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Security alerts

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Tehelka investigates the kind of intelligence alerts issued routinely by agencies:

“Riaz of Karachi made a telephonic call to a Zafar in Srinagar. Zafar was told to deliver some money to a Sunny of Jammu, who in turn would deliver the money to Suraj in Delhi to carry out some violent activity. Please take necessary action at your end.”

“WHAT AM I supposed to do with this piece of so-called intelligence?” asks a senior law enforcement officer with exasperation, placing the IB note before this correspondent. “There is no address, no telephone number, no specific identification of the suspects provided in this alert. Where am I supposed to go and look for them? Would you classify this as intelligence?”

On 7 September, within hours of the terrible blast at the Delhi High Court, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram told Parliament that the Delhi Police had been sent intelligence alerts in July about an impending blast. To an ordinary listener, this would seem to exonerate the minister and the country’s intelligence agencies to some degree from the repeated terror attacks India suffers from. But if one knows the almost ludicrous nature of most intelligence inputs received by security personnel or counter- terrorism groups, the assurance becomes much less credible.

Sample this: “This is in continuation of my earlier communication regarding the possibility of LeT operatives using forged documents and IDs to gain access to the cricket World Cup final. According to latest information, there is a likelihood that forged documents and ID cards of organisations such as cricket associations, press clubs, media outfits, PAN cards, bank employee ID cards, voter cards, ration cards and employee cards of infrastructure entities such as telecom, electricity, etc, may be used to obtain regular passes from the agencies to gain access into the stadium. In this background, inquiries may please be made to authenticate the genuineness of the enclosed documents and feedback may please be given to us.” (An IB alert sent to Mumbai Police on 30 March)

Just like the 3 September input, the bulk of intelligence inputs churned out every day and wired across the intelligence grid are completely generic, theoretical and hence unactionable.

The alerts and advisories are worded such that every conceivable security threat under the sun is covered in the note. Advisories are sent routinely asking state police agencies to keep an increased vigil during important days such as 15 August or 26 January or on the occasion of some festival and to be alert to the possibility of an impending attack. Often no specific location of the place under threat or specific date or name of any individual or group to be tracked or tailed are available. The cumulative result is that the agencies don’t take these advisories seriously.

“One can always be on high alert. But it’s not possible to police every man on the street or every nook and cranny of highrisk targets like the Gateway of India or Juhu beach 24×7, 365 days a year,” says a senior Mumbai ATS official.

Sounds like we are left to our own devices, doesn’t it?

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

September 16, 2011 at 12:21 pm

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