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CMI boss to sue the BBC

By Vision Reporter

Added 22nd October 2015 08:47 PM

The Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) boss, Brig. Charles Bakahumura, is considering suing the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for defamation.

CMI boss to sue the BBC

Brig. Charles Bakahumura

The Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) boss, Brig. Charles Bakahumura, is considering suing the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for defamation.

By Charles Etukuri

The Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) boss, Brig. Charles Bakahumura, is considering suing the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for defamation.

“I am contemplating challenging BBC in court,” said Brig. Bakahumura on Saturday, while responding to a BBC report alleging Uganda had acquired high-tech equipment to spy on opposition leaders, MPs and other senior government officials.

Bakahumura also denied procuring the said equipment and communicating to the President about the need for it.

On Friday, the BBC, working with Privacy International, published a report titled, “For God and My President: State Surveillance in Uganda” which claimed Uganda had bought spy equipment for a secret surveillance operation codenamed Fungua Macho, which in Kiswahili means ‘open your eyes’.

The report claimed that under the operation, the Uganda Government, through the CMI, procured FinFisher surveillance malware in December 2011 from Gamma International (GmbH), a UK based company with affiliates in a number of countries.

“We detail the sale of intrusion malware FinFisher by Gamma International GmbH (‘Gamma’) to the Ugandan military. FinFisher was the ‘backbone’ of a secret operation to spy on leading opposition members, activists, elected officials, intelligence insiders and journalists following the 2011 election,” BBC and  Privacy international stated, quoting secret documents.

“Covert FinFisher ‘access points’ were installed within Parliament and key government institutions. Actual and suspected government opponents were targeted in their homes. Hotels in Kampala, Entebbe and Masaka were also compromised to facilitate infection of targets’ devices. The CMI solicited state funds to ‘bribe’ collaborators to facilitate infections and intended to use collected information to ‘blackmail’ targets,” the report added.

However, Bakahumura denied procuring the said equipment and also stated that the report, which says he communicated to the President about it, was a fabrication.

“I have never communicated to the President regarding any such spy technology,” he said, adding that CMI did not buy the equipment.

The CMI boss, however, could not give details about the matter, saying the Government would respond appropriately.

Asked about the letter, which he allegedly wrote to the President regarding the alleged procurement of the equipment, Bakahumura argued that the signature on the document was not his.

“That letter is forged. The signature appended on it is not mine and I did not write such a letter.” Bakahumura said, advising New Vision to verify his signature with the Uganda National Identification Bureau and passport control office.

Bakahumura said although such a piece of equipment would be of use to the spy agency, it would only be used in accordance with the law.

In 2010, President Yoweri Museveni signed into law Interception of Communications Bill, 2010, giving powers to security officials to listen into private communication if they had sufficient reason to suspect the communication is in aid of criminal activity. But security agencies must seek a court order to intercept communication.

New Vision has seen the BBC/ Privacy International report on its website, which has a letter purportedly written by Bakahumura to the President about the technology.

A copy of the letterhead has on the top left telephone, telex and fax numbers, and correspondence references.

In the centre is the UPDF logo and the right hand side has an inscription: ‘UGANDA PEOPLE’S DEFENCE FORCES MILITARY INTELLIGENCE & SECURITY ADMINISTRATION OFFICE P. O BOX 11219, KAMPALA, UGANDA.’

“Our official letterheads don’t have the words ‘administration office’ and the type face of the date is different from those in the addressee line,” said a CMI source when showed the copy.

He said on the official letterhead the top left the word “telephone” is in full and not abbreviated as ‘TEL’ as it is in the letter purportedly written by Bakahumura to the President.

The source also pointed out that the CMI official correspondences state, on the top left, thus: ‘For further correspondences please quote Ref. No.” But the document quoted in the BBC/Privacy International report doesn’t state so.

“Also all our correspondences state, on the top right: ‘UGANDA PEOPLE’S DEFENCE FORCES CHIEFTANCY OF MILITARY INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY HEADQUARTERS MBUYA’,” the source explained Another document quoted by the BBC/ Privacy International report is purportedly signed by Col. Michael Bossa, the head of Technical intelligence. But Col. Bossa disowned it when contacted by New Vision.

Bossa argued that the document quoted has an error in the spelling of his name.

“I write my name with a double ‘ss’, how then could I sign a document with a spelling error in my name,” he asked.

Security sources told New Vision that following the enacting of the communication interception law in 2010, several spy technology providers approached the Government with proposals to supply the equipment.

Gamma Group, which is cited in the BBC/Privacy International report, was among those that made presentations to government and security officials.

Sources said three officials have since 2010 visited Czech Republic, Germany, China, UK, Israel to carry out due diligence and examine the technology, but no purchase has so far been made. The final decision on the purchase would reportedly be done by the Ministry of Security.

Security minister Mary Karooro Okurut told New Vision over the weekend that she had not yet been briefed on the project.


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