From a new border module to NATGRID, how India plans to wade away the Taliban threat

New Delhi, Sep 13: With the Afghanistan situation remaining fragile and the Indian Intelligence agencies warning of a possible security risks, the border forces under the counter terror grid will train under a new module.

With officials stating that the situation could be very fragile along the border a new module would be prepared. This would largely focus on border strategy and wading off terror strikes.

The new module would comprise training, combat techniques with intelligence. The module would closely watch the activities of the Taliban and the techniques the group of the terror modules they support would adopt.

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With NATGRID round the corner, days of non-actionable Intelligence set to end

New Delhi, Sep 13: In the wake of the evolving situation following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, India’s Intelligence agencies have sounded a series of alerts about the possible threat to the security situation in the country.

Alerts have been issued regarding the possibility of the Islamic State Khorasan Province upping activities in India. There have also been alerts about the Taliban allowing the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba to use Afghanistan as a launch pad to carry out attacks in India.

Following the Mumbai 26/11 attacks, there were serious concerns raised around the deficiencies in the intelligence system. India did not have a mechanism to get information on a real time basis.

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How NATGRID will help wipe out cock and bull intelligence

natgridNew Delhi, Sep 23: Intelligence gathering plays a very crucial role in the fight against terror. There are various kinds of inputs that are gathered and several times, the agencies end up hitting a dead end due to false intelligence or what they sometimes call as cock and bull intel.

During a recent meeting of the the Home Ministry held last week, the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) was discussed and Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that he would want this up and running by 2020.

Intelligence will be national property as NATGRID readies for year end roll out

New Delhi, Sep 17: Not concrete, cock and bull, not actionable are some of the common words used by the Intelligence Agencies. In today’s day and time, intelligence, especially actionable and Grade A plays a very crucial role.

During a high level meeting of the Home Ministry held last week, the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) was discussed and Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that he would want this up and running by the end of the year.

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The importance of NATGRID in today’s scenario

natgridThe National Intelligence Grid have been added to the list of organisations to access information being provided by the Financial Intelligence Unit. This has been done in a bid to gather information about both money laundering and terror financing.

The start of the National Intelligence Grid may have been slow, but the government today has realised the importance of the same and it is just a matter of time before it becomes fully functional. The government has made it clear that its top priority would be to prevent money laundering and also ensure that terror groups are choked of their finances.

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NATGRID- What Modi sarkar is planning?

Inset: Raghu Raman.

Will the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) take off ever? The project which was conceived when P Chidambaram was the Home Minister appears to be moving at an extremely slow pace which brings us to the question whether the new government at the Center even finds this project important enough to have.
There are enough and more signs available to suggest that the Narendra Modi government wants to have a re-look at this project. If he is able to get the agencies to coordinate properly then a NATGRID is not even important. It was in fact more of a desperate measure by the then Home Minister as he realised that none of the agencies were coordinating with each other as a result of which intelligence was not shared and operationalised and this resulted in the 26/11 attack.

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NCTC: The pitfalls, pros and cons

India is expected to have the National Counter Terrorism Centre operational by March 1 2012, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs. It would be the umbrella body which would deal with terror threats within the country and would comprise the Intelligence Bureau’s Multi Agency Centre apart from the Joint Intelligence Committee, National Technical Research Organisation and the National Security Guards.

In India, Intelligence gathering has not been really the problem. The problem arises when the same has to be analysed. We got to see it during the 26/11 attack where both the police and the Intelligence agencies were at logger heads with each other over intelligence sharing. A similar problem cropped up during the David Headley fiasco when India cried foul stating that intelligence was provided but the same was not actionable in nature. The NCTC is aimed at putting to rest all such confusion and would receive data at regular intervals before analysing the same and sending it back to the police after deciding whether the intelligence is actionable or not.

Prior to getting into the pros and cons let us look into the role, jurisdiction and also the powers of this centre. It would have powers under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act which would enable it to make searches, arresting powers and would also have the power to seek transcripts, data and other terror related material from any of the agencies in the country. The agencies that it could seek information from would be the Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, NATGRID, National Technical Research Organization, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and all seven central armed police forces including the National Security Guard (NSG).
Apart from collecting data, the primary job of the NCTC would be to warn so as to pre-empt terror strikes. All agencies dealing with terrorism would feed information to the NCTC which would be a collection point. There would be a panel of experts on board to analyse this intelligence. The analysis would be conducted on the existing intelligence which would read with previous alerts and also strikes. This would be then pieced together before sending the information to the field based on which security agencies would act upon. Basically what the Home Ministry has done is set up an agency which would be the main collecting unit of intelligence. This is a way of ensuring that all intercepts are sent to one particular agency which would piece it together and then put out a final assessment.

The Home Ministry had found loop holes in the manner in which intelligence was being shared. Most of the time it was being passed on directly to the police. However this led to confusion and each time after a terror strike both the police and the IB were found to be blaming each other about intelligence sharing. With the NCTC, it would be compulsory to alert it regarding each intercept and it would be the job of this centre to ensure that the information is given out to the departments concerned so that action could be taken on the same.

Experts however argue that this is just another centre aimed at creating more jobs. The best intelligence always comes from the local police stations and there is a dire need to strengthen this wing first. Despite us having so many agencies it is always seen that officials from foreign agencies or the interpol when they visit India in relation to case, they always contact the local police for first hand information as it makes the process quicker. The other argument is that intelligence sharing could slow down as the Home Ministry has decided yet another agency to report to. However the counter argument to this would be that officials would have to tune themselves up to sharing information quickly and the NCTC on its part would have to very quickly analyse the intelligence and send it back to the agencies concerned.

C D Sahay former boss of the Research and Analysis Wing says that it is important that the NCTC has finally been established. This is a decade old proposal and I feel happy it has finally seen the light of the day. However there are certain issues and most important we need to be clear about the charter of this centre. If its charter evolves around getting information from various agencies then what are the Joint Intelligence Agencies, the Multi Agencies and the State’s Intelligence Coordination units going to do. They are basically doing the same thing and the setting up of the NCTC could only lead to multiplicities of agencies. I just hope it is not another exercise of creating more posts. I feel that the other agencies mentioned above need to be wound up and only the NCTC should be allowed to function as this would wipe out all confusion as there are already agencies which are involved in analysing data. We need to review all this and have one fully empowered agency which is accountable and efficient enough to deal with all matters pertaining to terrorism.

An senior official points out that there is a bit of confusion regarding the director of the NCTC reporting to the Director of the Intelligence Bureau and being part of the Intelligence Bureau. It should be an independent agency and should not be accountable to any of the major feeder agencies. This infact makes it an awkward situation as the the Intelligence Bureau will always be the main feeder agency and hence there is a need to keep the NCTC independent of the IB and should be a reporting agency.

Sahay points out that in this case where the director of the new agency reports to the IB it sure will lead to confusion. If this is the case then why have a separate agency at all. Instead create a cell within the IB itself. If the NCTC is not made independent then there is a danger of it becoming a bureacratic unit and there is every chance that the NCTC would become an independent intelligence gathering centre.

Another official argues that the present role does not make it clear what exactly this agency would do after all. I personally feel that it should have an operational role for itself. It should coordinate operations failing which it will go back to the same rut where in there will be complaints of information not coming in and then we have a repeat of the post 26/11 situation. Unless there is someone heading the NCTC with operationalising powers there is no meaning for the agency and this agency would have information again in bits and pieces and this would once again lead to a major intelligence failure.

The main thing that the NCTC needs to do is to get together experts who can analyse intelligence. There should be a proper structure where the feeder agencies collect information right from the ground level including a constable and then immediately feed it to the NCTC.

Another official says that it is too early to comment on the exact manner in which the NCTC would function. It would start operations from March 1 and over the next couple of months the required amends would be made. There is a herculean task ahead of them to start collecting data and then piecing together the intelligence before analysing it. The idea is to have faster access to information and intelligence. The officer also adds that there is a need to ensure that the NCTC does not get entangled into a hierarchy mess and should be open to information right from the level of a constable who is probably the best intelligence in the Indian police set up. However there should be a proper channel to collect such data which would ensure that the NCTC would go a long way in counter terrorism.

Natgrid and its benefits

There was a dire need for a full fledged terror data base in India and going by Monday’s meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, it appears that the much awaited National Intelligence Grid or Natgrid is underway.
The idea of setting up Natgrid would be to merge all databases of individuals into one which could be accessed by various agencies. The issue in India was there was no proper data base of every individual and more often than not after every terror strike, we have found our agencies to be groping in the dark.
While this would help a great deal in combating terrorism emerging out of India soil, it would be hard to say whether it would have it effects on terrorists coming in from other countries. The Intelligence Bureau points out that it is essential that we deal with home grown terror first since these are the people who ultimately end up facilitating those who come from outside.
In India there are 1000s of terror cells and modules which a to operate. There is absolutely no data base on most of these persons and this in turn helps these cadres operate with ease. In India the agencies tend to build up a data base after an attack is over. This has only ensured that the terrorists have got more time to slip out and we have seen several times in the past that once a person manages to slip out, we never get him back.
Security agencies point out that although India does have a capable policing wing across all states they remain handicapped for the want of data. Take for instance if a terrorist of Gujarat origin is nabbed in Rajasthan, then the police teams of both states will need to coordinate. In the past we have seen due to lack of coordination and most of the time ego clashes between the police departments of both states information is not shared. With Natgrid, this issue would be solved and the respective departments could access the data base without having to coordinate with each other. In short terrorism would not be a subject matter of one state alone and this data base would be national property without any jurisdiction, security experts also say.
Under this set up, police officials would have to feed information about each person to this data base. This would include credit card details, residential proof, immigration details and all other transactions regarding a person. Natgrid would not only comprise information about people under the scanner. It would have data of every citizen of India. Apart from the above mentioned details, the data base on a person will also comprise information about a person’s bank accounts, finger prints, property details, telephone details and education details.
An official in the IB says that the police will have a big role to play to ensure that this data is in place. The police not only have to feed in the first bit of the data, but there is a need to keep updating the data. Hence there is a lot of manual work load on the police and they cannot afford to slip up. In addition to this the Intelligence Bureau too would keep providing its inputs which again needs to be updated. It will be a continous effort for the police and all other agencies and in case they slip up then we will be back to square one.
Hence when there is an issue with a particular person, the police would have access to that person at the click of a button. Prior to this, the police of a particular state had to call his colleague in another state and after a lot of bureaucratic procedures, the data was shared. This procedure normally took anything between a week or two, which in turn gave time for the person in question to slip out.
Natgrid would also help the police and the Intelligence Bureau keep a tab on persons with suspicious backgrounds. The police would have access to all his data and any movement by this person would also be tracked with the help of this data base.
The international terrorists: While this would take care of the home grown problem the issue with regard to international terrorists also needs to be sorted out. Senior police officials say that in case of those terrorists who have slipped out of the country, there is a need to interact with the police of the particular country and also the Interpol and update the data. This would have to be done on a regular basis so that the police can keep a tab on such persons who try and enter into the country.
There will be a training programme for all police personnel across the country on how to feed data into the server. They would also be told on what is to be fed since data fed should not lead to any sort of confusion during investigation. Home Ministry officials say that it is necessary that the right data is fed since they do not want any problems for ordinary citizens due to wrong data pulling up.