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Intel leak: IB discusses ways to counter fake calls

March 06, 2013 15:19 IST

The case of an NSG officer giving out vital information to the ISI has got the Intelligence Bureau thinking of reforms to avoid such embarrassing occurrences, reports Vicky Nanjappa    

The high-level inquiry into the alleged passing on of information by an officer of the National Security Guard to an Inter-Services Intelligence agent seems to be losing steam. It is now being claimed that it was a case of mistaken identity.    

The intelligence agencies are now keener on setting up a mechanism to prevent the repeat of such incidents.  

The NSG officer was accused of giving out vital information regarding the movement of NSG force in the aftermath of the Hyderabad blasts. The probe indicates that the caller on the other side was an interested party and was seeking information regarding the movement of the elite NSG into Hyderabad.

But an initial probe does not indicate that the officer in question was in touch with the Pakistan spy agency and it was a one-off case where information was passed on in the heat of the moment.

The punishment could range from a charge to a reprimand in case the officer is found guilty of divulging information without ascertaining who the caller was.

There were certain aspects that were considered during this probe. Why should someone try to assume a fake identity to ascertain information about an event that was taking place in India? The probe would show that the person who was backing this programme was an interested party in the happenings.

Intelligence Bureau officials say that this is not the first time that such a thing has happened. There have been several such cases and Pakistan spies have been resorting to such tactics since 1997.

The ISI has resorted to such techniques in Punjab and Kashmir. There have been various incidents in which spies pretending to be a Major in the army have called up subedars and demanded information regarding the movement of troops. The most common names that they use are Major Singh or Varma.

Not only do these spies call the army control unit, but there have been instances where they have rung up railway station masters. On several occasions station masters have passed on vital information regarding the movement of a unit.

One such intercept at the Jalandhar railways station in the late 1990s is an example of such occurrences. A man, who identified himself as an Army Major, called the station master and asked him if he had cleared the movement of the forces, to which the station master replied in the positive.

Intelligence agencies and the home ministry acknowledge that spy agencies adopt such tricks. Normally one would insist that the officer seeking the information is present in person, but that would be a tough task in a crunch situation.

The agencies suggest that each time there is a call seeking information, the operator or whoever answers the call, needs to take down the caller’s number and arrange a call back.

The agencies suggest that senior officers need to be tolerant if they are told their call would be returned.

Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru