Friday, December 19, 2008

With IC-814 in memory, India didn't talk to terrorists

Published on Mon, Dec 01, 2008 at 16:13 , Updated at Thu, Dec 04, 2008 at 13:04
Source : Network18 biz magazine special

Elizabeth Flock/Forbes-Network18

MUMBAI: If terror groups had hoped to force India into negotiations with last week's terror attacks in Mumbai, they were disappointed. Departing from past practice, the government stoutly refused to hold talks with terrorists and went on the counter offensive from the first minute.

Even as hundreds were being held hostage at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Oberoi-Trident and Chabad House, Maharashtra police chief Anami Narayan Roy made it clear in a telephone interview with Network18 that there would be no negotiations.

According to newspaper reports, Deccan Mujahideen, the group that claimed responsibility for the strikes, wanted to negotiate. “Ask the government to talk to us and we will release the hostages,” a man who identified himself as Imran Babar and a member of the terrorist group, said in a call to a television station.

These reports could not be confirmed independently and the police chief said the terrorists had not attempted to start talks, but the policy was clear from the start. “Our policy is to not negotiate.”

This is a marked change from years past, in which India has readily entered into negotiations in hostage situations. Most painfully memorable is the 1999 hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC-814. The government was forced on its knees during the negotiations. It had to release three militants in exchange for the release of 155 hostages.

One of the released men went on to create Jaish-e-Mohammad, a major Islamic terrorist organisation in South Asia, and a second was later convicted of murdering US journalist Daniel Pearl. That is the price India and the world paid for negotiating with terrorists. The current policy of the Indian government may have been shaped by that bitter lesson.

Peter R Neumann, director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence at King’s College in London, says, “This (hijacking) is the thing that politicians are thinking about right now. They look backwards, and they also know there is a precedent to set going forward.”

Terrorism experts agree that when a government chooses to negotiate with terrorists, they risk setting a dangerous precedent of yielding to their demands.

“If a government releases the prisoners when demanded, there is a vicious snowball effect globally,” says Aaron Richman, co-director of the Institute of Terrorism Research in Response in Jerusalem. “In future incidents, the terrorists know they can succeed by negotiation.”

The 1999 negotiation response may have also inspired subsequent terrorism attacks, says Neumann. “Governments who have not negotiated have had fewer terrorist situations, because then people know they will not negotiate.”

But Neumann also says that every government or police force wants to initiate some kind of communication with terrorists. “As long as they are kept talking, less people are killed and the government and police force can buy time to prepare their rescue operation.”

Even as rescue operations were underway at all the three locations, the Indian government never openly communicated with the terrorists. Instead, it was uncompromising in its pledge of non-negotiation, similar to policy exercised by Israel, Russia and the US.

Yet even Israel, which is known for its hard-line stance on non-communication with terrorists, has resorted to negotiation in the last few years. Richman cites the recent release of hundreds of prisoners to save one captive Israeli soldier. Israel also negotiated the return of the corpses of Israeli soldiers by releasing 100 incarcerated men this year.

Russia has opted for negotiation with the Chechen rebels in the Moscow theater hostage crisis in 2002 and the Beslan school hostage crisis in 2004. “Of course when they are attacking you, you must respond,” said former president of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev in 2004. “The problem of Chechnya will only be solved by negotiating, negotiating with all involved."

Dr Adam Dolnik, director of the Centre of Transnational Crime Prevention at the University of Wollongong, Australia, says in a situation such as the Mumbai hostage crisis, most Western countries would have negotiated. “It would have bought time for building a blueprint about how to go about this,” he said. “That is what Western countries would have done. But instead, the Indian government kept announcing that it was just about over when it wasn’t.”

The George Bush administration has said that it does not negotiate with terrorists, perhaps even more loudly than Israel or Russia. But it has made concessions when the lives of hostages seemed in certain peril. In 2006, the US released six of eight Iraqi women held by Coalition forces in exchange for Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll, who was being held in Baghdad.

The US denied that this was a case of negotiation, attempting to stamp out perception of the US as being weak. Perhaps the administration was also trying to erase the memory of 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis, during which president Jimmy Carter’s negotiation was unsuccessful in freeing 52 US diplomats held hostage by a group of Islamist students for 444 days.

Similarly, India has sought to extinguish the flames of previous policies over the past few days. Yet the consequence has been grave: The loss of nearly 200 lives and more than 300 injured. Neumann says, “It is the ultimate dilemma: Weighing whether to save the hostages now or take a hard line and save lives in the future.”

The Indian government, however, seems not to have weighed the idea of negotiation at all. Israel National News reported that terrorists’ offers for negotiations for hostages in the Chabad House were met with the Indian government’s resounding: “No deal.”

Continuity of policy like this is crucial, says Richman. “If the government starts out not negotiating, they have to continue that. They must maintain that policy, unless they themselves determine to change it. The acts of the terrorists must not change it.”

As the whole world watched, India never wavered. “In a hostage situation, the actions of one government can have implications for the world,” said a top NATO official on the dilemma of negotiation. With hostages held not only from their own country (as has been the case in negotiations in Israel, the US, and Russia), but also from the West, this could never be more true.

The government has made it clear this time. Roy’s admonition that India would not negotiate seems to have been bona fide.

Yet while no reports have been made of negotiation, Richman points out that one cannot be sure what is happening behind closed doors. “What we see is what the media reveals to us,” he says. “Behind the scenes, we do not know.”

Elizabeth Flock is a reporter associate at the new business magazine to be launched by Network18 in alliance with Forbes, USA

New York police in Mumbai for anti-terror tips

Published on Thu, Dec 11, 2008 at 17:52 , Updated at Thu, Dec 11, 2008 at 18:02
Source : Forbes-Network18

Elizabeth Flock/Forbes-Network18

In July 2006, after the train blasts, the New York Police Department (NYPD) had sent one intelligence officer to Mumbai to get an in-depth account of the attack and brief security chiefs back home.

This time, November 2008, NYPD has sent three officers from its counter-terrorism squad to Mumbai to study the attacks in detail. Their objective is to pick up lessons from the way the attack was carried out here in order to put better preventive measures in place back home, and to consider if New York is prepared to respond to this kind of attack.

NYPD Commissioner Paul Browne says the three officers in Mumbai have already collected much valuable information. By studying the attack sites, the officers have gained a better understanding of how well-trained and disciplined the terrorists were.

“The officers went to each of the sites and photographed the battle damage, and looked at the impact made by grenades and bullets,” says Browne. “One of our captains noticed that the ballistics all went head level or down. If someone is inexperienced, the spray of bullets would be much higher than head level. But the bullets were all below. This shows how trained these people were.”

Browne says the officers are also studying Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to understand how the terrorists entered and attacked the railway station and what the evacuation procedures in place were.

“They are looking at what happened and the thought processes, techniques, and style of warfare of the terrorists,” says Dov Ben Zwerling, Director of Tactical Operations and Training for the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response in Israel, who is here in Mumbai to similarly study the attacks. “Then they think about how to fight that.”

The focus of these visits is always to improve intelligence back home. The scope of the attack on Mumbai is something the NYPD has been worried about for some time now. “We have considered this kind of attack,” says Browne. “So we have created scenarios with multiple simultaneous attacks by the same terrorist, and thought about how this would stretch resources thin, especially if it continued for a period of time and our people got tired. Mumbai was a situation where it actually happened, so we have to look at it.”

Post-9/11, NYPD has used counter-terrorism measures such as these visits to thwart terrorist attacks. David Cohen, a former CIA officer who transferred to NYPD to head their intelligence division after 9/11, said the department has spotted more than a dozen planned terrorist attacks on the city as a result of these new counter-terrorist measures. Several of these foiled attacks were planned for train stations, demonstrating the value for the NYPD in studying the 2006 and now, the more recent, Mumbai attacks.

The NYPD officers are also interested in learning if there is anything new or distinctive about this attack. Browne says the chief departure in the Mumbai attack from previous similar ones elsewhere was the use of electronic devices by the terrorists.

“The explosion of technology worked as a tool for their attack, allowing them to have real time info on the police and military response and modify their attack. It is not the first time hostage takers have used technology and media in an attack, but it is the first time you saw it to this extent. It is the first time that [the terrorists] were continually directed by the technology, and communicating with people that could help them to ensure success.”

According to the Associated Press, the counterterrorism effort by the NYPD is unequaled by any city in the United States, and even perhaps the world. And while, the NYPD is taking its lessons from Mumbai, perhaps Mumbai should also take a few lessons from them. NYPD, the largest police department in the United States with 37,000 officers, has been sending detectives and officers to terror-hit locations since 9/11, when the counter-terrorism task force was created. Officers have visited Moscow, London, Madrid, and Mumbai.

The measure is a part of a massive overhaul that took place in the NYPD post-9/11, in its homeland security, counter-terrorism and surveillance duties. Since 2001, NYPD has assigned 1000 officers to counter-terrorism duty, including 10 detectives posted around the globe to gather and share intelligence. It has also spent tens of millions of dollars on new technology for security measures.

Elizabeth Flock is a Reporter Associate with the new business magazine to be launched by Network 18 in alliance with Forbes of USA

Looking beyond borders for lessons in handling terrorism

Published on Wed, Dec 10, 2008 at 14:35 , Updated at Wed, Dec 10, 2008 at 14:47
Source : Looking beyond borders for lessons in handling terrorism,Network18 business magazine

Shloka Nath, NS Ramnath and Elizabeth Flock / Forbes-Network18

At a time when India is evaluating ways to beef up its response and prevention mechanism against terror attacks, lessons may be learnt from other cities like London, New York, Madrid, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Colombo.
While the first three have suffered some of the biggest terror attacks in recent times, the Israeli cities and Sri Lankan capital have been in the cross-hairs of terrorists for years. All have established systems to prevent further attacks.
High-profile landmarks are closely guarded in New York. At the Four Seasons hotel for example, no security measure seems too extreme after 9/11. Uniformed guards keep a close watch on not just the lobby, but also the service and back entrances. Every employee’s ID is closely checked. And visitors at the hotel—one of the best known five-star accommodations in the city—cannot use the lift without a room key.
In Israel, a hotel, cafĂ© or movie theatre gets a permit to operate only if it has armed guards. “There is no entrance where you are not checked,” says Professor Raphael Israeli, a Senior Fellow at the Harry Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace in Jerusalem.
While Spain has focused on surveillance by thorough documentation, the UK relies on surveillance cameras. Barry Hughill, of the UK-based human rights organisation Liberty, has described Britain as “the CCTV capital of the world.” But Londoners don’t seem to mind. In the UK’s war against terror, CCTVs are used extensively to pre-empt undesirable behaviour because it allows people to go about their daily routine unfettered, even if they can’t remain unseen.
The security measures go beyond guarding important landmarks.
Effective intelligence gathering, alert citizens, coordination between departments and police empowerment are strategies that have worked for all these cities.
Jonathan B. Tucker, a former senior fellow at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., says vigilance by the public plays a key role in preventing terror attacks. “The average Israeli is aware of suspicious packages, individuals, and actions that could pose a threat to public safety and does not hesitate to notify the police. As a result, ordinary citizens foil more than 80% of attempted terrorist attacks in Israel,” he says.
Colonel R Hariharan, an intelligence specialist on South Asia and a retired military intelligence officer who has served in Sri Lanka, says identifying the indicators of terror attacks have been so drilled into citizens of Sri Lanka that recently, when they found an unattended bag in a bus, they stopped the vehicle and got down—without panic. The bomb went off, injuring only two persons.
To take terrorism head-on, coordination between various forces also becomes a priority.
Israel uses a national model for policing, combining regular police forces as well as quasi-military forces like the Border Guard under one roof in its headquarters in Jerusalem.
Post-9/11, efforts have been made in the US for a more coordinated approach to fight terror. Alex Alexiev, vice president of research at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., explains, “One of the positive steps we have taken in the US has been to set up terrorism intelligence centres where various agencies of government and local police work side by side. For example, in Los Angeles, you have the FBI, CIA, LA police and various other agencies like the fire department and the airport police all working together. These professionals sit in the same office, the same department and they become colleagues as opposed to different competing departments. In India, they need to cooperate closely and make sure that no lead goes cold.”
While Spain could say its cities have not seen another attack since the Madrid train bombings in March of 2004 because of their focus on documentation, this too has been a success because of better coordination between departments.
Fernando Reinares, Senior Analyst on International Terrorism, in his report “After the Madrid Bombings: Internal Security Reforms and the Prevention of Global Terrorism in Spain,” writes, “As a result of a programme… which started just a few weeks after the Madrid bombings, shared access for the National Police and for the Civil Guard became a reality…for databases including the national identity document (DNI), arms and explosives, passenger lists, and voice and fingerprint identification systems.”
Empowering police is another key point. Ajai Sahni, Executive Director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, and editor of the South Asia Intelligence Review says, “We need a truly empowered police force with good counter-terrorism training and equipment, which understands the trends in international terrorism. What occurred in Mumbai was a consequence of the infirmity of the police.”
After 9/11, every group that shared responsibility in handling the attacks, from the New York Police Department (NYPD) to federal agencies such as the FBI and CIA, saw a massive overhaul. All of them beefed up overall numbers, spent millions of dollars on high-tech security measures, and assigned specific officers or specialists to focus on counter-terrorism efforts.
The concept of homeland security was also born at that time and city police forces received a major boost in counter terrorism training.
But in Mumbai and most other Indian cities, poor policing against terror attacks isn’t just a result of inadequate resources, it is also constrained by insufficient intelligence gathering. Alexiev from the Center for Security Policy explains, “The police in India are almost like a marginal factor in counter terrorism. It’s the police who know the locals and the neighbourhoods and there has to be some level of effective local intelligence.”
While lessons from other city targets are valuable, perhaps there are also lessons to be learnt from the West on what not to do. The shooting of an innocent Brazilian man on the London Underground a week after the 7/7 London bombings is a telling example. Crispin Black, an independent intelligence consultant and well-known media commentator on terrorism and intelligence in the UK, agrees that the ‘shoot on sight’ directive was a mistake. “That law is still there on the books, but I doubt it will ever be implemented again.”
Others, like Jason Burke, Chief Foreign Correspondent of The Observer, who has covered the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, says America’s response to the 9/11 attacks was profoundly flawed and counter productive in many ways—invading Afghanistan was not the answer.
“India needs to avoid subsequent errors. Lots of people in the subcontinent talk about how America needs to think before it acts—the same logic can be applied domestically. You need a logical, dispassionate approach,” he says.
Senior Features Writer Shloka Nath, Principal Correspondent NS Ramnath and Reporter Associate Elizabeth Flock are with the new business magazine to be launched by Network18 in alliance with Forbes, USA.