Spy vs spy: Govt wants to snoop on snoopers

Last Updated: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 09:52

New Delhi: For the first time in India, the government is planning to create an external oversight mechanism for its intelligence agencies by appointing inspectors general.

Worried about the abuse of the vast powers that intelligence agencies have, the government has started the process in a bid to protect the privacy and other fundamental rights of citizens.

This was said in a letter to Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde and telecom minister Kapil Sibal on June 23 by national security advisor Shivshankar Menon. “Independent oversight in the form of inspector generals in the intelligence agencies is being established,” Menon said. The move comes close on the heels of a major upheaval in the intelligence agencies in light of the Ishrat Jahan encounter case.

This means the IB, R&AW and NTRO will have officers whose task will be to monitor legality of ongoing intelligence operations.The CBI, which is investigating the encounter, has alleged that a senior IB official, Rajender Kumar, was part of a conspiracy to kill Ishrat and her companions in an allegedly fake encounter in 2004. In the past, there have been worries about excessive snooping on citizens through telephone tapping or internet monitoring.

The model has been copied from the US where agencies such as the CIA and the NSA have inspectors general who monitor and investigate the agencies and also present an annual report to the US senate committee on intelligence. But former intelligence officials are worried that an oversight mechanism can also prove to be disastrous for intelligence processes if it is not thought through.

“We have to be careful about creating such mechanisms because gathering intelligence is an extremely sensitive issue,” former director, Intelligence Bureau, Ajit Doval told dna.

“Intelligence processes have to be secret and if you appoint people who don’t understand the tradecraft then you will create a situation where there won’t be any intelligence available. Why will good operatives take risks if they are to be monitored by people who don’t understand anything about intelligence gathering and production?”

But Maj Gen VK Singh, who was with R&AW, feels appointing inspectors general is a positive step. “In most countries, there is legal and parliamentary oversight and that needs to be put in place for India too,” he said. In fact, Singh is a petitioner in the Supreme Court which is seeking directions for external oversight mechanisms for Indian intelligence agencies.

DNA/Saikat Datta

First Published: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 09:52

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