Millennium Post

Congress is the bigger snoop

In yet another example of Congress hypocrisy and double speak, please read and contrast the attitude of the Congress party in two situations, which are analogous only for the purpose of serving as an example.

The Congress has gone to town over the alleged ‘snooping’ of a young lady by the anti-terror wing of the Gujarat police. It does not matter to them that the girl and/or her fat  her sought protection from a threat or mischief    which could manifest physically, over telephone or mail. She invited a state given security cover. She has not complained of it being intrusive or invading her privacy. Not four years ago, not now. Yet the Congress holds out this incident as an example of state intrusion on personal privacy and liberty.

This very Congress was and is a passive, if not an abetting or conniving party in the United States National Security Agency’s (NSA) uncharted, unchanelled and unprotested ‘snooping’ of  the citizen, politicians and government agencies of our country, notably the space and nuclear programmes.

While unfounded  allegations  of  snooping  on  one  woman  (that  too  at  her asking) by the government of Narendra Modi is a grave and unforgivable sin, the entire country being subjected to much more intrusive and unsolicited snooping by the NSA is entirely acceptable. Infact, Salman Khurshid not only failed to show any indignation or protest about   the definitive snooping admittedly done by the NSA, he virtually defended the USA’s vast surveillance programme, in a manner that even Secretary of State, Kerry, could not  muster. (Read the article published in The Hindu on 25 September 2013: planted-bugs-at-indian-missions-in-dc-un/article5164944.ece). The article reads as follows:

‘Two of the most important nerve-centres of Indian diplomacy outside the country – the Permanent Mission of India at the United Nations and the embassy in Washington, DC – were targets of such sophisticated bugs implanted by the US  NSA that entire computer hard disks might have been copied by the American agency. The UN Mission building in New York and the embassy premises, including its annex, in Washington were on a top-secret list of countries and missions – many of them European allies of the US – chosen for intensive spying.

According to a top-secret NSA document, the NSA selected India’s UN office and the embassy as ‘location target’ for infiltrating their computers and telephones with hi-tech bugs, which might have given them access to vast quantities of Internet traffic, e-mails, telephone and office conversations and even official documents stored digitally.

Since the NSA revelations began in June, US President Barack Obama and other top American officials have all claimed that the surveillance activities were aimed exclusively at preventing terrorist attacks. But the targeted spying of Indian diplomatic buildings could have been done for political and commercial reasons – not the core responsibility of the NSA...

The document obtained reveals a scary scenario of breach of official secrecy of Indian missions and violation of privacy of Indian diplomats and other staff working in the three premises that were targeted. Located between 2nd and 3rd Avenue on 43rd Street in the eastern part of Manhattan, the office of India’s permanent representative to the UN was on top of the list of Indian targets. Designed by the legendary Indian architect, Charles Correa, the building with a red granite base and a double-height penthouse porch at the top has the offices of India’s permanent representative, deputy permanent representative, a minister and political coordinator, six counsellors, a Colonel-rank military advisor and several other secretaries who look after different areas of India’s engagement with the world.

It was this building that was the main target of all four NSA bugs: from Lifesaver, which can send to the NSA copies of everything saved on the hard drives of office computers, to Vagrant, which can pick data straight from computer screens.

Though emails sent to India’s New York mission have remained unanswered so far, an Indian diplomat told that the NSA eavesdropping might have done ‘extensive damage’ to India’s stand on many international issues ranging from UN Security Council reforms to peacekeeping operations. Second to the UN mission on the ‘target’ list was the chancery building of the Indian Embassy located at 2107, Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, DC. Consisting of two adjacent buildings, one constructed in 1885 and the other in 1901, the chancery has offices of the Indian ambassador, the deputy chief of mission, several ministers and counsellors who head political, economic, defence and industry sections and three Defence Attachés representing the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy.

This building, from where India maintains its diplomatic, trade and strategic ties with the US, was on the ‘target’ list for three bugs that can make images of hard drives, pick digital signals and copy data of computer screens...

Though no Indian official was willing to talk on record specifically about the NSA bugs mentioned in the top secret document, in private they admitted that it’s a violation of all norms and security.

Not only that, the Congress-led government has brushed under the carpet the fact that the Indian  Embassy  in  Washington  was  one  of  38  diplomatic missions intrusively being ‘monitored’ by the NSA. So, while it is seems a scandal to the Congress that the Gujarat government snooped on one young woman (at her own instance!) it is perfectly acceptable that the entire country has been compromised by a foreign agency. That is not a scandal. That is acceptable. That  is  not questioned. In fact it is stoutly  defended. National interest has been compromised yet again. On a yardstick far more serious than the one Congress is  using to somehow show up the government of Narendra Modi.

Now read the remarks made by Salman Khurshid on the issue of spying by NSA in The Hindu on 25 September 2013. It appeared in the newspaper on 2 July 2013:

‘External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Tuesday defended the vast US surveillance  programme  under  which  India  is  the  fifth  most  tracked  country, saying, ‘it is not actually snooping.’ ‘This is not scrutiny and access to actual messages. It is only computer analysis of patterns of calls and emails that are being sent. It is not actually snooping on specifically on content of anybody’s message or conversation’, said Khurshid... As per the leaked documents, India has emerged as the fifth most tracked country by the US intelligence which used a secret data-mining programme to monitor worldwide internet data.

The author is spokesperson, BJP
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