Summary: What diplomatic cables tell us about Google Earth
Google Earth is a piece of proprietary software, long ago acquired by Google and still boasting Qt. But it has proven quite valuable for particular tasks and according to the following Cablegate cable, even politicians or government employees make use of Google Earth in order to spy on us, the people.
We add emphasis to the following cable:
UNCLAS GABORONE 000570 SENSITIVE SIPDIS C O R R E C T E D C O P Y -- CAPTION ADDED DEPT FOR CA/FPP DEPT PASS TO KCC WILLIAMSBURG KY DHS FOR CIS/FDNS JOHANNESBURG FOR RCO E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: KFRD [Fraud Prevention Programs], CVIS [Visas], CPAS [Passport and Citizenship], CMGT [Consular Administration and Management], ASEC [Security], BC [Botswana] SUBJECT: FRAUD SUMMARY: BOTSWANA JULY 2009 REF: 09 GABORONE 110 NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION (A) COUNTRY CONDITIONS (U) Botswana is a politically stable, middle-income country with a small population of about 1.8 million. While unemployment remains high at 17.6% and Botswana continues to combat an HIV/AIDS prevalence of 25%, the government has been lauded by the international community for the progressive social programs it has implemented. Batswana [plural for citizens of Botswana] enjoy an advanced medical aid program, a free education through post-graduate university, and enterprise facilitation programs. Anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) are generally available to most of the population in need. While employment opportunities for young adults are often elusive, the social benefits one receives here are good reason to stay. (U) The government of Botswana continues to be the largest employer, and government jobs are considered stable and desirable. Many people also find jobs in the large NGO sector. The government is also sponsoring modest initiatives to promote entrepreneurship and some privatization of selected industries, but these have not proven successful yet. Recently, traditionally strong sectors of the economy, especially the mining industry, have felt the effects of the worldwide economic slowdown; several mines have closed or scaled back production. (U) Botswana's greatest problem with illegal immigration stems from its neighbor, Zimbabwe, from where illegal and legal immigrants are arriving in great number, especially after the disputed Zimbabwe elections of Spring 2008. otswana's vast, porous border and stability are ttractive for those fleeing political oppression, unemployment, hypr-inflationary markets, hunger,and disease. This has had still had little bearig to date on visa or ACS operations in Gaboroe, as post has not noticed any surge in applications from Zimbabweans or residents of Zimbabwe. The government of Botswana has been generally welcoming to legitimate refugee and asylees from Zimbabwe. However, this remains a potential problem as Zimbabweans attempt to establish residency and find employment in Botswana or look to move from Botswana to brighter horizons elsewhere. (U) There is also a sizeable amount of legal migration and temporary settlement in Botswana. The government of Botswana recruits people with specialized skills, such as medical expertise or teaching experience, to work in Botswana. Many of these people stay in Botswana for many years and can gain permanent residency or citizenship. Visa applications reflect this, with nearly half of all applicants coming from third countries. (U) It will become more difficult for Botswana Immigration or Home Affairs officials to detect a mala fide applicant for a genuine passport or a holder of a forged or fraudulent passport as the population of Botswana becomes more multicultural and citizenship is extended to those whose ancestry is not of any indigenous tribe. Similar to the U.S., individuals can acquire citizenship in Botswana through jus sanguinis or naturalization, and the large expatriate community has taken advantage of this. (U) While there has been little reason to suspect that official documents (i.e. passports, residence permits) produced by Botswana authorities and seen in conjunction with visa interviews are mala fide, the quality and technology of such documents are poor, antiquated, and inconsistent. Fraudulent versions of the low-tech Botswana passport have been intercepted in several countries, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Cameroon. In the past, rumors have indicated that fraudulent Botswana passports could be obtained in Nigeria. (U) In late December 2008, a newspaper article revealed police arrests and investigations into the selling or renting of Botswana and South African passports to allow for easier travel throughout the region. The article reported that several of the recovered passports had forged bio data and photo pages. In February 2009, another newspaper article raised concerns over the integrity of Botswana's record keeping and accounting for passport applications and books, primarily for lost, stolen, or damaged passport books. (U) In a February 2009 change to United Kingdom's visa regulations, citizens of South Africas and several other southern African countries, excepting Botswana, now require visas in advance of visits to the United Kingdom. However, nationals of Botswana still do NOT require visas to enter the UK or Canada as tourists, thus making the country's travel document a potentially attractive target for criminals. The UK continues to closely examine document security and the quality of the passport issued by Botswana and expects Botswana to implement plans to introduce a new, secure passport in 2010. (U) In November 2008, the government of Botswana announced the award of a tender to German company Giesecke and Devrient produce a new e-passport for Botswana. In preparation for the new passport, the government has centralized all processing of passport applications in Gaborone. Full details on the price and application procedures for the new passports are not yet available. However, production of the new passport is not anticipated to begin until 2010. (B) NIV FRAUD (U) Post has received several turnaround reports from DHS concerning citizens of Botswana. However, few clear trends emerged. The applicants concealed key elements of their personal details, such as parents living in the United States, job interviews, or plans to attend school. DHS found evidence of their plans in their luggage, often in the form of emails, application forms, or resumes. (U) Post previously reported on a possible trend involving young, professional women transiting the United States with the intention of remaining in Canada (see reftel). Since several similar cases were refused under section 214(b) in 2009, post has not seen such applications repeated. (U) Although post processes relatively few H1B applications, a spate of recent applications have required additional review. Internet (including GoogleEarth) and Lexis Nexis searches have indicated that employers' office spaces were private residences. The number of employees listed on the potential employers' quarterly tax reports did not appear to match the total number claimed in petition materials and in one case, indicated that the employer was H1b dependent. The applicants were to be consultants and in one case, the applicant was to be located at a client's office for 90 percent of his time. Searches showed the office space to be a private residence and revealed that the client's business was registered in the name of one of the petitioning companies employees and her husband. In these cases, the applicants were Indian passport holders and worked in accounting or IT in Botswana. (C) IV FRAUD (U) Post does not process IV cases, but responds to requests for investigations from other posts or agencies. At the request of the Fraud Prevention Unit at another U.S. mission, post confirmed as fraudulent a Botswana passport presented in conjunction with an immigrant visa case. (D) DV FRAUD (U) Several members of the public contacted post to confirm they had won the Diversity Visa lottery. Some of these people had applied for the DV program, but others received unsolicited emails informing them of their luck. These notifications were easily confirmed as fraudulent because they had arrived via email from addresses that did not end in .gov. Moreover, they asked for additional personal information from the applicants and often requested payment to continue processing the applications. In response, post added the Department's warning about DV fraud schemes to the Embassy's website, and put the information into a press release. (E) ACS AND U.S. PASSPORT FRAUD (U) Post has not encountered any apparent ACS or U.S. passport fraud in recent memory. Demand for ACS and passport services is relatively low. Providing additional passport pages is the most frequently performed service. (F) ADOPTION FRAUD (U) Post does not process adoption visas. (G) USE OF DNA TESTING (U) Post has not resorted to DNA testing since at least 2006. (H) ASYLUM AND OTHER DHS BENEFIT FRAUD (U) Post has not processed any V-92 or V-93 cases and has encountered very few cases of lost Green cards or other cases requiring transportation letters. (SBU) However, post has processed several cases of Cuban applicants requesting parole into the United States under the Cuban medical personnel parole program administered by DHS. Most applicants are currently working in a medical field for the government of Botswana, so little fraud is indicated. However, most of their credentials are from Cuban universities and professional societies and would be difficult to verify. (I) ALIEN SMUGGLING, TRAFFICKING, ORGANIZED CRIME, TERRORIST TRAVEL (SBU) In the past, post received information about a possible document fraud scheme operating in Botswana. Some of this information was conveyed to Diplomatic Security via the Embassy of Botswana in Washington, D.C. A local informant served as another source (See Reftel). (SBU) The Botswana police did question the Zimbabwean head of a consulting service for possibly providing false or altered Botswana residence documents. He has since been released on bail and the investigation continues. Post continues to make inquiries about the status of this investigation, but the RSO has not yet received any additional information from the police. (U) In an apparently international fraud scheme, two contacts reported paying money to find employment in the United States, with the expectation that they would receive working visas. The informants paid recruiters for several services, including visa applications, and both expressed surprise that no visa had been pre-approved for them. They had transferred all fees, some more than USD 1,000, to accounts in either Europe or South Africa. (J) DS CRIMINAL FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS (U) See part I. (K) HOST COUNTRY PASSPORT, IDENTITY DOCUMENTS, AND CIVIL REGISTRY Passport Description: (U) The passport of the Republic of Botswana is a relatively low-tech book. The navy cover shows the coat of arms of Botswana (two zebras and a shield above the word "pula"). The book number is punched through the front cover and all 64 pages, but it does not appear on the back cover. Biographic data, including the applicants name, identity card number, profession, place and date of birth, and height, are handwritten on the first and second pages. (U) The photograph is pasted and laminated onto the third page, under a laminate bearing the coat of arms of Botswana. The bearer's signature appears below the photograph, often on a small white paper affixed beneath the laminate. An impressed seal covers the name and the bottom portion of the photograph. The laminate can become easly damaged if exposed to water. (U) Handwritten etails on the validity of the passport and the barer's previous pssport appear on pages four and ive. [Note: Botswana authorities usually collec previous passports when issuing a new passpot, even if the previous passport still contains valid visas. End note.] The primary fraud prevention device on the passport pages is a detailed ultraviolet marking. The front cover tends to split and peel, as does the spine of the passport. (U) As mentioned in Part A, Botswana announced in November 2008 the awarding of a tender to German company Giesecke and Devrient to produce a new e-passport for Botswana. In preparation for the new passport, the government has centralized all processing of passport applications in Gaborone. Full details on the price and application procedures for the new passports are not yet available. However, production of the new passport is not anticipated to begin until 2010. Identity Documents: (U) All Batswana (citizens of Botswana) carry a national identity card, referred to as the "omang." This is a credit-card sized document, which records the bearer's name, date and place of birth, digitized signature, and a digitized photograph contained with an oval beneath the coat of arms of Botswana. The omang does utilize ultraviolet fraud prevention features. Residence Permits: (U) Botswana provides all foreigners living legally in Botswana with residence or exemption certificates, and work permits, as appropriate. These are printed on full-sized sheets of very thin paper, although they might be handwritten. These residence and exemption certificates usually contain a photograph of the bearer, which is pasted onto the form and is not laminated or secured by any other means. The validity varies, but the certificates can be extended and extensions are recorded by a stamp on the back of the certificate. Some bearers will carry the same certificate for up to 20 years. These certificates must be displayed upon entering and exiting Botswana and many certificates can show severe signs of wear and tear. Civil Documents: (U) Reports of birth and death and other civil documents are generally printed onto half- or three-quarter-sized sheets of heavy paper. There are few security features, but there can be a wait of several days for the Registrar to issue the document. (U) For reports of birth and death, the hospital or morgue often issues an initial certificate of birth or death that is later used as the basis for the full report. The initial report might be more cursory in nature than the final document. For example, the initial report of birth might not contain the father's name, although the family might request that this information appear on the final, formalized report of birth. Additionally, the father's name can be added to the formal report of birth many years later. Difficulties in Confirming Documents: (U) Botswana maintains few electronic records of issuance for any of the documents discussed above. The applications for most of these items have generally been held at the district level, and confirming issuance of any documents can be a time-consuming process. (L) COOPERATION WITH HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES (SBU) Cooperation with host government authorities is generally good. Local police were willing to assist in an investigation into an alleged supplier of fraudulent documents and participated discreetly in interviews with possible sources of information. Additionally, the government of Botswana has in the past conveyed valuable fraud prevention information brought to the attention of their embassy in Washington. (U) However, record keeping in Botswana is often not computerized, which can make it difficult to search and confirm certain data quickly, such as entry/exit records, passport applications, or residence or work permits. In response to a request, the Department of Immigration did confirm a passport presented as part of an immigrant visa application at another post as fraudulent. (U) Post has met with Immigration Department officials to express willingness to review suspect U.S. passport and provide more information on U.S. visas and travel documents. The Immigration Department, including airport passport inspectors, has contacted post directly with questions. Post has been able to confirm the legitimacy of the documents in question. (M) AREAS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN (U) Given the high number of third country nationals living in Botswana, post has generally received nearly 50 percent of all visa applications from non-Botswana passport holders. South Asian applicants (those from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) comprise the largest portion of third country applications. Many of these applicants are young men claiming to be directors in family companies traveling alone for either vacation in New York or to attend a trade show with an open registration policy. Others appear to be established business owners traveling to visit family or to explore business possibilities. (U) In 2008 and early 2009, several sources in the local south Asian community contacted post to provide information on potentially mala fide visa applicants. Most sources indicated that they hope to protect the reputation of their communities, especially in the visa process. They indicated that applicants with existing visas and previously lawful travel to the United States might plan to stay illegally on future trips. (U) Investigations into these claims have produced mixed results. While certain applicants demonstrated their successful business interests in Botswana and previous lawful travel to and from the United States, informal return checks and site visits on other cases raised some concerns. Attempts to confirm returns of several previously issued south Asian applicants indicated that they had not returned to Botswana as originally stated. Site visits and phone calls to the supposed businesses of several temporarily refused cases revealed that the employment had been terminated, the business relocated, or failed to locate the claimed business. (U) Post will continue to monitor all third country applications closely and hopes to conduct a full validity study in 2009. (N) STAFFING AND TRAINING. (U) In September 2008, the section's one full-time FSN and one part-time EFM had some refresher fraud prevention training with the FPU and DHS offices in Johannesburg. Post's sole consular officer received some additional fraud prevention training at a regional consular conference in May 2009 in Johannesburg, South Africa. NOLAN
Suffice to say, the US government does not like it when its detractors use Google Earth. Then it becomes this “evil terrorist” tool. According to ¶2 of the following cable, “In a 50-minute courtesy call on January 8, Tunisian Minister of State, Special Advisor to the President, and Official Spokesperson of the Presidency Abdelaziz Ben Dhia told the Ambassador with “quasi certitude” that the GOT had wrapped up its security operations against the Salafist group with its December 23 and January 3 operations (reftels). The group had intended to target the US and British Embassies, according to the GOT’s investigation of the matter and interrogation of the suspects. In the several houses used by the group, Tunisian security services found highly detailed maps of the US and British Embassies, including some that had been downloaded from googleearth.com, as well as lists with the names of “some officials” of those Embassies. Asked if the GOT security services had also found indications that the group had been planning to target some of the residences of employees of the US, UK, or French Embassies (as had been indicated by Foreign Minister Abdallah, ref A), Ben Dhia responded negatively. He also said that
S E C R E T TUNIS 000053 SIPDIS SIPDIS FOR NEA/FO - GRAY; NEA/MAG - HOPKINS AND HARRIS NSC FOR ABRAMS E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/08/2017 TAGS: PREL [External Political Relations], PTER [Terrorists and Terrorism], TS [Tunisia] SUBJECT: PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR SAYS SALAFIST THREAT IN TUNISIA HAS BEEN NEUTRALIZED REF: A. TUNIS 44 B. TUNIS 31 C. TUNIS 30 D. TUNIS 16 E. 05 TUNIS 2980 F. 05 TUNIS 2973 Classified By: Ambassador Robert F. Godec for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). ¶1. (S) Summary: Minister of State and Special Presidential Advisor Ben Dhia today told the Ambassador with "quasi certitude" that the Tunisian security services had finished their operations against the armed Salafist group (reftels), which had been planning to target the US and British embassies. He said that GOT security services had found detailed plans of the embassies, as well as the names of "some" US and UK embassy officials, in the houses used by the armed men. Security services also found between 50-60 kg of locally produced explosives. Twelve of the suspects had been killed and 15 arrested; among the Tunisian security services, two had died and three were injured. End Summary. ----------------------------- Threat Neutralized; US, UK Embassies Were Targets ----------------------------- ¶2. (S) In a 50-minute courtesy call on January 8, Tunisian Minister of State, Special Advisor to the President, and Official Spokesperson of the Presidency Abdelaziz Ben Dhia told the Ambassador with "quasi certitude" that the GOT had wrapped up its security operations against the Salafist group with its December 23 and January 3 operations (reftels). The group had intended to target the US and British Embassies, according to the GOT's investigation of the matter and interrogation of the suspects. In the several houses used by the group, Tunisian security services found highly detailed maps of the US and British Embassies, including some that had been downloaded from googleearth.com, as well as lists with the names of "some officials" of those Embassies. Asked if the GOT security services had also found indications that the group had been planning to target some of the residences of employees of the US, UK, or French Embassies (as had been indicated by Foreign Minister Abdallah, ref A), Ben Dhia responded negatively. He also said that the group had not intended to target Tunisian interests. ¶3. (S) GOT security services found between 50-60 kilograms of explosives in the group's residences. Ben Dhia described the explosives as locally produced, "artisanal" in nature. Ben Dhia explained that the Tunisian security services had been monitoring the group since an initial group of six armed men had crossed the Algerian border. The security services kept these six suspects under surveillance as they were gradually joined by 21 others in the Grombalia area. On December 23, concluding that the group was beginning preparations for attacks planned to coincide with the end of the year, the GOT decided to act proactively to take the group down. Noting that local newspapers had published photographs of one of the residences used by the group, Ben Dhia explained that some of the suspects in the house during the December 23 shoot-out had managed to flee via an open window. ---------- Casualties ---------- ¶4. (S) In the aftermath of the GOT security operations, 12 of the suspects had been killed and 15 arrested, accounting for all 27 suspects, according to Ben Dhia. As for GOT casualties, Ben Dhia said there had been two killed and three wounded. Asked whether the GOT had been able to account for the support network that would have been required to sustain the group, Ben Dhia responded that the security services had investigated this matter, and that they consider the operation "terminated for the instant." ------------------- Information-Sharing ------------------- ¶5. (S) Ben Dhia credited the GOT's intelligence liaison relationships with friendly countries, notably Algeria and Libya, with producing the actionable intelligence to neutralize this threat. Thanking Ben Dhia for sharing this information, the Ambassador also reiterated that the USG stands reay to help the GOT in the fight against terrorism,emphasizing that "We are all in this fight togethe." Ambassador also encouraged Ben Dhia to share his information directly with the British and Frnch ambassadors, and other key members of the dilomatic corps, a suggestion Ben Dhia took on boar. ------- Comment ------- ¶6. (C) In addiion to immediately sharing the above informationwith his British counterpart, Ambassador will folow up on this information in a January 9 meeting ith Minister of Interior and Local Development Raik Belhaj Kacem. ¶7. (S) While we welcome the pparent effectiveness of the Tunisian security srvices, and the willingness of two senior officils to share some information with us, we are troubed by several issues. First and foremost is the ailure of the GOT to share information sooner, ad in more detail. Second, we are struck by the ontradictions in some of the information we are eceiving. Tuesday's meeting with the Minister o the Interior may (and we underscore may) produce more concrete and detailed information. Until we et better information, we have only bits and piees of what increasingly appears to be a complex nd dangerou puzzle. --------- Bio Notes -------- ¶8. (C) Ben Dhia was confident, friendly, nd gracious during the meeting, and he appeared o be in good health. Twice invoking President Bn Ali's name, Ben Dhia underscored that he well nderstands Ben Ali's intentions, specifically noting that Ben Ali wants tosolidify relations with the United States. Ben hia also indicated that he comes from a family o imams; as such, he said, he takes particular umbrae at the "deviation" of Islam represented by Islmic extremists. Repeatedly bemoaning how easy itis for Islamic extremists to manipulate the ignoant, he ventured that were Mohammed to return toearth today, he would not recognize the Islam that many practice. Ben Dhia remembered fondly his fist official trip to the United States, which he ndertook as Minister of Higher Education at a tie when the USG and Tunisia were launching an eduational exchange program. He also noted that hisson travels to the United States "almost monthly." GODEC
There are many typos in this cable, almost as though it was OCR’d. █