Current Affairs:The NCTC Debate -2

 

2. WHY IS THE PROPOSAL ON HOLD ?
Somewhat belatedly, the apprehensions of the objectors are to be discussed by the Home Ministry with the State DGPs and Chief Secretaries. But, this exercise seems pointless, since the assent of the Chief Ministers will still be required. Their suspicions have been aroused about the intent behind the NCTC and the manner in which its draconian powers will be utilized; hence it will be very difficult to obtain their assent at this stage. Further, the results of the mini-general elections held recently in 5 States reveals that the Congress is losing popular support casting serious doubts on the ability of the UPA government to pursue radical proposals. The Union armed forces cannot function in the State(s) concerned unless their willing cooperation is available; otherwise they would be denied access to tactical intelligence, logistics support and face the possible resistance of the local administration.
It would be useful now to describe the NCTC proposal. It would function under the Intelligence Bureau (IB); it would analyze the intelligence pertaining to terrorism and associated criminality; maintain relevant data bases; develop appropriate responses; and undertake threat assessments for dissemination to the Union and State governments. All this is unexceptional. But, the problem arises with the organization also being empowered to arrest suspects and undertake searches under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 without reference to the State Governments. A NCTC Standing Council is envisaged with representation from the States to ensure against arbitrary action, but this has failed to reassure them. Their resentments have also been fuelled because they were not consulted before the NCTC modality was finalized. Moreover, the absence of legislative oversight over the activities of the intelligence agencies—this proposal has been resolutely resisted by Union governments in the past— strengthens fears that these powers could be
exercised in an arbitrary fashion.

3. THE INDIAN AND AMERICAN MODELS: A COMPARISON

The Indian NCTC has the power to investigate and arrest; hence it differs radically from its American counterpart, which has become the problem. Moreover, placing the NCTC within the Intelligence Bureau (IB) would convert the Bureau into an operational body, which would be disastrous for the general polity.

The American NCTC is part of its Directorate of National Intelligence, which is manned by officials from the Pentagon, FBI, CIA and related agencies who can access their databases. The Centre analyzes and collates terrorism related information to plan and support counterterrorism operations. Its charter visualizes its providing this information to the intelligence agencies for responding to terrorist incidents within the US, and also brief policymakers. Intelligence organizations perform two functions. They collect, collate and assess the information obtained from open and clandestine sources. Further, they also conduct intelligence operations to gather  information, and undertake counterintelligence operations to disrupt the activities of their counterparts abroad. The American NCTC is only charged with the first of these functions viz to collect, collate and assess terrorism-related information, but not to conduct intelligence operations. It has no powers to investigate or arrest. The Indian NCTC has the power to investigate and arrest; hence it differs radically from its American counterpart, which has become the problem. Moreover, placing the NCTC within the Intelligence Bureau (IB) would convert the Bureau into an operational body, which would be disastrous for the general polity. It is an open secret that the IB assiduously gathers ‘political intelligence’ on behalf of the political party in power about rival factions within the party and the Opposition parties. Equipping the IB with powers of arrest and search in the States is, therefore, being resisted by the States.
Moreover, the NCTC would also get embroiled in IB’s running battle with the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), which is responsible for external intelligence. Terrorism has both international and national aspects; hence, the NCTC must be separated from the IB tomaintain equidistance from the IB and the R&AW. The US established its Department of Homeland Security after 9/11. In India the establishment of a separate Ministry of Internal Security, conceived several years back, continues to languish. Ideally, the NCTC should be placed under this new Ministry, along with the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), and relevant sections of the various intelligence agencies, including the National Information Grid (NATGRID), National Threat Reduction Organization (NTRO). The intention would be to integrate the information at all levels relating to terrorist and insurgent organizations for undertaking counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency operations.

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Current Affairs:The NCTC Debate –3

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