Under Surveillance: Government Agencies spying on Kenyans

Kenya security agencies are spying on Kenyan’s phones as a way to counter terrorism, Privacy International reports.

According to the report, Track, Capture, Kill, security agencies intimidate telecommunications companies to spy on individuals, using terrorist attacks and the 2007/08 Post Election Violence as a basis.

“Communications surveillance is being carried out by Kenyan state actors, essentially without oversight, outside of the procedures required by Kenyan laws,” the report states.

Some of the agencies mentioned in the report include the National Intelligence Service, (NIS), Communication Authority (CA), and the police.  The NIS is said to have direct access to communication networks across Kenya.

“This direct access means that the network operator itself has little to no knowledge of the interception of communications occurring on its network, and therefore no real ability to check these powers or report potentially abusive use of communications surveillance powers.”

The UK-based firm collected data in 2016 by interviewing a number of people.

“Privacy International interviewed and/or reviewed testimony of 57 individuals for this investigation, and two forthcoming investigations. Of these, 32 were law enforcement, military or intelligence officers either currently serving or who recently left the service. The remaining interviewees included prosecution and defense lawyers, telecommunications network operator employees, Communication Authority staff, security professionals, and families of disappeared Kenyans.”

From these interviews, it is indicated that the NIS officials infiltrate telecommunication agencies and that they are hooked to the backbone of the infrastructure, where they can listen in to flagged individuals’ calls.

“Once we get a red light on this particular person,” stated one NIS agent, “we try checking the contents of his conversation. If it’s trash we just discard it. If it’s something of interest, we make a move and follow it up,” one respondent said.

It is from such surveillance that terrorism suspects are tracked, investigated, arrested, and killed.

“It is unclear whether the interception of this information is subject to prior judicial approval, though several sources indicate that it is generally not,” the report adds.

It further recommends the Independent Policing Oversight Authority  (IPOA) investigate the police officers involved in this and the role of communication surveillance in the arrest, torture and murder of suspects and other human rights violations.

To the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, the report recommends that they investigate the illegal interceptions of communication. The Inspector General of police has been advised to audit police operations guided by communications surveillance and to cooperate with investigations conducted by IPOA and implement its recommendations.

The report also places onto the government the onus of reforming the legislation governing communications surveillance  and of clarifying to telecoms their freedom to provide communication data.


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