What kind of spook are you? 

SHARE   |   Sunday, 14 September 2014   |   By Ephraim Keoreng

The behaviour of some intelligence operatives leaves a lot to be desired. For a long time now, they have displayed a knack for poor professionalism, recklessness, idiocy and an extreme sense of poor judgement. Botswana's civil intelligence or rather para-military intelligence has been around for quite a long time. That is if you take into consideration, the fact that there is a precursor to the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services, the Special Branch which fell under the Police Services. Before it was dismantled, this organisation was made up of professional operatives, intelligence planners, administrators and handlers among others who were not only effective but also efficient in their work. I am not claiming that they were perfect. Of course they made their own blunders. But not big mistakes as we have seen of recent! This organisation was responsible for among others, the collection and compiling of domestic intelligence on perceived potential political threats to the state, vetting people who have been earmarked for very important and strategy positions that have a bearing on the economy, management and other strategic roles pertaining to this, our Republic. This could have been to find out what one's political views were; did one have an adverse criminal record, are you of sound mind and or good judgment, are you loyal to this republic? Or to borrow the contemporary discourse as exemplified by leaders of this Republic, are you patriotic enough? You see, despite the negative connotations attached to the word patriotism as a reaction to what some people term a deep-rooted desire by political elites within the ruling party to expropriate patriotism, claiming that they hold the monopoly of patriotism or love for this country, that their love for this country is of the highest degree than anybody else's, it is very important that Batswana or citizens, have a love for their country. They should be ready to serve it and be quick to defend their Republic's interests against any others that are foreign. This is or should be a natural reaction just like the child who cries without much prodding when they want to indicate that they are hungry. So it is understandable and very necessary that whoever is appointed to important posts like ambassador, head of a parastatal, a cabinet minister, government department director, head of intelligence and security and many other state organs, be vetted. This is done through collecting data by way of conducting very thorough surveillance, shadowing the subject, to establish a lot of personal and professional factors. You need to know who are his drinking mates, how much alcohol they take, does the subject have a terminal disease; after all it will not be in the state's interest to appoint someone who will die on the job from a serious disease that they have always had or they may, because of their health condition, might be compromised by foreign elements to undertake actions that could be detrimental to the domestic and or international interests of this our great Republic. It should also be noted that the intelligence services as a profession or function of a democracy and others forms of government (including dictatorships), gained popularity or notoriety if you like during the Cold War, at a time when the world or most of it, was divided between west and east; capitalism and communism. You had the Russians, East Germans and their allies on the one side against the United States, Britain and their allies on the other side. It was a war that saw big nations like US, Russia, the two German states (East and West) fight for world hegemony; the communist community of countries led by the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republic and that of the capitalists led by the US wanting to be the world's powerful nation. This war, it should be noted, was not the traditional one, where troops were mobilised and tanks and airplanes used to bomb each other's territories. No. It was a complex one. The theatre of war was not as clearly defined. It was a war of wits. It was, thus, an intelligence war! Security specialists posit that the Cold War was itself the defining moment for the intelligence community. This was a time when espionage was at its highest pinnacle. Intelligence gathering was profound. The spies were hard at work. Their stock in trade was secrets.  Espionage, after all, means obtaining information through clandestine means. State secrets, especially on military and technological advancement were obtained covertly. The likes of the British’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), popularly known as MI6, the infamous Central Intelligence Agency of the Americans and the notorious Russian foreign intelligence gathering agency, KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoj Bezopasnosti or Committee for State Security), precursor to the Federal Security Bureau and others were players in the spy warfare that was commonly known as the Cold War. This serves as a good example on what the proper function of a state intelligence agency should be. It should not be to go around harassing journalists who are doing their job. It is still shameful and unbelievable that some of the officers seen carrying a computer from the office of the Sunday Standard Editor, Outsa Mokone following his arrest, are said to be secret agents.  What is even worse is that these people are supposed to operate undercover and not be openly seen and photographed carrying computers like some labourers.  For God’s sake, they are not called spooks for the fun of it. This entails the fact that they operate beyond the scrutiny of the public. So it is quite disturbing that the people who are supposed to be taking care of our security are not willing to live by the dictates of their profession. Why do they have this penchant for glamour? They appear mostly like attention-starved third rated artists than spooks. This is very immature and unprofessional. At one point some secret agents, on a mission to either get a Zimbabwean national who was either deemed a criminal or an undesirable element by these people blew up in their face as one of the officers ended up fatally shooting a colleague. It is quite perplexing that two spies sent on a mission to get an unarmed man could lead to such a silly mistake. This goes on to show that there is need for something to be done to improve on the training of spies. A state spy agency is very important as it plays an important role in ensuring that the country is protected against economic, political and technological sabotage. It should have a capacity in terms of human resources and logistics, to detect and respond to threats and or send warning of impending threats so that the country is ready against them.  It is most important that they understand what their mandate is. Public perception is very important. As a public institution, that exists, in principle for the best interests of the public, it is quite prudent that a state intelligence agency should have and enjoy the approval and confidence of the public it purports to serve. However, our local spooks always keep going out of their way to earn the wrath of the public through various misdemeanours, most of which, happen while they are on duty. I personally, do not have qualms with spies putting a subject on surveillance, to gather information about the person so as to ‘profile’ them and have a clear picture of the subject. That is, after all one of the ways to do this job. However, it is quite disdainful and tactless for intelligence officers to tail you without making any efforts to hide their presence. There are stories of how some would tell you that they have put you on surveillance. Recently, one of our journalists experienced what is perhaps one of his most frightening ordeals, courtesy of two unprofessional spooks. They took him aside and started questioning him about an investigative story that has been working on. The two goons sought to know who our reporter’s sources are. When he told them that he did not know what they were talking about and that he needed to get back into the hall where he was attending an event on assignment, they bluntly told him they will wait for him to finish and continue with the ‘cross-examination’. This is a clear example of unprofessional behaviour, showing that they are clueless about what they are supposed to do or how to source for information. You do not approach the target of your investigation and tell them what your intents are, especially a journalist! That is outright silly. You expect a spy to be witty, chameleon-like, thus easily camouflaging in an environment to stay unseen, not to come out and announce themselves and intents to someone who definitely has no interest in giving information. An intelligence officer should be in a position to analyse a situation or a target and devise ways of getting information without attracting unnecessary attention. 

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