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Intelligence and Security

By – VappalaBalachandran

Mankind has used intelligence for centuries for internal control, economic progress and external influence. Intelligence can be open or secret. The first recorded secret intelligence operation was in 13th Century BCE when God ordered Moses to dispatch 12 tribal chiefs to search for the land of Canaan, their promised land. This was recorded in the Book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible.

Moses asked them to report on the geographical features, composition of the population, agriculture potential, actual crops, forestry conditions and their administrative structure.This is equivalent to modern economic intelligence.A Canaanite woman named Rahab facilitated the secret entry of these Israelites into Canaan. In intelligence parlance, this would be equivalent to a mole in a foreign land.

Since 1998 I have been publishing columns on security, intelligence and terrorism in mainstream newspapers.  In 2014, Indus Books published my first book National Security and Intelligence Management-A New Paradigm. My object in writing on intelligence was to “demystify” that subject to make the broad contours of the “intelligence process” known to the public and media.

This is because there is a mistaken impression that intelligence being a secret activity, should be hidden from “outsiders” meaning non-officials. Our intelligence services and political leadership are also partly responsible for this situation by needless secrecy even on non- sensitive subjects. This, in my view, allows them to evade accountability. That is the reason why some governments do not want to enquire into intelligence failures leading to avoidable deaths and breach of national security.

On the other hand,we need to realize that every government spends huge amountsof tax payers’ money on intelligencecollection. Intelligence failures cause national disasters like the 1941 Pearl Harbour attack, 9/11, 1999 Kargil incursions, 26/11 attacks, 2019 Pulwama attack and 2020 Galwan incursion.

I was a member of the 2 man “High Level” enquiry committee appointed by the Government of Maharashtra to enquire into the police response to the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai. We were asked to enquire whether prior intelligence reports were received, action taken on that and whether the police action was adequate.

Our enquiries found that the common mistake which had happened in all the above incidents had occurred in 26/11 too. There was intelligence but none to coordinate, interpret and putting it into preventive action.

This particular point was mentioned by me in my first book, but I felt that a more researched book was necessary to educate the public, security personnel, policemen and media about the complexities of intelligence management. My forthcoming book Intelligence Over Centuries: From Canaan(13th Century BC) to Galwan(21st Century) -Achievements and Failures will address this.

In this I have historically analysed how intelligence was handled by different governments, the difference between open and secret intelligence and how very often “Open Source Intelligence”(OSI) was neglectedby many. I have also drawn the lessons from our own ancient books, the Arthashastra in the 4th – 3rd Century BCE and Thirukkural of 2nd Century BCE to show how our ancient wisdom is still relevant in the modern age.