Econet SMS Issue – National Security Story

Harare, – (The Herald/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) ON December 17, 2009, The Herald Business section published a story based on a Press release by Econet Wireless Zimbabwe.\r\n

The statement concerned an apparent plot by persons allegedly at the just-ended Fifth National Congress of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front to destabilise the congress through sms message first sent to Sweden and then broadcast back to delegates.

What has interested me about this story is its treatment, its framing as a business item restricted to the business section of the paper.

This was a national security story and citizens should be concerned that it has not yet been treated as such by our media. It is obvious, however, that the story took place in a much bigger context which citizens of Zimbabwe may ignore at their own risk.

This is the context of similar violations of national and international law by illegal regime change forces, including the following violations: Illegal radio broadcasts sponsored by the British, US and Dutch governments and facilitated by the governments of Botswana and Madagascar.

Illegal publications proliferating on the streets of our cities, based on foreign slush funds and criminally defaming both individuals and institutions who are at a loss as to who and where they can sue and obtain redress or compensation. Efforts by the Minister of Finance Mr Tendai Biti to alter media and telecommunications law by smuggling amendments through the budgetary process and thereby by-passing the relevant constitutional authorities and mandated ministries.

General propaganda statements issued through Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office about a poorly conceived and poorly understood "opening up of media space to allow free-flow of information" which ironically is not supported by commensurate budgetary support to the relevant ministries or departments constitutionally charged with responsibility for such "reform".

Restrictions on Zimbabwe’s access to electronic detection and surveillance devices which would enable regulators security agents to verify independently what Econet alleges to have happened with the bulk sms messages.

The technology which is needed to police telecommunications and broadcast operations has been banned and denied to Zimbabwe under illegal sanctions by the very same Anglo-Saxon powers who are instigating the MDC formations to demand a blanket opening up of the information communications sector. What this context implies is that the assurances which Econet is giving the nation should be coming from a constitutionally mandated national security or regulatory agency treating what happened as a national security breach.

Those familiar with the US Patriot Act know that Section 105 says: "The Director of the US Secret Service shall take appropriate actions to develop a national network of electronic crime task forces . . . throughout the United States, for the purpose of preventing, detecting, and investigating various forms of electronic crimes, including potential terrorist attacks against critical infrastructure and financial payment systems." In other words there is no separation between commercial concerns and security concerns in the US Patriot Act.

Sections 214 to 216 deal specifically with the management and regulation of the specific pen registers and "tap and trace" devices needed to obtain "non-content" information when it is suspected that certain calls, electronic transmissions or broadcasts have violated security requirements and the law.

In the case of the bulk sms messages, the focus for these investigative devices would be to identify the originators of the sms messages, to identify the types of devices employed, to indentify the destinations in and out of Zimbabwe.

Section 216 of the Patriot Act requires "non content" identification of cellular telephone number; specific cellular telephone identified by its electronic serial number ; an Internet user account or e-mail address; or an Internet Protocol address, port number or similar computer network address or range of addresses.

Is it true, for instance, that the bulk sms messages originated from the Harare International Conference Centre where the Zanu-PF congress was taking place or did some other clandestine centre and source steal details which would make it look as if the messages came from the congress?

The Econet statement concluded by saying: "There is no operator anywhere in the world who allows an outside party to bombard its customers with sms messages, irrespective of the contents of the sms. It does not happen in Britain, or America or Sweden.

It is illegal, and an abuse of the system." In the context in which I have said the incident should be debated, citizens of Zimbabwe should realise that they have been subjected to illegal processes and criminal assaults for the last ten years, the biggest of that process being illegal economic sanctions which require for their justification another illegal process of criminally defaming the country, its government and its people through media lies.

The National Defence University’s Directorate of Advanced Concepts, Technologies and Information Strategies and the School of Information Warfare and Strategy of the United States recently carried out a study of the legal implications of information warfare.

One of the conclusions of that study is worth citing at length because it reveals the attitude of the US establishment, not only with regard to information aggression, but also with regard to the illegal sanctions which the US maintains against Zimbabwe to this day.

The study says: "The International Frequency Regulation Board of the ITU allocates the electromagnetic spectrum to prevent interference (by one country in another’s space.) Even military installations must observe the non-interference requirement. Additionally, offshore radio stations are banned, and states may not carry out the transmissions of false or misleading signals . . .

"The afore-mentioned provisions would seem to block the disruption or spoofing of adversaries’ telecommunications, but in practice they may not. First, the rules against interference do not apply between belligerents (countries at war), so wartime communications are fair game.

"Second, (and note) even in peacetime, violation of the ITU rules and regulations may have limited repercussions, especially for a country as significant in international telecommunications as the United States. The IFRB is more of a coordinating body than a regulatory agency, and it has no actual authority to enforce its decisions; rather, countries respect its edicts against interference so that their own communications will be similarly protected.

"Even if international sanctions appeared likely, the United States might decide that the risks it faced from external interference would not outweigh its need to conduct (illegal) operations against a particular adversary."

If we interpret this long piece of advice to the US government in terms of Zimbabwe’s experience, it means that the US is a rogue state and bully. It may choose to treat a country and a people as if they were at war with it, but without coming out to declare and justify that war in terms of international law. The United States may respect ITU and IFRB rules only in those cases where the other state has the capacity to retaliate.

Since Zimbabwe is a small country with no time, resources or desire to fight the US, the US will get away, as a rogue and bully, with both illegal sanctions and illegal information warfare against that small nation. Instead of a proper declaration of war and sanctions through the UN, the British, EU and US have imposed their illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe through press conferences and press releases.

That is what happened on 20 August 2002 when, in Washington DC, US Assistant Secretary of State Walter Kansteiner announced that the US government no longer recognised the Government of Zimbabwe under President Robert because the citizens of Zimbabwe had voted wrongly in presidential elections.

They should have elected Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC instead of President Mugabe. Kansteiner instructed "the body politic of Zimbabwe to go forward and correct that situation" outside elections and outside the constitution.

And the illegal and racist sanctions were intensified to move the people in the direction required by the US and its white allies.

This call was repeated by US Secretary of State Colin Powell in a New York Times article the following year, 2003.

According to Powell: "There is a way out" of the illegal sanctions. "With President Mugabe gone, with a transitional government in place (based on US instructions) and with a date fixed for new elections (to suit US stooges in MDC), Zimbabweans of all descriptions would, I believe, come together to begin the process of rebuilding their country (from the ashes of illegal sanctions.) If this happened, the United States would be quick to pledge generous assistance to the restoration of Zimbabwe’s political and economic institutions even before the election.

Other donors, I am sure, would be close behind." This is the hoax which convinced the MDC formations to promise Zimbabweans, yet again in March 2008, that they had "rich donors" who would pour tens of billions dollars into Zimbabwe and effect a miraculous recovery of the economy after its deliberate destruction through illegal sanctions requested by the same party.

Much of that destruction happened, and is still happening, through various forms of information warfare. But the promised massive economic assistance from the west will never come. If Zimbabweans want proof, they should ask Nicaraguans, Haitians, Serbians and many other nations who were promised the same long ago.

On 20 November 2008, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Dr Gideon Gono held a Press conference at which he tried to explain to the public the shocking experiences which people have endured at the banks, in supermarkets and elsewhere, shocking experiences which are caused by hyperinflation which shows itself in the form of shortages of cash, escalating prices, dollarisation and the destruction of the national currency.

The RBZ Governor suggested that the shocking developments which people had experienced for a long time now are related to the illegal sanctions imposed on the country by the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union and their allies; related to regime change politics; and related to psychological war as well as corruption and greed.

As we have tried to demonstrate in previous instalments, the imposition of illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe devastated society and the economy by increasing opportunities for illegal activity.

Under illegal sanctions it becomes difficult to separate illegal activities that are motivated by regime change-related espionage and destabilisation from those caused by sheer greed, from those caused through incompetence and ignorance. Likewise, illegal regime change as the overall objective of the British and their external allies and internal proxies remains confusing because it requires the use of any and all forms of destabilisation short of military invasion.

As Ludo Martens pointed out, quoting the French specialist Colonel Trinquier: "Today war is a whole consisting of actions of all kinds, political, social, economic, psychological, armed . . . which aim to overthrow established power in a country." This is the meaning of regime change. But underneath that umbrella of regime change, there are various planks or fronts: economic sanctions; psychological war or propaganda; information warfare; and financial warfare.

All these may be used to open the way for an eventual military invasion, which at the beginning is seen as difficult or impossible and may be, therefore, the real reason for employing other means at first. Zimbabwe is a typical example of the sort of country where the regime change sponsors have thought of mounting a military invasion, or sponsoring acts of banditry and violent uprisings, without success.

The failure of these options has been due mainly to the people’s recent experience and memory of the liberation struggle and due to the strength and professional discipline of the national security establishment. Therefore the chosen war fronts for regime change have been psychological war, information warfare, economic sanctions and financial warfare. While the New Labour Government of Britain has been the most open about the desire for a military invasion, the US State Department has been more open about financial warfare, information warfare and psychological war.

The speech which former US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell gave at Africa University in Mutare on 2 November 2005 was entitled "Plain Talk About the Zimbabwean Economy" and it served to launch the planning phase of the financial warfare, four years after the passage of the US sanctions law, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act.

When the plans for the financial warfare were in place toward the end of 2007, Ambassador Dell gave another speech in Bulawayo in which he set a hyperinflation target of 1 800 000 per cent by the end of 2007 which he said would bring down the economy and the Government of Zimbabwe.

The psychological war was revealed by former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Walter Kansteiner to the Washington Times on 20 August 2002 and reported in The Herald in Zimbabwe on 22 August.

In that revelation, Kansteiner named so-called independent journalists and independent media, "civil" society organisations and non-governmental organisations as well as selected governments in the SADC region, as partners with the US State Department in the psychological and political war against Zimbabwe.

Today, Botswana and Madagascar have been exposed as some of the state partners meant by Kansteiner. But the two fronts of the regime change onslaught which have not been explained are information warfare and financial warfare.

That is why the sanctions lobby in still convincing Zimbabweans not to relaunch their Zimbabwe dollar. Financial warfare achieved its psychological purpose: To scare Zimbabweans from their own currency in order to disempower them.

In his paper called Financial Warfare Professor Michel Chossudovsky describes financial warfare as: "The worldwide scramble to appropriate wealth through financial manipulation. This manipulation of market forces by powerful actors constitutes a form of financial and economic warfare.

"No need to recolonise lost territory or send in invading armies. In the late twentieth century, the outright conquest of nations, meaning the control over productive assets, labour, natural resources and institutions can be carried out in an impersonal fashion from the corporate boardroom: commands are dispatched from a computer terminal, or a cell phone.

"The relevant data are instantly relayed to major financial markets often resulting in immediate disruptions in the functioning of national economies." But the vehicles and instruments used go beyond just finance and the financial sector. So do the concepts. That is why the US Patriot Act does not separate commercial, financial and intelligence concerns from security concerns.

It is therefore important to note that the phenomena which the RBZ Governor described at his Press conference on 20 November 2008 included both financial warfare and information warfare. It was also clear that the explanations of these phenomena and events given by the regime change forces were aimed at psychological warfare, that is to turn the population affected by financial warfare and information warfare against the RBZ and the entire social and political order behind the governor.

This is still the objective of MDC-T to this day. Rather than join the people in their struggle to defeat illegal sanctions, MDC-T still seeks to blame Dr Gono for the economic problems caused by sanctions. It is therefore important to define information warfare before explaining how it operates with, and sometimes as, financial warfare.

The US Information Warfare Site defines information warfare as: "Any action to deny, exploit, corrupt, or destroy the enemy’s information and its functions; protecting ourselves against those actions; and exploiting our own military information functions . . . US information warriors would be able to disable important enemy command and control or civilian infrastructure systems with little, if any, loss of life."

The US Information Warfare Site then gives many illustrations of actions which constitute information warfare. Two examples are quite telling: Stock or commodity exchanges, electric power grids and municipal air traffic control systems and air traffic control or navigation systems could be manipulated or disrupted, with accompanying economic or societal disruption, physical destruction or loss of life.

Computer intruders might steal and disclose confidential, personal, medical or financial information, as a tool for blackmail, extortion, or to cause widespread social disruption or embarrassment. This is what happened during the Zanu-PF congress.

Now, if we look at the daily needs and aspirations of the majority of the citizens of Zimbabwe and the policies of the Government of Zimbabwe in response to those needs and aspirations of the people, we can identify the following social objectives which the financial warfare, the information warfare and the psychological warfare together aim to defeat.

First, both the Government and the people want a stable currency, stable prices and affordable goods produced locally and imported from abroad. Second, both the Government and the people want to be able to punish those who seek to defeat their objectives regarding the economy and the living conditions of the people.

But the demands for regime change were also presented as demands for economic liberalisation.

To this day, it is not clear whether or not the inclusive Government has understood the global economic catastrophe which has resulted from rampant liberalisation and opening up of markets.

The Government and the people found, for instance, that a barrage of rates were created, and were constantly thrown at them, and used to justify acts that fuelled hyperinflation.

The rates and speculative activities they facilitated were the results partly of financial warfare and partly of liberalisation and reform.

For instance, when we used the following terms casually we were most likely describing the information war features of the overall economic war against ourselves: Old Mutual Implied Rate, cross rate, the transfer rate, the RTGs rate, the official Government rate, parallel market rate, the inter-bank rate, the Zimbabwe dollar cash price, the foreign currency cash price, the foreign currency transfer rate, the bank cheque price, the personal cheque price and parallel market price.

Most of these rates and prices were used to defeat the official Government rate and the interbank rate.

If we now return to the US definition of information warfare, we notice that the unleashing of all these supposed rates, as if they constituted reality, had many destructive effects on the people. SOURCE