With a click of mouse, I have all the information at my command. Suppose I type the name of key terror fugitive Yasin Bhatkal, I will get all the information about him — the cases registered against him all over the country, interrogation reports where his name cropped up and even open source info like the media reports about him,” says an officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on condition of anonymity.
It may not seem like a magic wand that the NIA was supposed to wield at the time of its inception, but it’s an important step amid chaotic counter-terrorism environment.
Besides establishing the NIA, the government has taken many steps to fine-tune its counter-terror mechanism in the last decade, but a lot more has to done.
From strengthening the special branches of state police for better human intelligence to recruitment of more than 5000 personnel in the Intelligence Bureau and giving a push to the Multi Agency Centre (MAC).
The MAC was established to collate and disseminate information between the investigation and intelligence agencies after the Kargil war and it really came into being after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. But even now 90% of MAC inputs come from 3 or 4 states.
The government has now established a National Memory Bank under the MAC for better collation of terror related data which will be accessible to all state police and every detail of new case and interrogation of accused will be uploaded.
Few states have already started doing it. The MAC plans to make the memory bank available at the district level. The NIA’s centralised data repository is different from the National Memory Bank.
“Where was the centralised data repository on terror cases, their investigation and the fountainheads of terror? Getting simple information like all cases registered against Lashkar-e-Toiba patron Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, whose cadres are behind more than half of the terror attacks in country, was a pain.
"Four years after its inception, the NIA has got all the data on Hafiz Mohammad Saeeds, Masood Azhars or Riyaz Bhatkals. We now have a national list of most wanted for terror related crimes. We are developing an institutional memory where we don’t have to rely on any individual for the information,” said the officer.
The NIA brass is clear that their outfit is an investigation agency, not an intelligence agency and credible prosecution is an important aspect of counter-terror mechanism.
If we have prosecutable evidence, only then the chargesheet will be filed. At a time, when credibility of prosecution in terror cases is at stake, strict adherence to parameters of law is important.
Judgments are also reviewed to see if mistakes were made, say officials. The NIA is also training the state police officials on various aspects of investigation.
The officials say state police were making simple mistakes while sending court approved request for information (Letter Rogatory) to foreign countries, like not mentioning proper charges along with sections of the IPC or not sending them in proper format.
The NIA didn’t make these mistakes and managed to get information from the US.
Government efforts to have a better coordination mechanism with the US, Israeli and Russian intelligence and investigation agencies resulted in increased information helping neutralise many terror modules.