This post is designed as a protection mechanism to let the world know exactly what’s going on with our passports. It is not designed to point fingers, or get anyone in trouble. It is designed to convey the facts of this matter, and to let the international security, forensics and law enforcement community know exactly where things stand. It is also an encouragement to the UPF to act in good faith and to continue to accept the hand of the international forensics community.
This post will be constantly updated as events unfold, and if the UPF changes it’s course and makes good on it’s agreement and wishes to join the digital forensics community as responsible members of integrity and honor, they will certainly be welcomed. However, should they continue in their current pattern of near-zero communication, irresponsible handling of LE-only digital forensics equipment and irresponsible handling of US citizen’s passports, I expect their acceptance by the forensics community to be difficult at best.
In short, Jen and I are stuck in Uganda. Our passports are either missing, or are held by Uganda Police Force (UPF). In plain fact, the UPF will not tell us the status of our own passports, or where they are. This has been the case since January 26, 2014, when we gave them our passports.
At this time, Jen and I can not leave the country, despite the fact that we’re scheduled to visit our kids at school on the only occasion we’re allowed to do so this year. My wife, Jen has also endured a very dangerous and difficult medical emergency which could only be properly resolved by leaving the country for better health care facilities, but we could not leave and received substandard treatment in Uganda.
How did this start?
Historically, I have worked for the UPF as a consultant these past four years. We (HFC) have trained hundreds of police officers free of charge in our Jinja-based computer training center and have brokered many connections for the UPF to help them gain traction in the security and forensics community. I received my work permit three years ago from the UPF for these duties.
Since my permit was scheduled to expire on Feb 1, 2014, I approached them with a deal: world-class forensics equipment, training and licenses for a renewed three-year work permit. The price and nature of the equipment is sensitive information, which in the interest of protecting the UPF’s ability to perform exceptionally in their battle against digital crime, I will refrain from listing here. Rest assured though that the compliment of equipment, training and licenses are world-class.
This deal was brokered by an “IT Assistant” and backed by a “Director” for the UPF. On Jan 26, 2014, the “IT Assistant” signed the deal to have the work permits completed by Feb 10, took possession of our passports and the equipment and put me on the phone with the Director who verbally agreed to the terms as well.
The deadline came, and went, and now our permits are expired. The UPF has the gear, and I don’t have the permit. Since the contract was breached, I had an ethical responsibility to kill and blacklist all the gear on the spot until the situation could be resolved.
However, because of my past relationship with the UPF, I took a softer tack and made (literal) heroic efforts to get the situation resolved before blacklisting the gear.
Following is a summarized account of those efforts and the responses. I have taken every effort to protect the identities of the players, until their intentions in this matter can be resolved as I prefer to find them innocent before proven guilty.
Jan 30@17:18, SMS to “IT Assistant”: Good evening [”IT Assistant”]! I hope you are well. Any word on passports?
Feb 5@18:59, SMS to “IT Assistant”: We leave for Kenya on the 11th to see our kids. Will we make it?
Feb 9@20:45, SMS to “IT Assistant”: Good evening [”IT Assistant”]. Tomorrow is the tenth. We must leave for Kenya on Thursday 5am. Getting nervous.
Feb 10@16:50, SMS to “IT Assistant”: No word? You have me concerned. What’s going on?
Feb 10@23:00, SMS from “IT Assistant”: Sorry Mr. JOHN, i had a situation i have been handling. [Director] travelled, am talking to him to make sure those people give me the passorts for your travel. God bless you.
Feb 10@24:00: UPF enters breach of contract at midnight, Feb 10.
Tuesday, Feb 11, 2014 (+1 days into contract breach)
Feb 11@07:51, SMS to “IT Assistant”: Understand you are currently in breach of contract and this is putting at risk all the work we are doing in Uganda including our training center where we have trained hundreds of police officers in four years. Passports must be in our hands absolutely no later than wed. Donors have suggested we remotely kill all the licenses. I don’t want to do this but it’s not my equipment nor is it yours until this is settled.
Feb 11@10:14, I email the Director on his personal email address:
I hope this email finds you well. I’m sorry to email as I don’t have your phone number.
I’m emailing because of an urgent matter regarding the forensics equipment. As of today, UPF is in breach of contract regarding this equipment. [IT Assistant] gave every assurance that my work permit would be resolved no later than Feb 10. As of today, it is not resolved, but UPF remains in possession of the equipment.
The forensics vendors have suggested that we terminate the hardware and software licenses which will disable all the devices.
This may seem strong but realize that each of these vendors are very cautious about sending equipment to developing countries because of corruption. I had to pull many strings to get them to send this equipment and UPF’s breach of written contract does not bode well for this arrangement. How can I assure the world’s leaders in forensics to continue to support Uganda when this, our first contract is in breach? How can I ask them to grow your capacity when this, a small matter, can not be executed in good faith?
Please help me. You know I have worked for UPF for years training hundreds of officers and [other work with] your office through [IT Assistant]. I am on your side. But this situation is unacceptable. The passports must be completed and delivered by tomorrow, Wednesday or the equipment will be remotely disabled. I will then kindly ask for the return of all equipment and UPF will have dealt me, my family and all our work a mortal blow.
I’m sorry for this pointed email but UPF has me in an impossible situation as I fight to help you grow. Please call me at [my cell number] any time.
I look forward to your prompt reply and look forward to growing our relationship.
Feb 11@13:43, SMS to “IT Assistant”: I think it would be a good idea for me to reclaim the equipment until you can get settled.
Feb 11@19:36, SMS to “IT Assistant”: I’ll need to get my passports and the equipment tomorrow. Sorry this didn’t work out. Where and when can my driver meet you?
Feb 11@20:38, SMS to “IT Assistant”: I know you’re a busy guy [”IT Assistant”] but you gave me your word. So disappointed.
Feb 11, 19:45: I contacted a colleague who worked for the US Dept of State (“State Contact”) and is connected to many Ugandan IGP heavyweights as well as many folks in the US Embassy.
Feb 11@19:45 SMS to State Contact: Sorry to bother you [State Contact] but can you pass me [Director’s] number? These guys.. long story.
Feb 11@19:53 SMS to State Contact: In a nutshell, UPF has taken the equipment and defaulted on the work permit. Now they hold the equipment and our passports. And [IT Assistant] is dodging me. We are stranded. I’m thinking this was a HUGE mistake.
Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014 (+2 days into contract breach)
Feb 12@07:50 SMS from “IT Assistant” (after I called him 48 times with no answer): Mr John, i know u r disappointed bse it has taken long, but the best results are expected. Kindly i request you to be patient until we meet with [“IT Director”]. Preparations are in high gear. Sorry where i’m i cant receive calls. Call u imm i get out. God bless u.
Feb 12@07:50, SMS to “IT Assistant”: Why do you have to meet [“IT Director”]? This was already settled. Send me [“IT Director”] number.
Feb 12@08:00, SMS from “IT Assistant”: To be clear, you are illegally detaining my passport. We can see our children ONCE in a year and YOU are preventing it. God will certainly not bless your behavior. Send me [“IT Director”] number now.
Feb 12@08:15: Retrieve Director’s phone number from old email transaction.
Feb 12@08:30, SMS to “IT Assistant”: Never mind. I have his number. I think it’s best I deal with [“IT Director”] directly.
Feb 12@09:00, SMS to “IT Assistant”: His phone is off. [”IT Assistant”], EVERY major forensics vendor is involved in this deal. EVERY SINGLE ONE. You are sending them a very clear message. They were already unsure about supporting Uganda but I persuaded them. This failure will blacklist Uganda. If they switch off these licenses they will close their sales channel to Uganda. I stuck my neck out for you and the UPF. You’re making a fool out of me.
Feb 12@09:35: Primary equipment donor emails asking about status of equipment and work permit. At this point, I can’t lie to them, and I can’t hide the truth. My response: “I don’t know where my passport is” and “at this point I do not know the location or status of the equipment”. At this point, things are unravelling as I can’t hide the facts from the donors.
Feb 12@10:11: EMAIL an Assistant IGP (high ranking officer within UPF). Get a second number for Director. Confirms Director is out of town. AIGP offers to call IT Assistant and have him call me: Thanks, please send me your phone number so that I can ask IT Assistant to call you. His mail is [redacted]. Best regards.
Feb 12@09:54: I call Director. Call is not going through.
Feb 12@10:55, SMS to both Director’s numbers: Good afternoon sir. Johnny Long here. We have a very serious situation. Deadline is passed for work permit. [IT Assistant] has failed, refusing my calls, detaining my passports. I have a responsibility to report the forensics equipment as missing. The vendors will shut down all equipment remotely and block all future sales to Uganda. This is very serious. I worked so hard to get this equipment to you. Do you understand it is only sold to law enforcement? It is export restricted. I have worked so hard on this deal but now I am stuck. Please sir I need your help or we will be banned by every major forensics vendor in the world. Further, this failure will be flagged by State Department and will hamper your ability to receive forensics grants and assistance. Please call me immediately to resolve this. Thank you.
Feb 12@13:47, SMS to “IT Assistant”: I’ve worked hard to do something good for you an you pay me by taking my passports, tearing down all the charity I’ve done and keeping me and my wife from my children. Thank you. I pray you never have to go trough this.
Feb 12@14:37: I contact a senior official in Immigration. He says he does not have our passports and he has not seen them.
At this point in time, here were the facts:
- No one at UPF will return any form of communication. This includes the Director and the IT Assistant, the only two involved in this deal. SMS, phone calls and emails to work and personal addresses all fail.
- Immigration has not seen the passports. I can only assume they were never turned in. This reveals that the UPF, at least in the short term, has had no intention of upholding their end of the deal.
- We were two full days past the deadline
- My reminders began a full 12 days before the deadline
- The equpment donors are demanding to know the UPF’s stance, and the location of the equipment. I have nothing to tell them but the facts.
At this point, I had an ethical obligation to begin the shutdown of the equipment. I knew that it could be reinstated if this thing cleared, but ethically I couldn’t take chances.
Feb 12@15:04: I email the donor of one of the major pieces of equipment: Please terminate the [license] ASAP and have it remote killed on connect if possible. [..] Jen and I are stranded. They have [..] detained our passports. They never turned them in to immigration. Sorry for the trouble. [..details of license, etc redacted..]
Feb 12@17:38: I emailed the IGP (Chief of Police) on his personal email account. I have this account (but have never used it) since I helped him with a problem he was having with it back in 2010. No response. None expected on that front.
Feb 12@17:54, SMS to “IT Assistant”: Well [”IT Assistant”], you hold all the cards. So once again our lives are in your hands. What will you do with us now?
Feb 12@20:17: “State Contact” to me: Did you get ahold of [“IT Director”]?
Feb 12@21:40, from me to “State Contact”: Nope.
Feb 12@20:41: “State Contact” to me: Do you know [“IT Director’s Assistant”]?
Feb 12@21:42: “State Contact” offers to talk to “Director’s Assistant” on Feb 13.
Thursday, February 13, 2014 (+3 days into contract breach)
Feb 13@08:01: I email “State contact”, “IT Director” and “Director’s Assistant” a complete transcript, and outlined the way forward: return the equipment and the passports, or present the passports with work permit. Each decision carries consequences, as shown in the redacted email included at the end of this post.
Feb 13@08:02, SMS to IT Assistant: All forensic equipment has been blacklisted and locked. It is all currently unusable. Only I can unlock it. I’ve emailed [Director] and [Assistant Director] about everything.
Feb 13@15:01, SMS to Assistant Director: I’m sorry to bother you sir. Any news? Thank you.
Feb 13@18:41, SMS to IT Assistant: I haven’t told you this but part of my frustration with you is that my wife is very sick. Now we are in emergency clinic being told to take her to Nairobi which is where we are supposed to be right now. And we are trapped in Uganda because of this.
Friday, February 14, 2014 (+4 days into contract breach)
Feb 14@10:19: Director’s Assistant called me. Our conversation was brief. He wondered who my work permit was with. I told him, UPF. He asked if it was a renewal. I told him it was. He asked who was handling it. I told him the Director had engaged the “IT Assistant”. He thanked me, said he would call the “IT Assistant” and would call me back.
Feb 14@10:44, SMS to Director’s Assistant: Good morning, sir. Sorry to disturb you. I wonder if you have any word about my passports. We desperately need to travel to Kenya. Thank you for any information.
Feb 14@10:44, SMS from Director’s Assistant: I communicated with [Director] and he said we wait 4 him. He is coming over the wkd
Feb 14@10:44, SMS to Director’s Assistant: Thank you so much. I am available any day any hour esp on weekend. Our situation is serious. Am anxious to turn on equipment and set everyone at ease.
Feb 15@13:28: Finally, The Director of IT has returned to town. I was alerted to this at 1:28pm on Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 with an automated text message from MTN. I waited about thirty minutes and began communication.
Saturday, February 15, 2014 (+5 days into contract breach)
Feb 15@13:38, SMS to the Director: Welcome back [DIRECTOR]. I trust you had a successful trip. I look forward to positive resolution as we continue together. Am available at your convenience.
Feb 15@13:39, SMS from director: That’s fine, Monday should sort all
Feb 15@13:41, SMS to Director: Thank you. Key [sic] me know if you need me to do anything at all. Johnny
Feb 15@13:41, SMS from Director: Will do
Monday, February 17, 2014 (+7 days in to contract breach)
Feb 17@10:53, SMS to the Director: Good morning sir. Please let me know your intentions. You said Monday will sort all. Does this mean work permit or are you returning the equipment and unfinished passports? Either way we must move forward for an amicable solution. Thank you for your assistance.
Feb 17@16:27, SMS to Director: Good afternoon sir. Sorry to disturb you but I’m asking a word from you. Please let me know what is going on? Am I to make other arrangements for work permit? Which path have you chosen? I also have nothing to tell the forensics companies and I want to set them at ease. Things are quite tense.
Feb 17@16:28, SMS to State Contact: FYSA: [Director] has returned given assurances that “all will be sorted Monday” and has not returned my messages or answered my calls. Family still stranded.
Feb 17@16:33: Attempted to call the Director on both known numbers. His phone is switched off.
Feb 17@21:00: Attempted to call the Director on both known numbers. His phone is switched off.
Feb 17@23:00: MTN informs me that the Director’s phone is now available. I don’t bother calling.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 (+8 days in to contract breach)
Feb 18@08:45: I call the Director, he finally picks up. I greet him, welcome him back to the US, and eventually, after an awkward silence I ask him how things are on “that side”. Here is summary of the key points:
1) He says he is offended by my “letters”.
2) He says he is offended that I contacted so many people.
3) He says that the letters made it seem like “a bribe” when really it was not about equipment, he did the deal because of “our relationship”
4) I explained to him that the problem is that the gear is classified as munitions, they are weapons and that no one in UPF is communicating with me.
5) I explained that he is holding me in Uganda and even while my wife was sick and needed to fly. He said he didn’t know that.
6) He says that he was at his Uncle’s funeral yesterday.
7) He said that the IT Assistant was dealing with personal problems.
8) He said he was moving forward with the work permit
9) He said he would write a letter to Immigration when he got back to the office, and would “get them the passports”
10) He said he would let me know something by the end of the day.
Feb 18@13:00: I spoke by phone with the major donor. He is beyond concerned for our safety. He questions the wisdom of the work permit, stating that once we have it, we will owe the UPF for the “favor”. He says that the blacklist on the central device may be permanent. The company has never, in their history, had to blacklist a device. He says he has never seen a law enforcement organization anywhere in the world act in such an unprofessional manner, and it’s no wonder the vendor opted to blacklist the device. At this point, I am still in negotiations with that vendor. I want to honor the spirit of their considerable donation but there is no foreseeable way that they will allow the device to remain in the hands of the UPF. I requested that they leave the device in Uganda, allow me to take the training and do work as a consultant for UPF. The donor will speak to the vendor to see if this is a possibility. However, he feels that the vendor will likely wash their hands of Uganda after this inexplicable start. That means that the devices will not be allowed here, licenses will never be distributed here and trainers will never be allowed to train members of the UPF. Ever. I can’t say that I blame the company. The UPF’s actions are still inexplicable in this matter. I’m not sure they are interested in sustaining a digital forensic capacity of any value. I may simply be barking up the wrong tree. If this is something they aren’t interested in, I’m wasting my time.
Feb 18@24:00: Still no word from the Director, despite his word that he would let me know something by end of day. This comes as no surprise. The Director has yet to keep his word on any aspect of this transaction.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 (+9 days in to contract breach)
Feb 19@08:32: IT Assistant calls me. It was a strained conversation. The IT Assistant was clearly upset at me. He indicated that I needed to write a letter introducing my wife to the Commissioner of Immigration. I agree to do it. I tell him how dissapointed I am, that this is three weeks now, that we couldn’t see our kids and we couldn’t leave the country. He hangs up.
Feb 19@08:41: IT Assistant calls again. He asks if I can get passport pictures to him ASAP. He says he needs them by 11:00 because he is traveling to the airport. I tell him I will accommodate him. It takes 2 hours on a good day to get from Jinja to Kampala. I call a driver, scramble to get the letter and the photos.
Feb 19@09:10: The driver leaves for KAmpala with the letter and passport photos. I inform the IT Assistant.
Feb 19@09:16: SMS to IT Assistant: My driver is coming.He has photos and letter He is at [redacted number]. Let me know if you need anything an [sic] I hope you flight and trip are blessed.
Feb 19@09:18: SMS from IT Assistant: Thank u, Mr John
Feb 19@10:11: I try to call Director, he doesn’t pick up.
Feb 19@10:12: SMS to Director: Good morning, sir. My driver is on the way with the letter and the photos. I need to speak with you urgently regarding [one of the devices]. Thank you.
Feb 19@10:12: SMS from Director: In a meeting will call when done.
Feb 19@10:!2: SMS to Director: Thx
The Director, of course, does not call me back. This comes as absolutely no surprise. This was really a final effort on behalf of the majot vendor to get a ststud update or a response from UPF regarding their device. There is not response. In two days time, the vendor will hand down their final verdict.
Thursday, February 20, 2014 (+10 days in to contract breach)
Feb 20@10:02: SMS to Director: Good morning, sir, just checking in. Is there any news or a contact in immigration I can call for status? Thank you.
Friday, February 21, 2014 (+11 days into contract breach)
This is the day of our kids banquet. We have officially missed the kids break. We won’t see our children and we have missed not only our only visit but also the most significant event in their Junior year. As if boarding school wasn’t hard enough. I do not have the fortitude to act in a reasonable attitutude towards UPF so I elect not to contact them today. I spend the day distracting my wife who is shattered.
Saturday, February 22, 2014 (+12 days into contract breach)
Feb 22@10:26: SMS to Director and IT Assistant: I am requesting an update of any kind. Thank you.
Feb 22@10:26: SMS from IT Assistant: I will be back on thursday, but on Wed it will be ready. God bless you. Thank you.
Sunday, February 23, 2014 (+13 days into contract breach)
I send an email to the major vendor. I know that they want their equipment back. I propose solutions including letting the device remain in my control, training me (and I will train UPF), allowing me to work as a non-paid consultant to UPF. I realize this is likely futile but I’m trying to honor their donation and also still help UPF.
Monday, February 24, 2014 (+14 days into contract breach)
I hear from the major vendor. Their summarized demands are justified and as follows:
1) They want the device back.
2) They will not train UPF, and since the equipment is law-enforcement only, this means they won’t train anyone in Uganda.
3) If and when they receive the device they will send a PC-software version of the device and a six-month license for me to use. I may not give it to UPF, but can give demos. No clear word on how I will be trained on the device. This is a huge step of faith on their part, and frankly I’m surprised they offered it. However the PC software does not come with the necessary cables, so I’m not sure what’s next.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 (+16 days into contract breach)
Feb 25@13:58: SMS to Director and IT Assistant: Good afternoon. I was told the passports would be ready today. What is the status?
Feb 25@14:23: SMS from the Director: Just got bk, let me find out
Feb 25@14:23: SMS to the Director: Thank you. Welcome back.
Feb 26@19:05: I finally got a trustowrthy contact within immigration and she confirmed that my passports are ready for pickup. She says I need a “receipt” to pick them up. I’m going to try to do it without them tomorrow. [editorial]Once again, I am having to push this myself to get the deal closed. One phone call from the Director and he would have had the status.[/editorial]
Thursday, February 26, 2014 (+17 days into contract breach)
Feb 26@07:43: SMS to Director and IT Assistant: Good morning! My driver is coming to Kampala this morning. Where can I have him meet you for the immigration receipt? Also I need him to get the [hardware] kit back from you. The company has disabled it and is asking for it back. Thank you for your assistance.
——[ Begin Editorial ]—–
At this point, the transcript ends, and I begin speculation and editorial:
The vendor reclaiming the equipment is a huge blow, but like I said, I understand it, and the decision is more than justified. UPF has ignored my urgent requests for contact time and time again. The training cut is a massive blow. Training costs approximately $4000 per person, and UPF had submitted a list of 12 officers for training. That’s a loss of $48,000 in training. Even if UPF came up with the money for training at this point, the vendor won’t train them. The vendor does not allow third-party training, and only allows specific trainers. That means all trainers on this device are banned from training Ugandan Police.
They left an open door, however with the offer of the PC software, and agreed to re-evaluate the situation in six months. This is unexpectedly generous given the circumstances. However, I’m not sure where that leaves us. I can’t act as a paid consultant with free gear. I can’t train UPF without being trained, and I’m not a cop so I’m not sure how I would get the training. And of course I can’t really do free consultation or demos without training.
As of Feb 17, I did not know the UPF’s intention in this matter. I had no clue because they would not tell me. As of Feb 18, the Director said he is going to process the work permit. However, it is obvious that the UPF had no intention of abiding by the contract. As of Feb 19, it appears the UPF is making strides to complete the work permits. This is a good sign.
The Director mentions relationships. Make no mistake, relationships are critical here. It starts in childhood, in the village as families fought against all the odds for survival. We Americans don’t have a true sense of this since most of us have never had to struggle for survival or depend on others for life. I respect this concept, even though I don’t fully understand it.
What I’m missing here is how the Director “valued our relationship” with his actions. I’m also not understanding why he’s upset about the parameters of our contract. It was simple, and above board: gear, training and licenses for a work permit. How is that a bribe? Isn’t that the purpose of a work permit: to bring expert tools and knowledge into a country?
The facts stand: once the UPF had the gear, they were happy. They did not raise a finger to call me or uphold their end of the bargain. On January 26, 2014 the UPF took posession of the gear. (In retrospect, this was a fatal flaw. I never, ever should have given them the gear before they came through with the permit.) Two weeks and six days later, and eight days after the contractual due date, after making every atempt to get any word about their intentions and creating quite a stink, the Director finally explains that he values our relationship and will now write a letter to Immigration and get the process started. Their actions showed that they did not care about a relationship, rather they cared about the gear.
As far as the gear is concerned, forensic gear is not kids’ toys. It’s LE-only, export restricted digital “weapons” that can be used by unsavory folks to foil high-profile investigations. I had done everything I could to avoid it, but I had no choice. I took heroic efforts to avoid the call, but in the end I made the calls, and sent the emails requesting the blacklist on the gear. Confirmation from the major vendor came back almost immediately: The gear was disabled and blacklisted. It was, by definition, missing. The vendors who donated the equipment wanted to know it’s status and I could not tell them. At that point, things took a turn, not because of my ego or my ruffled feathers, but because the vendors extended trust and it was clearly violated whether it be due to malice or simple irresponsibility. Either way, the damage was done as soon as UPF dropped the ball, time and time again.
So that’s where we are. Before Feb 18, our passports were missing. As of now, I’m not sure where the gear is. I’m poking sharp sticks at the UPF. If the police become your enemy, they can enter a charge, take your passports and hold you indefinitely, especially since the Embassy won’t get involved if there are charges pressed. I’ve personally seen this happen and I’ve watched as it tore lives apart. Literally.
Right now, there are no charges against me (how could there be?), so I’m not going to put the cart in front of the horse here. Instead, I will take the high road here, and continue to try to help the police bridge this gap and become a trusted member of the international forensics community. God knows they need all the help they can get as they’re passed over time and time again for government grants and funding as they fight against criminals who are increasingly tech-savvy.
The UPF is at a fork in the road and I am their biggest cheerleader, hopeful that they will do the right thing and turn this around, despite all the nay-sayers.
They can either resolve the situation as agreed or back out of the agreement and return the gear (no harm no foul). It’s that simple. Had UPF at least communicated with me and with the vendors, they could have turned this thing around. But their three-week-long silence, painted a very dark picture and hasn’t won the favor of the international community. Instead, the UPF now has a very long road ahead of them, and they only have themselves to blame.
I did my best to handle this as a low-profile “gentleman’s agreement” but once the vendors started asking pressing questions, I simply could not lie to them. My answers were simple: No, I don’t have the permit; No, I don’t have any idea where my passports are; No I don’t know where your gear is; No I don’t know what the UPF’s intentions are; No the UPF is not communicating with me; Yes, I’ve tried everything I know how to do to get any answer from them.
I’m counting on the UPF to do the Right Thing, get this straightened out, severely spank the players that made this such a mess and right the relationship. That would prove we’re on the right path to continue to build a practice that’s based on trust, ethics and responsibility.
But it will take hard work on their part, and frankly, I’m not sure they are up to it. After all, this was an easy transaction for them, and at the highest level of the organization, I’m not seeing anyone take responsibility for their actions. No one has admitted to fault. It’s all somehow my fault for sending “letters” and doing everything I can to try to resolve this for the UPF. Somehow I’m to blame for the vendors rightly demanding to know the status of their world-class gear, as they are required by law to do.
Only time will tell. But one thing’s for sure. Thanks to the bumbling of an as-yet-identified player, we won’t be going to Kenya and we’ve lost one of very few remaining opportunities to be with our kids before they’re off on their own. And we are, without a doubt, Stuck in Uganda until the UPF decides to make a move in some direction.
——[ End Editorial ]—–
Attachment: Email to “State”, “IT Director” and “Assistant to IT Director” on Feb 13:
———— [ Begin of Email ]——————-
I’ve copied [ASSISTANT] and [STATE].
I have found out that you are out of town. That at least explains why you are out of communications and sets me somewhat at ease.
I respect our continued relationship, and because of that my heart is heavy with the news I must deliver.
I have tried everything under the sun to resolve this situation, but here are the facts as they stand this morning:
1) [“IT ASSISTANT”] has refused every single one of my contact attempts. Yesterday morning beginning at 7:00am, I began calling [“IT ASSISTANT”]. I called a total of 48 times, and he did not take my calls. He later texts me that he “was in a place where he couldn’t take or send calls” and said he could only text. Our transcripts are as follows:
[..THE SMS TRANSCRIPT BETWEEN MYSELF AND “IT ASSISTANT” from Jan 30-Feb 12 INCLUDED AS SHOWN ABOVE..]
As you can see, I was reminding [“IT ASSISTANT”] well in advance I have tried absolutely everything in my power, and [“IT ASSISTANT”] lack of response and action has been irresponsible and unethical in the face of a signed UPF contract.
2) I contacted [AN ASSISTANT IGP], another lead contact in UPF to verify your phone number. He verified that is was correct. I further asked him to have [“IT ASSISTANT”] contact me, explaining that it was urgent UPF business and he agreed to pass on the message. He also verified that you were out of town.
3) I contacted [State contact], who also verified your contact and offered to contact [your assistant] on my behalf. [State contact] agree with my ethical responsibility to protect the forensics equipment and urges me to wait as long as possible before disabling it.
4) I emailed the IGP on his personal email address, the only time I have ever used that address on yahoo since unlocking it for him in 2010. No response (not that I expected one). I left out details, only explaining that it was quite urgent and I was trying to help the UPF with an urgent matter.
5) I emailed you previously at this address and met with no response.
6) I contacted immigration, and through my contacts and on the word of a senior official second to the commissioner, discovered that my passports are not in immigration, nor have they passed through the office recently.
At this point, I have blacklisted all of your equipment. Only I can unlock all the equipment. What does this mean?
Fist of all, all software licenses are suspended. None of the software will work. Additionally, all the hardware devices are disabled. They will not work. Each and every item is currently internationally blacklisted, meaning it will not work no matter where you are in the world.
In the forensics community, trust is EVERYTHING. These devices I got for you are LE (Law Enforcement) ONLY. They are not sold commercially. Many are classified as munitions, as weapons, by the US government and are export-restricted. The reason for this is that in the hands of the untrustworthy, they can be used as weapons against law enforcement. So each company is bound by law to closely monitor the usage of these tools to ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands. When an ethical issue arrises (like the one the UPF has put itself in right now by breaching the contract, illegally detaining my passports and not responding to any communication when taking delivery of these items) these companies are bound by law to act harshly.
Right now, each and every forensics company represented by the donation [list redacted] are aware that there’s a problem with their software and hardware in the hands of the UPF.
That is hard for me to even write, but you’ve left me no choice. Your staff has acted unethically and irresponsibly. These were not toys, [Director], these were weapons. That was no “Ugandan handshake” [IT Assistant] signed. Yes, it was an informal document because of our relationship, but it was binding and it represented an extension of trust. I extended trust to the UPF, and ensured each and every one of those vendors that the UPF could be trusted.
So where does that leave us?
Well, you have left me without a passport. My wife and I can not travel. We are being illegally detained in the country, for all intents and purposes. [IT Assistant] will not pick up my calls and will not respond to my texts. He is holding our passports illegally. You have also caused us to miss our oldest children’s only break this year. You, [Director], have made it so my wife and I can not see our teenage children this year. That is unforgivable.
Your relationship with the above-listed companies is currently quite tenuous. Each and every vendor is rightly curious about the reasons behind the blacklist, but at this point I’ve given them no details, citing only that due to administrative problems, the devices are not yet in the intended hands.
Our relationship is in peril [Director], because at this point I don’t know exactly where the problem lies. I suspect it lies with [IT Assistant]. His attitude is unprofessional and I can only guess that [his status] gives him the ability to act any way he pleases without regard for the consequences. This is speculation, but it is based on observation of the situation and the above transcript.
What is the way forward? That depends on your goals. Here are the options at this point:
1) Return all the equipment in good working order, return my passports without the work permit. I will contact the companies and explain that your lab is not yet ready. I will thank them for their patience and explain that you are waiting for the proper time to begin your forensics lab. I will bow out as your representative and you will then be on your own to procure all the equipment and build your own relationship with each of these companies. I warn you, unless you have the US government’s backing, it can be difficult to establish these trust relationships with these companies, especially with a previous reported incident. It is also quite expensive to procure this equipment. In this case, our personal relationship will be damaged as you have left us without a work permit, backed out of a signed agreement, acted irresponsibly and unethically, put at risk all our work in Uganda and separated us from our children.
2) Deliver my passports with the work permit affixed, as agreed. I will call and unlock the devices, and explain that they are now in police custody. This will restore your relationship with these companies. However, because you are in breach of our contract, you will be responsible for the training and licensing fees. The equipment, however, is your to keep as long as you can maintain the licenses. This does not fully restore our relationship, however. If you further wish to restore our relationship and have me act as a representative to these companies for you and attempt to solicit further donations, we will need to have another personal, in-person discussion. The reason for this is simple: I do not have a firm foundation of trust in the UPF after this incident, and that trust must be restored.
I value our relationship, and I want to continue it, but this must be resolved properly.
Attached are photos of the equipment I sent you. I have also sent you a copy of the original agreement [IT Assistant] signed outlining the equipment he took. At this point I do not even trust that the equipment made it into your hands in it’s entirety.
I have copied [State Contact] and [your assistant] as they plan to meet this morning.
I look forward to resolving this amicably and continuing in our relationship.
——— [End of Email] ————–
Attachment: Text of original contract. This is not the signed copy as I have no desire at this point to highlight the details of the players. Note also that certain details have been redacted to prevent the dissemination of information that may be harmful to the UPF
——— [Begin of Contract Text] ————–
Agreement Regarding Work Permit with Uganda Police
This agreement is being made between Johnny Long (hereafter designated as CONTRACTOR) and [“IT Assistant”] (hereafter designated as UPF REPRESENTATIVE), an authorized representative of the Ugandan Police Force (hereafter referred to as UPF).
By signing this agreement, UPF agrees:
To provide CONTRACTOR with an official Ugandan work permit and dependent’s passes for CONTRACTOR’s wife and three children.
The work permit must indicate that CONTRACTOR works with the UPF
The work permit and passes must remain valid for a period of no less than three years
The work permit and passes must be affixed to passports no later than Feb 10, 2014
To secure and protect provided equipment. Note: trainers will cease training and donors will cease license renewal should any equipment be stolen, misplaced, misused or otherwise lost.
By signing this agreement, CONTRACTOR agrees:
To provide UPF with the following equipment:
[list of equipment redacted]
[service details redacted]
I, the above signed, acknowledge that I have received above-listed equipment and am an authorized representative of the Ugandan Police Force, fully authorized to enter into and fulfill this agreement.
——— [End of Contract Text] ————–