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Spy vs spy vs terrorist

india Updated: Sep 02, 2007 00:49 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

Everyone agrees international cooperation in intelligence is necessary to fight international terrorism. However, six years after 9/11, one of the areas where the fight continues to falter is in intelligence sharing.

There are cultural problems. Spooks are trained to trust no one, especially other spooks. And they are being asked to play both sides. The CIA may work with China’s Guojia Anquan Bua on running down Uighur terrorists, but the two are rivals on all other fronts.

This problem is endemic even among the intelligence arms of the same country. Intelligence expert Amy Zegart of the University of California at LA says, “There is no one in charge of the US intelligence community. By CIA director Mike Hayden’s admission, our strategic analysis is in bad shape.”

Another problem is that national priorities differ. India and Israel may face the same rhetorical threat, but they are fighting different movements. Operations of Mossad and RAW have little overlap — except perhaps in Iranian Balochistan.

This is not to say things haven’t budged since 9/11. Rohan Gunaratna, author of Inside Al Qaeda, says, “Cooperation today is better than ever before. Due to enhanced cooperation after 9/11, over 200 terrorist plots have been disrupted globally.” But there is certainly room for improvement, as the heavy global toll indicates.

Al Qaeda’s willingness to wage war with half the world has improved openness in sharing. But PJ Crowley of the Center for American Progress says, “Extra-legal actions like Guantanamo undercut global cooperation over the long term.”

There can be no honour between thieves. And a spy, as John Le Carre wrote, “steals his experience through bribes and reconstructs it”.