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Overview:

The Intelligence Bureau (IB), considered the oldest surviving intelligence organization in the world, serves as India’s internal security agency responsible for mitigating domestic threats. IB technically falls under the authority of Ministry of Home Affairs. However, the IB director is part of the Strategic Policy Group as well as the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) of the National Security Council, and can report directly to the prime minister. Although the exact functions of the agency remain unidentified, it is known that the agency is responsible for counterterrorism, counterintelligence, intelligence collection in border areas, infrastructure protection, and anti-secession activities. IB works with other Indian intelligence and law enforcement organizations, particularly RAW (Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency) and the newly created Defense Intelligence Agency. The agency also maintains partnerships with foreign agencies, including security agencies in the U.K., U.S., and Israel.

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History:

IB traces its history to the British colonial rule. The exact lineage, though, is subject to debate. The unsuccessful Sipoy’s Mutiny in 1857 created a need for an intelligence organization that could keep tabs on signs of potential unrest and monitor the various rulers in different parts of India. IB was founded on December 23, 1887, as the “Central Special Branch” by the Secretary of State for India in London. Some claim that IB’s origins can be traced back to India’s first intelligence unit established in 1885 by Major General Sir Charles Metcalfe MacGregor, the quartermaster general and head of the intelligence department of the Indian Army. However, this unit later morphed into a separate military intelligence unit. Yet another group claims that IB dates back to 1835 when a police organization called the Thuggee and Dacoity Department was founded.

 

The Central Special Branch was established with the intention of collecting timely information on political, economic, and social conditions of India, monitoring social sentiment and overseeing the security situation. Special branches of the police department were also established at the headquarters of each provincial government. The job of the Central Special Branch was to analyze information sent by the provincial special branches. In due time, collection of political intelligence was also assigned to the Central Special Branch.

 

Acting on the recommendations of the Police Commission of 1902-1903, Central Special Branch was restructured and renamed the “Central Criminal Intelligence Department.” The department was responsible for internal security affairs in addition to criminal activities. National security activities became the central focus of the new organization, and it was renamed the “Central Intelligence Department” (CID) in 1918. It later changed its name to “Intelligence Bureau” (IB) in 1920.

 

Indian politicians headed provincial governments starting 1935. It was decided then to expand IB’s reach into the provinces to strengthen intelligence collection efforts. This resulted in the creation of IB field units, each under the leadership of a central intelligence officer. After India’s independence in 1947, these units subsequently evolved into State IB units that are today known as Subsidiary Intelligence Bureaus.

 

Some intelligence and security organizations operating today trace their origin to IB. Up until 1968, IB was responsible for internal as well as external intelligence gathering. However, after its failure in the war against China in 1962, India created an external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in 1968. The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), in charge of protecting India’s vital infrastructure, came from the industrial security focus of IB. Similarly, the Border Security Force (BSF), the Indo-Tibet Border Police, and the Special Services Bureau all trace their existence to IB’s border security duties. The Special Protection Group (SPG), in charge of protecting VVIP’s, including the prime minister, was born out of IB’s VIP security wing.

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What it Does:

The Intelligence Bureau, as the internal security and intelligence organization, is tasked with intelligence collection and dissemination and acts as a security advisor to the state and federal governments as well. Personnel are not recruited into IB directly; rather they come from law enforcement agencies throughout India, with Indian Police Service cadres making up the bulk of the organization. Below is a list of tasks that the IB is known to be involved in:

 

Counterterrorism: India faces threat from Islamist terrorism as well as separatist and communist violence. Major groups include Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Harkat ul-Mujahideen, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Indian Mujahideen, and the United Liberation Front of Assam. IB collects intelligence inside India, which includes keeping track of individuals, groups, and organizations suspected of terrorist ties, monitoring movements and communications of known individuals, cultivating sources, and analyzing and disseminating collected information. IB’s counterterrorism mandate also involves countering separatist and violent political movements in the northeast and elsewhere.

 

The state Subsidiary Intelligence Bureaus play an important role in IB’s efforts, especially in the northeast. IB also heads a Multi-Agency Center to coordinate and share intelligence with different agencies and branches of government. However, with the spike in deadly attacks since 2005, IB has come under criticism for failing to carry out its duties. The bureaucratic culture and turf wars also prevent fast and effective coordination. 

 

Counterintelligence: IB is responsible for effectively countering foreign and hostile intelligence organizations operating in India. Almost all of the counterintelligence work inside India is conducted by IB. While not much is known about IB’s work, a report indicates that the Indian intelligence community has incorporated remote viewing techniques and satellite technologies in its counter-intelligence efforts. A former intelligence official called India’s counterintelligence record both a success and a shame. A well-known counterintelligence failure is the defection of Rabinder Singh, head of RAW’s Southeast Asia department, to the U.S.

 

Border Intelligence Collection: India shares porous land borders with Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, and China. Following the 1951 Himmatsinhji Committee’s recommendation, IB tasked with intelligence collection in the border areas. In this area IB works closely with border protection forces.

 

VIP Security: IB’s VIP security unit is charged with the safety of VIPs. While it is not known whether IB provides actual physical bodyguards, it does provide a threat framework and security guidelines (“blue book”) to be used for the actual protection of VIPs. It is assumed that IB shares known threats and intelligence with and advises the Special Protection Group, Delhi police, and other state police organizations. IB’s security guidelines have come under scrutiny after 350 complaints were filed with the National Human Rights Commission against VIP security practices.

 

IB is tasked with critical infrastructure protection, especially aviation. In this area, it works closely with the Central Industrial Security Force and the National Technical Research Organization’s (NTRO) Infrastructure Protection Center. IB also performs background checks for security clearances for diplomats, judges, and other individuals.

 

The Indian Telegraph Act coupled with the Indian Post Office Act grants the bureau broad and sweeping powers to monitor all forms of communications. IB reportedly wiretaps phones without warrants and is believed to open as many as 5,000 letters a day. It also tries to influence public opinion by writing op-eds and letters to editors in support of government policies.

 

It is also worth mentioning that STRATFOR, a Austin, Texas based private geopolitical intelligence firm, has rated the Intelligence Bureau as one of the top 5 intelligence outfits in the world when it comes to conducting surveillance.

 

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Where Does the Money Go:

The classification of the budget as well the operational activities means that there are no official public records indicating how IB spends its money. However, based on the threats that India currently faces as well the overall mission of the bureau, one can draw certain reasonable inferences regarding its spending.

 

The high volume of Islamist terrorist attacks that India faced in the last few years along with others that have been foiled makes it very likely that some significant portion of the IB budget is spent on its counter-terrorism activities.

 

In addition to Islamist terrorism, India is also confronting violent left-wing extremism. As recently as 2010, PM Manmohan Singh singled out Naxalism as the single greatest internal security threat to India. In light of this, it can be assumed that IB invests money and resources in this problem.

 

The November 2008 terrorist attacks in India heated up tensions between India and Pakistan. India holds Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI responsible for the attacks. Therefore, it can be inferred that intelligence collection in the Indo-Pak border areas as well counterintelligence activities vis-à-vis Pakistan are also top priorities for the bureau.

 

A large part of IB is often used by the ruling party to conduct political surveillance on the opposition. It can be assumed that a significant portion of the IB budget is used for operational activities aimed at keeping the current political party in power.

more
Controversies:

IB’s Domestic Wiretapping

The ability of the bureau to wiretap phones and listen in on almost all forms of communication without the need for a warrant is a cause of concern for many. While the use of sophisticated monitoring equipment has no doubt played a crucial role in enabling IB to better perform its job, the total lack of any oversight or regulations makes it worrisome. IB keeps call data records, without any legal backing or cause, of select individuals for the Ministry of Home Affairs. Additionally, IB reportedly taps phone lines of every minister and prominent opposition figures. It also taps some civil servants as well journalists and other activists. This creates a situation where democracy is possibly undermined by those very individuals who are tasked to safeguard it. Furthermore, following the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, IB ordered all communications companies to discontinue the use of VoIP call service to and from the country till a way to track these calls was established. While warrantless wiretapping has been declared illegal, it is unlikely that the practice will cease to exist in the absence of strong regulatory and oversight mechanisms.

 

The Secret World of Phone Tapping (by Ashish Khetan, Bhavna Vij-Aurora, and Sandeep Unnithan, India Today)

Who Decides Whose Phone is to be Tapped? (by Vir Sanghvi, Rediff on the Net)

The Government's Listening to Us (by Praveen Swami, The Hindu)

IB Asks Govt To Block All Net Telephony Services (by Joji Thomas Philip, Times of India)

 

Political Surveillance

Despite having a clear national security role to play, IB personnel and resources are often used to monitor the activities of political opposition by the ruling party. A lack of clear oversight mechanisms and a lethargic bureaucratic culture enables this practice. Use of IB personnel and resources for political surveillance greatly affects the ability of the bureau to do its job as well as the morale of IB personnel. It was recently reported that less than a third of the IB’s workforce conducts national security related duties. This would mean that about two-thirds of the personnel and vast amounts of resources are being spent on political surveillance and opposition research. As mentioned in the “wiretapping” section, IB keeps tracks of all ministers as well as opposition figures. This is done solely for the purpose of gathering political intelligence for the ruling party. IB’s inability to break free from this politicization undermines its credibility and threats Indian national security. Confirmed examples of political snooping come from the tell-all book of a formed IB operative – “In 1979, Dhar was brought back to Delhi to head the IB's ‘Election Cell.’ Prime Minister Charan Singh ordered him to assess “what was required in each constituency to influence the electorate.” When Gandhi rode back to power, she asked him to assist the Puri Committee, a tool of political vendetta, “to blacken the faces of her opponents.”

 

War Below The Radar (by Saikat Datta, Outlook India)

New Intelligence Technology Feeding Surge In Political Espionage (by Preaveen Swami, The Hindu)

Too Busy to Snoop on Terrorists (by Kiran Tare, India Today)

Book Review - Open Secrets: India's Intelligence Unveiled by M.K. Dhar (by Sreeram Chaulia, Asia Times)

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Suggested Reforms:

Coordination

One of the most stringent criticisms leveled at the Indian intelligence community is the lack of coordination between the different organizations and agencies. While technically supposed to work together, IB and RAW frequently engage in turf wars and intelligence sharing gets held up in bureaucratic red tape. The Task Force on National Security, lead by former cabinet secretary Naresh Chandra, has recommended the appointment of a National Intelligence Coordinator (intelligence czar) to oversee all the various intelligence agencies and facilitate effective coordination.

 

Intelligence Agencies (Powers and Regulation) Bill, 2011

Given the messy state of the Indian intelligence community, the proposed bill is considered to be a step in the right direction. IB, in particular, can benefit from it. The bill specifies that IB work only national security tasks, and refrain from political surveillance. It also restricts IB’s reach to internal intelligence collection, thereby delineating its geographical reach (and making it distinct from RAW). The bill would also extend much needed oversight and accountability, and provide a legal cover for IB’s operations.

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Debate:

Government Oversight

The three major intelligence agencies of India (IB, RAW, and NTRO) currently operate without any formalized oversight mechanisms or regulations. Cases of corruption at NTRO and IB along with the failures of intelligence agencies and misuse of classified funds have prompted a sincere effort by the Indian government to address these issues. The centerpiece of this strategy is an oversight power over intelligence agencies.

 

IB Should be Subject to Government Oversight

A committee of several secretaries headed by National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon formulated oversight mechanisms in mid 2011. Manish Tewari, a Congress spokesperson and MP, introduced the “Intelligence Agencies (Powers and Regulations) Bill, 2011” in the Lok Sabha in August 2011. The bill seeks to provide and establish, among other things, a “legislative and regulatory framework for IB;” “a National Intelligence Tribunal for the investigation of complaints against these agencies;” “a National Intelligence and Security Oversight Committee for an effective oversight mechanism of these agencies;” and “an Intelligence Ombudsman for efficient functioning of the agencies and for matters connected therewith.” The bill requires that IB function under the Office of the Prime Minister and work for national security purposes alone.

 

A significant impetus for the oversight recommendation came from the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis’s Task Force on Intelligence Reforms. The task force, led by Rana Banerji, a 37-year veteran of the Indian Administrative Service, published a report titled A Case for Intelligence Reforms in India. The report argues for fundamental changes in the Indian intelligence apparatus. One of the changes advocated is institutionalized oversight. The report argued that the “functioning (of IB) must be under Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny.” To this end, it recommended that the government:

  • Strengthen financial accountability of intelligence agencies; annual reports to go to Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG)/NSA;
  • Provide for an in camera audit of Secret Service Funds;
  • Have a separate intelligence ombudsman for IB, R&AW & NTRO;
  • Examine the option of  having a Minister for National Security & Intelligence who could exercise administrative authority on all intelligence agencies;
  • Set up a Parliamentary Accountability Committee for oversight of intelligence agencies through legislation.

 

Further, in anticipation of potential resistance from within the intelligence community as well as politicians, the report stated:

“We are mindful of reservations within the intelligence community, especially among police officers in the profession, that excessive harping on accountability could damage operational efficiency and jeopardize secrecy. Yet, it has been felt, on balance, that there can be no getting away from introducing some sort of external supervision and control, including legislative oversight to improve efficiency and to build in self-correcting mechanisms.”

 

Intelligence oversight, by its proponents, is seen as a natural requirement in light of India’s democracy as well as the recent debacles. This view, however, does not extend to the practitioners and some of their political backers.

 

NTRO Transfers Officer for Exposing Corruption (by Dalip Singh, India Today)

23 IB Personnel Punished In Corruption Cases (One India News)

Manish Tewari introduces Bill on Intelligence Agencies Reforms (Observer India)

 

IB Should Not be Under Government Oversight

The issue of an oversight committee as well as a tribunal does not sit well with the intelligence community. Safety of sources, misuse of intelligence information, and bureaucratic hassles are cited as the reasons opposing the passage of the bill. Some believe that efficiency will be not increased, but rather hurt as a result of oversight. Some also fear that the autonomy required for intelligence operations will be affected as well. These concerns are reflected in the current status of the bill: almost ten months after its introduction, it has yet to lead anywhere. As one newspaper reporter observed, “A detailed report with specific recommendations for intelligence reforms in India, submitted by a Task Force led by a former Assam cadre IAS officer Rana Banerji is gathering dust for a year. The same has been the fate of a bill placed in parliament to regulate Indian intelligence agencies.”

 

Eyes on the Spies (The Telegraph)

Task Force Report on Intel Reforms Gathering Dust (by Subir Bhaumik, Seven Sisters Post)

 

 

Constitutionality of the Intelligence Bureau

The lack of clear oversight and accountability mechanisms stem in part from a nebulous legal structure that supports IB’s existence. The report of the Task Force mentioned above observed that as early as 1975, “L.P. Singh Committee had gone into the working of the IB and recommended a written charter for it.” It further noted that even “the Kargil Review Committee “took note of the legal vacuum in which both IB and the R&AW [Research & Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency) were working.” This issue came to head when a case was filed against IB to protest its unconstitutionality.

 

IB is Unconstitutional

A Public Interest Litigation filed in mid 2011 in Karnataka High Court alleges that the Intelligence Bureau operates in a “constitutional vacuum.” The petition was filed by R.N. Kulkarni, a former joint assistant director of the IB who served the bureau for over three decades. The court admitted the petition in June and the hearing was adjourned on November 10, 2011. Kulkarni’s petition points out that the IB was “not set up as an Act of Parliament, has no charter of duties, no framework of policies, no rules and regulations relating to personnel, recruitment, training, promotion and transfers.” Another question raised is whether IB is a civilian or police organization. Moreover, Kulkarni contends that IB’s broad powers, secret budget, and no accountability and transparency threatens the rights of Indian citizens and the democratic structure, thereby violating Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. In March 2012, Karnataka High Court ordered Center to explain the issue of IB’s existence.

 

Unwatched Watchdog? (by Sugata Srinivasaraju, Outlook India)

Explain Intelligence Bureau's legality, HC tells Centre (Times of India)

Ex-officer Questions Intelligence Bureau’s Legal Status (by A Subramani, Times of India)

 

IB is Constitutionally Justified

The central government has conceded that IB is a civilian organization with no police powers and that the Group of Ministers (a committee formed after the Kargil War to assess India’s security apparatus) noted that IB operates with a formal charter. However, according to the government, this does not necessarily mean that IB’s existence is unconstitutional. In response to the court, the government has pointed to that “the Intelligence Bureau finds mention at S.No.8 in the Union list under the 7th Schedule of the Constitution of India.” As the Task Force report, points, this makes the IB not a statutory body but rather “an ad hoc administrative arrangement by the Executive.” As of June 7, 2012, the court has been adjourned and the next hearing date is June 29, 2012.

 

Who Will Watch the Watchmen? (by Arvind Radhakrishnan, Daily News & Analysis)

Legally Empowering the Sentinels of the Nation (by Manish Tewari, Observer Research Foundation)

Malgovernance in the Age of Intelligence (by Manish Tewari, The New Indian Express)

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Former Directors:

Nehchal Sandhu

Nehchal Sandhu served as the 23rd (since independence) director of the Intelligence Bureau from December 2010 until December 2012. He is a four-star police officer. Sandhu graduated with honors in science from St. Stephen’s College in New Delhi. He joined the Indian Police Service (IPS) as a career officer in 1973 and transferred over to IB in 1978. As a police officer, he served in the sensitive areas of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. He has also served overseas in Canada as a counselor in the High Commission of India in Ottawa. His many awards include the Indian Police Medal for Meritorious Service (1988) and President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service (1998).

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Founded: 1887 (as Central Special Branch); named Intelligence Bureau in 1920
Annual Budget: Rs. 1073 crore ($210.9 million) (2012-2013)
Employees: Classified (estimated: 25,000)
Official Website: http://www.mha.nic.in/
Intelligence Bureau
  • Latest News
Bookmark and Share
Overview:

The Intelligence Bureau (IB), considered the oldest surviving intelligence organization in the world, serves as India’s internal security agency responsible for mitigating domestic threats. IB technically falls under the authority of Ministry of Home Affairs. However, the IB director is part of the Strategic Policy Group as well as the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) of the National Security Council, and can report directly to the prime minister. Although the exact functions of the agency remain unidentified, it is known that the agency is responsible for counterterrorism, counterintelligence, intelligence collection in border areas, infrastructure protection, and anti-secession activities. IB works with other Indian intelligence and law enforcement organizations, particularly RAW (Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency) and the newly created Defense Intelligence Agency. The agency also maintains partnerships with foreign agencies, including security agencies in the U.K., U.S., and Israel.

more
History:

IB traces its history to the British colonial rule. The exact lineage, though, is subject to debate. The unsuccessful Sipoy’s Mutiny in 1857 created a need for an intelligence organization that could keep tabs on signs of potential unrest and monitor the various rulers in different parts of India. IB was founded on December 23, 1887, as the “Central Special Branch” by the Secretary of State for India in London. Some claim that IB’s origins can be traced back to India’s first intelligence unit established in 1885 by Major General Sir Charles Metcalfe MacGregor, the quartermaster general and head of the intelligence department of the Indian Army. However, this unit later morphed into a separate military intelligence unit. Yet another group claims that IB dates back to 1835 when a police organization called the Thuggee and Dacoity Department was founded.

 

The Central Special Branch was established with the intention of collecting timely information on political, economic, and social conditions of India, monitoring social sentiment and overseeing the security situation. Special branches of the police department were also established at the headquarters of each provincial government. The job of the Central Special Branch was to analyze information sent by the provincial special branches. In due time, collection of political intelligence was also assigned to the Central Special Branch.

 

Acting on the recommendations of the Police Commission of 1902-1903, Central Special Branch was restructured and renamed the “Central Criminal Intelligence Department.” The department was responsible for internal security affairs in addition to criminal activities. National security activities became the central focus of the new organization, and it was renamed the “Central Intelligence Department” (CID) in 1918. It later changed its name to “Intelligence Bureau” (IB) in 1920.

 

Indian politicians headed provincial governments starting 1935. It was decided then to expand IB’s reach into the provinces to strengthen intelligence collection efforts. This resulted in the creation of IB field units, each under the leadership of a central intelligence officer. After India’s independence in 1947, these units subsequently evolved into State IB units that are today known as Subsidiary Intelligence Bureaus.

 

Some intelligence and security organizations operating today trace their origin to IB. Up until 1968, IB was responsible for internal as well as external intelligence gathering. However, after its failure in the war against China in 1962, India created an external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in 1968. The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), in charge of protecting India’s vital infrastructure, came from the industrial security focus of IB. Similarly, the Border Security Force (BSF), the Indo-Tibet Border Police, and the Special Services Bureau all trace their existence to IB’s border security duties. The Special Protection Group (SPG), in charge of protecting VVIP’s, including the prime minister, was born out of IB’s VIP security wing.

more
What it Does:

The Intelligence Bureau, as the internal security and intelligence organization, is tasked with intelligence collection and dissemination and acts as a security advisor to the state and federal governments as well. Personnel are not recruited into IB directly; rather they come from law enforcement agencies throughout India, with Indian Police Service cadres making up the bulk of the organization. Below is a list of tasks that the IB is known to be involved in:

 

Counterterrorism: India faces threat from Islamist terrorism as well as separatist and communist violence. Major groups include Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Harkat ul-Mujahideen, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Indian Mujahideen, and the United Liberation Front of Assam. IB collects intelligence inside India, which includes keeping track of individuals, groups, and organizations suspected of terrorist ties, monitoring movements and communications of known individuals, cultivating sources, and analyzing and disseminating collected information. IB’s counterterrorism mandate also involves countering separatist and violent political movements in the northeast and elsewhere.

 

The state Subsidiary Intelligence Bureaus play an important role in IB’s efforts, especially in the northeast. IB also heads a Multi-Agency Center to coordinate and share intelligence with different agencies and branches of government. However, with the spike in deadly attacks since 2005, IB has come under criticism for failing to carry out its duties. The bureaucratic culture and turf wars also prevent fast and effective coordination. 

 

Counterintelligence: IB is responsible for effectively countering foreign and hostile intelligence organizations operating in India. Almost all of the counterintelligence work inside India is conducted by IB. While not much is known about IB’s work, a report indicates that the Indian intelligence community has incorporated remote viewing techniques and satellite technologies in its counter-intelligence efforts. A former intelligence official called India’s counterintelligence record both a success and a shame. A well-known counterintelligence failure is the defection of Rabinder Singh, head of RAW’s Southeast Asia department, to the U.S.

 

Border Intelligence Collection: India shares porous land borders with Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, and China. Following the 1951 Himmatsinhji Committee’s recommendation, IB tasked with intelligence collection in the border areas. In this area IB works closely with border protection forces.

 

VIP Security: IB’s VIP security unit is charged with the safety of VIPs. While it is not known whether IB provides actual physical bodyguards, it does provide a threat framework and security guidelines (“blue book”) to be used for the actual protection of VIPs. It is assumed that IB shares known threats and intelligence with and advises the Special Protection Group, Delhi police, and other state police organizations. IB’s security guidelines have come under scrutiny after 350 complaints were filed with the National Human Rights Commission against VIP security practices.

 

IB is tasked with critical infrastructure protection, especially aviation. In this area, it works closely with the Central Industrial Security Force and the National Technical Research Organization’s (NTRO) Infrastructure Protection Center. IB also performs background checks for security clearances for diplomats, judges, and other individuals.

 

The Indian Telegraph Act coupled with the Indian Post Office Act grants the bureau broad and sweeping powers to monitor all forms of communications. IB reportedly wiretaps phones without warrants and is believed to open as many as 5,000 letters a day. It also tries to influence public opinion by writing op-eds and letters to editors in support of government policies.

 

It is also worth mentioning that STRATFOR, a Austin, Texas based private geopolitical intelligence firm, has rated the Intelligence Bureau as one of the top 5 intelligence outfits in the world when it comes to conducting surveillance.

 

more
Where Does the Money Go:

The classification of the budget as well the operational activities means that there are no official public records indicating how IB spends its money. However, based on the threats that India currently faces as well the overall mission of the bureau, one can draw certain reasonable inferences regarding its spending.

 

The high volume of Islamist terrorist attacks that India faced in the last few years along with others that have been foiled makes it very likely that some significant portion of the IB budget is spent on its counter-terrorism activities.

 

In addition to Islamist terrorism, India is also confronting violent left-wing extremism. As recently as 2010, PM Manmohan Singh singled out Naxalism as the single greatest internal security threat to India. In light of this, it can be assumed that IB invests money and resources in this problem.

 

The November 2008 terrorist attacks in India heated up tensions between India and Pakistan. India holds Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI responsible for the attacks. Therefore, it can be inferred that intelligence collection in the Indo-Pak border areas as well counterintelligence activities vis-à-vis Pakistan are also top priorities for the bureau.

 

A large part of IB is often used by the ruling party to conduct political surveillance on the opposition. It can be assumed that a significant portion of the IB budget is used for operational activities aimed at keeping the current political party in power.

more
Controversies:

IB’s Domestic Wiretapping

The ability of the bureau to wiretap phones and listen in on almost all forms of communication without the need for a warrant is a cause of concern for many. While the use of sophisticated monitoring equipment has no doubt played a crucial role in enabling IB to better perform its job, the total lack of any oversight or regulations makes it worrisome. IB keeps call data records, without any legal backing or cause, of select individuals for the Ministry of Home Affairs. Additionally, IB reportedly taps phone lines of every minister and prominent opposition figures. It also taps some civil servants as well journalists and other activists. This creates a situation where democracy is possibly undermined by those very individuals who are tasked to safeguard it. Furthermore, following the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, IB ordered all communications companies to discontinue the use of VoIP call service to and from the country till a way to track these calls was established. While warrantless wiretapping has been declared illegal, it is unlikely that the practice will cease to exist in the absence of strong regulatory and oversight mechanisms.

 

The Secret World of Phone Tapping (by Ashish Khetan, Bhavna Vij-Aurora, and Sandeep Unnithan, India Today)

Who Decides Whose Phone is to be Tapped? (by Vir Sanghvi, Rediff on the Net)

The Government's Listening to Us (by Praveen Swami, The Hindu)

IB Asks Govt To Block All Net Telephony Services (by Joji Thomas Philip, Times of India)

 

Political Surveillance

Despite having a clear national security role to play, IB personnel and resources are often used to monitor the activities of political opposition by the ruling party. A lack of clear oversight mechanisms and a lethargic bureaucratic culture enables this practice. Use of IB personnel and resources for political surveillance greatly affects the ability of the bureau to do its job as well as the morale of IB personnel. It was recently reported that less than a third of the IB’s workforce conducts national security related duties. This would mean that about two-thirds of the personnel and vast amounts of resources are being spent on political surveillance and opposition research. As mentioned in the “wiretapping” section, IB keeps tracks of all ministers as well as opposition figures. This is done solely for the purpose of gathering political intelligence for the ruling party. IB’s inability to break free from this politicization undermines its credibility and threats Indian national security. Confirmed examples of political snooping come from the tell-all book of a formed IB operative – “In 1979, Dhar was brought back to Delhi to head the IB's ‘Election Cell.’ Prime Minister Charan Singh ordered him to assess “what was required in each constituency to influence the electorate.” When Gandhi rode back to power, she asked him to assist the Puri Committee, a tool of political vendetta, “to blacken the faces of her opponents.”

 

War Below The Radar (by Saikat Datta, Outlook India)

New Intelligence Technology Feeding Surge In Political Espionage (by Preaveen Swami, The Hindu)

Too Busy to Snoop on Terrorists (by Kiran Tare, India Today)

Book Review - Open Secrets: India's Intelligence Unveiled by M.K. Dhar (by Sreeram Chaulia, Asia Times)

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Suggested Reforms:

Coordination

One of the most stringent criticisms leveled at the Indian intelligence community is the lack of coordination between the different organizations and agencies. While technically supposed to work together, IB and RAW frequently engage in turf wars and intelligence sharing gets held up in bureaucratic red tape. The Task Force on National Security, lead by former cabinet secretary Naresh Chandra, has recommended the appointment of a National Intelligence Coordinator (intelligence czar) to oversee all the various intelligence agencies and facilitate effective coordination.

 

Intelligence Agencies (Powers and Regulation) Bill, 2011

Given the messy state of the Indian intelligence community, the proposed bill is considered to be a step in the right direction. IB, in particular, can benefit from it. The bill specifies that IB work only national security tasks, and refrain from political surveillance. It also restricts IB’s reach to internal intelligence collection, thereby delineating its geographical reach (and making it distinct from RAW). The bill would also extend much needed oversight and accountability, and provide a legal cover for IB’s operations.

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Debate:

Government Oversight

The three major intelligence agencies of India (IB, RAW, and NTRO) currently operate without any formalized oversight mechanisms or regulations. Cases of corruption at NTRO and IB along with the failures of intelligence agencies and misuse of classified funds have prompted a sincere effort by the Indian government to address these issues. The centerpiece of this strategy is an oversight power over intelligence agencies.

 

IB Should be Subject to Government Oversight

A committee of several secretaries headed by National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon formulated oversight mechanisms in mid 2011. Manish Tewari, a Congress spokesperson and MP, introduced the “Intelligence Agencies (Powers and Regulations) Bill, 2011” in the Lok Sabha in August 2011. The bill seeks to provide and establish, among other things, a “legislative and regulatory framework for IB;” “a National Intelligence Tribunal for the investigation of complaints against these agencies;” “a National Intelligence and Security Oversight Committee for an effective oversight mechanism of these agencies;” and “an Intelligence Ombudsman for efficient functioning of the agencies and for matters connected therewith.” The bill requires that IB function under the Office of the Prime Minister and work for national security purposes alone.

 

A significant impetus for the oversight recommendation came from the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis’s Task Force on Intelligence Reforms. The task force, led by Rana Banerji, a 37-year veteran of the Indian Administrative Service, published a report titled A Case for Intelligence Reforms in India. The report argues for fundamental changes in the Indian intelligence apparatus. One of the changes advocated is institutionalized oversight. The report argued that the “functioning (of IB) must be under Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny.” To this end, it recommended that the government:

  • Strengthen financial accountability of intelligence agencies; annual reports to go to Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG)/NSA;
  • Provide for an in camera audit of Secret Service Funds;
  • Have a separate intelligence ombudsman for IB, R&AW & NTRO;
  • Examine the option of  having a Minister for National Security & Intelligence who could exercise administrative authority on all intelligence agencies;
  • Set up a Parliamentary Accountability Committee for oversight of intelligence agencies through legislation.

 

Further, in anticipation of potential resistance from within the intelligence community as well as politicians, the report stated:

“We are mindful of reservations within the intelligence community, especially among police officers in the profession, that excessive harping on accountability could damage operational efficiency and jeopardize secrecy. Yet, it has been felt, on balance, that there can be no getting away from introducing some sort of external supervision and control, including legislative oversight to improve efficiency and to build in self-correcting mechanisms.”

 

Intelligence oversight, by its proponents, is seen as a natural requirement in light of India’s democracy as well as the recent debacles. This view, however, does not extend to the practitioners and some of their political backers.

 

NTRO Transfers Officer for Exposing Corruption (by Dalip Singh, India Today)

23 IB Personnel Punished In Corruption Cases (One India News)

Manish Tewari introduces Bill on Intelligence Agencies Reforms (Observer India)

 

IB Should Not be Under Government Oversight

The issue of an oversight committee as well as a tribunal does not sit well with the intelligence community. Safety of sources, misuse of intelligence information, and bureaucratic hassles are cited as the reasons opposing the passage of the bill. Some believe that efficiency will be not increased, but rather hurt as a result of oversight. Some also fear that the autonomy required for intelligence operations will be affected as well. These concerns are reflected in the current status of the bill: almost ten months after its introduction, it has yet to lead anywhere. As one newspaper reporter observed, “A detailed report with specific recommendations for intelligence reforms in India, submitted by a Task Force led by a former Assam cadre IAS officer Rana Banerji is gathering dust for a year. The same has been the fate of a bill placed in parliament to regulate Indian intelligence agencies.”

 

Eyes on the Spies (The Telegraph)

Task Force Report on Intel Reforms Gathering Dust (by Subir Bhaumik, Seven Sisters Post)

 

 

Constitutionality of the Intelligence Bureau

The lack of clear oversight and accountability mechanisms stem in part from a nebulous legal structure that supports IB’s existence. The report of the Task Force mentioned above observed that as early as 1975, “L.P. Singh Committee had gone into the working of the IB and recommended a written charter for it.” It further noted that even “the Kargil Review Committee “took note of the legal vacuum in which both IB and the R&AW [Research & Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency) were working.” This issue came to head when a case was filed against IB to protest its unconstitutionality.

 

IB is Unconstitutional

A Public Interest Litigation filed in mid 2011 in Karnataka High Court alleges that the Intelligence Bureau operates in a “constitutional vacuum.” The petition was filed by R.N. Kulkarni, a former joint assistant director of the IB who served the bureau for over three decades. The court admitted the petition in June and the hearing was adjourned on November 10, 2011. Kulkarni’s petition points out that the IB was “not set up as an Act of Parliament, has no charter of duties, no framework of policies, no rules and regulations relating to personnel, recruitment, training, promotion and transfers.” Another question raised is whether IB is a civilian or police organization. Moreover, Kulkarni contends that IB’s broad powers, secret budget, and no accountability and transparency threatens the rights of Indian citizens and the democratic structure, thereby violating Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. In March 2012, Karnataka High Court ordered Center to explain the issue of IB’s existence.

 

Unwatched Watchdog? (by Sugata Srinivasaraju, Outlook India)

Explain Intelligence Bureau's legality, HC tells Centre (Times of India)

Ex-officer Questions Intelligence Bureau’s Legal Status (by A Subramani, Times of India)

 

IB is Constitutionally Justified

The central government has conceded that IB is a civilian organization with no police powers and that the Group of Ministers (a committee formed after the Kargil War to assess India’s security apparatus) noted that IB operates with a formal charter. However, according to the government, this does not necessarily mean that IB’s existence is unconstitutional. In response to the court, the government has pointed to that “the Intelligence Bureau finds mention at S.No.8 in the Union list under the 7th Schedule of the Constitution of India.” As the Task Force report, points, this makes the IB not a statutory body but rather “an ad hoc administrative arrangement by the Executive.” As of June 7, 2012, the court has been adjourned and the next hearing date is June 29, 2012.

 

Who Will Watch the Watchmen? (by Arvind Radhakrishnan, Daily News & Analysis)

Legally Empowering the Sentinels of the Nation (by Manish Tewari, Observer Research Foundation)

Malgovernance in the Age of Intelligence (by Manish Tewari, The New Indian Express)

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Former Directors:

Nehchal Sandhu

Nehchal Sandhu served as the 23rd (since independence) director of the Intelligence Bureau from December 2010 until December 2012. He is a four-star police officer. Sandhu graduated with honors in science from St. Stephen’s College in New Delhi. He joined the Indian Police Service (IPS) as a career officer in 1973 and transferred over to IB in 1978. As a police officer, he served in the sensitive areas of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. He has also served overseas in Canada as a counselor in the High Commission of India in Ottawa. His many awards include the Indian Police Medal for Meritorious Service (1988) and President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service (1998).

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Founded: 1887 (as Central Special Branch); named Intelligence Bureau in 1920
Annual Budget: Rs. 1073 crore ($210.9 million) (2012-2013)
Employees: Classified (estimated: 25,000)
Official Website: http://www.mha.nic.in/
Intelligence Bureau
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