Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

Botswana: Intelligence Big Brother is Coming

After several denials, the government has finally confirmed that it intends to establish a Directorate of Intelligence and Security.

Bill number 23 of 2006 published in the Government Gazette of November 3 states that a Central Intelligence Committee, a National Intelligence Community and a Security Council will have oversight over the directorate. The bill says it has become necessary to establish the new structures because the regional and global environment has changed necessitating a review of Botswana's approach to security concerns.

"Botswana faces a number of threats or potential threats to its national security, political systems and its economy, all of which may be destabilised through subversive activities from the country's detractors," the bill says.

The Directorate of Intelligence and Security will be headed by a Director General under the Office of the President. Some of the functions of the directorate will be provision of personal protection to the President, Vice President and their immediate families; and former presidents and their spouses.

The directorate will be empowered to arrest a person without warrant if there is reasonable suspicion that the person has committed or is about to commit an offence covered under the bill. Any person who threatens to kill, kidnap or inflict bodily harm upon the President, the Vice President, a former president or their immediate families shall be guilty of an offence under the bill.

The primary role of the directorate will be to investigate, gather, coordinate, evaluate, correlate, interpret, disseminate and store information whether inside or outside Botswana for the purpose of detecting and identifying threats or potential threats to national security. It will advise government and public, and statutory bodies on the protection of vital installations and classified documents. It will carry out security vetting and clearance of persons who hold certain posts or who have or may have access to any sensitive or classified information.

The directorate shall make recommendations to the president in connection with policies concerning intelligence and security.

Under the bill, words such as classified information, national security, intelligence and security clearance might make the difference between what is appropriate action and what is not. The bill says information of such sensitive nature and value that the unauthorised publication or disclosure would lead to the security risk being posed to the state shall deemed as classified. It says intelligence is any information that relates to or may be relevant to any internal or external threat or potential threat to national security in any field.

In the letter and spirit of the bill, people would need security clearance to access certain information. Security clearance is defined in the bill as authorisation entitling a person to have access to information of a determined sensitivity or classification.

The intended act to come from the bill has copious explanation of what constitutes national security. Some of these are activities relate to espionage, terrorism or subversion or intention to engage in such activity directed against the interest of Botswana. But such activity will not include any lawful advocacy, protest or dissent not performed with subversive activity; or any activity directed at undermining or intended to overthrow the government; or a foreign influenced activity within or related to Botswana and adjudged to be detrimental to the interests of Botswana. Officers of the directorate will carry and use firearms.

"Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any other law, intelligence and personal protection officers, may carry and use such firearms as may be prescribed and may in the course of their duties, use such arms in circumstances where the use of the arms is necessary and reasonably justifiable."

The same bill seeks to establish the Central Intelligence Committee, which shall consist of the President, Vice President, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Private Secretary to the President (PSP) and representative from the Attorney General, the Director General of Security and Intelligence, Commissioner of Police and commander of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF). The committee will guide the directorate on all matters related to national security and intelligence and approve intelligence and security assessments. The other oversight institution, the National Intelligence Community will be chaired by the Director General of Security and Intelligence. It will have representation from the Crime Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), immigration and Botswana Unified Revenue Services. The committee is meant to review and coordinate intelligence and ensure that there is inter-agency exchange of information.

The third oversight body, the Intelligence and Security Council will consist of the PSP, Attorney General, the Director General of Security and Intelligence and his deputy. The council will review intelligence policies and activities and to examine expenditure, administration and complaints levelled against the directorate.

It is not stated how the existing intelligence structures under the police and the military will relate to the new superstructure. But it is believed they will be swallowed by the new body.

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