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Cablegate: Government Uses Google Earth, Blames Google Earth

Posted in Google at 6:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


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:

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] 
(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 
(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. 
(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. 
(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. 
(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. 
(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. 
(U) Post does not process adoption visas. 
(U) Post has not resorted to DNA testing since at least 2006. 
(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. 
(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. 
(U) See part I. 
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 
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. 
(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. 
(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. 
(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. 

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

See those other cables about Tunisia and the US stance based on the following cable:

S E C R E T TUNIS 000053 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/08/2017 
TAGS: PREL [External Political Relations], 
PTER [Terrorists and Terrorism], TS [Tunisia] 
     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. 
¶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." 
¶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. 
¶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 
¶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." 

There are many typos in this cable, almost as though it was OCR’d.

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