Can our babus be bond?

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by ajtr, Jun 27, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Can our babus be bond?

    Josy Joseph, TNN, Jun 27, 2010, 01.10am IST
    It was a rare gesture. On May 25, Union home minister P Chidambaram congratulated the intelligence agencies for "apprehending the prime suspect" in the Pune bombing case within 100 days of the attack. Within days, the minister was forced to retract his statement. The security agencies' claims about the suspect, Abdul Samad Bhatkal, who had been arrested at Mangalore airport, crumbled in the face of irrefutable evidences that suggested Samad had not played a role in the blast.

    Intelligence officers believe Chidambaram could have been misled by sleuths eager to present "quick results" to a demanding minister. A former intelligence chief is convinced the case symbolizes the weak human intelligence capabilities of Indian agencies. He says whole cases are built on the basis of interrogation reports, which could well be misleading or false. A former intelligence chief cites attacks on Mumbai trains and the Malegaon mosque in 2006 as examples of the way agencies and police "cook up" stories to show results to their political masters. He says, "There is a belief among intelligence operatives that interrogation report is the best. That is misleading."

    A recently retired officer says that Indian agencies need to have a regular audit of their reports and analyses, a process well entrenched in most modern agencies. "But it doesn't happen in our system," he adds. So yet another 26/11 could be waiting to happen even as police and public will go into random alert mode based on unfounded intelligence inputs. This, even as infighting and cover-ups remain the consistent reality of the secretive world of Indian intelligence.

    The intelligence agencies — the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), the Intelligence Bureau (IB), National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and the intelligence arm of the military (MI) — appear to be steadily losing their old competence. Their shortcomings are increasingly manifest as frequent blunders.

    Post-26/11, the top rung of the security establishment was quick to deny local involvement. But then David Coleman Headley emerged from nowhere in stark contradiction of these claims. "We didn't carry out a rigorous investigation and intelligence gathering even post-26/11," admits a senior official. Pointing out similarities with the 2006 blasts, he says, "We had started with some very good leads in both cases. But as political and media pressure built up, the local police just gave in, and completed a logical story."

    At least one former intelligence chief believes the "declining capabilities of human operations is a concern". A former R&AW officer says the problem is "we have all become managers. We must first be operatives, then managers." But former R&AW chief PKH Tharakan insists today's "recruits are as good as their predecessors, but there is far more pressure to come out with predictions and it is leading to mistakes".

    With an unparalleled asset base of operatives with expertise in several languages, religions and regions, Indian intelligence agencies were once legendary for humint (human intelligence) gathering. But now, admits a senior official, "we are too dependent on techint (technical intelligence)". This can be a huge problem when it comes to low-tech groups such as the top rungs of the Dawood gang, Pakistan-based terrorist groups or the naxals. Officials admit Indian agencies have negligible intelligence reports on these groups.

    Former IB chief Ajit Doval says "I can only endorse Stratfor's statement that IB is one of the five most efficient intelligence agencies in the world. Its weakness, however, lies in its approach of working more like the gatherer than hunter. They have not only to hunt for intelligence in offensive mood but also influence policy decisions and executive action in that direction."

    This lack of the "hunter attitude" is visible in R&AW too, officers tell TOI. "Today we are reluctant to go to Pakistan or Afghanistan. We have also aligned our foreign postings along that of the Ministry of External Affairs. Whereas our yardstick should have been different," says one officer who spent years in R&AW. "If you are picked to go to Pakistan it must be an honour. But we are after postings in Europe and US." Madhuri Gupta's posting to Pakistan - and its dismal fallout – is a reflection of this "lose approach" of Indian intelligence about the neighbourhood, say insiders. "From the very fact that a single woman was posted to Pakistan, to her own erratic behaviour at various points were enough reasons to pick her out," says a serving officer.

    Manipulation in postings within the R&AW and officers' reluctance to develop expertise on countries such as China and Pakistan is beginning to manifest itself as a crucial intelligence gap. As senior officers retire, R&AW has a significant gap at the very top on subjects such as China.

    It is safe to say Indian intelligence is severely demoralized. Poor HR policies and biases have seen to that. The internal war has added to it. In R&AW, the IPS lobby is pitted against the RAS (Research and Analysis Service). In the IB, indigenous recruits are bitter about IPS dominance.

    The agencies have also become bulwarks of biases. Women and minorities have a negligible presence. Within R&AW there are no Muslims. In the IB, Muslims are few and far between at the senior levels. The gender and religious bias is thought to have burst into the headlines when Nisha Bhatia, a director-rank R&AW officer was declared mad after she tried to commit suicide in front of the Prime Minister's Office a few years ago. "She was a well recognized officer who was carrying out an important role until a few months ago. How did she suddenly become a ‘deranged woman'?" asks one of her former colleagues.

    It is telling that one of Bhatia's biggest complaints was R&AW's lack of a transparent system to redress grievances. Today some of her colleagues acknowledge that "transparency" is a huge "challenge" for the agency.
    The lack of transparency, is of course, larger than R&AW. Intelligence agencies in India, unlike most democracies, are not accountable to parliamentary committees. Or anyone at all?

    But there is more. Indian intelligence doesn't seem to be responding too well to technological challenges either. The NTRO has managed to develop significant technological capability but other agencies seem hamstrung. For example, in December-January, Chinese hackers penetrated several dozen computers of the Ministry of Defence and National Security Council Secretariat among others, but there was very little defence offered. Worse, India does not have credible offensive capability in the field of cyber warfare. The NTRO has about 24 people monitoring the massive email traffic, a crucial source of intelligence leads. "We need at least a hundred," says an official.

    What is the way forward? Former intelligence bosses Doval and Tharakan say change must start at the top and a dedicated director of national intelligence must speedily be appointed. He would be the czar of all intelligence agencies. From there would flow a system of an all-seeing eye on threats to India from within and without
  3. Agantrope

    Agantrope Senior Member Senior Member

    Nov 1, 2009
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    Last few lines are something like i read in Digital Fortress.....

    Better this people get training from the Mossad or any other intelligence agencies, how to lock and execute the target.

    But on whole claiming that RAW is inefficient is what i cant accept, they played a major role in the split of Hizbul-mujahiddin in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir and hunting of other targets in the Myanmar
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2010
  4. Oracle

    Oracle New Member

    Mar 31, 2010
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    Bangalore, India
    It is unintelligent to have no humint or hi-tech
    B Raman, Jun 27, 2010, 01.16am IST

    Indian intelligence agencies are good at crisis management after a threat to national security has materialized but inadequate when it comes to preventing a crisis. Their frequent failure can be attributed to a lack of quality control in internal management. This is evident from their outdated recruitment procedures, which tend to assume that police officers naturally make good intelligence officers. Poor man-management often leads to friction within intelligence agencies.

    There are many other problems: poor team work; a tendency to treat the intelligence profession like any other government job, where seniority prevails over merit; a failure to keep pace with developments in science and technology; too much focus on short-term tactics and too little attention to long-term strategy to foresee and forestall a security crisis.

    Unlike other countries, techniques of national security and intelligence management in India have not received the attention they deserve. The result: our agencies tend to drift from crisis to crisis, from failure to failure and from surprise to surprise. Their poor techniques are reflected in the low standards of our intelligence training schools and in the poor quality of research on security issues in our think-tanks and academic institutions.

    In India, national security and intelligence management are not treated as a science to be constantly developed, but as esoteric subjects beyond the understanding of the generalists and better left to the intelligence careerists. Intelligence careerism stands in the way of our agencies as it thwarts professionalism. We have many intelligence careerists, but not that many professionals. Our political class, which sees intelligence as an instrument of political survival and not as an agent of national security, has also contributed to this state of affairs.

    Our agencies are not without their good points. Indian intelligence officers may be poor collectors of preventive intelligence but are good analysts of the limited intelligence they collect. Foreign intelligence officers are good collectors but poor analysts. The John C Major Commission of Canada, which probed the blowing-up of Air India’s Kanishka plane in 1985, has highlighted the way that Canadian officers failed adequately to analyze the flood of intelligence reports available.

    Crisis management comes to us instinctively. Despite being taken by surprise, we manage to prevail in the end. We saw this during the India-Pakistan war of 1965 and the Kargil conflict of 1999, and in the way we prevailed over the Mizo National Front, the Khalistani terrorists in Punjab and Al Ummah in Tamil Nadu. Even in Kashmir, we have recovered lost ground after what appeared to be a hopeless situation in the 1990s.

    Despite these good points, our agencies have failed to live up to expectations because there has been no continuous, independent and transparent evaluation of their performance. Our agencies continue to be evaluators of their own performance whereas in other countries, particularly in the West, performance is subject to regular external evaluation by parliament and other expert bodies that may not belong to the intelligence profession.

    Detailed investigations of attacks such as 9/11 and the July 2005 London bombings are more the exception than the rule in India. Our Parliament does not even know how much it votes as the intelligence budget and how that money is spent. Intelligence allocations are concealed in the general budgets of other ministries and departments and are cleared without independent scrutiny.

    Intelligence agencies and chiefs can do no wrong. They are manned by honourable men who will not transgress laws and rules. So it used to be assumed before World War II. But post-Watergate enquiries in the US revealed that there are as many incompetents, opportunists and law-breakers in the intelligence profession as in any other public service. The result: opening-up of intelligence agencies to the extent possible due to security considerations and external evaluation. India is one of very few democracies where agencies are not open to an external performance audit. Unless this changes, our intelligence management will not change for the better.

    In the past, there were more threats from state, rather than non-state actors. Post-WWII threats come as much from both. Before 1945, the intelligence profession was admired as one of anonymous patriots. The public considered it a duty and privilege to co-operate. Now, the intelligence profession is tolerated as necessary, but it is no longer admired because of its seeming helplessness against the non-state actors. Public co-operation has consequently decreased. This has had a negative impact on the flow of humint or human intelligence. Our ability to collect intelligence using gadgets has been improving, but not our ability to use human resources for intelligence collection.

    How to deal with the new situation, which is marked more by threats to internal than external security? This is the question that needs attention.

    B Raman, a security analyst, is a former additional secretary of R&AW

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