Sometimes things don’t go the way it has been planned out. I have been on this forum for over a year and more importantly since day one. I must admit that it was a roller coaster ride all along. We set out thinking that we would make this a social networking site, but I guess that was not to be. Basically speaking I would like to say that I have maxed out as there is nothing new to be done over here. I want to thank all those who have been with us since day one and made this page what it was. After much debate and consideration, I have decided to move away and focus more on my blog which I plan to do a bit seriously from now onwards. Join me at www.vickynanjappa.com and help me make it a success. Lots of love to all and thanks again. A big word of thanks to my moderator Sonya Rajpal. Thanks again.
Sebastian Rotella, the award-winning reporter relentlessly exposing the David Headley case, in an exclusive interview with Rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa.
ProPublica.org, the respected journalism Web site, has blown the lid off US claims about Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Coleman Headley.
In a series of investigative reports, the non-profit news organisation has revealed how US intelligence agencies ignored about five warnings from Headley’s family about his terror activities.
Sebastian Rotella, the award-winning correspondent at ProPublica, believes that Headley could not have undertaken the surveys of targets for the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai all by himself.
Just before President Obama’s visit to India, there was a storm over the exact nature of intelligence the US shared with India on David Headley.What according to you is the real story?
In my story that I have reported recently, I have written about the time line of the warnings and inputs the agencies have received on Headley.
A review of the US government’s contacts with Headley had identified at least 5 different cases in which relatives or associates had warned that he was training or working with Pakistani terrorists.
Leads about this man surfaced in 2001, 2002, December 2008 and April 2009. Now coming to your question on the exact nature of intelligence shared by the US with India, not one of them mentioned or referred to David Headley.
The intelligence shared with India made mentions about an attack in Mumbai, but the name of Headley never cropped up during the intelligence sharing between the two countries.
It is said that the allegations made by Headley’s wife were too general in nature to connect Headley to a terror plot? Do you think this was a slip up?
The Americans decided that the nature of the allegations was not specific in nature and I cannot say why they said this.
In April 2008, she had spoken about a special mission being undertaken by Headley and in my thinking this is pretty specific.
The agencies seem to have a different interpretation of this and I really cannot comment why this is the case.
Do you think the agencies were a bit slow in reacting to Headley considering the first warnings about him came after the 9/11 attacks?
That is a matter to be seen. I have mentioned that there were various instances where his relatives or friends have spoken about him.
The nature of the warnings by his wife, according to me, was specific in nature. However, it is about how each one analyses this information. I cannot comment why they thought it was not specific in nature.
It is said that Headley shared a lot of information with his handlers post 26/11. How grave a situation do you think this is for India?
This is a matter of investigation. Headley has spoken a lot to his interrogators and they have managed to get a lot of information from him about the manner in which operations have been carried out and how their modules function.
How much of an effect do you think Headley’s arrest has had on terror groups like Lashkar and Al Qaeda?
It is not the end of the road for them. But it sure is a big blow to Al Qaeda and Lashkar.
Headley’s arrest has deprived these groups of a good scout.
In Headley they had a lot of benefits. He could speak in several languages and the manner in which he could operate was very unique. They do not have many like him.
Hence, his arrest is a big blow to them although not the end of the road.
What, according to you, has changed in the entire terror scenario post Headley’s arrest?
Headley has been talking a lot and has been giving loads of information on the manner in which both Al Qaeda and the Lashkar operate.
However, the most important thing is the information that he has shared regarding Ilyas Kashmiri. This bit of information has helped agencies in India, Pakistan and the US realise the threat posed by Kashmiri.
Headley also goes on to reveal the importance of Kashmiri and what a threat he is to the world.
Headley also lists the manner in which both these organisations work and also how their modules function.
Overall, I think Headley was a prime catch for the agencies and will help nations fight the terror war more effectively in future.
Headley slipped into India with ease on several occasions. What do you think made this job so easy for him? Was there any support from the US agencies?
I cannot tell if there was any support for him from US agencies. The fact that he had a clean passport and a legitimate business made the job very easy for him.
He travelled on clean documents on various occasions and that didn’t create any doubt for anyone.
Moreover, as I said earlier too, he was a good scout and his operations were unique in nature.
He ensured that there was no mess up in his documents. All these factors helped him carry out a smooth operation in India without getting noticed.
I am not too sure about the people who he had with them. People who have interrogated him have said that he did not take any assistance.
However, that seems unlikely.
He had a legitimate business and many of those working in this set-up too have managed to immigrate into India. These factors need to be looked into.
The entire case needs to be seen as a whole since there was also talk that there were scouts such as Fahim Ansari in India who also did some part of the work.
Why has the name of Tawwahur Rana, which was prominent in the early part of the Headley investigation, vanished? What role did he play?
Rana is a less important character in this entire case. Headley has already pleaded guilty whereas the case against Rana is still going on and one needs to see what comes out of it.
As of now what we know is that Rana is the one who provided Headley with the infrastructure. It is too early to say anything much on Rana as of now since the case is still open against him.
The filing of the Ajmer blasts chargesheet and also the mention of top notch RSS leader, Indresh Kumar had created quite a stir. The 806 page chargesheet which was filed last week takes a lot of names, but the real challenge before the investigating agency would be to join the dots in order to reach a final conclusion in the case.
There are a lot of high profile names such as Indresh Kumar, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Swami Aseemanand which find a mention in this chargesheet. Legal experts who have seen the chargesheet point out that there are many loop holes in the existing chargesheet and there are a lot of dots that need to be joined for the ATS to come to any sort of conclusion at the end of it failing which they could face problems while answering the court.
The strongest charge that the ATS has against Indresh Kumar in the chargesheet is that he had addressed a meeting in the year 2005 at the Gujarati Samaj guest house at Jaipur. The meeting comprised Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Swami Aseemnand from the Abhinav Bharath. This meeting was carried out to discuss the Ajmer blasts according to the ATS. The ATS goes on to state that the room was booked by Sunil Joshi under the name of Manoj Kumar. In addition to this the ATS also claimed that Aruna Jain the manager of the guest house had admitted that Sunil Joshi had booked a claim that she has denied now. The denial by Aruna had prompted the ATS to get a copy of the register belonging to the guest house and interestingly this was done only after the chargesheet was filed.
The problem now for the ATS would be to join the dots regarding this meeting in order to justify taking Indresh Kumar’s name in the chagesheet, experts and former police officials point out. The ATS will need to seek time from the court to interrogate several persons who could be the possible link between that meeting and Kumar. Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur name which is mentioned in the chargesheet is the biggest link for the ATS in order to prove that Kumar was present at that meeting. However her advocates say that till date she has not taken the name of Kumar during her interrogation. Moreover there are no immediately plans to interrogate her either, since according to her advocate Ganesh Sovani no such intimation has been given so far.
The late Sunil Joshi was a vital link in this case. His name has been doing the rounds in the both the Ajmer and the Maleagon case ever since the arrest of the Sadhvi. Investigators claim that he was crucial to the case, but he was shot dead a couple of years ago as a result of which the Malegaon blast was allegedly planned to avenge his death.
The other three persons in this case are Sandee Dhange and Ramji Kalasanghra. Both these persons have been shown as the one of the key accused persons in this case. However both these men are absconding according to the ATS . These two men who have been termed as low lying cadres are said to have executed the blasts. Their names had cropped up in the Mecca Masjid blasts case too. The other man who the ATS would have to nab and interrogate is Swami Aseemanand. A couple of months back when both the Mecca Masjid and Ajmer cases had started rolling the name of this god man had come up. Originally from Bengal, he had started working with tribals in Gujarat and he is believed to have re-convert the tribals who had been converted to Christianity. Sources in the investigating agency say that they have been trying to track him down and are finding it hard since he is believed to be hiding in the forest area. They also believe that he may have the answers to both the Mecca Masjid and the Ajmer case.
The other issue which is before the ATS is the turn that this case has taken since the past one year. It was the same ATS which had stated that the Ajmer blasts were the handiwork of the HuJI. They had carried out a couple of arrests too in this regard and had even said that it was the same faction which had carried out the blasts in Mecca Masjid as well. The counsel for the accused persons now are likely to take up this defence. Legal experts say that this not a fatal defect but the ATS will have a lot of explaining to do to explain as to why they have towed this line now.
Sources in the investigation say that they are aware that there is a lot of work remaining in this case. The charghesheet had to be filed since there is a time frame to do so failing which the accused persons will be entitled for bail. We are building the case up and will take it step by step and ensure that we have a strong case on hand. One should not come to the conclusion that the case is weak already, sources also pointed out.
The first Bharatiya Janata Party government in south India is in disarray yet again. This time Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa will have to prove his majority on October 12 with 21 MLAs tendering their resignation before the government and bringing the numbers down to 96 when the magic figure is 113.
In the past two years since the BJP came to power it has faced five major crisis and at least on three occasions it appeared as though the government would fall. Let us take a look at the five different crisis that this government has faced since it came to power in Karnataka.
The Reddy trouble: Prior to the existing crisis, this was the biggest set back that Yeddyurappa had once he took over as the Chief Minister. Towards the later part of October 2009, the Reddy brothers started meeting with the BJP MLAs who had a grouse against the CM. The Reddys comprising,Karunakara Reddy, Janardhana Reddy, Somashekara Reddy and their family friend Shriramulu claimed that they had the support of 50 BJP MLAs and would bring the government down. The problem started with a housing scheme in Bellary which were to be constructed for flood affected victims. When the CM said that all such programmes had to be government sponsored and no such work can be carried out individually, the Reddy brothers were quick to react. A cold war broke out between the two camps and the Reddys put out a list of grievances. The first was to sack Shobha Karandlage, a close aide of the CM. They also demanded the head of V Baligar who was principle secretary to the CM stating that he was acting like a proxy CM. The matter reached Delhi and the Reddys got even more aggressive in their claim and started demanding for the head of the CM. However a compromise formula was arrived and Yeddyurappa announced in tears before the media that he had ahdered to their demands.
Justice Hegde’s resignation: The boat had sailed on peacefully for nearly a year before Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde tendered his resignation claiming that he was unable to work independently. He alleged that the government had reinstated corrupt officials despite them being pulled up for corrupt practises. He also said that the government had not given him suo motu powers as was promised. Further he also accused them of sheilding some members of the mining lobby and said he was unable to probe the matter independently. This resignation came as a major embarassment for the government since it gave the picture that it was protecting the corrupt. Several other political parties in Karnataka especially the Congress used this as a plank to embarrass the government. However after a week of remaining adamant, the high command headed by L K Advani stepped in and convinced Justice Hegde to take back his resignation. The CM promised action and acted on it. However the suo motu powers to try ministers has not been given as yet.
The Mining scandal: This particular epsiode disrupted the Karnataka Legislative Assembly for nearly two weeks. MLAs from the opposition sat in dharna and even slept over at the assembly. The entire issue commenced with the Chief Minister himself declaring before the assembly that several thousand crores worth of iron ore had been exported illegally. This was seen as a tactical move by the CM who wanted pressure building up on the Reddy brothers since it was expected that the entire nation would gun for their throat. The gamble paid off and the Reddy brothers eventually softened their stand against the CM, but the cold war continues till date. However things started getting out of hand and the opposition demanded a CBI probe and the centre was closely monitoring the situation. The government in the state was however adamant and said that a Lokayukta probe would be sufficient and there is no need to rope in the CBI. The focus then shifted to the streets with the Congress taking out a padayatra to Bellary which was again countered by the Reddy brothers who conducted their own rally headed by Sushma Swaraj in their defence.
The reshuffle crisis: After the mining scam and the softening of the Reddy brothers, Yeddyurappa announced that he would go in for a reshuffle. Many political pundits saw this as a move solely to bring Shobha back into the cabinet. However Yeddyurappa denied all such allegations and went ahead and brought Shobha back into the cabinet. In the bargain he left out independent candidates who had helped him form the government. One of the ministers, G Shekhar even threatened to commit suicide if dropped from the cabinet. However Yeddyurappa went ahead and dropped him. The disgruntled ministers did issue a couple of statements initially and even had the support of the Reddy brothers who threatened to take the matter to the high command. However this issue fizzled out and the government was back on track.
Reshuffle extended: The latest crisis is nothing but an extention of the earlier one. The MLAs who have been left out of the cabinet have joined hands and threatened to bring down the government. Around 20 of them are presently camping in Chennai and are threatening to bring down the government. 21 MLAs have even tendered their resignations to the Governor which in turn has made the latter decide to direct the government to prove its majority on the floor of the house. Even as Yeddyurappa continues to send emissaries to Chennai after assuring the rebels of a good deal, it would still be an acid test for him since he will have to prove his majority on October 12.
In the month of June, a deadly worm called as the Stuxnet was discovered and as experts began studying this worm, they realised that it had the capabilities of a missile which could destroy a factory or even a nuclear plant.
Following the detection of this super cyber worm, there is a rumour afloat that it may have already reached its target and that is the Bushehr nuclear power plant at Iran. Cyber crime experts in India although Iran has pointed a finger at India and the US saying that this worm has generated from here, we do not agree since several of our own establishments face this risk.There is a need to be on guard since worm is extremely complicated and very highly encrypted and hence controlling it could be a problem. The Stuxnet takes control of a system and like in the case of other worms or malware there is no action required for the user to be taken. This means that it could enter into your system without you having done anything. The worst part about this worm is that it has been developed to hit at a physical target.
David Hall, Senior Manager, Regional Product Marketing, Symantec, Asia Pacific explains to rediff.com more about the Stuxnet worm. We’ve heard about the possibilities and it is like nothing we’ve seen before – both in what it does, and how it came to exist. Stuxnet is the first publicly known worm to target industrial control systems, often referred to as SCADA systems. W32.Stuxnet was first categorized in July of 2010. Stuxnet looks for industrial control systems and then changes the code in them to allow the attackers to take control of these systems without the operators knowing. Stuxnet was the first piece of malware to exploit the Microsoft Windows Shortcut ‘LNK/PIF’ Files Automatic File Execution Vulnerability (BID 41732) in order to spread. The worm drops a copy of itself as well as a link to that copy on a removable drive. When a removable drive is attached to a system and browsed with an application that can display icons, such as Windows Explorer, the link file runs the copy of the worm. Stuxnet uses two different and most importantly legitimate certificates signed by well-known companies to avoid detection by antivirus applications.
Stuxnet has been attacking industrial control systems across the globe. We’ve seen infections in 90 different countries with high numbers in Indonesia, Korea and India, apart from Iran where we saw 60 per cent of the infections. Like in other countries Stuxnet attacks in India target systems with SCADA software installed, mainly in factories and power plants.
This malicious threat is designed to allow hackers to manipulate real-world equipment, which makes it very dangerous. It is the first computer virus to be able to wreak havoc in the physical world. Stuxnet searches for industrial control systems and specifically targets systems with supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software installed. If it finds these systems on the compromised computer, it attempts to steal code and design projects. It may also take advantage of the programming software interface to also upload its own code to the Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC), which are ‘mini-computers’, in an industrial control system that is typically monitored by SCADA systems. Stuxnet then hides this code, so when a programmer using a compromised computer tries to view all of the code on a PLC, they will not see the code injected by Stuxnet. Moreover, Stuxnet uses stolen legitimate certificates, which makes it difficult to detect it.
Stuxnet is a complex and impactful threat that is trying to make groundbreaking changes, which is a matter of concern. Earlier, a threat such as this might have been speculation, now it’s a real threat.
What’s worrying is that Stuxnet is one of the most complex we’ve seen and one of the most impactful. A worm that is trying to make these types of changes is groundbreaking and very worrying. What is even more worrying is that this threat exploits four zero-day vulnerabilities. A zero-day is a bug within software that the attacker knows about, but no one else does. Stuxnet is designed to manipulate real-world equipment. This malicious worm is a strong example of how sophisticated and targeted threats are becoming, which makes it extremely dangerous. To give you perspective, we saw 12 zero-day vulnerabilities in total in 2009. This further emphasizes the high level of sophistication of Stuxnet.
This is the first publicly widespread threat that has shown a possibility of gaining control of industrial processes and placing that control in the wrong hands. It also shows that in this interconnected world, security solutions and technologies such as reputation are more important than ever.
A cyber crime official in New Delhi says that Iran had pointed a finger at India saying that it had generated over here. However our investigations show that this particular worm is government backed and could have generated out of Israel. While intelligence reports point towards that angle there is also this name ‘Myrtus which is a referrence to a Hebrew word. However it is too early to come to any sort of conclusion. We have found during out investigations that some of our own systems have been affected, but no crucial installations have been targeted as yet.
This particular worm has been created and will be alternative for a full fledged war. There is a reason why they have targeted Iran since many countries feel that they are lying about their nuclear capabilities and hence they feel that this would be the best way to target them. He also points out that Iran has claimed that it has made a couple of arrests of nuclear spies who are responsible for infecting their systems. We are keeping a watch on the developments, but nothing really concrete has come out of this arrest as yet.
Moreover this is important to India since there has been talk that the same worm is what hit the Insat 4 B in the month of June, the same month this worm was discovered. This satellite which was responsible for the telecast of several channels shut down due to a power supply anomaly in one of the two solar panels that supplied power to the satellite. ISRO however says that they have not found any such traces to the worm and maintain that their ongoing investigation has not found anything in this regard as yet. Cyber security experts however maintain that this worm is perfectly capable of hitting even satellites and if not controlled it could erupt into a full fledged cyber war as has never been seen before. Although currently it continues to remain in the hands of government sponsored agencies, the worry will begin for India once the bad guys lay their hands on it which means it would be used to target defence installations and nuclear stations in India as well. We are in talks and also taking the assistance of various other experts in trying to ensure that our installations remain Stuxnet free
Amidst allegations of land grabbing, the Art of Living foundation has decided to come clean and explain in detail its land holding and how it came into their possession.
The AoL said that in the year 2005, preparations for the silver jubilee celebrations of the foundation were on. Many people from all over India and the world were expected at the ashram in Bengaluru for the event.
In light of this, the AoL purchased 14 acres of land from a person named Vijay. All the land documents were verified, a notice was issued in the newspapers calling for any objections.
After waiting for six months for any response, the land was bought from him at the market price. After AoL took legal possession of the land, a gentleman called Paul P challenged the sale claiming that Vijay’s father was his business partner and owed him money, the ashram authorities said in a statement.
“Agni Sridhar (an intermediary), recently alleged that the ashram had grabbed the land of the aforementioned Vijay, a dalit, who as it turns out is a Brahmin. Paul coming on TV and saying that ashram has grabbed his land is baseless. We had even requested Vijay and Paul to settle their grievances amicably. We will never agree to any unfair practices and we will follow the verdict of the court,” the statement added.
“Where is the question of land grabbing? We have always bought land at the current market value after checking all the legalities. Land laws in Karnataka [ Images ] are stringent and it takes a lot of time for the deal to become legal. By the time the land is registered, years pass and prices soar. After the deal is made, by the time you actually get possession, sometimes you pay ten times more. Nevertheless we have always paid the correct value for the land. Often we have lost land because we did not wish to indulge in bribery,” the statement also said.
“In recent years, when more people began coming to the ashram, more accommodation and facilities were required. Over the years we have acquired an additional 22 acres of land from Kashinath, 8 acres from Colonel Sobti, 16 acres from Madhusoodan Baliga, 13 acres from Shiva Kumar and 15 acres from various farmers,” the statement went on to say.
According to real estate experts, land costs around Rs 85 lakh per acre in the area where the AoL ashram is situated.
“Currently, we are in the process of acquiring few acres more of land for the proposed Ayurveda hospital and educational institutions,” the statement said.
The AoL also said that when it started out, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar started receiving invitations from different parts of the world to give lectures on Vedic knowledge. During a visit to the German university, he was asked to decode Sanskrit manuscripts. Ravishankar decided to do the same, and along with some eminent personalities such as Justice V R Krishna Iyer (former Chief Justice of India) and others, established the Ved Vignan Maha Vidya Peeth in 1981.
“In 1985, VVMVP applied for 100 acres of fertile land close to a forest on Bannnerghatta Road in Bengaluru to build a Vedic academy. Gundu Rao, the then chief minister of Karnataka, agreed to allot the land. In the couple of years that followed, it transpired that the land to be given to them had been given to Islamia Institute. The CM then gave alternative land to VVMVP off Kanakapura Road. This was 60 acres of barren land covered with rocks where nothing grew. There was not a single tree,” the AoL stated.
“Although it was such arid land, VVMVP agreed to take it on lease for a period of 30 years. Even though the full amount was paid to the government at the time of the purchase, VVMVP had to wait an additional two years to take possession of it. By this time, locals had begun encroaching upon the land. When the officials gave VVMVP permission to take possession of the land, only 24 acres was available of the 60 acres, as villagers who had settled on the land had usurped the rest.”
“The land authorities were on the verge of removing the settlers when Sri Sri Ravishankar intervened and said that VVMVP would take only 24 acres and allow the villagers to remain where they were,” the ashram also stated.
“Subsequently, VVMVP approached the government to give the remaining land due to it somewhere else. It was in the mid nineties that the government allotted 19.5 acres on the opposite side of where the ashram now stands. This was also a barren hill. At present VVMVP still does not have all of 60 acres of land, which was allotted to it in the mid eighties and is still awaiting an additional 16.5 acres,” the statement said.
“Since some malefactors have come up with stories that the Art of Living ashram has grabbed land from poor people, the foundation felt compelled to present the truth behind each piece of land possessed by VVMVP. Then VVMVP bought another eight acres next to the lake near the ashram. This land was purchased from people around the lake, which was all set to be used for a poultry farm, the ashram said in the statement.
The Bangalore police on Saturday claimed to have solved the mysterious attack on spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
On May 30, it was reported that an unidentified gunman had fired at the convoy of the spiritual leader while he was on his way to attend a programme near his ashram. One of his devotes had been injured in the incident.
The police claimed that one Dr Mahadev Prasad fired the bullet to chase away a stray dog.
Dr Mahadev Prasad, chairman of the Dr B R Ambedkar Medical College, owns a farm house 2,000 feet away from Sri Sri’s ashram. He fired three rounds of bullets to chase away a stray dog, and one of the bullets landed at the ashram, said the police.
The police, who had retrieved the bullet at the site, tracked it back to Prasad.
Prasad has a licensed firearm, said the police, adding that he hadn’t reported the incident fearing the repercussions.