Surnames/tags: special_branch british_south_africa_police rhodesia
The Special Branch was responsible to the Deputy Commissioner (Crime and Security) for the gathering of intelligence. Sections within the BSA Police have been involved with intelligence since the late 1930's dealing mostly with aliens control and immigration. In the course of the Second World War a section calling itself XB had been formed. During the period of the Federation the British implements a Federal Intelligence and Security Bureau (FISB), which was an arm of MI5, but XB remained intact. The breakup of the Federation resulted in the introduction of an autonomous Branch of the Force, called Special Branch in July 1962 and later the formation of the Central Intelligence Organisation into which Special Branch Headquarters (also known as Branch 1) was absorbed. As noted above, the OC SB reported to two channels of command.
Special Branch stations were established in most of the larger towns throughout the provinces. The functions of the Special Branch included the following:
- European/Counter Intelligence Desk - monitoring the inflow of immigrants or visitors to Rhodesia, from hostile or Eastern Block nations, and concerned with the influence of Communist philosophies spread by europeans, in addition to observations of unfriendly nations representation in Rhodesia (through diplomatic and journalistic infiltration);
- Nationalist Desk - black nationalist aspirations were the core of dissent around which the liberation struggle evolved and the close monitoring and thorough infiltration of nationalist political parties played a key role in the provision of intelligence, by Special Branch, to Government;
- Projects Section - as with most intelligence organisations of the 1960's and 70's, special projects and initiatives were abundant in the face of political dissention and guerilla warfare. This section was the initiator of psuedo operations, later to become the well known, much feared, Selous Scouts, amongst other successes;
- Technical - a specialist division within the intelligence community concerning itself with secret communications, mail and communications interception, and the gadgetry of modern day counter espionage and terrorism operations;
- Terrorist Desk (initially part of the Nationalist Desk) - concerned itself with intelligence gathering and support of the defence forces in their operations against terrorist gangs which commenced infiltrations into Rhodesia during the early 1960s, in the absence of credible military intelligence initiatives;
- Trade Union Desk - initially, the trade unions played a pivotal role in uplifiting nationalist sentiment in Rhodesia, before the more well recognised nationalist parties evolved. The political sentiment of the unions was subjected to close monitoring.