F.B.I. in Samoa, online threats and the Govt’s crusade to find O le Palemia

Last week, Samoa hosted three agents from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.). The presence of Ryan Pardee, Patrick Geahan, and Dr. Christopher Hecker in Apia naturally aroused a lot of interest from curious members of the community.

The obvious questions were what was the F.B.I. doing in Samoa and who were they here to investigate and arrest?

It is understandable. After all that’s what these Hollywood movies have been teaching us about the F.B.I. all these years.

But as we found out, it wasn’t like that all. The Government through the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, and another entrepreneur, Mose Mose, had called upon the F.B.I. to conduct a training to improve the capacity of local officials to tackle cybercrime.

Excellent. Given the number of problems associated with online fraud, social media abuse, financial transactions and the Government’s ongoing search for the identity – or identities - of the bloggers behind the Ole Palemia page, the training couldn’t have been held at a better time.  

“We have only seen F.B.I. on television, but to have F.B.I. here in Samoa, we are excited – not only to have you among us but for the future prospects,” Minister Afamasaga said.

“Although we are a small country we are equally vulnerable in terms of cyber-attacks. We need to be protected, hence this workshop.”

Now slow down a bit here.

What and from whom do we need to be protected?

For all we know, in this paradise we call home, words like crypto-currencies, fake news and online fraud have been thrown around a lot lately. Other terms like identity theft, money laundering and so forth have also been making the rounds.

And then there is Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his administration’s never ending crusade to unmask the identity – or identities - of O.L.P who has been giving the Government a lot of headaches.

Come to think of it, maybe the Government could have also asked the F.B.I. agents to assist them with their search.

After all, they have been trying for years, only to come up empty handed.

Which is why we found the latest development from the Minister of Communications and Information Technology interesting.

Asked about the progress of the Government’s O.L.P. investigation, Minister Afamasaga dropped a bombshell.

“I think all the bloggers behind O.L.P. is known but you have to consider peace and harmony of this country,” he said.

“A lot of bad things are said about people on the platform like O.L.P. and others and its causing unrest and causing violence. If we end up publicising these names, who knows someone might get killed?”

The Minister insisted that O.L.P. appears to be a group of people, not just an individual.

But he wouldn’t give any names, which is quite disappointing.

The fact is a number of allegations raised by O.L.P. have hurt so many people because they are malicious and false. These people have a right to know.

Besides, there have also been cases where the Government through the Police has wrongfully accused innocent members of the community over the blog. This newspaper was also subjected to a Police search because of allegations raised by O.L.P.

We therefore find it interesting that the Government has now turned around and waved the peace card instead. What forced the change of mind?

“We don’t want to waste our energy on things like that,” Minister Afamasaga said. “We want to focus on developments and serve the people we are here to serve. We don’t want to waste our time on negative things…focus on what is positive and moving forward on what is good for our country.”

Well he’s got a point.

But let me remind the Minister and the Government here and now that several years ago, O.L.P. was basically a non-identity until they decided to make a monster out of him/her/them.

They cannot just suddenly change their tune and expect people to believe and accept it. The truth is if the Government knows, as the Minister said, they are duty bound to tell the public and do what is necessary to hold this blog to account.

But then don’t hold your breath. We might need several more visits from the F.B.I. including help from Interpol, C.I.A and the even spies from Russia and China for this to happen.

What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us!

Have a safe Thursday Samoa, God bless!

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