• April 23rd, 2019
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Namibian surveillance state: A response to Frederico Links


A certain Frederico Links wrote an article, titled, ‘The rise of the Namibian Surveillance State’ which appeared twice in The Namibian newspaper – of Friday 16 February 2018 and Friday 23 February 2018. In his article, Frederico argues that, “The formalising of repressive tendencies and security creep should become major concerns on the Namibian political and democratic landscape this year as a number of proposed policy initiatives threaten to undermine a range of constitutionally enshrined human rights.” He further reported that the Namibia Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) buying CellXion’s IMSI-catcher machine, and the proposed SIM card registration regime – as major areas of concern. In my considered view, Frederico missed the point why every country has an institution of government such as NCIS and the acquisition of CellXion’s IMSI-catcher. To spy on citizen/s is the least on the priority list of execution of any progressive government. Only a predatory or failed government can spy on its citizens. Intelligence must be understood as a vital instrument of the state and a profession which satisfies a patriotic desire. Intelligence is about protecting the country and citizens from external and internal threats; it is about economic security, environmental security, social security, protecting visitors, properties and natural resources, etc. Frederico ought to focus on a broader picture of intelligence than limiting himself on spying. Although intelligence is secret by nature, a better understanding, application and relevance of intelligence in democracy and national development must be shared. In security studies, we were meant to understand that intelligence is the secret information collected about an enemy, opponent, anybody or a place. This information is discovered, discriminated to assess its reliability and accuracy and thereafter disseminated to the authority for possible action. This is a costly exercise, which requires more money and patriotic support because information is power. Without adequate relevant information forget about Vision 2030 or Harambee Prosperity Plan. If applied correctly, intelligence can provide valuable information on the best way to organize and run our democracy or development based on the best practices of other successful nations. To win the war against corruption we need intelligence. Money meant for development but which have been diverted into personal pockets can and has been recovered and recycled back into national development process because of the use of intelligence. To successfully defend the territory and national interests of Namibia requires a lot of intelligence. We can use intelligence to acquire new technology in industrial, military, investments and other areas of development. Therefore spying on individual citizens is not the primary focus of an intelligence officer/agent. The intelligence officer or “assets” are required to uphold professional ethical set standards. Namibian missions abroad must make use of a diplomatic bag/pouch and transmit useful information which can add value to Namibia’s natural resources, solve our macro-economic challenges, medical advancement, energy supply, food security, policy options, develop new products to use or sell and other innovative ways of doing things. This should be the primary focus of intelligence than spying on innocent citizens. As a democratic country, Namibia is credited for a swift, smooth and successful presidential transition from the first president, second president, to the third president and this too requires a lot of intelligence. Escalating gender-based violence, cross-border crimes, terrorism and others crimes require intelligence to lift the dark cloud of suspicion and fears of what will happen next. The authority requires information in full and on time in order to take precise decisions in the best interest of the country and its people and not individuals’ interest as suggested by Frederico. It is true, as citizens we have the right to privacy, freedom of association, freedom of expression but one might argue that we do not have absolute rights or freedoms. Our rights are limited which is equally a constitutional provision. Therefore, CellXion’s IMSI-catcher, code named as “The man-in-the-middle attack (MITM)” as popularly called at the military school has more functions than spying. It will be correct to state that Frederico’s reporting has compromised our national security and he must be cautioned, immediately, just like Minister Penda ya Ndakolo’s reckless speech in the National Assembly on the N$45 million Orupoko farm purchase, which equally compromised the security operations of the country. The minister too, must be reprimanded. His special advisor must be transferred to a non-security related ministry. Not all military or intelligence acquisitions must be made known to the public. Doing so compromises national security. As civilians, our views are civilian in nature but the fact of the matter is what is happening in Nigeria of the unfortunate missing girls, piracy in the sea, drones all over the globe and cybercrimes, can equally happen in Namibia if intelligence is not fully supported by all of us.. * Charles Siyauya holds a Master of Arts Degree in Security and Strategic Studies from the Military School: Faculty of Sciences, University of Namibia. Views expressed here are his own.
New Era Reporter
2018-03-02 09:24:36 1 years ago

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