‘Leaks’ threatened Indo-US spy ties after 26/11 attacks

The Asian Age.  | Sanjib Kr Baruah

India, All India

The NSA teams also communicated that it was dissatisfied with the response it received from Indian agencies which blamed the Indian media.

Edward Snowden. (Photo: AP)

New Delhi: Latest documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden on March 3 to a Website The Intercept suggests that in the years after the Mumbai terror attacks of 26 November, 2008, the problem of leaking of US intelligence information classified as “Top Secret” by Indian authorities that made its way into the public domain threatened to cloud the spy ties between the two biggest democracies. The acute problem led to US’ NSA teams of officials flying down to New Delhi to plug the leaks. A classified NSA document dated June 15, 2009, says: “Regrettably, leaks, unauthorised disclosures of classified information and poor tradecraft by Indian officials have occurred since Mumbai – at times it seemed like a daily occurrence.”

“DIRNSA (Director of the National Security Agency) sent a letter about the first leak in December 2008. In May 2009, NSA representatives traveled to Delhi to meet with Indian officials to deliver a second letter from DIRNSA that underlined the seriousness of the leaks while applauding the progress made since 2007”.

The NSA team pointed out that SIGINT (signals intelligence) sharing would be reduced unless India’s handling procedures were tightened and also made it clear that it holds the Indian intelligence agencies responsible for any leaks.

“The team also emphasized that care must be taken at the boundaries between intelligence and law enforcement organizations. Furthermore, the Indian services cannot use shared selectors to contact targeted individuals because such activity leads to permanent loss of access”, the document adds.

The NSA teams also communicated that it was dissatisfied with the response it received from Indian agencies which blamed the Indian media.

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Subsequently, the US spy agencies communicated on June 3 that they were working together with RAW to create a ‘tearline’ that more suitable for passing to law enforcement. RAW and US’ NSA began exchanging information after the 9/11 attacks but the cooperation became much closer from 2002 and then reached unprecedented levels from March 2008 onwards. The document says: “The results have been positive…RAW has produced the highest volume of reports for SSPAC (SIGINT Seniors Pacific) next to the US and its information has garnered positive feedback.”

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