Privacy International, a UK charity, has published a new investigation into state surveillance in Kenya. The report, entitled ‘Track, Capture, Kill: Inside Communications Surveillance and Counterterrorism in Kenya’ uncovers the surveillance techniques of Kenya’s police and intelligence agencies’.
The report argues that under the pretext of “counter-terrorism” gross human rights violations have been committed including unjust arrests, torture and disappearances.
The report specifically highlights what it says are the ‘routine unregulated intelligence sharing between government agencies’ in Kenya.
The investigation was based on testimony taken from dozens of current and former law enforcement, military and intelligence personnel.
‘Inside Communications Surveillance and Counterterrorism in Kenya’: The Key Revelations:
- Communications surveillance is being carried out by Kenyan state actors, essentially without oversight, outside of the procedures required by Kenyan laws. Intercepted communications content and data are used to facilitate gross human rights abuses – to spy on, profile, locate, track and ultimately arrest, torture, kill or ‘disappear’ suspects.
- Intelligence gained by intercepting phone communications, primarily by the National Intelligence Service (NIS), is regularly shared with units of the police to carry out counter-terrorism operations, particularly the GSU-Recce company and Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU). These police units have well-documented records of abuses including torture and extrajudicial killing
- Despite constitutional and other privacy protections, telecommunications operators regularly hand over customer data to both intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Sources who spoke with PI feel that they cannot decline agencies’ requests.
- The NIS appears to have direct access to communication networks across Kenya. Direct access means an actor has backdoor access the phone communications that flow through service providers. In this case, it is unlikely that the network operators had knowledge of the state’s interception.
- NIS officers use various techniques to access both call content and call data records, including using mobile interception devices. Further methods are documented in the report.
- Law enforcement agents are present within telecommunications operators’ facilities with the providers’ knowledge. NIS are also informally present in the telecommunication operators’ facilities, apparently undercover, according to current and former telecommunications, Communications Authority and NIS staff interviewed by Privacy International. This investigation details both the ‘above the board’ and informal practices. Agency and company responses to requests for comment by Privacy International are included in the report.
- In advance of the August 2017 Presidential elections, the Communications Authority has launched several disturbing initiatives, including a project to monitor social media content, whose potential capacities are discussed in this report.
THE KENYAN GOVERNMENT’S UNCONTROLLED POWERS OF SURVEILLANCE
Dr Gus Hosein, Executive Director of Privacy International said:
“This report lifts the lid on the Kenyan government’s uncontrolled powers of surveillance, by collecting unprecedented testimony from current and former law enforcement, military, and intelligence personnel.
“Communications surveillance in Kenya is conducted outside any effective regulatory oversight. The National Intelligence Service (NIS) in particular is operating outside of any meaningful constraints on its far-reaching surveillance powers. Our sources informed us that sensitive surveillance data is shared with police units, including the GSU-Recce company and Anti-Terrorism Police Unit, and used in counter-terrorism operations in which suspects are routinely and gravely mistreated. Surveillance is facilitating the violation of rights guaranteed by the Kenyan constitution: freedom from torture; cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; and the right to a fair trial.
“The spectre of highly intrusive surveillance can create a chilling effect on freedom of assembly and speech in the run up to elections. In these times of uncertainty and insecurity in Kenya, the practice of communications surveillance must be reformed to uphold the rule of law, and instill public confidence that the government respects the constitution and fundamental human rights.”