New Delhi, August 10
Thanks to the so-called “whistleblowers” from within the NTRO, and some former officers using the “right to information” weapon, the agency has suffered major setbacks recently.
In the aftermath of the Kargil war, the NTRO was established in 2004 as the top technical intelligence-gathering agency. It is on the pattern of America’s super espionage agency — the National Security Agency.
Said to be more powerful than the CIA, the National Security Agency is a cryptology intelligence agency of the US Department of Defence. It is responsible for the collection and analysis of foreign communications and foreign signals intelligence, as well as protecting American communications and information systems.
Working under the National Security Adviser (NSA) in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the NTRO is a super-feeder agency for providing technical intelligence to other Indian agencies dealing with security and espionage. The first of its kind in Asia, the NTRO is trying to emerge like America’s National Security Agency. That is why it has become chief target of Pakistan, China and some powerful western spy agencies’ hackers.
Recently, extremely sensitive information and documents surfaced in the “public domain” through the RTI route and a special audit of the NTRO. For unknown reasons, an audit by the Comptroller and Auditor-General was ordered by the PMO, making the NTRO the first Indian spy organisation to be scrutinised by the CAG.
The information and papers that have reached the “public domain” relate to the projects, purchases, equipments, locations, officers of the NTRO and many others things. By analysing them, professionals can read hard intelligence.
So alarming is the situation in the NTRO that the PMO and National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon have been alerted. Highly placed sources told The Tribune that the government was contemplating taking action under the Official Secrets Act against the “whistleblowers” and “the RTI activists within the organisation”.
It is learnt that the top NTRO brass has moved files to the PMO and the National Security Adviser for approval to initiate disciplinary action and penalties against some officers. Major penalty proceedings can result in dismissal or removal from service and stoppage of pension of the indicted officers.
The NTRO has started feeling the heat as it has discovered that “targets” in Pakistan and China have suddenly stopped using the equipment and channels that it was monitoring.
Obviously, sources said, information about the equipment of the NTRO and officers’ location has been analysed by experts across the border and they have zeroed in on their establishments under Indian surveillance.
All of a sudden, Pakistan and China have shifted to other communication equipment and other mediums. The NTRO is now groping in the dark to retrace the important targets. “At present, we are totally blind about some important equipment and channels to which Pakistan and China have shifted to,” disclosed a source in India’s external espionage agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
Besides the NTRO, RAW and its sister organsiation -- the Aviation Research Centre (ARC) -- are working hard to trace the new channels and mediums now being used by Pakistan and Chinese armed forces and their intelligence agencies. Efforts are on to procure compatible equipment to monitor “new systems” across the borders.
“Much to the delight of the enemies across our borders,” a top Intelligence Bureau officer said, “the so-called whistleblowers’ personal vendetta has led to loss of valuable intelligence and done incalculable damage to the country’s espionage and security apparatus.”
The IB is keeping a close watch on several NTRO officers across the country. “We fear the possibility of some disgruntled elements within the organisation being used or backed by powerful vested interests inimical to the state,” the IB officer said. “We are also not ruling out the possibility of some moles that might have crept into the system at the time of recruitment of personnel from other organisations,” he declared.
Several serving as well formers officers of the NTRO have used the “right to information” channel to procure information from allied organsiations like the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The RTI weapon has turned out be quite lethal as information resourced through it has compromised the NTRO’s vital assets.
Two officers under watch are suspected of having passed some classified information to a former NTRO officer with an aim to settle scores with the current bosses. The former NTRO officer has reportedly filed over 80 RTI applications, and some have come through his “friends” to seek information about equipment purchases, transfers and postings.
Interestingly, the two serving officers under surveillance were inducted into the NTRO by a former Chairman of the agency, who had come under cloud for pushing a French aircraft deal, which however never materialised. Meanwhile, even as investigations are pending against the two officers, one has been transferred to Karnataka and another to Gujarat.