Amid the muddle over the Indian Premier League, the Centre is feeling the heat after Outlook magazine carried a report saying that the National Technical Research Organisation has got telephone conversations of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and many other dignitaries tapped.
However, B Raman, former R&AW officer and rediff.com's columnist says, "While there is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the reports carried by Outlook about the functioning of the NTRO and the genuineness of the intercepts of some telephone conversations of some political leaders, I have difficulty in accepting that these intercepts necessarily show that the NTRO has been tapping the telephone conversations of these political personalities."
Raman says, "Tapping is a process. When there is tapping, there will be a series of intercepts of the conversations involving the same person. When there is only an isolated message, it does not show malafide tapping. It only shows accidental interception of telephone conversations of political leaders cited by Outlook while doing a random communications intelligence sweep."
Raman's contention is that while tapping phones of people who are at national security risk, many other people's conversation also gets recorded and "this happens all the time while doing a random sweep".
A random sweep is not done manually. It is done by a machine which records every conversation within a certain radius when the machine is on.
However, Raman suggests, "From time to time, intelligence officers play back the recording of the intercepts. If they find that if any of the intercepts is of a political nature unrelated to national security and contains politically sensitive or compromising material, the careerists among intelligence officers may show it to political leaders to cut favour with them."
When intelligence agencies find that they do not have sensitive or compromising content in taped material they, normally, shred the conversations.
The security expert adds, "The so-called intercepts cited by the magazine do not have any sensitive or compromising material. My feeling is that these were intercepted accidentally during the course of a random search and the person to whom these were given for shredding has passed them on to the journalist."