Thursday, August 31, 2006

ACP Vinod Bhat R.I.P

There is little I have to say about this. I was asked to comment upon this event in email exchanges with some of you.

I give my condolences to the family and colleagues of ACP Bhat.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Changes in the pattern of intelligence targetting of India

A number of spy cases have recently come to light in the media. Most of these are American spies working in the government. For reference I am listing the prominent ones below:

1) Rabindra Singh, an RAW officer was recruited by the CIA and subsequently fled the country.
2) S. S. Paul, an NSCS officer was recuited by the CIA and is now in police custody.
3) Ujjwal Dasgupta, a retired RAW officer was also allegedly recruited by the CIA and is now under arrest.
4) Francis Aranha, an IB officer is alleged wanted for spying for the CIA and has since absconded.

We have also been treated to a molehunt in the PMO and thanks to Jaswant Singh, allegations have been flying fast and thick in the media. A number of waspish spy stories are also being published in western media about the penetration of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, at least some of these appear to stem from the recently declassified material from the National Security Archive. A few years ago a part of the Mitrokhin Archive was selectively released to the public. The Mitrokhin archive information suggested that the KGB had infiltrated the highest levels of government and several major political parties were on their payroll.

To date no American spies have been uncovered in media, but a number of books have emerged in the US and UK cataloging the activities of a group of US foundations that attempted to conduct psywar on India's populations using locally hired help. A number of Pakistani penetrations in the media have been identified and some LeT penetrations have been identified in the Armed Forces. Reports in the media also suggest that communal organizations also have been the subject of LeT infiltration.

The sudden burst of news about these penetrations could easily lead one to conclude that the national security is being severely breached. Such a view is an oversimplification.

As long as national interests exist, there will always be espionage.

In the past India has been repeatedly targetted by foreign intelligence organizations, for example:

1) Prior to colonization, a number of european powers sent their spies to study the Indian political system and see if it could be subverted to serve European interests.

2) After 1947, both the US and USSR were keen to India become a part of their international block. This ensured that any high value import from these countries became the target of an aggressive counteractions campaign by these powers. Everything from rice to Mig-29s was subject to a psyops campaign aimed at furthering a particular power's agenda. Due to the poor culture of oversight in the US and the USSR, the intelligence services of these countries were ruthlessly used by private interest groups to further their private agenda.

3) After the fall of the USSR, US intelligence operations gained dominance in India. The culture of oversight that had seeped into the US polity after the Iran-Contra affair ensured that most of the private firms were kept out of the intelligence cycles in the US and their needs were served by a growing community of CIA retirees. One of the first acts by this community of India surveillance experts was to assist in pushing through the Enron Dabhol deal. A group of people in the US were very keen on getting a head start in accessing the Indian market.

4) The 90s saw a growing exchange of ideas and people between the US and India. The software sector and other forms of outsourcing grew. An important aspect of this outsourcing was the gradual export of research and development in some sectors to India. By this time the research and development community in India which had grown steadily since Independence had reached critical mass. This created the posibility of India emerging as a peer-competitor to the US in certain technology sectors.

Today US business interest in India growing, and though the Govt. of India is no longer the major player in the economic sector, it is still in a position to make several influential decisions regarding the economy. After 1998 there appears to be an unstated belief in the US intelligence community that India is somehow secretly enhancing its ability to build nuclear weapons and deploy them in sizable numbers. This could in theory alter the escalation situation with Pakistan. In the India US nuclear deal, a great emphasis was placed on verification of India's nuclear pronouncements. Also the vast Indian adminstration is gradually becoming extensively computerized.

All this puts an unusually large burden the US intelligence community and the apparently shoddy tradecraft that has led to the uncovering of these penetrations reflects the mad rush to gather intelligence on India. The US intelligence community and its private contractors have to come up with ways of providing information support to the US business community keen on investing in India. The US also has to keep itself open to the possibility that India is making more nuclear weapons or other forms of defence technology. They have to evaluate what the impact of this is on an India-Pakistan confrontation. Even though the nuclear deal is yet to go through, the US intelligence community has to prepare itself for the possibility of having extended verification mechanisms in place in India. The computerization of India's administration also offers the US a window to peep into the hitherto closed world of the bureaucrat, and while it may be possible to generate a vast number of intelligence intercepts by electronic means, the US will still need human sources i.e. moles, to help them sort through a mass of data. As before the bulk of this effort will continue to be coordinated through their embassy and all those innocuously named organizations parked discreetly in various major cities in India.

I am not trying to make it seem that what the US is doing is okay, nor am I saying that people who spy for them should be given a free pass. I am merely emphasizing that the US now percieves India and China as potential peer-competitor states and is gearing its intelligence machinery to evaluate these countries in a far more aggressive fashion then ever before. This will reflect as a major shift in intelligence activity directed at India and while in the past only the elements of the political spectrum (who controlled major economic enterprises) were targetted, the net is likely to be cast a lot wider now and several government departments will be in the cross-hairs.

B. Raman and others have spoken about these things in the past, but when people watch the latest spy story headline on NDTV or Times Now or CNN-IBN, they forget what was said by people who know quite a bit more.

I am just trying to remind you all, don't be scared this happens all the time, it is the business of nations.

Be Aware NOT Alarmed!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

M. M. Sampath Kumar Iyengar and the NPA Angst

A friend emailed me this link to an article by M. M. Sampath Kumar Iyengar.

I recalled reading something years ago on the NTI website

7 August 1997 Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) suspends production of engines for the Prithvi surface-to-surface missile (SSM) as one its key suppliers, Ascent Technologies Pvt. Ltd., halts the supply of "cooling rings" used in the engines. HAL officials say that they have not received cooling rings for almost one year. Ascent Technologies proprietor M. M. Sampath Kumar Iyengar declares that he will not do business with government companies including HAL, pending settlements of previous bills. HAL officials say that they are trying to persuade Iyengar to resume supplies.—"Indian missile production stops over money row: daily," AFP, 7 August 1997, in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 7 August 1997.

Ofcourse I know that Sampath Kumar "Iyangar" is posting on the NPA Jihadi forum, as opposed to Sampath Kumar *Iyengar* who has shall we say "financial issues" outstanding with the DAE.

I leave you to do the rest but I should point out that our friends next door already identify him as a manufacturer of nuclear materials and therefore an expert on all things DAE related. To be very specific the South Asia Tribune says:

The writer is featured in the Directory of Experts in Technology Acquisition compiled in 1990 by Dept of S&T, New Delhi. He chose to abandon his flourishing venture specializing in the development of components for nuclear and aerospace applications protesting against irresponsible environmental practices and WMD proliferation.

Wow note the contrast with what is written in more plain text in the NTI database entry!

Ofcourse Sampathkumar has also written at length about the impotent rage of Muslims, and how Indians and Iranians are unfit to hold nuclear arsenals. And he also felt that plagiarism by some Indian sounding student at Harvard was indicative of a "cultural trend" (Incidentally, why would an out-of-work-engineer-turned-non-proliferationist sitting in Ahmedabad be reading the Harvard Crimson of all things?) Given the frequency with which Sampathkumar Iyangar gets quoted by US friendly websites as an authority on anything and the manner in which he seems to thrive on saying how stupid and incompetent his fellow Indians are, I am beginning to think that the only thing Indian about him is his name.

Still I find it amusing that Sampathkumar who argued that Indian nuclear scientists were thoroughly incompetent on various fora and therefore unworthy of the US nuclear deal now finds himself completely off balance when the same Indian nuclear scientists are saying that they don't want the India-US nuclear deal.

The NPA has been arguing consistently that the deal should not go through because "evil Indian nuclear scientists" (copyright Sampathkumar) will treat it as a license to build nuclear weapons. The NPA also virulently opposed the draft of the nuclear bill in Congress saying that it gave too much license to India to do whatever it pleased in the nuclear arena.

But now with the very same Indian scientists saying they don't want this so-called India-US nuclear deal and they really don't want to have anything to do with that draft that is up before congress. These Indian scientists are now saying that the Bush Adminstration has moved the "goalposts" since it signed the July 18 agreement with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The NPA are now completely at a loss to explain why the Indian scientists who they said would have a complete license to do what they pleased are now calling against the bill. This doesn't fit their model in any way. It doesn't matter I suppose because the NPA firmly believe no one will notice this.

When the congressional groups amended the draft of the bill, I said the deal was dead. Let me restate that - despite what garbage the NPA put on the TV screens, and weblogs - this Indo-US nuclear deal is dead.

With those conditions tagged on to the draft of the Indo-US nuclear bill, no Indian government will ever buy anything from a US nuclear supplier, the political cost will be unbearable in India.

There will have to be a second round of negotiations if this deal is to go anywhere but that second round will be marred politically by the memory of the mess made in this round.

The congressional rewrite smacks of a desire by people in Congress to publicly correct the "errors" made by President Bush. If President Bush cannot bring to heel a Republican party dominated congress, then that will be at the back of our minds when we talk to someone in the US the next time around.

This is a new experience for most Indian policymakers who generally hold that whatever is stamped with the approval of the President especially one with the last name Bush is written into stone.

If that is no longer true, then we are heading into a very different world.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Bojinka II- Saving Musharraf's Musharraf

The following interesting details have emerged about the Bojinka-II plot.

1) The Brits recruited a member of the plot and had him/her penetrate the network. The British agent exposed the plot and provided a tip off that led the Pakistanis to arrest the plotters.

2) The Brits weren't keen to move in on the group just yet as the attack cells weren't in position. The Brits wanted to wait but the Americans lost their nerve and pressured the Brits to haul the men in.

3) The Pakistanis were brought in after the Brits decided to pull the plug and then Rauf, the key plotter, was "rendered" to the Pakistanis for "arrest".

4) Now the Pakistanis are claiming Matiur Rehman, a Al Qaida "number 3" man is responsible for this attack and they are also claiming that he was responsible for the July 11 attacks.

This entire Bojinka II thing is looking like something created to take the heat of Musharraf's Musharraf and the Americans were desperate to have this show be arranged right now.

A few weeks down the road the Pakistanis will catch some poor vagrant outside Rawalpindi railway station and drag him out to Golra Mor and shoot him. After that they will publish any number of photos of him and claim they have killed the man responsible for the July 11 attack on Mumbai.

The Americans news channels will gladly lend a hand to this Pakistani drama.

Aah.. the American led Save our Musharraf campaign continues relentlessly.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Bojinka II- A Pakistani Scam

Yet another conspiracy to cause terror in Britain has been uncovered. And as before the perpetrators are a group of Pakistani brits. Some of them may be people that the MI6 recuirted to fight in the "Bosnian Jihad". Do you recall that wonderful deal that so many had lauded, Javed Nasir was supposed to supply the arms from the Ohjri stock that supposedly "blew up in 1989" and the MI6 was supposed to recruit British Muslims to go fight with those weapons in Bosnia. Ofcourse Javed Nasir claimed in a court affidavit in Lahore recently that Bill Clinton had asked him supply arms to the Bosnians and so by induction he was I guess a very big friend of the Americans, but do we really believe Javed Nasir any more than we believe Clinton. Javed had also volunteered his services to FCNA Hassan and Musharraf himself. Javed wanted to raise a Jihadi army at Astor and Juglot from LeT/HuM ranks to carry out the Kargil operation, but Musharraf told him to sit this one out.

Anyway I digress, I was actually talking about the latest soda-water-bottle blasts that were supposed to go off on airplanes leaving LHR. Ofcourse I mean if you were a self respecting terrorist you would only target Heathrow, the most heavily guarded airport in Britian after.. well .. you know where. And some 20-25 british Pakistani men who were already on watch lists for a variety of other reasons suddenly getting up and jumping on an airplane headed to New York or Chicago from London is hardly going to cause any suspicion right?

And that rotten Pakistan Army which is doing such a bad job of containing terrorism in the North West frontier province manages to find just the right group of four or five people that has knowledge of this event. And mysteriously the NSA decrypts a communication which can be interpreted as a "go-order" and presto the five that the Pakistanis have in custody cough up the names of their accomplices and before long MI5 and the London Police a whole bunch of people from Pakistani dominated residential areas in Britian and the words "foiled plot" fill the airwaves.

Also now we have this latest warning of terrorist strikes against Americans in India. Courtesy of the US embassy. Pretty soon I am sure that atleast one of the Brits caught in the conspiracy to bomb airliners will start talking about Pakistan and Kashmir and how that is the root cause of all problems. Yet another attempt will begin on the US side to press gang India into America's war on terror.

Did Blair call up Musharraf and tell him to come up with this scam? or did Musharraf do it himself to prove his indispensibility?

Either ways I recomment reading B. Raman's peices on this latest natak. Nothing's better then a ring side seat.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Albright gets public slapdown!(or The Tender Mercies of the NSC)

"If the intelligence community is like a family, then the National Security Council is the uncle no one talks much about. "
- from the movie "Conspiracy Theory"

So its finally come out into the open. The NPA David Albright who sits atop the Institute for Science and International Security wrote a rather long expose on the Pakistani plutonium enrichment plant at Khushab.

In the report he claimed that the Pakistani reactor at Khusab was capable of producing something in excess of 1000 MWth. In personal conversations with reporters, it seems that Ayatollah Albright had actually claimed that the reactor was capable of producing ~ 1400 MWth - and that apparently attracted the attention of the National Security Council.

It may be noted that a poster on a Non-Proliferation Jihadi blog, pointed out that there is no way that Albright could have calculated the output of the plant from the images alone, and that either Albright was wrong or he had inside help (from the US CIA). Some people felt that this public article by Albright would quite possibly have compromised a CIA source inside Pakistan and others in India thought that Albright had simply gone off the deep end. Either ways the the American NSC was not happy with the results.

Bringing to light the Khushab reactor and its Plutonium manufacturing capabilities would only focus adverse publicity on the China-Pakistan connection. This would upset the current US security regime which stresses turning a blind eye towards Chinese activity. So while David Albright charged ahead with scripting his own drama of an enraged China boosting Pakistani fissile material production to counter the US-India deal - the US-NSC watched in horror as its carefully scripted fiction of a reformed China that was playing along with international proliferation norms was ripped to shreds by a man that the NSC itself has propped up as an expert. I guess that is why the NSC decided to publicly slap Albright down. The slapdown will in my opinion have a salutary effect in the non-proliferation community. Despite all of Albright's bravado and talk of "President Bush's poor record on nuclear intelligence", Albright knows he cannot challenge the throne and if he does it will have only one consequence. His own friends in the Non-Proliferation community are now distancing themselves from his work.

I am reminded of a situation in the early 90s which a retired government official in India once brought to my attention. The US CIA in the 50s and 60s had fostered a range of Human Rights groups with the specific aim of conducting a psywar against the Soviet Union. These groups were tightly controlled by the agency throught appointments on their staff and control over the finances. These groups successfully mounted a media campaign that iconized the term "freedom" and "democracy" in Asia, Africa and South America. They made America the "guardian of freedom and democracy" and fools the world over bought into this fiction. By the early 90s the USSR fell and the need for these groups diminished. In time they were downsized and soon the groups began to work on a mercenary basis targetting anyone you wanted provided you could give them a donation.

This was a "globalization" of the ideal of "Human Rights". Over the years they began to hit at the US too, and so to keep their influence in check - their media access was carefully restricted. Gone now are the days when an expert from amnesty international or HRW is given airtime. Unless he is talking about Christians being slaughtered by Muslims, no one in the US media wants to hear what he has to say.

I would not use the word "diavowed", but I would say "disowned", that is how the NPA are going to feel soon.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Mumbai Blasts: Terrorists hide behind the Pakistani Common Man

Outlook Magazine writes an unabashedly pro-Pakistan piece. So much for the mole in the PMO.

It appears now the terrorists in Pakistan are hiding behind the Pakistani "Common Man". The "Common Man" wants peace, the "Common Man" wants to travel to India, the "Common Man" wants to see Shahrukh Khan films, etc...

Maybe the Pakistani "Common Man" has realized that in Lebanon, Israeli bombs didn't distinguish between civilian and combatant? India's technology is so much inferior to Israeli technology, it isn't likely that Indian bombs will do what Israel's bombs did not. Somehow I doubt the Pakistani "Common Man" has the attention span to understand these things, but you never know.

The Musharraf regime's misplaced sense of strength vis-a-vis India is breeding a culture of poor strategic choice in Islamabad.

There was no provocation for Muslims in India to conduct the Mumbai blasts.

This was an act carried out by the Pakistani ISI and its Indian hirelings purely for monetary profit.

It is foolish for any Pakistani to believe that they can share what profits the ISI may have reaped by this act. It is even stupider for Pakistanis to enrage the Indians further by talk all this horseshit about Kashmir and peace. If the Musharraf regime finds it difficult to handle the peace process the Pakistanis should feel free to invest in someone who is up to the task.

Perhaps the Pakistanis should pay careful attention this little anecdote from a US hostage held by the Iranians in 1980.

The hostage (who I call Bob, because I don't recall his name) was being held at a small facility near Tehran. Bob had been captured during the embassy seige and was continously interrogated by his Pasdaran captors. Bob was suspected of being a CIA spy so the questioning was quite brutal and relentless. On late night Bob's Pasdaran interrogator woke him up from his sleep and told him that Iranian government had recieved news reports that Reagan was likely to win the US election. Perhaps to mock Bob, the Iranian asked him what he felt would happen if Reagan won the election.

With a moment of thought, Bob replied "He is a cowboy", and then very dramatically Bob held out his hand - his fingers folded into the shape of a gun - laying his index finger on the Iranian interrogator's forehead, Bob said "Bang!.. that's what will happen".

There are parallels to this in our present situation.

Much can happen when one is not paying attention.