Documents published by The Washington Post have once again confirmed the global reach of the United States technical spying organisation, the National Security Agency (NSA). The documents were first leaked by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden.
They show that a federal court had given the NSA permission to spy on the BJP along with other political parties across the world in July 2010.
It is discomfiting to note that the US clubbed the then principal Opposition party of the world’s largest democracy with other political entities that are either militant in their ideology or come from countries with a history of totalitarian regimes. The political wing of the Hezbollah in Lebanon, known as Amal, is not the company that befits a party like the BJP.
Why they targeted the BJP through the NSA and whether the surveillance was carried out are not clear from the documents. But the formidable capabilities that the NSA has created over nearly four decades would have made the BJP an easy target.
It is quite possible that all key party leaders had been targeted as well to gather intelligence and use it at an appropriate juncture.
Not only does this violate the established principles of international diplomacy, it also impinges on the sovereign rights of a nation to conduct its politics without any foreign interference.
The general elections have now turned the BJP into the ruling party at the Centre with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.
This is a fact that adds to the growing discomfort on the intrusive surveillance capabilities of the NSA and underscores the need for a multitude of measures to resist this kind of surveillance.
From the documents leaked over the last two years, it is clear that the NSA used several measures for its global spying programmes. It has established secret relationships with over 80 major US corporations to access sensitive communications.
These corporations are telecom giants that have access to undersea cables carrying the world’s data, software companies that now operate millions of computers globally and hardware firms that support the information technology backbone of several nations.
Resisting such intrusive capabilities will need urgent intervention at the policy level as well enhancing of indigenous technical capabilities.
India had initiated a programme two years ago to protect its critical information infrastructure but that has not moved forward in any substantial manner. It has also done away with the appointment of a central cyber coordinator, which would have helped put up a coordinated effort to develop capacities.
Indian IT companies have not developed Over The Top (OTT) applications that can compete with the world. Finally, it lacks the infrastructure to raise an army of coders and IT professionals who can build a robust cybersecurity environment.