Wednesday, August 22, 2012



Intelligence is the collection of information from the real world that could be important for our national security.

2.Counter-intelligence is the technique of preventing our ill-wishers from collecting intelligence about us that could weaken our national security.

3. Cyber-intelligence is the collection of intelligence having a bearing on our national security by systematically monitoring the web.

4.Cyber counter-intelligence is the prevention, detection and neutralisation of attempts by our ill-wishers to weaken our national security by misusing the web for destabilising us. It is also the prevention, detection and neutralisation of attempts by our ill-wishers to penetrate our cyber security architecture for the collection of  information about us and for using this capability for disrupting our economy and the fighting capabilities of our armed forces.

5.The Task Force For the Revamping of the Intelligence Apparatus headed by Gary Saxena, former head of the R&AW, which was set up by the Government of A.B.Vajpayee in 2000, had, inter alia, gone into our cyber intelligence and counter-intelligence capabilities and made a set of recommendations.

6.It had suggested that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) should be given the additional responsibility for cyber intelligence and counter-intelligence. It had also recommended that the IB should be made responsible for all counter-intelligence----whether in the real or virtual world--- and that its capabilities in this regard should be further strengthened,

7.One was given to understand that the NDA Government accepted these recommendations, but gave these new responsibilities for cyber intelligence and counter-intelligence to the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), which was set up as a Techint agency on the pattern of the National Security Agency (NSA) of the US.

8. In the US, the NSA used to have additional responsibility for cyber intelligence and counter-intelligence. Two years ago, it was decided to set up an independent Cyber Command for this purpose, but to place it under the head of the NSA. The NSA and the Cyber Command are separate organisations with separate staff and separate budgets, but they have a common chief.

9. As a result of the NDA Government’s decision to entrust the responsibility for cyber intelligence and counter-intelligence to the NTRO, we now have the IB dealing with intelligence and counter-intelligence in the real world and the NTRO in the virtual world of the Internet and the social media sites that have come up in recent years.

10. The recent incidents relating to Psyjihad sought to be waged against us through the Net and its social media sites and mobile telephones by exploiting Muslim anger over the anti-Muslim violence in the Rakhine State of Myanmar and in our Assam State and our incoherent and ill-coordinated reaction to it bring out two serious deficiencies:

( a).The NTRO has not been systematically monitoring the Net and its Social Media Sites for cyber chatter that could have a bearing on our internal and external security in order to sound a wake-up call to the Govt when the contents of the cyber chatter indicate possible attempts at destabilisation. This is clearly evident from the fact that the large number of websites disseminating exaggerated accounts of the anti-Muslim violence with the help of morphed images seems to have been noticed by the NTRO only after the violent incidents in the Azad Maidan of Mumbai on August 11 and the panic departure  from South India and Pune of many people from the North-East working and living there. Had these web sites and their false and provocative propaganda been noticed in time, the Government might have been able to take pre-emptive action to prevent the violence and contain the panic.

( b ).The NTRO has not yet developed a capability for the identification of suspects who have been misusing the Net and its social media sites for their Psyjihad meant to destabilise us. As a result, one could see over-reaction and an attempt at a disproportionate use of the powers under the existing laws for cyber surveillance. After the surveillance failed initially due to lack of alertness  on the part of our agencies, there has been a disproportionate use of the surveillance powers by way of large-scale blocking of web sites and attempted control over social media sites without applying our mind. Instead of targeting our counter-action on the suspects responsible for the Psyjihad, we have been targeting the instruments used by them for their Psyjihad such as Facebook and Twitter. These instruments have benign and malign uses. Our actions should have been targeted against malign uses, but there is an impression that we have been trying to discourage both benign and malign uses in order to deter the use of these sites and instruments  even for well-intentioned criticism of the Government and its policies. The misuse by ill-wishers of the country has been sought to be  exploited for preventing legitimate uses of the social media networks even by well-wishers of the country.

11. There is a need for a mid-course correction in the follow-up actions initiated after the recent panic in order to introduce an element of finesse in our cyber intelligence and counter-intelligence architecture and techniques. Target the ill-wishers of the country who have been misusing the Net and the social media sites for nefarious purposes, but don’t target the well-wishers. Make the ill-wishers dysfunctional and not the Net and the social media sites.

12. The Naresh Chandra Task Force on national security has in its report submitted to the Prime Minister on May 24 devoted a chapter to cyber security. Its chapter on intelligence revamp also contains some important recommendations on this subject. While vetting them, the lessons drawn from our recent experience in handling our existing  cyber intelligence and counter-intelligence architecture and techniques should also be taken into consideration in order to see whether any modifications in the recommendations during implementation are called for. (23-8-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)



Till 1972, under the long-time Director of the USA’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) J. Edgar Hoover, only men could be FBI agents. After his death in May 1972, partly under the pressure of the equal rights laws, the FBI started recruiting women as Agents. The first two women agents of the FBI joined the FBI in July 1972 and underwent training in the FBI Academy along with men recruits. They and many other women who followed their example have since distinguished themselves as Agents of whom the FBI and the US can be proud .

2. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the Second World War precursor of the Central Intelligence agency (CIA),  had a few legendary women operatives. Well-known amongst them was Virginia Hall, who served behind Nazi lines in France.

3. Despite this, the CIA, which came into existence in 1947, inherited some of the prejudices of the FBI against women as secret Agents. There were many women who were recruited as administrative staff and analysts, but hardly any to serve as secret Agents in the top secret operations division.

4. As Valerie Wilson, a former CIA woman operative wrote: “CIA’s premier spy cadre was carefully recruited from the male, moneyed, white, establishment crowd that went to the Ivies. For the first four decades of the CIA’s existence, the very few females that got into operations were usually drawn from the secretarial or support staffs. These smart, persistent, and gutsy women tired of seeing the men have all the fun and back-doored themselves into case-officer jobs—meeting and recruiting assets, planning ops, and in some rare cases in the 1970s, managing operations overseas. These women were tough as nails—they had to be—and they poured everything into their careers, often at the expense of their personal lives. I met some of these women during my time at the CIA and they could intimidate me like nobody else. My female colleagues and I owe them a deep debt of gratitude for their groundbreaking careers.”

5. Despite the success of these women who managed to gravitate into the Operations Division from the Administrative or analysis divisions, the number of direct women recruits to the Operations Division remained low till Ronald Reagan became the President. During his presidency, under the pressure of the operational requirements for the covert war against the USSR in Afghanistan, the recruitment of women operatives to the CIA increased.

6. To quote Valerie Wilson again: “Under Director Bill Casey, the CIA loosened its recruitment policies, involving schools other than the Ivies. Additionally, they began hiring women specifically to go into operations. Of course, attitudes take a long time to change and many a dinosaur who thought women should really just be at home and not running clandestine agents still roamed the halls at headquarters.”

7. In 1991, 400 women employees of the CIA working in various divisions filed a class action suit alleging discrimination against women in the agency under various pretexts. An enquiry declared their complaints legitimate. Since then,  there has been an improvement in the position of women Agents who have been doing as well as their male counterparts. It took nearly 40 years for the CIA to admit that women Agents could be as daring, as capable and as successful as male Agents. The death in December 2009 of Elizabeth Hanson, an officer of the analysis division posted as the station chief in Kabul, along with seven of her colleagues in a suicide attack by Al Qaeda at Khost brought the much-deserved recognition for the women operatives of the CIA and their bravery.

8. In September 2010, women crossed another landmark in the history of the US intelligence community when Letitia A. Long became the first woman director of a major U.S. intelligence agency  taking over as the chief of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, a Techint agency.

9. Reports published in sections of the US media at that time indicated that women represented  38 per cent of the total intelligence work force. In six of the most prominent agencies, 27 per cent of senior intelligence positions were held by women.

10. While women in the US had to wait till 2010 to be accepted as capable of heading an intelligence agency, in the UK, Dame Stella Rimington became the head of the Security Service known as the MI-5 in 1992 and continued in that post till 1996.The MI-5 had the distinction of being headed by another woman chief Dame Eliza Manningham Buller from 2002 to 2007, during the Iraq war in 2003 and the London Metro attacks by some jihadi suicide terrorists in 2005.The MI-5 and the MI-6, the external intelligence agency known as the Secret Intelligence Service, had a longer tradition of accepting women as analysts and operatives on par with men than their US counterparts.

11.Till 1972, the Indian intelligence community had some women serving in administrative posts such as stenographers and ministerial assistants, but no officers serving as either analysts or operatives. The R&AW under R.N.Kao was the first in the Indian intelligence community to induct women as officers to perform analysis as well as operational duties in the headquarters as well as in the field. The first women inductees into the R&AW were taken on deputation from other Government services. Thereafter, three women fresh from the universities were directly recruited into the Research and Analysis Service (R&AS). This was followed by the induction of two women officers of the IPS and one economic expert on deputation. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) emulated the example set up by Kao and started taking women IPS officers on deputation.

12.Unfortunately, while the women intelligence agents of the US and the UK have been doing as well as, if not better than, their male counterparts, this cannot be said of the women operatives of the R&AW. Two of the deputationists of the 1970s created problems because of their alleged inability to maintain a low profile and their alleged habits of dropping names and throwing their weight around.

13. Of the three direct recruits, two got involved in embarrassing controversies due to personal reasons or professional inadequacies. The economic expert and the two IPS deputationists did well, but one of them went back to the State. Of the eight officers taken into the organisation since 1972, four were found to be professionally unsatisfactory.

14.Whereas  in the intelligence agencies of the US and the UK, women analysts and operatives have been doing extremely well, it is perceived to be not so in the case of the R&AW. What is it due to? Careless selection? Inadequate training? Unfair discrimination and prejudices that come in the way of their giving off their best? One does not know the answers to these questions. While women officers  have been doing extremely well in other services and departments of the Government of India, it is said to be not so in the R&AW.

15.It is important to go into this in a professional manner to improve the intake of women officers into the R&AW and their performance. ( 22-8-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)