Wednesday, April 28, 2010



1991: Liviu Radu, a Romanian diplomat posted in New Delhi, was kidnapped by some Khalistani terrorists. He was got released as a result of an operation mounted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW). A Western intelligence agency co-operated in the operation. A senior officer of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) told the media about the identity of the Western agency. It was prominently carried by some sections of the media. The Western country concerned through its Embassy in New Delhi strongly protested against the failure of the MEA officer to protect the identity of its agency.

1993: After the serial blasts in Mumbai in March 1993, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the US secretly sent a team of its explosive experts to Mumbai to help the investigators of the Mumbai Police. They were put up in a Mumbai hotel under a non-official cover. The leader of the team was surprised to receive a phone call from a journalist of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) then posted in New Delhi, who was aware of their FBI identity. Enquiries revealed that a senior officer of the Mumbai Police had told the journalist about their FBI identity and revealed to him the name of the hotel where they were staying. There was a strong protest from the FBI over the indiscretion of the Mumbai Police officer.

2010: Madhuri Gupta, a Second Secretary working in the Press and Information wing of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, was arrested on a charge of working for the Pakistani intelligence. While reporting on her arrest and interrogation, sections of the media named another officer of the High Commission and claimed that he was from the Indian intelligence. According to a report carried by a national daily, this was mentioned to the journalists by an officer of the MEA.

It is important to protect the identity of serving intelligence officers posted abroad for three reasons. Firstly, the exposure of his identity will make it impossible for him to perform his intelligence tasks in future. Secondly, it could pose a serious threat to his life from terrorists. And, thirdly, it could create operational problems.

In the 1970s, the revelation of the identity of a serving officer of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) posted in Europe led to his assassination by some terrorists. The Congress passed a law making it a criminal offence for anyone to reveal the identity of a serving intelligence officer. Since then,American officials and media take care not to reveal the identity of a serving intelligence officer even if they come to know of it. Dick Cheney, the Vice-President under George Bush, came under severe criticism for asking one of his aides to brief a journalist about the identity of a serving woman officer of the CIA. Cheney's aide had to face an enquiry for carrying out the request of Cheney, which amounted to a crime.

In other countries too, officials as well as the media take great care to protect the identity of serving intelligence officers posted in foreign countries. In Israel, as in the US, it is a crime to reveal the identity of a serving intelligence officer. In India, we have neither laws nor traditions to protect the identities of serving intelligence officers posted abroad. During the last five years, Indian media has exposed the identities of at least a dozen serving external intelligence officers posted abroad, thereby damaging their utility as intelligence officers and exposing them to likely physical threats from terrorists.

This is highly unwise on the part of the journalists, but how can we blame them when they are tipped off by other officers of the Government, who do not realise the importance of protecting the cover and security of intelligence officers serving abroad. There could be strong opposition from the Indian media to the Government enacting a law similar to the US law to protect the identity of intelligence officers serving abroad, but it should at least ensure that such leakages and disclosures do not take place from the officials of the Government.

The case of Madhuri Gupta has been handled in an unprofessional manner, with almost a leak an hour. If some of these leaks are to be believed, she must be the greatest intelligence agent ever produced in the history of espionage from a diplomatic mission comparable to the legendary Cicero, a Nazi agent in the British Embassy in Ankara. ( Please see

If our news channels are to be believed, what all she has done: Exposed the identities of Indian agents in Pakistan; exposed the identities of Indian agents in other countries; gave to the Pakistani intelligence copies of classified documents including what is described as the classified minutes of the Prime Minister's office on India's relations with Pakistan etc etc. If he was alive, Cicero's handling officer would have envied her handling officer in the Pakistani intelligence.There are at least a dozen journalists claiming exclusive access to the results of the interrogation and yet reporting the same unbelievable stories in almost the same language. These dozen journalists are also claiming exclusive access to the interrogation reports. Some of them have even been giving what they claim are quotes from the interrogation reports. I known how interrogation reports are recorded. They are not recorded the way they are shown on some of our TV channels.

Who is Madhuri Gupta? What is her background? She is an Urdu translator posted in Islamabad to monitor the Urdu media. The Press and Information wing in which she was working deals only with open information and handles the Pakistani media. It is not a wing of the mission having access to classified documents. It is the cut and paste from the media wing. And yet our media has been reporting that classified reports passed through her hands. She was not even the head of the wing. She was one of its staff.

I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I saw an anchor criticising Pakistan for not co-operating with India in the investigation of the case. What does he expect Pakistan to do? Admit that she was their agent and tell us the details of what she did for the Pakistani intelligence? The world will be laughing at the kind of reporting that has been going on on our TV channels. Normally, the print media used to be more responsible in reporting. Senior sub-editors used to exercise some check over the exuberance of the reporters and carefully vet their stories before accepting them. Now, even print media journalists are competing with their TV colleagues in being more and more sensational. What is important is not whether one is correct and believable, but whether one's story is sufficiently sensational. The more sensational, the better.

Truth, reliability, balance and restraint in reporting have been the victims of the "breaking news" culture in our TV media. Madhuri Gupta's case is a serious breach of our national security.Even if she had not revealed any classified information to the Pakistani intelligence, the very fact that the Pakistani intelligence succeeded in recruiting her speaks poorly of our counter-intelligence controls. The case deserves to be investigated and analysed in a serious manner on the basis of established facts. Instead, it has been converted into a slapstick serial which will go on until another equally attention-catching serial replaces it.

The Government and our officers who have been talking to the media do not realise the importance of keeping the Pakistani intelligence guessing as to what she has been telling her interrogators. Intelligence agencies worth their salt keep their adversary guessing when they identify and arrest one of its agents. When the KGB, the Soviet intelligence agency, shot down and arrested Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot of the CIA, for quite some time they did not reveal that they had caught him alive. They made an ass of the CIA and then President Dwight Eisenhower by keeping them guessing as to what happened to Powers.

Inatead of making an ass of the Pakistani intelligence by keeping it guessing as to what happened to Madhuri Gupta, our intelligence agencies, the MHA and the MEA are making an ass of themselves by vying with one another in leaking out to the media all sorts of stories after revealing prematurely information about her arrest. ( 29-4-2010)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )


praveen30 said...

I agreed this culture of "breaking news" on the basis of half-baked truth is destroying the circulation of true information to general public, more because of officials who indulge in making cozy relationship with media and likes remain in headlines.

We definitely need better counter-intelligence and surveillance mechanism.

Ramsinh said...

Dear Mr.Raman,

The role of the media of being defender of democracy has been tuned on its head and media indulges in sensationalism and half truths. This craze for TRPs ultimately hurts India's national interests and makes us look like clown of the world instead of great country.
It looks as if history is repeating itself and we have reverted to the ancient times of Prithviraj Chauhan and Mohd. Ghauri. UPA Government looks more and more like its in last days of Mughal dynasty in Delhi under blind Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar as scam after scam exposes politcians of IPL fame. PM Manmohan Singh might be a good and honest gentleman (and GREAT Leader Ms.Sonia Gandhi is just protecting family Jewel "India" Family JAHAGIR) but we need a CHANAKYA in mould of Ms.Indira Gandhi (for whatever her shortcomings was a true nationalist).

Dithering and talking to Pakistan under American pressure looks like India is ruled from Washington and demonstrates its third rate, third class country which is forced to speak to terrorist Pakistani state!


Unknown said...

Dear Sir,

I feel really sad about the pathetic state of affairs of the IB and RAW.

Of all countries this women has sold her soul to pakistan. How many people have died because of pakistan ?

How can such people sleep in the night ?

will indians ever be strong and stand up and be honest or shall we continue to lie steal , rob , sleep , and do anything for money ?

Umashankar said...

Dear sir,
I think IB should access Media sources thoroughly. I wouldn't be surprised if undercover agents are found in their fraternity. The Indian Media/Pakistani Media are thick buddies.

Also, some reports claim , that, this lady met people through the Media.

balaji said...

I was watching Times Now and was laughing at the anchor going that Pakistan should help us locate the Pakistani handler for the spy.Haha comical news story this is where the Indian media has gone to SENSATIONALIZE everything and sometimes to disastrous effect on our Intelligence agencies now a govt enquiry follows and all the intelligence agents are scrutinized by the govt to the effect that they have become completely useless and we have destroyed whatever intelligence we have acquired in the last few years.IPL was going well for a few years till the Govt started getting involved in it Believe me when i say it IPL will be a disaster if it ever falls into the hands of the GOvt atleast that was a sport this is our "National security" anyone concerned.

shaan said...

No use of blaming the media when bureaucrats themselves indulge in loose talk. Even the foreign media was ridiculing the 'live' coverage of the Indian media which put the lives of many people in danger during 26/11. They wondered how Indian authorities allowed the media to get so close to the site.

ambi said...

I m really humbled. Pakistanis are really great. My appreciation for them is growing day by day. They really succeeded in pressurizing Manmohan Singh for talks.

I feel humiliated today for being Indian & for having leaders like manmohan Singh & S M Krishna. I am done with manmohan singh. I ve lost my faith in him. I wish this government falls soon, & there are elections again, or atleast they sack Manmohan Singh & SM Krishna. Because this is simply betrayal with us common public. Personally I never voted for Congress n never will.

But Manmohan Singh was voted again despite 26.11 lapses, because he assured tough posturing agst. pakistan. As a true Congressi he is ditching his own people. What we have reduced our self too. I am really humiliated as an Indian. I think hum sabko chullu bhar pani me doob jana chahiye.

Mr. prime Minister. Pls. give a short visit to a small country called Israel There is one small persona fondly called as Bibi. He is Prime minister of that small country. Of course he is not as intellectual as you are; still if u observe him you will come to know how a true leaders conducts himself against US pressure. Mr. PM, when arrogant US interfered in its internal matters, the man of honour that he is, he virtually slapped the President of US & gave a damn, when he was invited to attend a nuclear summit. That’s what true leaders do. I have become his fan. I wish I could meet him once.

I cant express, how much pain it is giving me but ‘JINHE NAAZ HAIN HIND PAR WHO KAHAN HAIN? Such a shame! Such a shame!

Isrealis you are really men of honour, & u are lucky that you have a PM like Bibi. Really great. We are left with Manmohans & Krishnas. Well guys, you spineless Indians, get back to the show. I give a damn, if you die in another terrorist attack. Die u spineless creatures, die. Hitler had said, Indians are just millions of rats. How true he was. That’s what we are. Cheers!.

ambi said...

I request BJP to come to rescue and help us helpless Indians. I plead you, Mr. Gadkari. Pls. dont allow Parliament to function. create chaos. Show no mercy to manmohan. Pls. somehow bring no confidance motion agst this govt. Tell Sonia Gandhi that Manmohan Singh is unacceptable to us as PM. Sack him or we ll not allow to function Parliament. go to jails if Govt pressurizes. But make it clear that PM has lost the faith of Indians. We no more trust him.

Pls. pls. pls. have mercy on us. pls. help us Indians.Pls. mr gadkari. i again & again beg of u. I dont know what to say. i am really disturbed. Manmohan Singh is really Americas man. we dont want him here.

Dr Satya Saraswat said...

I wonder who was the US mole about whom Jaswant SIngh wrote in his autobiography. Probabaly MMS.
The Indian Media has lost all it's senses reporting crap in the name of news.
Too much democracy is bad for nation.
We miss you Indiraji.