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Drone attacks: just another false-flag operation or a reality?

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In a Tweet, Indian Air Force has claimed that, “Two low intensity explosions were reported early Sunday morning in the technical area of Jammu Air Force Station. The attack caused minor damage to the roof of a building at the station, while another blast hit an open area.” “Two attacks were witnessed at Jammu Air Force Station with no causalities”. Indian Director General Police Dilbagh Singh, clarified that the attacks were carried out through explosive-laden drones.

Air Officer Commanding said in a statement “the attack caused minor damage to the roof of a building at the station, while another blast hit an open area. There was no damage to any equipment or aircraft. Investigation is in progress.” Sources at Indian Air Force (IAF) Base said that three personnel were in the IED dumping area due to own negligence. There are reports that monitoring equipment was slightly damaged.

Knee jerks

It is common for India to blame Pakistan for all mishaps. The Indian channels blared that it was an act of “terrorism”. India and Pakistan have agreed to make the Loc peaceful. As such, India should desist from making any gung-ho statements. It is understood that hyperbole about the attacks, described as drone attacks, would perk up sagging morale of the Bharatiya Janata Party government, badgered by continuing Covid-19 (Delta 4 plus) deaths and farmers’ protest now in eighth month.

Both India and Pakistan use drones for surveillance. But, delivering IEDs through drones is a novel incident. Use of drones for surveillance has been there for many years. Does the present incident culmination of Indian propaganda that Pakistan has been dropping drugs and arms and ammo in the occupied Kashmir and Indian Punjab through the drones. We recalled that India has been consistently alleging that Pakistan had been dropping assembled IEDs through the drones for future use. These quad-hexacopter drones can carry payloads in excess of 14-15 kg. But why they remained undetected while flying about 14 kilometers away from Pakistan LoC.

It is probable that there was no drone attack but an inadvertent IED explosion. The Indian Air force itself admits that thee personnel were in IED dumping area due to their own negligence.

A series of “terrorist’ incidents took place in India. None of them was properly investigated. India blamed Pakistan without even initiating investigation into them, not to speak of concluding them to form an opinion. Perhaps death of Indian atomic scientist Homi Bhabha was the only incident for which Pakistan was not slated. All the rest were pinned on Pakistan.

Incompetent investigation of past incidents: Pulwama incident

There was even media outcry about slip shod investigation into the incident.  The National Investigation Agency could not nab any of the culprits. It closed the investigation with remarks that all those involved (Adil Ahmad Dar, Kamran Khan, Sajjad Butt) have been killed except one who fled to Pakistan.

Several questions about the incident are still unanswered (a) Why did India bank on the FBI when it already possessed all communications from Pakistan? For instance, it intercepted the whole talk between military dictator Yahya Khan and his coterie during the East Pakistan/Bangladesh crisis. It intercepted Musharraf’s conversation with his generals while he was flying back from China to Pakistan. India blamed. Isn’t’ there a collusion between the FBI and India? (b) Why did India blame Pakistan even before forensic-lab and National Investigation?

Agency investigation report? (c) Why are there differing reports about weight of the RDX used? Isn’t Indian army notorious for pilfering the RDX, fueletc and selling it to oridinary folk? The Indian Express speculated `High-grade RDX explosive, weighing about 80 kilograms, was used in the suicide attack’. The Hindu estimated 100-150 kg. (d) Why was a private vehicle allowed to approach the scene of incident in violation of the Central Reserve Police Force’s Standing Operating Procedures? The CRPF’s SOP required movement of up to 100 persons in a convoy. Why has the CRPF  been moving such convoys, comprising more than 2,500 personnel each, on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. In the fortnight before the incident, two such convoys had moved from Jammu to Srinagar. The latest was on February 4, with a convoy of 91 vehicles and 2,871 personnel’. (e) Why could the convoy not spot the lonely suicide vehicle trailing behind? (f) How did the terrorists know the convoy movement was delayed by two days? (g) How did they remain undetected while loading the vehicle with explosives the whole day? (h) Not only WhatsApp but also landlines have never been accessible even in Hindu-majority Jammu (occupied Kashmir). Then how come `the FBI has told the NIA about the WhatsApp group operated by a member of the terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad who was in contact with the people who carried out the attack of Pulwama? (i) According to the FBI, a man called Mohammed Hussain was operating the WhatsApp group, from Muzaffarabad. But the number was however registered under the name of Jameela from Budgam’ (INDIA NEWS NETWORK, August 27).

Mumbai attacks

These attacks speak volumes on incompetence of India’s security and investigation agencies. India blamed Lashkar-e-Tayba for the incident. India did not explain how some persons from Pakistan boarded a dingy (small boat0, sailed into Indian waters and carried out the attacks. A DW documentary, apparently sponsored by India, blames Pakistan’s LeT, but did not even touch enfant terrible Davidsson’s questions raised in his book The Betrayal of India: Revisiting the 26/11 Evidence (First Edition, 2017). Here is a bird’s eye view of the questions:(a) Indian courts ignored prime evidence and failed to reach at viable conclusions, doing injustice to the whole case. Powerful institutions in India and the US were the main beneficiaries of this mass-murder conducted by Indian prime Intelligence Agency, RAW and her surrogates. (b)

There was a deliberate and tacit consensus within mainstream media, RAW, judiciary, political elite, police and investigating agencies to cover up the true facts on 26/11. It amounted to protection of the real criminals. The author exclaims, “I could discover no hint of a desire among the aforementioned parties to establish the truth on these deadly events.” (c)Key witnesses were not called to testify. Witnesses who said they saw the terrorists commit violence, or spoke to them, or were in the same room with them, were ignored by the court. Contradictions and miracles were not sorted out; one victim was apparently resurrected from the dead when his testimony was essential to the blaming of Pakistan. A second victim died in two different places, while a third died in three places. (d)The number of terrorists who committed the deeds changed repeatedly, as did the number of terrorists who survived. Crime scenes were violated, with bodies hauled off before they could be examined. Claims that the terrorists were armed with AK-47s were common, yet forensic study of the attack failed to turn up a single AK-47 bullet. (e) Of the “hundreds of witnesses processed by the court” in relation to the attacks at the Café Leopold, Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Oberoi-Trident Hotel or Nariman House, “not a single one testified to having observed any of the eight accused kill anyone” . (f) Indian authorities declined to order autopsies on the dead at the targeted Jewish center in Nariman House. The dead, five out of six of whom were Israeli citizens , were instead whisked back to Israel by a Jewish organization based in Israel, allegedly for religious reasons .(g) The surviving  “terrorist” had no public trial. One lawyer who agreed to defend the accused was removed by the court and another was assassinated. (g) Mysterious malfunctioning of the majority of Closed-circuit television cameras on the days in question. But only a very small percentage of the claimed footage was ever released and it suffers from serious defects–two conflicting time-stamps and signs of editing. (h) Why no one from the Indian commando battalion of 800 soldiers rushed to battle ‘eight terrorists’ was allowed to testify in court? The suspect, after being convicted and sentenced to death, was presumably executed, but the hanging was done secretly in jail and his body, like the bodies of the other dead “terrorists,” was buried in a secret place. (i) The FBI showed great interest, it actually had a man on the scene during the attacks and sent an entire team directly after the event. It was given direct access to the arrested suspect and to his recorded confession (before he even had a lawyer), as well as to eyewitnesses. The NYPD also sent a team after the conclusion of the event, as did Scotland Yard and Israeli police.

In a review on the book, published in the Global Research, Professor Graeme McQueen questioned: “Immediate finger pointing of the perpetrator is typical modus operandi in false flag operations. When officials claim to know the identity of a perpetrator prior to any serious investigation, this suggests that a false narrative is being initiated and that strenuous efforts will soon be made to implant it in the mind of a population. Lee Harvey Oswald was identified by officials as the killer of President John F. Kennedy and as a lone wolf with no associates–on the afternoon of the assassination day, long before an investigation and even before he had been charged with the crime. In the Mumbai case the PM of India implied, while the attack was still in progress, that the perpetrators were from a terrorist group supported by Pakistan”.

Regrettably ex DGI, ISI’s remarks were exploited by C Christine Fair, Hussain Haqqani and others to allege that Pakistan’s ISI was involved n Mumbai attacks. Mohammed Ayoob and Etga Ugur, Assessing the War on Terror, 2013, Lynne Reinner Publishers, Inc., Colorado 80301 (USA). Chapter V: Pakistan Perfidious Aly in the War on Terror, C. Christine Fair, p. 85)”. According to Indian officials who interrogated him after his indictment, David Headley, an American involved in the Mumbai attacks conceded ISI involvement (Jason Burke, “ISI chief aided Mumbai terror attacks: Headley”, The Hindu October 19, 2010; Jane Perlez, Eric Schmitt and Ginger Thomson, “US had  warnings on Plotter of Mumbai Attack”, New York Times, October 17, 2010). US officials have not endorsed this claim. But, according to some reports, the current director general of the ISI Shuja Pasha acknowledged that the persons connected to the ISI were involved in attacks (Woodward, Osama’s Wars, pp 46-47).

India TV maliciously reported “Retired Pakistani Army officers were involved in 26/11: Former Pak ambassador to US

In yet another sensational revelation that confirms Pakistan’s hand in deadly terror Mumbai terror attack in 2008, Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US, said that an ex-chief of the ISI spy agency had admitted that “some retired Pakistan army officers were involved in attack. (Published on: May 11, 2016) Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha, who then headed ISI, made the admission to his CIA counterpart, Gen. Michael Hayden at a meeting in Washington in December 2008, Haqqani writes in his new book, “India vs. Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends”.

Parliament attacks

A Kashmiris Afzal guru was hanged for complicity in the attack on Indian parliament. While in prison, he wrote a length letter to his lawyer which reflected that he was innocent. Actually it was police officer Davinder Singh who in collusion with “terrorists’ was facilitating attacks in India including the attack on the parliament.

The dramatic arrest of Davinder Singh (torture expert), deputy superintendent in the Jammu and Kashmir Police, along with freedom fighters highlights that Pakistan has no hand in the ongoing freedom struggle. Pakistan was wrongly blamed for an attack on the Indian parliament. Innocent Kashmiris are killed by the Indian army in fake encounters. Let us review a few cases of miscarriage of justice.

On January 11, 2020, he was apprehended from the Srinagar-Jammu highway. It is alleged that he was ferrying Naveed Babu and Altaf, two freedom fighters affiliated with Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba groups.

The arrest sound like a stage managed drama. Several questions come to mind. How the Indian government remained ignorant of Davider Singh’s nexus with freedom fighters spanning three decades? Why no action was taken against him when he was mentioned as key security personnel involved in the 2001 Parliament House attack? Why he was detailed on escort duty with European MPs’ visit to Jammu and Kashmir in November 2019? The visit was meant to subdue international uproar in the wake of abolition on August 5, 2019, of disputed state’s special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Why security machinery in Jammu and Kashmir has not officially divulged the details behind the operations that led to the arrest? How could a deputy Superintendent of Police act as a lone wolf when there are so many agencies operating in the Valley? How come senior police officers remained unaware of his activities? Media reports indicate that Davinder Singh, again and again, called his arrest a game.

There are several stories floating in media about innocence or guilt of Davinder Singh. He reportedly said “Sir, yeh game hai, aap game kharab mat karo [Sir, this is a game, don’t spoil it]”. “khel kharab ho gaya [the game got spoiled]”.

When arrested, Davinder was travelling in a Hyundai i20 car. He was reportedly intercepted near Qazigund by the DIG of South Kashmir, Atul Goel. Davinder Singh quickly stepped out of the car and told Goel two Hizbul Mujahideen commanders were inside the car. And, he was going to bring them to Goel. How could a DIG be unaware of the movement of his own subordinate officer?

The arrest looks suspicious in view of the fact that no disciplinary action was taken by the police department. The case was immediately handed over to the notorious National Investigation Agency, a political tool to detain political leaders. Indian courts have expressed ennui at dismal performance of the NIA. On March 20, 2019, acquitting Swami Aseem Anand and three others in the Samjhauta Express blast case, a special court in Panchkula said that the NIA had failed miserably to establish the guilt of the alleged culprits. The court specifically pointed out the shortcomings in the agency’s investigative mechanisms. About a month later, the Kerala High Court freed five young Muslim men accused by the agency in the Panayikulam sedition case. Several other cases in the past five years, including the Malegaon (Bombay) blasts case, are a sad reflection on the agency’s competence.

Some politicians raised eyebrows on Davinder’s arrest. Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted that this had been done as the “best way to ‘silence’ Davinder Singh”. Referring to current NIA chief Y.C. Modi, Rahul Gandhi reminded that he had earlier investigated the Gujarat pogrom and the Haren Pandya assassination case. In both cases this “case (as well) is as good as dead.” He and other Congress leaders raised questions about Davinder’s role in the Parliament House attack. Rahul Gandhi tweeted that “The best way to silence Terrorist, is to hand the case to the NIA”.

Police records reflect that Davinder had been accused of torturing the accused.

Afzal Guru’s hanging: He was convicted in the Parliament House attack case. On October 21, 2004, in New Delhi’s Tihar jail, he wrote a letter to his lawyer, Sushil Kumar, a senior advocate in the Supreme Court. In a letter addressed to his lawyer, he had alleged that he had to confess under duress. Guru blamed that Davinder Singh tortured him to confess. One of Davinder Singh’s “torture inspectors” was Shanti Singh. He “electrified him naked for three hours, and made him drink water while giving electric shocks through telephone instrument” Guru claimed that the Designated Court (the trial court) had sentenced him to death on the basis of the police version of the case and under the influence of the media.

Afzal Guru said that his relative Altaf Hussain acted as a link between Afzal Guru and Davinder Singh. Altaf took him to Davinder Singh, who asked him to do a “small” job for him which involved taking a man to Delhi and helping him get rented accommodation. The letter said: “I took him to Delhi. One day, he told me that he wants to purchase a car. Thus I went with him to Karol Bagh. He purchased the car. Then in Delhi he used to meet different persons, and both of us he, Mohammad and me used to get the different phone calls from Davinder Singh.”

Guru made many other startling revelations in his letter. He claimed when he was arrested at Srinagar bus stand following the attack on Parliament House, Tariq (who was another former surrendered militant like Afzal Guru who was allegedly harassed by the police) was there with the Special Task Force (STF).

Guru regretted that the designated court had not provided him an opportunity to tell the “real story”. He hoped Supreme Court to look at “reality through which he had passed”. but it was in vain. He argued that his incrimination was a ploy of the Special Task Force. “Special Police is definitely the part of this game because every time they forced me to remain silent. I hope my forced silence will be heard and justice will prevail. I once again pay heart-felt thanks to your good self for defending my case. May truth prevails,” he prayed in the letter.

Guru’s story is corroborated in Davinder Singh’s subsequent interview in 2006. A journalist Parvaiz Bukhari recorded the interview, but could not publish it in the magazine. It was later published in the book, The Hanging of Afzal Guru and the Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament, with an introduction by Arundhati Roy.

In this interview, Davinder Singh, without compunction, confessed torturing Guru during interrogation in his camp at Humhama (Budgam district) for several days. He admitted that he never recorded Afzal Guru’s arrest. He says in the interview “His (Afzal’s) description of torture at my camp is true. That was the procedure those days and we did pour petrol in his arse and gave him electric shocks. But I could not break him…,”

Davinder Singh also denied that he knew Mohammad, the terrorist involved in the Parliament House attack, or captured him, and claimed that he would not have released him had he captured him.

Davinder Singh’s 2006 interview appears to have given a clean chit to Afzal Guru. Davinder Singh told his interviewer thus: “His (Afzal Guru’s) description of torture at my camp is true. I had a reputation for torture, interrogation and breaking suspects. If anybody came out of my interrogation clean, nobody would ever touch him again. He would be considered clean for good by the whole department.” But the fact remains that Davinder Singh did admit that he could not break Afzal Guru and that he sent him back after his torture wounds healed. Why did the investigation into Afzal Guru’s role in the Parliament House attack not consider the involvement of Davinder Singh in the conspiracy?

Guru was hanged to death on February 9, 2013. A few words about the background to the attack are in order. In the attack on Parliament House, five terrorists and nine persons, including five Delhi police personnel, were killed on December 13, 2001. Guru was accused of providing logistical help to the terrorists in Delhi. He was apprehended in Srinagar and brought to Delhi within a few days of the attack. The trial court, the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court confirmed his death sentence.

In the letter which Afzal Guru wrote to his lawyer, he claimed that he had been made to accept the crime under duress. He claimed that the Designated Court (the trial court) had sentenced him to death on the basis of the police version of the case and under the influence of the mass media. More important, the story of how Afzal Guru came under the influence of the then Deputy Superintendent of Police, Davinder Singh (whom he misspells as Dravinder Singh), which he narrates in his letter, is very credible.

Afzal Guru said that he was introduced to a Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Ashaq Hussain of Budgam, through his relative Altaf Hussain, who also acted as a link between Afzal Guru and Davinder Singh. Afzal Guru said in his letter that Altaf took him to Davinder Singh, who asked him to do a “small” job for him which involved taking a man to Delhi and helping him get a rented accommodation. He said in the letter that he had no option but to help that man, whom he did not know earlier and whom he suspected to be a non-Kashmiri. The letter said: “I took him to Delhi. One day, he told me that he want [sic] to purchase a car. Thus I went with him to Karol Bagh. He purchased the car. Then in Delhi he used to meet different persons, and both of us he, Mohammad and me used to get the different phone calls from Dravinder Singh.”

In 2006, Davinder Singh gave an interview to a journalist Parvaiz Bukhari. The interview was never published in the magazine that commissioned it but was later published in the book, The Hanging of Afzal Guru and the Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament, with an introduction by Arundhati Roy. In this interview, Davinder Singh confesses that he interrogated and tortured Afzal Guru in his camp at Humhama (Budgam district) for several days and that he never recorded Afzal Guru’s arrest. “His (Afzal’s) description of torture at my camp is true. That was the procedure those days and we did pour petrol in his arse and gave him electric shocks. But I could not break him…,” he says in the interview.

Davinder Singh’s 2006 interview appears to have given a clean chit to Afzal Guru. Davinder Singh told his interviewer thus: “His (Afzal Guru’s) description of torture at my camp is true. I had a reputation for torture, interrogation and breaking suspects. If anybody came out of my interrogation clean, nobody would ever touch him again. He would be considered clean for good by the whole department.” But the fact remains that Davinder Singh did admit that he could not break Afzal Guru and that he sent him back after his torture wounds healed. If so, why did the investigation into Afzal Guru’s role in the Parliament House attack not consider the plausible role Davinder Singh allegedly played in the conspiracy? There are no answers. If Davinder Singh’s boast in that interview was correct, Afzal Guru could well have been an innocent, as there are no answers to why he could not break Afzal Guru when he was in his custody.

Davinder Singh’s revelations reflect Afzal Guru was innocent. He was hanged on the trumpedup charges, hyped by media.

2001 Attack on occupied Kashmir assembly

The investigation remains shrouded n mystery like so many other incidents.

Plane hijacking Kandahar

India slumbered while the plane flew all along to land at Amritsar. India could not do anything to neutralize the “terrorists”. It flew to Kandahar where the “terrorists’ demands were accepted. This was an epic story of incompetence of Indian agencies.

Ganga hijacking case

India itself planned the hijacking through its agents. The purpose was to coin an excuse to deny overfly space to Pakistan during the 1971 turmoil in then East Pakistan.

Concluding remarks

India should shun old habit of quickly blaming Pakistan for all so-called terrorist incidents in India. Let there be a fair investigation.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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An Underdeveloped Discipline: Open-Source Intelligence and How It Can Better Assist the U.S. Intelligence Community

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Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) is defined by noted intelligence specialists Mark Lowenthal and Robert M. Clark as being, “information that is publicly available to anyone through legal means, including request, observation, or purchase, that is subsequently acquired, vetted, and analyzed in order to fulfill an intelligence requirement”. The U.S. Naval War College further defines OSINT as coming from, “print or electronic form including radio, television, newspapers, journals, the internet, and videos, graphics, and drawings”. Basically, OSINT is the collection of information from a variety of public sources, including social media profiles and accounts, television broadcasts, and internet searches.

Historically, OSINT has been utilized by the U.S. since the 1940s, when the United States created the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) which had the sole goal (until the 1990s) of, “primarily monitoring and translating foreign-press sources,” and contributing significantly during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It was also during this time that the FBIS transformed itself from a purely interpretation agency into one that could adequately utilize the advances made by, “personal computing, large-capacity digital storage, capable search engines, and broadband communication networks”. In 2005, the FBIS was placed under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and renamed the Open Source Center, with control being given to the CIA.

OSINT compliments the other intelligence disciplines very well. Due to OSINT’s ability to be more in touch with public data (as opposed to information that is more gleaned from interrogations, interviews with defectors or captured enemies or from clandestine wiretaps and electronic intrusions), it allows policymakers and intelligence analysts the ability to see the wider picture of the information gleaned. In Lowenthal’s own book, he mentions how policymakers (including the Assistant Secretary of Defense and one of the former Directors of National Intelligence (DNI)) enjoyed looking at OSINT first and using it as a “starting point… [to fill] the outer edges of the jigsaw puzzle”.

Given the 21stcentury and the public’s increased reliance upon technology, there are also times when information can only be gleaned from open source intelligence methods. Because “Terrorist movements rely essentially on the use of open sources… to recruit and provide virtual training and conduct their operations using encryption techniques… OSINT can be valuable [in] providing fast coordination among officials at all levels without clearances”. Intelligence agencies could be able to outright avoid or, at a minimum, be able to prepare a defense or place forces and units on high alert for an imminent attack.

In a King’s College-London research paper discussing OSINT’s potential for the 21stcentury, the author notes, “OSINT sharing among intelligence services, non-government organizations and international organizations could shape timely and comprehensive responses [to international crises or regime changes in rogue states like Darfur or Burma],” as well as providing further information on a country’s new government or personnel in power. This has been exemplified best during the rise of Kim Jong-Un in North Korea and during the 2011 Arab Spring and 2010 earthquake that rocked Haiti. However, this does not mean that OSINT is a superior discipline than other forms such as SIGINT and HUMINT, as they are subject to limitations as well. According to the Federation of American Scientists, “Open source intelligence does have limitations. Often articles in military or scientific journals represent a theoretical or desired capability rather than an actual capability. Censorship may also limit the publication of key data needed to arrive at a full understanding of an adversary’s actions, or the press may be used as part of a conscious deception effort”.

There is also a limit to the effectiveness of OSINT within the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), not because it is technically limited, but limited by the desire of the IC to see OSINT as a full-fledged discipline. Robert Ashley and Neil Wiley, the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and a former Principal Executive within the ODNI respectively, covered this in a July article for DefenseOne, stating “…the production of OSINT is not regarded as a unique intelligence discipline but as research incident to all-source analysis or as a media production service… OSINT, on the other hand, remains a distributed activity that functions more like a collection of cottage industries. While OSINT has pockets of excellence, intelligence community OSINT production is largely initiative based, minimally integrated, and has little in the way of common guidance, standards, and tradecraft… The intelligence community must make OSINT a true intelligence discipline on par with the traditional functional disciplines, replete with leadership and authority that enables the OSINT enterprise to govern itself and establish a brand that instills faith and trust in open source information”. This apprehensiveness by the IC to OSINT capabilities has been well documented by other journalists.

Some contributors, including one writing for The Hill, has commented that “the use of artificial intelligence and rapid data analytics can mitigate these risks by tipping expert analysts on changes in key information, enabling the rapid identification of apparent “outliers” and pattern anomalies. Such human-machine teaming exploits the strengths of both and offers a path to understanding and even protocols for how trusted open-source intelligence can be created by employing traditional tradecraft of verifying and validating sourcing prior to making the intelligence insights available for broad consumption”. Many knowledgeable and experienced persons within the Intelligence Community, either coming from the uniformed intelligence services or civilian foreign intelligence agencies, recognize the need for better OSINT capabilities as a whole and have also suggested ways in which potential security risks or flaws can be avoided in making this discipline an even more effective piece of the intelligence gathering framework.

OSINT is incredibly beneficial for gathering information that cannot always be gathered through more commonly thought of espionage methods (e.g., HUMINT, SIGINT). The discipline allows for information on previously unknown players or new and developing events to become known and allows policymakers to be briefed more competently on a topic as well as providing analysts and operators a preliminary understanding of the region, the culture, the politics, and current nature of a developing or changing state. However, the greatest hurdle in making use of OSINT is in changing the culture and the way in which the discipline is currently seen by the U.S. Intelligence Community. This remains the biggest struggle in effectively coordinating and utilizing the intelligence discipline within various national security organizations.

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Online Radicalization in India

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Radicalization, is a gradual process of developing extremist beliefs, emotions, and behaviours at individual, group or mass public levels. Besides varied groups, it enjoys patronization, covertly and even overtly from some states. To elicit change in behavior, beliefs, ideology, and willingness, from the target-group, even employment of violent means is justified. Despite recording a declination in terror casualties, the 2019 edition of the Global Terrorism Index claims an increase in the number of terrorism-affected countries. With internet assuming a pivotal role in simplifying and revolutionizing the communication network and process, the change in peoples’ lives is evident. Notably, out of EU’s 84 %, daily internet using population, 81%, access it from home (Eurostat, 2012, RAND Paper pg xi). It signifies important changes in society and extremists elements, being its integral part, internet’ role, as a tool of radicalization, cannot be gainsaid. Following disruption of physical and geographical barriers, the radicalized groups are using the advancement in digital technology:  to propagate their ideologies; solicit funding; collecting informations; planning/coordinating terror attacks; establishing inter/intra-group communication-networks; recruitment, training and media propaganda to attain global attention.  

               Indian Context

In recent times, India has witnessed an exponential growth in radicalization-linked Incidents, which apparently belies the official figures of approximate 80-100 cases. The radicalization threat to India is not only from homegrown groups but from cross-border groups of Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as global groups like IS. Significantly, Indian radicalized groups are exploiting domestic grievances and their success to an extent, can mainly be attributed to support from Pakistani state, Jihadist groups from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Gulf-employment boom for Indian Muslims has also facilitated radicalization, including online, of Indian Muslims. A close look at the modus operandi of these attacks reveals the involvement of local or ‘homegrown’ terrorists. AQIS formed (2016) ‘Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind’ in Kashmir with a media wing ‘al-Hurr’.

IS announced its foray into Kashmir in 2016 as part of its Khorasan branch. In December 2017 IS in its Telegram channel used hashtag ‘Wilayat Kashmir’ wherein Kashmiri militants stated their allegiance with IS. IS’ online English Magazine ‘Dabiq’ (Jan. 2016) claimed training of fighters in Bangladesh and Pakistan for attacks from western and Eastern borders into India.Though there are isolated cases of ISIS influence in India, the trend is on the rise. Presently, ISIS and its offshoots through online process are engaged in spreading bases in 12 Indian states. Apart from southern states like Telangana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu — where the Iran and Syria-based terrorist outfit penetrated years ago — investigating agencies have found their links in states like Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir as well. The Sunni jihadists’ group is now “most active” in these states across the country.

               Undermining Indian Threat

Significantly, undermining the radicalization issue, a section of intelligentsia citing lesser number of Indian Muslims joining al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan and Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, Syria and Middle East, argue that Indian Muslim community does not support radicalism-linked violence unlike regional/Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives. They underscore the negligible number of Indian Muslims, outside J&K, who supports separatist movements. Additionally, al- Qaeda and IS who follows the ‘Salafi-Wahabi’ ideological movement, vehemently oppose ‘Hanafi school’ of Sunni Islam, followed by Indian Muslims. Moreover, Indian Muslims follows a moderate version even being followers of the Sunni Ahle-Hadeeth (the broader ideology from which Salafi-Wahhabi movement emanates). This doctrinal difference led to the failure of Wahhabi groups online propaganda.  

               Radicalisation Strategies/methods: Indian vs global players

India is already confronting the online jihadist radicalization of global jihadist organisations, including al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), formed in September 2014 and Islamic State (IS). However, several indigenous and regional groups such as Indian Mujahideen (IM), JeM, LeT, the Taliban and other online vernacular publications, including Pakistan’s Urdu newspaper ‘Al-Qalam’, also play their role in online radicalisation.

Indian jihadist groups use a variety of social media apps, best suited for their goals. Separatists and extremists in Kashmir, for coordination and communication, simply create WhatsApp groups and communicate the date, time and place for carrying out mass protests or stone pelting. Pakistan-based terror groups instead of online learning of Islam consider it mandatory that a Muslim radical follows a revered religious cleric. They select people manually to verify their background instead of online correspondence. Only after their induction, they communicate online with him. However, the IS, in the backdrop of recent defeats, unlike Kashmiri separatist groups and Pak-based jihadist mercenaries, runs its global movement entirely online through magazines and pamphlets. The al-Qaeda’s you tube channels ‘Ansar AQIS’ and ‘Al Firdaws’, once having over 25,000 subscriptions, are now banned. Its online magazines are Nawai Afghan and Statements are in Urdu, English, Arabic, Bangla and Tamil. Its blocked Twitter accounts, ‘Ansarul Islam’ and ‘Abna_ul_Islam_media’, had a following of over 1,300 while its Telegram accounts are believed to have over 500 members.

               Adoption of online platforms and technology

Initially, Kashmir based ‘Jaish-E-Mohammad’ (JeM) distributed audio cassettes of Masood Azhar’s speeches across India but it joined Internet platform during the year 2003–04 and started circulating downloadable materials through anonymous links and emails. Subsequently, it started its weekly e-newspaper, Al-Qalam, followed by a chat group on Yahoo. Importantly, following enhanced international pressure on Pak government after 26/11, to act against terrorist groups, JeM gradually shifted from mainstream online platform to social media sites, blogs and forums.   

 Indian Mujahideen’s splinter group ‘Ansar-ul-Tawhid’ the first officially affiliated terror group to the ISIS tried to maintain its presence on ‘Skype’, ‘WeChat’ and ‘JustPaste’. IS and its affiliates emerged as the most tech-savvy jihadist group. They took several measures to generate new accounts after repeated suspension of their accounts by governments.  An account called as ‘Baqiya Shoutout’ was one such measure. It stressed upon efforts to re-establish their network of followers through ‘reverse shout-out’ instead of opening a new account easily.

Pakistan-backed terrorist groups in India are increasingly becoming  technology savvy. For instance, LeT before carrying out terrorist attacks in 2008 in Mumbai, used Google Earth to understand the targeted locations.

IS members have been following strict security measures like keeping off their Global Positioning System (GPS) locations and use virtual private network (VPN),  to maintain anonymity. Earlier they were downloading Hola VPN or a similar programme from a mobile device or Web browser to select an Internet Protocol (IP) address for a country outside the US, and bypass email or phone verification.

Rise of radicalization in southern India

Southern states of India have witnessed a rise in  radicalization activities during the past 1-2 years. A substantial number of Diaspora in the Gulf countries belongs to Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Several Indian Muslims in Gulf countries have fallen prey to radicalization due to the ultra-conservative forms of Islam or their remittances have been misused to spread radical thoughts. One Shafi Armar@ Yusuf-al-Hindi from Karnataka emerged as the main online IS recruiter for India.  It is evident in the number of raids and arrests made in the region particularly after the Easter bomb attacks (April, 21, 2019) in Sri Lanka. The perpetrators were suspected to have been indoctrinated, radicalised and trained in the Tamil Nadu. Further probe revealed that the mastermind of the attacks, Zahran Hashim had travelled to India and maintained virtual links with radicalised youth in South India. Importantly, IS, while claiming responsibility for the attacks, issued statements not only in English and Arabic but also in South Indian languages viz. Malayalam and Tamil. It proved the existence of individuals fluent in South Indian languages in IS linked groups in the region. Similarly, AQIS’ affiliate in South India ‘Base Movement’ issued several threatening letters to media publications for insulting Islam.

IS is trying to recruit people from rural India by circulating the online material in vernacular languages. It is distributing material in numerous languages, including Malayalam and Tamil, which Al Qaeda were previously ignoring in favour of Urdu. IS-linked Keralite followers in their propaganda, cited radical pro-Hindutva, organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) and other right-wing Hindu organisations to motivate youth for joining the IS.  Similarly, Anti-Muslim incidents such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 are still being used to fuel their propaganda. IS sympathisers also support the need to oppose Hindu Deities to gather support.

               Radicalization: Similarities/Distinctions in North and South

Despite few similarities, the radicalisation process in J&K is somewhat different from the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and Gujarat. Both the regions have witnessed a planned radicalization process through Internet/social media for propagating extremist ideologies and subverting the vulnerable youth. Both the areas faced the hard-line Salafi/Wahhabi ideology, propagated by the extremist Islamic clerics and madrasas indulged in manipulating the religion of Islam. Hence, in this context it can be aptly claimed that terror activities in India have cooperation of elements from both the regions, despite their distinct means and objectives. Elements from both regions to an extent sympathise to the cause of bringing India under the Sharia Law. Hence, the possibility of cooperation in such elements cannot be ruled out particularly in facilitation of logistics, ammunitions and other requisite equipment.

It is pertinent to note that while radicalisation in Jammu and Kashmir is directly linked to the proxy-war, sponsored by the Pakistan state, the growth of radicalisation in West and South India owes its roots to the spread of IS ideology, promotion of Sharia rule and establishment of Caliphate. Precisely for this reason, while radicalised local Kashmiris unite to join Pakistan-backed terror groups to fight for ‘Azadi’ or other fabricated local issues, the locals in south rather remain isolated cases.

               Impact of Radicalisation

The impact of global jihad on radicalization is quite visible in West and South India. Majority of the radicalised people, arrested in West and South India, were in fact proceeding to to join IS in Syria and Iraq. It included the group of 22 people from a Kerala’s family, who travelled (June 2016) to Afghanistan via Iran. There obvious motivation was to migrate from Dar-ul-Harb (house of war) to Dar-ul-Islam (house of peace/Islam/Deen).

While comparing the ground impact of radicalization in terms of number of cases of local militants in J&K as well as IS sympathisers in West and South India, it becomes clear that radicalisation was spread more in J&K, owing to Pak-sponsored logistical and financial support. Significantly, despite hosting the third largest Muslim population, the number of Indian sympathisers to terror outfits, particularly in West and South India is very small as compared to the western countries. Main reasons attributed to this, include – religious and cultural pluralism; traditionally practice of moderate Islamic belief-systems; progressive educational and economic standards; and equal socio-economic and political safeguards for the Indian Muslims in the Indian Constitution.

               Challenges Ahead

Apart from varied challenges, including Pak-sponsored anti-India activities, regional, local and political challenges, media wings of global jihadi outfits continue to pose further challenges to Indian security agencies. While IS through its media wing, ‘Al Isabah’ has been circulating (through social media sites) Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s speeches and videos after translating them into Urdu, Hindi, and Tamil for Indian youth (Rajkumar 2015), AQIS too have been using its media wing for the very purpose through its offshoots in India.  Some of the challenges, inter alia include –

Islam/Cleric Factor Clerics continue to play a crucial role in influencing the minds of Muslim youth by exploiting the religion of Islam. A majority of 127 arrested IS sympathizers from across India recently revealed that they were following speeches of controversial Indian preacher Zakir Naik of Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). Zakir has taken refuge in Malaysia because of warrants against him by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for alleged money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches. A Perpetrator of Dhaka bomb blasts in July 2016 that killed several people confessed that he was influenced by Naik’s messages. Earlier, IRF had organised ‘peace conferences’ in Mumbai between 2007 and 2011 in which Zakir attempted to convert people and incite terrorist acts. Thus, clerics and preachers who sbverts the Muslim minds towards extremism, remain a challenge for India.

Propaganda Machinery – The online uploading of young militant photographs, flaunting Kalashnikov rifles became the popular means of declaration of youth intent against government forces. Their narrative of “us versus them” narrative is clearly communicated, creating groundswell of support for terrorism.In its second edition (March 2020) of its propaganda magazine ‘Sawt al-Hind’ (Voice of Hind/India) IS, citing an old propaganda message from a deceased (2018) Kashmiri IS terrorist, Abu Hamza al-Kashmiri @ Abdul Rehman, called upon Taliban apostates and fighters to defect to IS.  In the first edition (Feb. 2020) the magazine, eulogized Huzaifa al-Bakistani (killed in 2019), asking Indian Muslims to rally to IS in the name of Islam in the aftermath of the 2020 Delhi riots. Meanwhile, a Muslim couple arrested by Delhi Police for inciting anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment) Bill protests, were found very active on social media. They would call Indian Muslims to unite against the Indian government against the CAA legislation. During 2017 Kashmir unrest, National Investigation Agency (NIA) identified 79 WhatsApp groups (with administrators based in Pakistan), having 6,386 phone numbers, to crowd source boys for stone pelting. Of these, around 1,000 numbers were found active in Pakistan and Gulf nations and the remaining 5,386 numbers were found active in Kashmir Valley.

Deep fakes/Fake news – Another challenge for India is spread of misinformation and disinformation through deep fakes by Pakistan. Usage of deepfakes, in manipulating the speeches of local political leaders to spread hate among the youth and society was done to large extent.

India’s Counter Measures

To prevent youth straying towards extremism, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs has established a Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Radicalisation Division (CT-CR) to help states, security agencies and communities.

Various states, including Kerala, Maharashtra and Telangana have set up their own de-radicalisation programmes.  While in Maharashtra family and community plays an important role, in Kerala clerics cleanse the poisoned  minds of youth with a new narrative. A holistic programme for community outreach including healthcare, clergies and financial stability is being employed by the Indian armed forces. An operation in Kerala named Kerala state police’ ‘Operation Pigeon’ succeeded in thwarting radicalization of 350 youths to the propaganda of organizations such as Islamic State, Indian Mujahideen (IM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) via social media monitoring. In Telangana, outreach programs have been developed by local officers like Rema Rajeshwari to fight the menace of fake news in around 400 villages of the state.

In Kashmir the government resorts to internet curfews to control the e-jihad. While state-owned BNSL network, used by the administration and security forces, remains operational 3G and 4G networks and social media apps remain suspended during internet curfews.

Prognosis

India certainly needs a strong national counter- Radicalisation policy which would factor in a range of factors than jobs, poverty or education because radicalization in fact has affected even well educated, rich and prosperous families. Instead of focusing on IS returnees from abroad, the policy must take care of those who never travelled abroad but still remain a potential threat due to their vulnerability to radicalization.

Of course, India would be better served if deep fakes/fake news and online propaganda is effectively countered digitally as well as through social awakening measures and on ground action by the government agencies. It is imperative that the major stakeholders i.e. government, educational institutions, civil society organisations, media and intellectuals play a pro-active role in pushing their narrative amongst youth and society. The focus should apparently be on prevention rather than controlling the radicalisation narrative of the vested interests.

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Intelligence

Is Deterrence in Cyberspace Possible?

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Soon after the Internet was founded, half of the world’s population (16 million) in 1996 had been connected to Internet data traffic. Gradually, the Internet began to grow and with more users, it contributed to the 4 trillion global economies in 2016 (Nye, 2016). Today, high-speed Internet, cutting-edge technologies and gadgets, and increasing cross-border Internet data traffic are considered an element of globalization. Deterrence seems traditional and obsolete strategy, but the developed countries rely on cyberspace domains to remain in the global digitization. No matter how advanced they are, there still exist vulnerabilities. There are modern problems in the modern world. Such reliance on the Internet also threatens to blow up the dynamics of international insecurity. To understand and explore the topic it is a must for one to understand what cyberspace and deterrence are? According to Oxford dictionary;

 “Cyberspace is the internet considered as an imaginary space without a physical location in which communication over computer networks takes place (OXFORD University Press)”

For readers to understand the term ‘deterrence’; Collins dictionary has best explained it as;

“Deterrence is the prevention of something, especially war or crime, by having something such as weapons or punishment to use as a threat e.g. Nuclear Weapons (Deterrence Definition and Meaning | Collins English Dictionary).

The purpose of referring to the definition is to make it easy to discern and distinguish between deterrence in International Relations (IR) and International Cyber Security (ICS). Deterrence in cyberspace is different and difficult than that of during the Cold War. The topic of deterrence was important during Cold Wat for both politicians and academia. The context in both dimensions (IR and ICS) is similar and aims to prevent from happening something. Cyberspace deterrence refers to preventing crime and I completely agree with the fact that deterrence is possible in Cyberspace. Fischer (2019) quotes the study of (Quinlan, 2004) that there is no state that can be undeterrable.

To begin with, cyber threats are looming in different sectors inclusive of espionage, disruption of the democratic process and sabotaging the political arena, and war. Whereas international law is still unclear about these sectors as to which category they fall in. I would validate my affirmation (that deterrence is possible in Cyberspace) with the given network attacks listed by Pentagon (Fung, 2013). Millions of cyber-attacks are reported on a daily basis. The Pentagon reported 10 million cyberspace intrusions, most of which are disruptive, costly, and annoying. The level of severity rises to such a critical level that it is considered a threat to national security, so professional strategic assistance is needed to deal with it[1]. The past events show a perpetual threat that has the ability to interrupt societies, economies, and government functioning.

The cyberspace attacks were administered and portrayal of deterrence had been publicized as follows (Fung, 2013);

  1. The internet service was in a continuous disruption for several weeks after a dispute with Russia in 2007.
  2. Georgian defense communications were interrupted in 2008 after the Russian invasion of Georgia.   
  3. More than 1000 centrifuges in Iran were destroyed via the STUXNET virus in 2010. The attacks were attributed to Israel and the United States of America.
  4. In response to STUXNET virus attacks, Iran also launched a retaliatory attack on U.S financial institutions in 2012 and 2013.
  5. Similarly in 2012, some 30,000 computers had been destroyed with a virus called SHAMOON in Saudi Aramco Corporation. Iran was held responsible for these attacks.
  6. North Korea was accused of penetrating South Korean data and machines in 2014, thus interrupting their networks in 2014.
  7. A hybrid war was reported between Russia and Ukraine in 2015 that left Ukraine without electricity for almost six hours.
  8. Most critical scandal, which is still in the limelight call WikiLeaks released distressing and humiliating emails by Russian Intelligence at the time of the U.S presidential campaigns in 2016.

While such incidents may be considered a failure of deterrence, this does not mean that deterrence is impossible. Every system has some flaws that are exposed at some point. At this point, in some cases a relatively low level of deterrence was used to threaten national security, however, the attacks were quite minor in fulfilling the theme affecting national security. Nye (2016:51) in his study talks about the audience whose attribution could facilitate deterrence. (I). intelligence agencies should make sure highest safeguarding against escalation by third parties, and governments can also be certain and count on intelligence agencies’ sources. (II). the deterring party should not be taken easy, as I stated (above) about the lingering loopholes and flaws in the systems, hence, governments shall not perceive the intelligence forsaken.  (III). lastly, it is a political matter whether international and domestic audiences need to be persuaded or not, and what chunk of information should be disclosed.

The mechanisms which are used and helpful against cyberspace adversary actions are as follows (Fischer, 2019);

  1. Deterrence by denial means, the actions by the adversary are denied that they failed to succeed in their goals and objectives. It is more like retaliating a cyberattack.
  2. Threat of punishment offers severe outcomes in form of penalties and inflicting high costs on the attacker that would outweigh the anticipated benefits if the attack takes place.
  3. Deterrence by Entanglement has the features and works on a principle of shared, interconnected, and dependent vulnerabilities. The purpose of entanglement is to embolden and reassure the behavior as a responsible state with mutual interests.
  4. Normative taboos function with strong values and norms, wherein the reputation of an aggressor is at stake besides having a soft image in the eyes of the international community (this phenomenon includes rational factors because hard power is used against the weaker state). The deterrence of the international system works even without having any credible resilience.

Apparently, the mechanisms of deterrence are also effective in cyber realms. These realms are self-explaining the comprehensive understanding and the possibility of deterrence in cyberspace. The four mechanisms (denial, punishment, entanglement, and normative taboos) are also feasible to apply deterrence in the cyber world. Factually, of many security strategies, cyber deterrence by using four domains could be a versatile possibility. Conclusively, as far as the world is advancing in technological innovations, cyberspace intrusions would not stop alike the topic of deterrence in the digital world.


[1] An updated list of cyberspace intrusions from 2003 till 2021 is available at (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2021).

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