Database to fight terrorism will keep eye on you

  • Aloke Tikku and Gaurav Choudhury, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Dec 23, 2009 01:50 IST

Every time you flash your credit card, pick up the phone, take a flight or access the internet, somebody will be watching you.

India is ramping up its intelligence infrastructure and networking databases in the public and private sector.

Once the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) is established by May 2011, it will provide security agencies real-time access into 21 categories of databases — including bank account details, credit card transactions, driving licence as well as visa and immigration records.

This means that rather than writing to more than 50 entities — government bodies such as the RBI and the Bureau of Immigration, and private firms like phone and airline companies — all that a security agency has to do is to feed your name into the system.

“Once you feed a person’s name, you’ll get all the details about him, across all the databases,” a government official said. Right from the colour of your car, outstanding traffic fines to be paid and the last time you paid by card for a late-night dinner with a friend.

“There really will not be any secrets from the State,” a security official said. “As in the United States.”

The information grid will also have the ability to crawl through the consolidated database to sniff for suspicious trends and flag them for further investigations.

Intelligence officials insist they need this information to be empowered to tackle the new sophisticated face of terrorism.
“Headley wouldn’t have had a free run for three years if this kind of a system was in place,” an intelligence official said, referring to the Pakistan-origin David Coleman Headley who was arrested by US federal agents for conspiring in 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and identifying other potential targets in India.

“It would have raised a red flag, since he was travelling to Pakistan after every visit to India and wasn’t converting enough foreign currency into Indian rupees though he was a businessman,” the official said.

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has inducted Raghu Menon, a security expert in the private sector, to resolve this problem. Menon joined the government this month as chief executive officer of NATGRID.


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