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In an era of cock and bull intelligence, why migrating to a centralised system would help

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New Delhi, Feb 21: Following every major terror strike, there is always an analysis on whether there was intelligence or not. Was the Pulwama attack a result of intelligence failure?

Firemen spray water on a road to wash away the blood stains at the site of suicide bomb attack at Lathepora Awantipora in Pulwama district of south Kashmir

Some would say that there was intelligence, but it was not concrete enough. First and foremost, intelligence is the cornerstone to deal with terrorism. Intelligence is gathered in various forms such as chatter, chat intercepts and from sources on the ground.

The Intelligence agencies gets thousands of intercepts every day, but the question is whether all of it is actionable or not. There is also the other issue of dealing with cock and bull intelligence, which is deliberately put out by terror groups to confuse the agencies.

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The key to good intelligence is to piece together all the information and then ascertain beyond doubt whether it is actionable or not.

Six days before the Pulwama attack, there was intelligence provided which suggested that there would be an IED attack and all areas need to be sensitised. However the intelligence was not considered to be operational in nature. The Intelligence Bureau argues that it is extremely difficult to get pin-pointed intelligence. At least 8 out of 10 intercepts, leads, information that are provided are done with an intention of misguiding the agencies. There have been times when we have chased a lead for months and then hit a dead end.

Intel in J&K:

In Jammu and Kashmir, the reason why the Indian Army was able to gun down so many top commanders was only due to intelligence. It was the Jammu and Kashmir police which took the lead in providing the intelligence. IB officials say that the J&K police are the best source of information as they are familiar with the local logistics, the people, culture and also the language. The J&K police did not rely on intercepts, chatter etc.

Instead, they gathered intelligence from the ground and this proved to be effective.

While such intelligence is helpful in eradicating a local menace, it is not good enough to thwart attacks on the scale of a Pathankot or a Pulwama.

The biggest issue is that there are multiple agencies that gather intelligence. The IB, Research and Analysis Wing, Army, local police, all have inputs of their own. The problem begins when it is not shared among each other and more importantly when it is not pieced together to decide on whether the information is actionable or not. We noticed such slip-ups during the 26/11, Uri, Nagrota, Parliament attacks just to name a few. In fact during the 26/11 there were at least 6 to 8 inputs with different agencies. It was not pieced together and this led to the attack. The case was similar in the case of the Pathankot attack as well.

The importance of NATGRID:

Piecing together the intelligence and coordinating with various agencies especially when the input is very general in nature is the need of the hour. Only 1 out of every 100 intelligence inputs are specific in nature, while the rest are general.

Looking at the manner in which terror groups continue to strike with precision, the need of the hour would be to completely migrate to NATGRID or National Intelligence Grid. The primary job of NATGRID is to connect the inputs and data base of the core security agencies and piece it together and ascertain whether it is actionable in nature or not.

The agencies have been arguing for long that India does have a competent policing wing, but they have been handicapped for want of data. Further coordination and ego issues have cropped up in the past as a result of which intelligence has failed.

Security experts point out that with NATGRID, a data base is built and it would not remain the property of one state alone, but would be national property.

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Under this set up, police officials would have to feed information about each person to this data base. This would include credit card details, residential proof, immigration details and all other transactions regarding a person.

An official in the IB says that the police will have a big role to play to ensure that this data is in place. The police not only have to feed in the first bit of the data, but there is a need to keep updating the data.

Natgrid would also help the police and the Intelligence Bureau keep a tab on persons with suspicious backgrounds. The police would have access to all his data and any movement by this person would also be tracked with the help of this data base.

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