Tagged: Security

Europe under siege


Week after week, Europe seems to be encountering terrorist attacks.

I would not be surprised if European Union decides to close its borders against any immigration, and tightens the country borders vigorously in the coming months. May be it is time for Europe to adopt and implement some of the national security initiatives which have secured the U.S. borders more or less effectively against foreign threats.

France has suffered the most with three serious attacks in the past 18 months. Now comes Munich, considered to be generally safe. Germany has been the most lenient country in Europe when it comes to receiving and handling immigrants. Now it has to rethink. France has already assumed emergency powers of search and arrest.

One could not have imagined that European countries would come under terrorist attacks, as here was a collection of countries that became more welcoming of immigrants (unfortunately terrorists are hidden amongst the flow of immigrants) and have treated their foreign-born population more or less well. However, now it has become amply clear to the governments of the Netherlands, France, Germany, and other countries that their laissez faire approach to security, investigation, and law enforcement would no longer continue to work.

I am a supporter of ruthless law enforcement actions when faced with terrorism. I believe that India has become a good example of not willing to accept usual practices in law enforcement in various parts of the country, surely against the Maoist insurgents in the North East and Jammu & Kashmir militants in the North. It cannot be business as usual when the country is under constant attack and normal business activities have to be suspended and the normal life of law-abiding citizens is being threatened. One would need a lot of steely nerves when it comes to handling home-grown terrorism, and part of Europe’s problems is that it does not haveĀ a strategy to deal with that threat.

All citizens are unfortunately NOT equal, and it is critical for governments to monitor ALL citizens and all immigrants today, irrespective of race, religion, ethnic origin or gender. All tourists have to be monitored as well. This would necessitate complete control over airwaves, and full coverage of the country with eavesdropping and monitoring technologies. There is no choice, as the first priority of ANY government is to save the lives of its law-abiding citizens.

If such actions threaten human right activists, so be it. Human rights have to wait longer to attain their fulfillment when more serious and threatening priorities take over. I agree it would require a well-meaning government not to start trampling on human rights of ordinary citizens. The example being set by a democratic government in Turkey is not a good one, but let us remember that Turkey is acting against coup plotters and not terrorists. May be both categories are the same in the eyes of a government, but Turkey has all but ensured that it would not get admittance into the European Union. But that is exactly the point. The European Union needs to review its charter of Human Rights. Not all is well with Europe, and it is high time the EU starts paying attention and committing resources towards its home-grown terrorism threat. It would certainly mean that the EU has to take bold, tough and aggressive actions – may not all in line with its ideals and principles.

Terrorism is a present danger and will continue in all parts of the world if governments do not collaborate and take collective action against is insidious threat to civilization. Let us forget about attributing reasons for the growth in terrorism. There are no good or bad terrorists – ALL terrorists are just bad. No religion permits carnage against innocent civilians and children. No government should also authorize attacks against civilians.

People like us should send our suggestions to our governments or to the United Nations. There should be vigorous action and support for eliminating (may not be entirely possible however) or at least reducing the threat of terrorism, and that would also mean entirely removing access to weapons for the common man on the street. We should all accept more limits on our personal freedoms, to ensure the safety of ourselves and our fellow human beings.

Radical, but required necessity in today’s world. Europe needs to do its bit, to save Europeans, and preserve their values for the future.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

24th July 2016

 

The mystery of the missing airliner


MH370 was another usual flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, amongst hundreds of such flights from South East Asian countries. With a well-regarded service reputation, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is the flagship air carrier of Malaysia, with generally good performance in meeting customer expectations. I have taken their flights a number of times, but usually for the short hop between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

For the past over 2 weeks, the world has been abuzz with the mystery of the missing flight, which originated in Kuala Lumpur, destined to reach Beijing in China. It had 229 passengers, including the crew. Such instances of missing flights are indeed rare, and there has been no official cause established for its disappearance as the MH370 is yet to be located.

While the circumstances surrounding its disappearance are mysterious, it is unlikely to be terrorism as no motive has been established, no ransom has been called, no political terror group has claimed responsibility, and generally, there has been no ownership of what happened from any quarters around the world. One is led to “derive” rather than conclude that the flight just got maneuvered by someone on board into a different direction and the motive for doing so is yet to be established.

I sometimes wonder why the Pilot gets the authority to turn off the transponder of his own flight from the cockpit – I think this is a general fallibility which is yet to be fixed across the world. Why would anyone have the authorisation to decouple the transponder ?

The other aspect is that the satellite communications capability which works so well for weather predictions and military purposes, seems to have some limitations in locating the spot of the aircraft disappearance though the location of the last handshake between a satellite and the aircraft has now been determined. There seem to be some technical challenges.

Countries seem to be worried about sharing their national radar tracking data in this world of openness when competitive governments would anyway know the limitations of their neighbouring countries. This should not have been an acceptable practice in the case of natural or artificial disasters, wherein the policy should have been to cooperate intensely without any limitations whatsoever. Even countries afar from the original location of radar disappearance do not seem to be sharing radar data freely, not wanting to expose their inefficiencies or lack of comprehensive coverage. This is nothing short of ridiculous.

Well, there are so many impatient and grieving family members of the 229 folks who seem to have completely disappeared from this world who are all waiting for some news which is more deterministic than all that they have so far heard. Let us think of them rather than worrying about national security.

No Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
22nd March 2014

Aftermath of Spying Revelations


Edward Snowden’s revelations about spying by the NSA of the U.S. have caused consternation around the world. Not just amongst the governments who have been spied upon. Even innocent individuals have their call data collected by the NSA which has been acting like a major data suction engine.

But are things going to be any different going forward ?

Not at all, despite any claims to the contrary.

It is absolutely critical for governments to spy upon other governments. This has been a truism all this while, for more than a thousand years, or even more. Collecting intelligence about the intentions of both friends and enemies is considered by all governments as crucial in their efforts to forecast the future. Is there anything unusual about it ? No, not at all.

What is the difference now ? Edward Snowden walked out of the NSA with troves of unnecessary information which revealed the extent of spying by the NSA, even on friendly allied countries like Germany. The debates that are raging around the capitals of the countries who have been spied upon, and the intense debate in the U.K. about the role of the Guardian newspaper, etc., are too well documented for me to recant anything here in substance. So, the only thing now is that the world seems to be having “proof” that indeed such spying takes place but what has appalled all is the extent and scale of the spying activities that seems to be going on all over the world.

The U.S. Government has taken a measured approach in its cautious responses to spying allegations that have been levelled against the NSA. The Congressional “investigation” is not going to change any behaviour except to proclaim that the Congress has done its due diligence belatedly, and there will be some protective measures put in place to safeguard the interest of American citizens and allied countries.

I believe spying is crucial, critical and essential for any nation today. Especially when so much information is flying around the internet, there needs to be policies in place to protect the interests of any country (which can afford to invest in technological infrastructure) against any other nation. And lives have to be protected. Terrorist attacks have to be identified well in advance and defused. The scale of spying will of course differ from country to country, but no one is a saint in this matter. Everyone can be called a culprit !

So what the NSA has been doing is very important, and even the Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to suggest that spying is a required activity and supports NSA and the US Government !! Of course, he was a KGB spy in the past and we know what that means !!!

Well, so let us get out of our fixation about Edward Snowden and get on with our business. There will be only more, not less, spying going forward, and everyone should take it in a stride. Be careful about commercial or trade secrets though !

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
22nd December 2013

Waste of Precious Time


The high-level talks in New York today between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan are unlikely to produce any real breakthrough, except shenanigans in front of the world media which does not believe what they are going to say anyway.

Instead of focusing on urgent and pressing domestic matters, the two countries are wasting time talking to each other.

Is it going to be of any use ?

None at all.

In fact the Pakistani army has already attempted to derail the impending talks by enabling militants to attack and kill many Indian soldiers last week. Has anything changed in Pakistan – nothing at all. The powerful army still controls everything, and the prime minister is just a dud when it comes to matters pertaining to India or Afghanistan.

So, the prime minister of India is going to waste time today talking to a prime minister who does not control what Dr Singh called as “epicentre of terrorism”. What is the big point here, except that Dr Singh is making all attempts to leave a positive legacy on Pakistan when he leaves office next year.

And, why is Pakistan wasting time ? They are talking to a prime minister widely perceived to be ineffective, and under constraint to take approval on all policy matters from his powerful party boss. Most importantly, Dr Singh is unlikely to be the prime minister after the next parliamentary elections – I don’t think he would want to be, even if the Congress Party could manage to form a coalition government with other corrupt parties.

So, it is just laughable that these two ineffective prime ministers with no real power to negotiate anything substantive are wasting time and taxpayer monies to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. Summit in New York today. It is to be noted that during their respective speeches yesterday, they accused each other !

How will they ever reach any positive conclusions ?

The Jammu and Kashmir problem is not going to be resolved in this manner. India has to be more rigorous in eliminating terrorist infiltration ruthlessly, with no fear or favour. It needs to bring the State under central government rule – the current State government is rather ineffective. It needs to communicate more vigorously to the local population that it is investing heavily in the infrastructure of the State, but they need to be more supportive of India and should not support the terrorists who will only bring more pain and death.

Is India having a game plan to tackle the problems in J & K ? Surely does not appear to be………any surprises ? None whatsoever. We have a feeble government in India and Pakistan knows it.

No point in negotiating with sponsors of terrorism.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
29th Sep 2013

Data Privacy and Government Intrusion


The recent incident of a contractor from NSA (National Security Agency) of the U.S. almost defecting to Hong Kong / China throws open a very relevant and rather interesting topic: the intrusion into the privacy of citizens by “Big Brother” or the Government.

There are arguments (mostly) against and for the government oversight affecting the privacy of millions of citizens and other nation states. How can one government (though the most powerful in the world) intrude into the private lives of other countries’ citizens and most clearly, into other governments’ secrets ? Under what laws of the land are these actions being taken ? Does it mean that the U.S. is not respecting the other countries’ laws on privacy, though often claiming to be the torch bearer of freedom and democracy, often accusing other countries of trampling on their citizens’ rights ?

Many, many questions and the blogosphere and the traditional / electronic media are full of such types of questions and interviews with prominent folks from society and government.

Let us look at this matter very objectively.

First, is anyone around the world so naive that he or she can assume that nobody is watching the goings on in the society in which they live, given all the terrorist attacks around the world ? Is it not the responsibility of the government of the day and law enforcement agencies to track what is going on ? How can anyone assume that all is hunky dory in their own society ? That is rather stupid, to say the least.

Second, look at examples of how criminals and terrorists are getting caught via data crunching of emails and webcam / video camera images, without even shedding a drop of blood in some cases ? Are we not reading newspapers and the electronic media to take note of the enhanced intelligence of law enforcement agencies ?

Third, the NSA mainframes and arrays of computers don’t “see or hear” anything – they just simply analyze the petabytes of data collected from a million sources and derive nuggets of actionable information, which can then be studied and actions taken. Who is listening to your conversation, or reading your emails – think about it for a minute. If you are not a targeted individual, why would a government waste thousands of dollars of computing time and analyst time on you ? You have no name in the computer !

Fourthly, if the U.S. Congress bans domestic eavesdropping by NSA (very unlikely), then NSA and FBI would have to move to conventional means of tapping phones which would then potentially “target” anyone – even the normal guy – around. Think about it – do you wish to return to the Cold War days ? Surely not.

There are many other reasons why the NSA mechanism is a better way of analysing the “Big Data” collected from various sources than the older ways of James Bond days.

Let us not raise a hue and cry. This is what has been happening for the past 7 years by NSA and several decades before that as well. If you have nothing to worry, then you will have nothing to worry, right ?

Let the criminals and terrorists worry, right ?

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
15th June 2013

Not to be Trusted


The Indian Government took all the nonsense of Pakistan’s arguments against the official involvement of their spy agency and military in the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai. Despite all the proof, Pakistan still resists in extending full and unfettered cooperation.

Now, another example has come up: despite all their protestations to the contrary, 13 Indians are still being held in Pakistan jails – and look at this: they are Prisoners of War from the 1971 Indo-Pak war, which Pakistan lost so handsomely if you would recall, leading to the formation of Bangladesh from the erstwhile East Pakistan. Even after their prison terms were long over, the Indians are being held in Karachi’s jails.

What does this discovery shows ?

That we are stupid to believe our neighbours on their claims of innocence, on their protests that they are never involved officially in terror plots against India, that they are truly committed to developing a cordial relationship with India. That we are ignorant of their aims to eventually separate Kashmir from India. That they would attack us one day with their nuclear-armed missiles. That they would continue to taunt us in international forums on the Kashmir issue. That they would collaborate more with China to strangle India.

That they can never be fully trusted.

Unless…….

Unless and until, they have a fully democratic government, not controlled by their military.

Which is definitely not the case.

Are they ever going to realize that India is too big and actually stronger than ever to fight two wars at the same time ? If not today, in a couple of years time, India would mount an impenetrable shield to protect our borders from missile attacks. India would have a much stronger collaboration with the U.S. and Israel to counter Pakistan’s insidious aims to destroy our peace.

Instead of formulating an overarching strategy to counter Pakistan, we seem to be entertaining Mr Musharraf in Delhi, who goes up on stage and accuses India. This is nothing short of ridiculous. Freedom of speech has certain responsibilities and limits. Mr Musharraf is singularly responsible for the 1999 Kargil War in which India lost many soldiers and a good deal of self-respect. He is a persona non grata in his own country – Pakistan !

While olive branches are good as a show case of peace efforts on both sides – especially on the business side – we have to be very cautious about the nefarious intent of the military and spy agency of Pakistan who celebrated the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, which exposed India’s weaknesses. We can never forget the loss of 166 innocent lives. We can never forgive Pakistan for its intransigence in cooperating with India.

Let us not trust blindingly. Even our culture does not condone it. The nation’s security cannot take second place to our need to shake hands.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
25th November 2012
Mumbai

Security in Maximum City


There has been a rapid deterioration in the security situation in Mumbai over the past 3 years or so.

I am not referring to the 26/11 terrorist attack or its aftermath.

I am referring simply to the cases of attack on innocent people by their own security guards. I have no bandwidth right now to write about the other aspects of the safety situation in the city, such as road accidents involving school buses for example, but I will eventually write about that aspect as well.

It appears that Mumbai has learnt the bad aspects of Delhi life. Delhi still steals the thunder when it comes to the reputation ranking of the worst biggest city in India wherein women are not safe, but it appears that Mumbai is fast catching up. Mumbai, incidentally, had (and sometimes has) the reputation for the safest big city in India, but is fast losing that.

The recent attacks on women staying alone in apartments by the building society’s own security guards are to be severely condemned. I did not see the government stepping up to the challenges. One simple thing to do is to disenfranchise all private security agencies in the city who are not “security-cleared” by the police.

We are endangering our people in two different ways – the private security agencies are not truly certified to do their work and the guards are not pre-approved or pre-registered to ensure quality, consistency and safety. This is like letting the cow graze its own backyard freely with no controls or safety checks.

Unfortunately, in India (like in almost everything), we tend to blame the government for all the ills of the society, and this case is no different. But the least that we can do is to ensure that the agencies we appoint in out own building societies are pre-cleared with the police, and there are adequate monitoring mechanisms provided so that the guards do not tinker with the automated security apparatus. The guards should never have access to the electricity supply to the apartment – it is not their job. The latest murder case in the city couple of days ago shows that such basic principles were violated. If the building society or the builder is lax in such areas, we have to be prepared otherwise to expect trouble.

Further, there is a feeling in Mumbai that it is indeed a safe city – many people have told me that it is far better than Delhi. This is a false feeling and should be discarded forthwith. In any place which has a wide disparity of incomes and living styles, there is bound to be jealousy and hunger for something better. While we cannot condone criminal actions based on that, we need to be adequately prepared for any consequences. People come to Mumbai from all over the country looking for jobs, and that cannot be stopped in a free country. The least we can do is to ensure our own safety and security by insisting on certain mechanisms for which we are paying our hard earned money in any case. Why not insist on quality ?

So, let us not forget safety and security in our own maximum city.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
11th August 2012
Mumbai