A lot of eyebrows were raised in social circles following recent publication of news reports that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was planning to induct professionals in its ranks in order to augment its intelligence gathering apparatus. The news came out as if it was for the first time an intelligence agency was going to make use of people belonging to various professions, while the fact is that cloak and dagger games have always involved human assets from all walks of life.

It has to be clearly understood that the main purpose of an intelligence agency is to detect any kind of anti-national activity and therefore it has the mandate to deploy the people who could lead to those who are working against the interests of the country. Even politicians have been part of the IB apparatus in the past.

A well known politician, who served in the Union Council of Ministers at different times, was an informer of the IB and would brief its functionaries even the details of Cabinet meetings at times. In fact, the IB had helped him over the years to build up his political profile and had contributed in many ways to his success. His brief was to keep the bosses informed about the developments, although the purpose in this instance was not to track anti-nationals but to gather vital information. After all, information is the biggest weapon anyone can ever have. Therefore, it should not surprise anyone if there are active politicians in various parties who are also informers of various agencies.

There have been reports in the past which suggested that even a former Prime Minister had links with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States, which had, in addition, cultivated many moles in the Indian ruling class. Indira Gandhi, during her Prime Ministership, had declared some foreign nationals persona non grata and had also drawn up a list of Indians believed to be helping them in collection of information. The Indian list included some journalists, among whom was a distinguished editor, who at the time was close to an opposition party. It is another matter that the journalist in question thrived during the Rajiv years and even after that.

Journalists all over the world are known to have links with intelligence agencies, which in most cases are due to the honest pursuit of their profession and to obtain important information. However, in some instances, journalists also act as conduits of information for those they are close to. The Soviets, during the Cold War, would view every Western journalist posted in Moscow as an agent of some intelligence agency. A friend, during a trip to Moscow in the 1980s, recalled that he came across an interpreter in the elevator, who looked at his accreditation card and said smilingly that he too was a journalist for his country.

A number of journalists posted in Pakistan, for instance, were constantly hounded by the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) of that country on mere suspicion that they may be working for some Indian organisation. Pakistani journalists here were much better off, but their close contact with their own high commission did arouse suspicion in many quarters.

Virtually every embassy or high commission has an intelligence person on its strength, both declared and undercover. In addition, the NGOs, various levels of bureaucracy, chartered accountants, management gurus, university professors and doctors and engineers are among the professions from which recruitment is made. In West Asia, telephone companies are used to obtain access in the same manner in which railroad companies were used in South America during the 1970s and 1980s by the American intelligence agencies.

It is well known that most of the operatives have dual or multiple identities and sometimes even lose track of how many times their names have undergone a change. Thus, when professionals are hired, their vocation becomes a perfect method for camouflaging others. Vigilance, after all, is the price for democracy and in every society the practice of obtaining information on enemies and even potential friends is regularly acquired.

Intelligence gathering at the national level is the evolved methodology of what police does routinely. Beat constables and division officers gather information from regular informers to check crime in their respective areas and cities. Similarly, intelligence operatives do it for their country.

There has always been a strong case for strengthening our information gathering apparatus, which gets impacted due to both shortage of personnel as also sometimes due to the rivalry between the cadres and the deputationists, who normally come from the Indian Police Service (IPS) and invariably have a monopoly on the top positions.

The IB has, to its credit, many achievements and some of its field operatives have proved that they were second to none. In fact, many well planned operations like Operation Black Thunder II became successful due to meticulous planning and deep penetration into anti national groups. The present NSA, Ajit Doval was one of the best field officers the IB has had and it is expected that he would take intelligence gathering to another level. Between us.

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