Watchdog rears its head at Desai hearings

The controversial Watchdog electronic device featured at the Desai Commission again on Monday when a National Intelligence Agency expert demonstrated how conversations bugged through it could be stored on computer and played back later.

The anonymous expert, referred to by order of Judge Siraj Desai as ”Mr Tshabalala”, said however there was no evidence that the Watchdog was ever actually linked to a computer.

”We’re not saying there’s evidence to prove it was used for this thing or that thing,” he said.

The device sparked a bugging scare when it was discovered in the offices of the Western Cape Provincial Administration earlier this year, though former members of the administration have told the commission it was there only to guard against electronic eavesdropping.

Tshabalala, returning to the witness stand after a break of several months, also told the commission he had erred in earlier testimony when he said the sale of the Watchdog to anyone other than a government department was illegal.

He said he had been confusing existing legislation with the interception and monitoring bill soon to be passed by Parliament.

Asked by Nic Treurnicht, advocate for former Western Cape director general Niel Barnard, why he gave the original evidence, he replied: ”It was just a statement on the spur of the moment.”

”For what purpose?” asked Treurnicht. ”For what purpose does a witness make a false statement on the spur of the moment?” Tshabalala was silent.

”To create a wrong impression?” pressed Treurnicht.

”No,” said Tshabalala.

”To prejudice someone?” ”No. There was no prejudice to anyone.” With the aid of a NIA colleague, and with some difficulty, he demonstrated how the words of a person speaking into a cordless radio microphone could be picked up by the Watchdog, then stored on a laptop computer.

Through a hiss of distortion, he played the recorded voice back to the commission.

Tshabalala said NIA had acquired a copy of the software, on a compact disc, that allowed users to control the Watchdog from a remote computer via the internet or through a network.

During the ”reverse engineering” of the software it was discovered that it contained a hidden programme to send ”reverse communication” from the controlling computer to a South Korean company named the Hansol Telecom Network Centre.

This appeared to be a large ”multi-product company”.

This reverse communication device was used by companies that wanted to check on software licencing, he said.

Ben Maclennan

CAPE TOWN Sept 16 Sapa

BUGGING DEVICE FEATURES AT DESAI HEARING AGAINThe controversial Watchdog electronic device featured at the Desai Commission again on Monday when a National Intelligence Agency expert demonstrated how conversations bugged through it could be stored on computer and played back later.

The anonymous expert, referred to by order of Judge Siraj Desai as ”Mr Tshabalala”, said however there was no evidence that the Watchdog was ever actually linked to a computer.

”We’re not saying there’s evidence to prove it was used for this thing or that thing,” he said.

The device sparked a bugging scare when it was discovered in the offices of the Western Cape Provincial Administration earlier this year, though former members of the administration have told the commission it was there only to guard against electronic eavesdropping.

Tshabalala, returning to the witness stand after a break of several months, also told the commission he had erred in earlier testimony when he said the sale of the Watchdog to anyone other than a government department was illegal.

He said he had been confusing existing legislation with the interception and monitoring bill soon to be passed by Parliament.

Asked by Nic Treurnicht, advocate for former Western Cape director general Niel Barnard, why he gave the original evidence, he replied: ”It was just a statement on the spur of the moment.”

”For what purpose?” asked Treurnicht. ”For what purpose does a witness make a false statement on the spur of the moment?” Tshabalala was silent.

”To create a wrong impression?” pressed Treurnicht.

”No,” said Tshabalala.

”To prejudice someone?” ”No. There was no prejudice to anyone.” With the aid of a NIA colleague, and with some difficulty, he demonstrated how the words of a person speaking into a cordless radio microphone could be picked up by the Watchdog, then stored on a laptop computer.

Through a hiss of distortion, he played the recorded voice back to the commission.

Tshabalala said NIA had acquired a copy of the software, on a compact disc, that allowed users to control the Watchdog from a remote computer via the internet or through a network.

During the ”reverse engineering” of the software it was discovered that it contained a hidden programme to send ”reverse communication” from the controlling computer to a South Korean company named the Hansol Telecom Network Centre.

This appeared to be a large ”multi-product company”.

This reverse communication device was used by companies that wanted to check on software licencing, he said. – Sapa

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Ben Maclennan
Guest Author

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