But for the efficiency and dynamics displayed by the intelligence community during the Cold War, many observers believed that, the Intelligence Agencies would have vanished into the thin air or might have been integrated into other security apparatus.
However, these Intelligence Agencies have transitioned into greater institutions that are controlling the world’s information spanning from scientific research, technological advancements, medicine, espionage, counterintelligence, financial, economics and security as a whole.
Intelligence Agencies across the world have the duty of collecting and analyzing information and further processing this information into intelligence to support policy and decision making by those who have the power. This intelligence are mainly for national security and public safety purposes.
The world today is witnessing the handicrafts of intelligence agencies of which no country is an exception. Many a time when intelligence agencies and their operatives are mentioned in our part of the world, people are expecting to see a Hollywood movie star approach with the share display of supernatural powers of intelligence gathering capabilities with all ancillary information gathering equipment’s like the popular James Bond, even though very interesting to watch, that is very fictional and far different from reality.
For the purposes of this article, I will limit the discussion to our internal and external intelligence agencies stated in the Security and Intelligence Agencies Act 1996, (Act 526), although they are other associated agencies that play a key role in ensuring National Security. The National Security Intelligence Agencies are the Bureau of National Investigations and the Research Department both responsible for internal and external intelligence respectively. In addition to these two key institutions, is a fully fledged security machinery at the office of the National Security Coordinator, all of which are governed by the National Security Council under the auspices of the Ministry of National Security.
According to the Act (526) section 12, the following are the functions of these agencies.
a. Collect, analyze, retain and disseminate as appropriate information and intelligence respecting activities that may constitute threat to the security of the state and the Government of Ghana.
b. Safeguard the economic well being of the state against threats posed by the acts or omissions of persons or organization both inside and outside the country.
c. Protects the state against threats of espionage, sabotage, terrorism, hijacking, piracy, drug trafficking and other similar offences.
d. Protect the state against the activities of persons both, nationals and non nationals, intended to overthrow the Government of Ghana or undermine the constitutional order through illegal political, military, industrial or other means or through any other unconstitutional method.
e. Perform any other functions as may directed by the president or the Council.
Amidst this pandemic, the Research Department just like any other intelligence agency is expected to;
1. Provide a wide range of information and intelligence on threats posed by the Coronavirus to National Security including Political, Financial, Economic, Industrial and Public Health impact on the country.
2. Advise government on emerging threats to external security including threats posed by foreign Intelligence agencies, hostile international organization and other terrorist organization which will want to capitalize on this pandemic to pursue their agenda.
3. Provide information that helps to facilitate Foreign Defense, National Security Policy formulation and the maintenance of Foreign Policy and Diplomacy.
4. Collect data on the happenings outside the country in relation to Covid-19 and advice government accordingly
On the other hand, the Bureau of National Investigations also have some of the following tasks to execute in addition to their mandate to complement the efforts of Government in combating Covid- 19 ;
1. Provide information and intelligence on espionage, sabotage and counter terrorism.
2. Warn the citizenry on activities of hackers, spammers and fraudsters who are counting on the Coronavirus pandemic to induce people through illegal and unsolicited means.
3. They collect, analyze, retain and disseminate appropriate Intelligence on terrorist, hijackers, pirates, drug traffickers and other bad persons who will want to take advantage of the Covid 19 pandemic with the perceived mentality that attention has been redirected and hence attack or undertake activities that are a threat to public safety.
4. During this period of Covid 19 pandemic and political season, they monitor, observe and obtain information on activities of nationals and non nationals that are a threat to government policies, programs and public safety.
Currently, with the threat to National Security posed by COVID-19, all our security agencies are up on their toes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week implementing the decisions of the lockdown and other measures to reduce the rate of infection of the virus.
The Military, Police, CEPS, Immigration, Prisons and Fire Officers are fully armed to the teeth and jacked up in their uniforms. These officers are enforcing the laws to the latter without fear and favor. However the intelligence operatives are a step ahead collecting, analyzing and disseminating intelligence to aid their work and to support decision making of government. The intelligence agencies whose day to day operations are often covertly and away from the public view and knowledge, operates in the quiet, maintain low profile but busily gathering information, observing movements and actions of people, maintaining vigilance on all and sundry.
In such a catastrophic situation posed by the Covid-19, the world would have shared it’s data and information but because the world is not perfect, our intelligence officers will still have to risk their lives to collect and obtain information through suspicions, observations, interceptions, analysis of conversations, actions, capacity and capabilities, and deliver timely information to ensure National Security.
National security in this sense encompasses the totality of measures aimed at ensuring safety and well-being of the people as well as the protection of their assets, resources, institutions and interest. It also includes the concept of ” human security” which includes but not limited to “safety from chronic threats, such as hunger, disease and repression as well as protection from sudden and harmful disruptions in patterns of daily life whether in home’s, in jobs, or in community” (UNDP 1994). So when you try to scrap or temper with this intelligence agencies, you will plunge the entire country into chaos immediately because National Security will be compromised. They work better when nobody is watching or observing.
The biggest challenge today is, can our intelligence gathering machinery isolate, stay home and work because of Covid -19 and it’s spread? To the best my knowledge and frankly speaking they cannot work from home given the nature of their job. There are greater roles for our officers in times like this, because COVID19 is not the only threat we are faced with as a country.
Let hope they continue to do their work and keep us safe even though they are not immune to the virus. When ever you say a word of prayer, remember our security and Intelligence Agencies working hard in this perilous times to protect us. Observe the COVID -19 protocols, stay home and keep safe.
God bless us all and bravo to our Intelligence Agencies.
By: Nana Bawiah: The Pilot Fish
Security and Intelligence agencies Act 1996,(Act 526).
Human Development Report, UNDP 1994.