‘Credibility is our strength’, so goes the slogan of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS), with a logo of the African fish eagle. In its mission statement, the DIS vows to be ‘a world class intelligence and security organ’ whose mission is ‘to provide quality intelligence to safeguard national security’.
Since its inception and whereas it was supposedly established to safeguard national security, the DIS has been largely perceived by the public as an organ that was established to bring more harm than good to the nation. This assertion, perceived or real, is not helped by the fact that by their nature, which has been admitted by the DIS, Intelligence organizations do not enjoy the privilege of coming out openly to interact with the public and showcase their operations and achievements as it is the case with other security agencies like the Police and the Army. The DIS was established in 2008 when President Ian Khama took over from Festus Mogae and from the onset, perceptions were created that it was established to safeguard Khama’s political interests. The DIS never really reached out to the public to make clear their mandate. One of the DIS core values reads, ‘we shall endeavour to put the needs of our country, stakeholders and customers before our individual interests. We shall serve with dedication and commitment. We shall remain patriotic and loyal to our national and organisational values’. The fact that the DIS is not allowed or has not found it befitting to appraise the nation on how they are serving “with dedication and commitment’’ has made it hard for the nation to appreciate whatever dedication and commitment the spy outfit might be serving the nation. Even where they serve the nation with dedication and commitment, the nation never gets to appreciate the efforts of the DIS because unlike the Police, they never issue out public statements detailing their work and achievements. In fact, more often, the Police take credit for the job that is done by the DIS. The DIS has made arrests in robbery, car theft, drug trafficking and several other illicit operations but thereafter hand over the culprits to the Police who are mandated to appear in the public courts of law and in the process expose their identity, something the DIS agents can’t afford to give away to the public. The operations of the DIS are shrouded in secrecy and this leaves room for negative perceptions about the organisation and its operations. The DIS agrees that they operate in secrecy as outlined in their press statement released on Monday, ‘‘The Director General has explained on numerous occasions that the work of an Intelligence organization, and this applies to all Intelligence organizations around the world, is by its nature clandestine and secretive. This was not invented for the DIS and the DIS cannot be an exception to the rule.’’ Unlike their counterparts at BDF and Police Service who are even free to showcase their equipment to the public, the DIS is forced to operate undercover.
‘‘These security agencies (Police and Army) are as a result, presented with the advantage of the public getting to know and appreciate their good deeds and achievements. Unfortunately, the DIS as a security Intelligence organization, is disadvantaged in this regard as the nature of its operations dictate that it conducts its work in a clandestine and secretive way. The need for secrecy is informed by the need to protect community contacts, sources, operational techniques and the reputations, livelihoods and future prospects of people who are investigated, some of whom may turn out not to be of security concern. This is one of the defining characteristics of all intelligence organizations anywhere in the world,’’ reads part of the statement issued out by the DIS on Monday in their effort to clear their organisation from alleged covert operations that border on political meddling. The DIS credibility is further dented by their lack of a properly constituted Public Relations Unit that can deal with public education and liaise with the media. For example, their media enquiries and rebuttals are issued from the Office of the President where the people who answer for the DIS have no clue at all on how the DIS operates. Whenever Government spokespersons, who are by the way political appointees, try to defend the DIS, they tend to plunge deeper the public perception about DIS from bad to worse. To them, any attack on the DIS is an attack on the ruling party. For instance, in the latest rebuttal on the much publicised Tholwana Borethe report, while the rebuttal seeks to distance the DIS from political interference, some of the statements in the rebuttal actually entrench the DIS into politics. ‘‘It is clear from the ongoing media frenzy about the Directorate that some local opposition politicians and their supporters masquerading as journalists, are finding it difficult to run and manage the affairs of their organizations and hope that dragging the DIS into their mess would help absolve them from being viewed as failures by those they have duped into following them with empty promises’’, the DIS rebuttal reads in part and it sounds more like a rebuttal from the ruling party because while it was supposed to address journalists who carried stories around the disputed report, it went further to lump them together with ‘‘some local opposition politicians’’. The question then becomes, what do ‘‘some local opposition politicians’’ have to do with the ‘‘ bogus report’’ when nothing substantive has been put forward to suggest they were party to the compilation of the report. What informed the DIS to believe it was opposition politicians and not ruling party politicians who gave the report to the media? Another question would be, why has the DIS not arrested the imposter who wrote the ‘bogus report’ since they have stated in their rebuttal, ‘‘The Directorate has conducted investigations on these issues and has identified the author of the bogus document that has caused the latest media feeding frenzy’’. While the DIS vows to preserve its credibility through serving “with due diligence and trustworthiness’’, their credibility test will be hard to pass for as long as the nation remains in the dark about their ‘dedication and commitment’ as espoused in their core values.