Thursday, Dec 13, 2018 | Last Update : 08:31 PM IST

‘India joined US-led top secret alliance in 2008’

THE ASIAN AGE. | SANJIB KR BARUAH
Published : Mar 10, 2018, 12:30 am IST
Updated : Mar 10, 2018, 12:31 am IST

Besides the US, the SSPAC has Australia, Canada, France, India, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, and United Kingdom as members.

Edward Snowden. (Photo: AP)
 Edward Snowden. (Photo: AP)

New Delhi: India has been one of the most proactive members of a secretive US National Security Agency (NSA)-led 10-member counter-terrorism platform called SIGINT Seniors Pacific (SSPAC) for the last 10 years, a recent tranche of classified documents recently released by whistleblower Edward Snowden to a Website suggests.

Besides the US, the SSPAC has Australia, Canada, France, India, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, and United Kingdom as members.

The Indian representation at the SSPAC comprises officials from the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and the Aviation Research Centre (ARC). A document states: “RAW has produced the highest volume of reports for SSPAC next to the US and its information has garnered positive feedback from multiple SSPAC members.”

While RAW is the dedicated agency for external intelligence, NTRO is the super-feeder agency for providing technical intelligence on internal and external security. ARC is mandated with the aerial collection of intelligence.

The SSPAC members use a NSA-developed stand-alone secure communication system called “Crushed Ice” which is deployed in each nation’s headquarters to communicate with each other including real time conversations and exchange of “phone numbers, fax numbers, email addresses, voice and language identifications, voice cuts, lead information and interrogation reports”.

In 2007, the US NSA director sought the opinion of SSPAC on the possibility of inviting India to join the SSPAC multilateral forum on counter terror. The NSA felt strongly that India’s participation in multi lateral intelligence sharing would help mature its Indian signals intelligence agencies as well as provide regional counter terror expertise.

The move was prompted by a keen US administration that wanted to improve relations with India. After given a unanimo-us go-ahead, a high level team, including the NSA director and his equivalents from Singapore and New Zealand, travelled to New Delhi in March 2008 to extend the invite. In June 2008, India formally accepted the SSPAC invitation.

Immediately, a series of teams of Counter Terror Deployed Analysts (CTDAs) were sent to India for 2-3 month long periods.

In the subsequent months, US’ NSA and RAW communicated over a rash of terrorist attacks that took place in Jaipur, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, New Delhi and Guwahati. NSA also provided timely warning regarding an attack on India’s embassy in Kabul.

Expectedly, the collaboration picked up pace after Pakistan-trained Lashkar-e-Tayyaba terrorists indulged in a wanton killing spree in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. As terrorists struck Mumbai, “many NSA employees, holidaying because of Thanksgiving, were recalled. NSA’s efforts further intensified when westerners, including Americans, were targeted and killed”.

Tags: us nsa, ntro