS can provide vital information on issues of national security, but they can also engage, as the Report reflects in unauthorized and illegal activities, by delving into the political arena with the use of subversion tactics, and manipulating intelligence for political purposes, i.e. politicization.
Expert intelligence analysis hold the view that corrupt Intelligence agencies identify their enemies based on the criticism levelled against them and the protection offered by political “friends” to their corrupt members. An agency, experts say, becomes political if it faces strong domestic criticism movement as one of its main enemies, such criticism is taken as being subversive. Agencies will cease to be politically neutral and foreign and domestic intelligence will be blurred to promote their own objectives, as a result it becomes harder for policymakers to control them. With no legislative safeguards, and reporting directly to Khama, the boundaries between intelligence and politics become obscured.
Experts find that rogue agencies routinely engage in politicization and engage in subversion when they perceive their own government as insufficiently dedicated in protecting them or when a political group seeks to target them as a whole or its members directly. Under such circumstances, in close election the agency’s principals will use the opportunity to install or maintain a government that best suits its purposes.
It is only when a spy agency is not exposed to a direct threat that it can afford to be non-political. Non-political agencies are strongly controlled by policymakers, say experts, and as a result they do not engage in subversion and become politicised.
The close relationship between Ian Khama and Isaac Kgosi, the pending corruption charges against Kgosi and the threat by the Opposition to prosecute all allegations of corruption is clearly stated by the Report as a threat to its very existence. The Report reflects the measure the intelligence agency is willing to engage in “from a threat perspective, we will be operating in a higher threat environment within range of the journalists, politicians and researchers. We must therefore have the right type and number of assets to protect the operation and also provide counter-intelligence”.
In an effort to protect itself and its members from possible prosecution the DISS has identified that “Our assessment is further that, frustrating and ultimately deposing Gaolathe from politics is plausible strategy to counter the political threat posed by the UDC.”
The manipulation of the political arena and the influencing of national elections for the benefit of one party against another by the DISS is reminiscent of the current questions pertaining to Russian interference in the American Elections that saw US President Donald Trump being voted into office. Unlike the US however the enemy of Botswana’s democracy is not a foreign state actor but an internal manipulator, the DISS.
Khama, speaking at the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress last weekend reiterated his stance on the media and endorsed President Trump’s claims on “fake news media,” claiming that if Trump wanted to find the home of fake news he ought to come to Botswana, where fake news was invented. Khama may have been right, though the only distinction would be that the source of the “fake news” is his own creation; The DISS.