Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Low tech bugging


Why did Pranab da suspect that spies were roaming in his office? Neither he nor the journos have revealed the secret. It is true that he had serious suspicions. Otherwise he wouldn't have written to the Prime minister straight away. Detectives with double zero category intelligence had gone into it. They, after a thorough investigation, came to a very intelligent conclusion, that remnant of some sort of a sweet gum normally chewed by children and childish adults were seen in 16 very sensitive spots in the office of the finance minister. Nothing dubious in it. Pranab da had so much faith in the intelligence of the Intelligence Bureau cops that without delay he entrusted some private detectives to find out the brand of chewing gum used there. There was not much of a breakthrough. 'You guys don't waste time here, go look for some other exclusives' –Pranab da appealed to the fourth estate agents and they dispersed promptly.

People might have had the laugh of their lives reading the great Indian Watergate story. Weren't the super cops who provide Z category security to the second most powerful person in the cabinet given the hi tech gadget that can identify the bits of, year-or-so-old chewing gum ? Can any Tom and Dick sneak inside finance minister's office and start chewing the gum- what if they had chewed some RDX, for a change? Can't they at least use a device that suits the high position of the finance minister in the world's biggest democracy?

There are questions. Why did not the finance minister call the home minister sitting in the next room to request immediate deployment of one or two detective constables who can confirm or rule out his apprehensions? Home minister has the IB under him and many in the IB are said to be wiretappers of international standard. Of course, no one in his senses will entrust the fox to look after the chicken. But it is true that FM smelled a rat. He is not so chicken hearted as to write to the prime minister just on seeing bits of chewing gum. He is in the business for more than half a century and had never made such minor mistakes, let alone major ones. Sitting next door is the home minster who has all the apparatus to bug even the prime minister's office, and with not much love lost between FM and HM, it needs the PM to intervene and set the record straight.

Those in power anywhere will try their best to obtain the secrets of their opponents. Political opponents are not those working in the opposition party. As far as Congressmen are considered they have more opponents in their own party than there are in the other party. Numerous stories of secret service operations that went on for decades targeting leaders and ministers of the same party are folklore in the country.

Intelligence Bureau is the agency that specialises in the art and science of eaves dropping. The one time second in command of the IB, M.K.Dhar had written a book on the service he rendered to the country by bugging throughout his career. This book is of a rare variety in India, whereas in countries like USA , CIA bigwigs spent their retired life writing books, spilling secrets- indeed a very profitable business. The book by our IB boss is Open Secrets -Unveiling the Indian Intelligence. It is full of official secrets, which by some wonderful reason do not come under the official secrets act. Here are a few samples.

*Mostly bugging is done not to get a secret of public importance but to get something for the benefit of the political masters

*The decision to demolish the Babri mosque was taken in the presence of L K Advani. Prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao had all the tapes with him but he did nothing to prevent demolition.

*Maneka Gandhi was not thrown out of the residence of Indira Gandhi. But Manaka had taken all the money she could lay her hands on and had left on her own. This was informed by his spies (?) in the PM's residence.

*Not only political opponents, but top bureaucrats, judges, intellectuals and media men were followed and their movements reported.

*When Indira was PM, senior ministers had asked him to report on the movements of her son Sanjay Gandhi who was a big bully.

*When Chandra Shekhar was the PM, IB reported not to him, but to Rajiv Gandhi, leader of the Congress that supported and kept Shekhar in power.

*When there developed serious difference of opinion between Rashtrapathi Zail Singh and Prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Zail Singh's office was bugged .

* When at last the author became cabinet secretary he realised that his own phone was also tapped!

Pranab Mukharjee knows all this better than any minister in the union cabinet. He might have felt very shocked and dejected not from knowing that his office is being bugged but from knowing that such low level gadgets were used to perform that. What is the benefit of globalisation and all, if such obsolete technology is used to bug the great nation's FM? Developed nations are using devices smaller than a bed bug placed outside an office to record and send to remote centres conversations going on inside the office, that too for several years ! You do not need CIA's assistance to get this, just have to search the internet. Osama's hide out was so monitored before he was killed. In this age it is shameful that we use chewing gum to paste some bugging devise. What a shame !