V. S. Ramamurthy, co-chair of the workshop planning committee, opened the workshop by welcoming all those present, which included those who had traveled from New Delhi, Mumbai, and the United States as well as the faculty and students of the National Institute for Advanced Studies. He stated that the goal of the workshop was to openly and frankly share experiences and expertise and to consider areas of potential cooperation between Indian and U.S. scientific and technical experts to address the significant challenges of countering terrorism. International terrorism remains a compelling challenge, not only for India and the United States, but also for many other countries and regions of the world. Given the high caliber of scientific and technical experts gathered at the workshop, Ramamurthy stated that there was no doubt that jointly tremendous progress can be made.
Ramamurthy introduced the keynote speaker, Deputy National Security Advisor Nehchal Sandhu, to explain the nature and scope of the terrorist threats India faces.
Nehchal Sandhu professed that Indian practitioners, for more than 30 years, have not had sufficiently wide and deep interactions with the scientific community of the country. Sandhu therefore dedicated some of his remarks to what he perceived as the current gaps in countering terrorism and what he believes the scientific community can do to assist.
Sandhu underscored Ramamurthy’s remarks regarding international terrorism as a compelling challenge and the possibility that its burgeoning profile is going to affect larger sections of the world community. Sandhu noted that, in the Indian context, the level of terrorist violence has been consistently decreasing. While that is a good sign, he also admitted that terrorists still retain the capacity to strike hard, to strike at will, and to carry out incidents that result in mass casualties. The November 26, 2008, attacks in Mumbai resulted in a loss of more than 100 lives in a multi-scene attack that persisted over 3 days until the challenge was surmounted. Even as the numbers of incidents have decreased in India, Sandhu stated that there was an awareness of the reality that the ugly face of
terrorism could arise anywhere and precipitate incidents that result in mass casualties with all of the attendant issues that they create for the government to address.
Sandhu, during his remarks, limited his assessment of the current situation and the reality of terrorism in India to the two most vital theaters from the government’s perspective. The first is Jammu and Kashmir, which has been the venue of terrorism since 1989. The second is terrorism in the northeast, where it has been festering longer. In both cases, there is a significant external factor contributing to the tensions. The forces or groups that carry out terrorism in India, or in Jammu and Kashmir specifically, are not exclusively focused on India. There is a need for the world community to take note of the fact that the same forces pose terrorists threat in many other parts of the world. Sandhu said he was tempted to recall that when the Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism with the United States first met in 1999, India’s assertions about the threat of Lashkar-e-Taiba to the American mainland was met with disbelief, until then U.S. Coordinator for Counterterrorism Michael Sheehan began to understand input from India. U.S. experts began to take note of the extensive Lashkar documentation that existed indicating a threat to the United States. There have been a few cases where Lashkar has been directly implicated in conspiracies on the American mainland in addition to what they have been doing in theaters in India.1
Sandhu noted that he does not believe the thesis that has been put forth by some quarters that Lashkar is a franchisee or a subordinate group of Al Qaeda. Ideologically, there is no way in which the two could come together. Al Qaeda in India is not as well organized with cohorts and outfitted as Lashkar. The numbers of Lashkar adherents is significantly higher. Denominationally and ideologically, there is no meeting ground between Al Qaeda and Lashkar.2 That said, he believes we need to pay attention to the fact that Lashkar has adopted the program of global jihad.
Sandhu strongly urged members of the American delegation to take note that this single organization, which today has a membership of about 3,500 to 3,700 people is the next big threat to the world. Soon after it came into being in the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, evidence came to light of Lashkar activity in Iraq, Chechnya, Dagestan, and Kosovo.3 Lashkar withdrew from those territories for good reason, to reinvigorate and reassemble its capacities. Over the last 2.5
1Members of a Virginia jihad network had provided material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and the Muridke camps of LeT, near Lahore, was used as a hideout for Mir Aimal Kansi, convicted for killing Central Intelligence Agency officers in January 1993.
2Steve Cohen pointed out that he does not know of any credible sources that argue that LeT has a close relationship with Al Qaeda. That may have been true in the first years of LeT and Al Qaeda, but Bruce Riedel, Steven Tankel, and others have argued that they are quite different organizations.
3Padukone, Neil. “The Next Al-Qaeda? Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Future of Terrorism in South Asia,” World Affairs Journal, November/December 2011. Available at: http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/next-al-qaeda-lashkar-e-taiba-and-future-terrorism-south-asia; accessed October 24, 2014.
years, a significantly enlarged presence of Lashkar has been seen in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan, namely Kunar and Nuristan. These are only serving as a holding ground and as platforms for actions farther westward into other parts of Afghanistan, and more specifically as a means of targeting Kabul over a period of time. Some of these attacks have been carried out by Lashkar independently. Others have been carried out in conjunction with groups like the Haqqani Network. Sandhu noted that the westward mobility established by Lashkar indicates that it has designs much larger than one might have expected. Although there are many other terrorist groups, he does not think that any other group represents the kind of threat that Lashkar does.
Sandhu praised the U.S. designation of Lashkar as a terrorist group and the continuing efforts, including U.S. Treasury Department efforts, to ensure that finance channels that sustain the operatives of Lashkar are systematically disrupted. All of that continues to restrain plans to extend Lashkar’s jihad to global proportion.
Sandhu then discussed Jammu and Kashmir and shared figures that might reveal the situation more clearly. In 2001, there were 3,504 terrorist incidents resulting in approximately 1,520 casualties in Jammu and Kashmir. In 2013, there were 113 incidents with 15 casualties. This reflects significant success by the security forces in dealing with this challenge. Another clear indicator of progress is that from a high number of 3,700 terrorists in the province of Jammu and Kashmir, there are now only 429 terrorists. This also indicates that there has been significant attrition and that the capacity of Lashkar to rejuvenate and to reinvigorate in Jammu and Kashmir has to a large extent been impared.
Two broad strategies have brought benefits in Jammu and Kashmir. One is the erection of a physical obstacle, a fence, along the Line of Control (LoC) and the international border in the state. The second is the deployment of high-tech surveillance devices, whether those are hand-held thermal imagers, long-range observation systems, battlefield surveillance radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, or other devices. There is a diverse combination of equipment and material on the ground to try to maintain the integrity of the fence and to detect every effort made to cross it. Notwithstanding these efforts, Sandhu indicated that every year 300 to 400 terrorists try to cross the fence and about a hundred were successful. The government estimates that in 2013, 97 terrorists managed to get through. This occurs mostly due to the heavy snow and ice that blankets some areas to depths of 4 to 5 meters, covering and in some places mangling the 3.3-meter fence. People attempting to cross have to be adept at ice-craft and snow-craft, which means the numbers of successful attempts in winter is limited. When the snow and ice recede, approximately 30 percent of the fence must be rebuilt each year at considerable cost. More importantly, it takes a month or two to re-erect the damaged fence, leaving areas exposed for some months.
The existing multifaceted approach to detecting and neutralizing terrorists within the state of Jammu and Kashmir consists of three broad elements. First, there is what in India is called a Counterterrorism Grid, which means the territory of the state of Jammu and Kashmir has been mapped onto a grid. Each section
of the grid has been assigned to specific units to patrol, and units collaborate across the grid elements. The second part of the program consists of intelligence-driven operations. Whether that intelligence is acquired by technical means or by human sources, there is an ability to act quickly on intelligence. That is how losses are inflicted on terrorist groups, Sandhu stated. Third, there has been a sustained campaign to ensure that people whose normal activities are circumscribed by violence perpetrated by terrorists are not only liberated from that stranglehold, but are also able to pursue their avocations and participate in India’s democratic traditions, for example, by becoming members of the legislative assembly. Through legitimate elections, voters elect people who can justifiably and appropriately represent the interests of the people and seek recourse and remedies to address concerns and grievances through legitimate means rather than through violence.
Shifting to the northeast states, there were 1,076 incidents in 2004 with approximately 500 casualties. In 2013, there were 732 incidents with 107 casualties. Sandhu noted that the number of incidents was reduced by only 25 percent in 10 years. Casualties, however, were reduced by 75 percent, which is a significant advance. The four states where there are issues of concern are Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Nagaland.
Sandhu stated that different counterterrorism strategies have been pursued in different areas. For example, in Nagaland and Assam, there have been dialogues with terrorist groups for a long time. As a result, for example, in Assam, today there are 21 autonomous councils. They cover specific jurisdictions wherein peoples’ representatives are largely from the ethnic group of that particular area. The councils have the capacity to decide where to apply development funds, and where they want to allocate other money that becomes available: to build roads or schools, or for some other purpose. That has been one part of the model. The other part has been a joint command including the army and the paramilitary forces to deal with the threat as it emerges in different areas.
While there has been some success, when the government “settles” with one group and invests elected representatives from that group with power, there may be a remnant group that remains deprived of the gains of office. This leads to reoccurrences of insurgencies. The Bodoland territory is one example, where, over a period of 15 years, three sets of people have engaged in an insurgency, and this is still a persistent problem. Sandhu admitted that he is uncertain whether elected representatives of people on these small councils are ultimately the answer. Simultaneously, police actions and paramilitary actions have continued, and that has led to some reduction in the number of casualties and a greater degree of security.
In Nagaland, talks have been held with one of the factions of the Nagaland Socialist Council, the Isak Muivah faction, for more than a decade. As a result, violence has been reduced, although other groups do not feel constrained and have continued with some degree of violence. The struggle for supremacy between the various groups leads to fratricidal killing (killing of people in one’s
own group) as opposed to killing of civilians (killing of those from other groups). This is a different kind of violence.
Here, too, it is important to mention that external factors help drive these forces of terrorism. The availability of territories in Bangladesh and increasingly in northern Myanmar has provided these groups areas of sanctuary where they can regroup. These are platforms through which funds can be collected and funneled into territories in India. These are areas where weapons acquisitions occur. In late January 2014, a Bangladeshi court convicted 10 people, including Paresh Baruah, 4 for having attempted to bring 10 truckloads of weapons into India.5 Another area of interest is the southern Chinese state of Yunnan, not very far from Myanmar. Sandhu stated that there is ample evidence of Indian insurgents headquartered in and around Myanmar, Taga, and Naga Hills taking shelter in a place called Ruili, which is just across the border in China on the road to Kumming.
Sandhu provided another example of the connection to external forces. About 2 or 3 years ago, Anthony Shimray, a Naga insurgent, went to Thailand and contracted with gunrunners for the delivery of several million dollars’ worth of weapons for which he had paid a million dollars in advance. An investigation by the National Investigation Agency exposed the plot and he was intercepted; today he is the subject of prosecution in court in Delhi. Further, 161 AK-47 rifles were smuggled recently in three different tranches across the Myanmar border into Nagaland. The rifles were a part of the weapons purchase initiated by Anthony Shimray.
A third matter Sandhu addressed in regard to Lashkar is what has been termed the Indian Mujahidin. There have been reports in the press about this group causing terrorist acts. The leader of this group, Yasin Bhatkal, was arrested, and prior to that, Saudi Arabia repatriated Zabiuddin Ansari.6 It is important to note that while these people are clearly Indian nationals and they have no foreign background, each one of them has been taken to Pakistan, usually through a third country in the Middle East and sometimes even through Iran to Pakistan, trained in camps there and then sent back to carry out terrorist acts inside India. What is also more interesting is that this has happened more than once. It is not just a matter of being taken there, trained, and then sent back. Guidance flows from nodal points in Pakistan through clandestine communication channels about selection of targets, timing of attacks, positioning of weapons and hardware, the supply of money, and other aspects. There is an estab-
4Baruah is the chief of one Assam’s insurgent groups.
5Allchin, Joseph and Victor Mallet. “Bangladesh Court Sentences 14 to Death for Huge Weapons Haul.” Financial Times, January 30, 2014. Available at: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0cebf490-89af-11e3-abc4-00144feab7de.html#axzz3H61620SF; accessed October 16, 2014.
6Zabiuddin Ansari is an Indian national and an Islamic fundamentalist belonging to the Indian Mujahidin and LeT, and has been accused of involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
lished externality, a key component outside of India, in the way in which the Indian Mujahidin group is able to carry out its activities.
Sandhu then turned to the issue of where science and technology experts—like those at the workshop—can possibly play a role in assisting the state apparatus in dealing with terrorism. First, in India, much of the identification of potential terrorist recruits, their enlistment and motivation, takes place on the Internet. Most of the recruits are younger people who understand how to use the Internet. Of the 1.2 billion people in India, there are 243 million Internet subscribers, 42 million of them use broadband service through land lines and the remaining approximately 201 million users are on mobile platforms. Most of the mobile platforms are patronized by youth who use them for social networks like Facebook and Twitter. There is a segment of the population that uses these networks for nonpeaceful pursuits. There are chat rooms, for example, that remain exclusive to people who are swayed by a certain kind of ideology. They tend to have entrenched radical positions and this sometimes translates into terrorist activity.
It remains a challenge for law enforcement agencies to keep track of what is happening in real time on the Internet, in chat rooms, and elsewhere. One of the reasons is, unlike in America, the Indian government is not permitted to monitor all of the traffic that occurs. Government agencies are permitted under law to approach authorities to obtain warrants for specific targets. Sandhu stated that the government cannot just suspect someone of doing something harmful and monitor that activity. Law enforcement agencies must identify targets to be monitored and request warrants that may or may not be granted. Once approved, the warrants are subjected to a system of review. Therefore, there is quite a challenge in securing warrants, and even when the suspected traffic is monitored, law enforcement is unable to decipher some of that traffic. As a result, the government remains unaware of all of the radicalizing activity that is taking place on the Internet. Internet-based human sources, where agents and operatives masquerade as X or Y individual, enter groups, and help to take sites down are not permitted in India, unlike in the West. Indian law does not permit law enforcement to conduct such sting operations.
Another area of concern is communication, broadly defined, including not only the Internet, but also IP-based radios and cellular data networks: global system for mobile satellite communications (GSM) and code division multiple access. In the radio frequency spectrum where GSM networks of a neighboring country are being spread into India through high-powered external transmission and reception networks, much of the traffic is not in the voice domain, but in the data domain. Discussion is necessary for defining an approach to address the challenge posed.
Decoding encrypted traffic remains a challenge, particularly with regard to specific conspiracies that rapidly progress. Sandhu recounted that about 3 years ago, Indian authorities recovered a device that was like a small calculator, a keypad, attached to a very high frequency (VHF) radio. The keypad had Arabic letters on it, and users would enter their messages in Arabic, then the little key-
pad would encrypt the message and send it out in burst mode through the VHF radio. Sandhu shared the device with his Indian colleagues and with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. After more than 2 years, they still do not really know how that device worked. Innovative designs like this continue to appear, which defeat efforts to monitor what is occuring.
Another significant domain in need of scientific and technical assistance is that of explosives. Sandhu noted that there are three specific areas where they have difficulty. The ability of terrorists to use common materials to fabricate bombs—glycerin, soap, ammonium nitrate, potassium chlorate, sulphur, charcoal, etc.—makes it difficult to prevent such bombs. Sandhu was not certain if scientists could help with detection of explosive devices made out of these materials. They realize that even though these materials can be easily obtained and mixed, the detonation mechanisms are not as readily available. They require controlled materials such as an electric detonator or a detonator at the end of a fuse wire.
That said, Sandhu noted that they have had difficulties in tracking detonators. Detonators are issued for legitimate purposes, such as in mining and blasting rock for building roads. India lacks a means of going back to the last point of sale of detonators. Indian experts are able to trace if they had been manufactured by a certain company, if they had gone to a certain state, but after that point it is not possible to trace them to the end user. They are hoping to acquire a mechanism whereby each detonator can be tracked all the way from manufacturer to user. Second, detonators in explosives are often linked by a common wire to a battery some distance away and when someone presses a switch to cause the detonation. With timers, terrorists are able to distance themselves from the site of explosion. There are timing delays, not just on the electronic detonators but even on physical, manual detonators. It is not always possible to be precise when it comes to a detonation mechanism of that type, but they have been used in the past.
Light-dependent resisters (LDR) can also be programmed as detonators. They can be put into a room such as a conference room, for example. When someone comes in and turns the lights on in the morning, the mechanism would be activated, and 40 minutes later or in 1 hour, for example, the device would detonate. Conversely, at times terrorists construct the mechanism to cause an explosion when darkness decends. LDRs are another effective means of separating the perpetrator from the event. Other cases include loosely termed solar-powered rockets. These are rockets that are placed roughly 4 to 5 kilometers from the target. Again, there can be a device similar to an LDR. As sunlight reaches a certain level, a rocket would be triggered. Usually such devices are quite inaccurate, but they do have a fairly lethal capacity even when they are off their mark.
Cellular phones and wireless sets are also used as triggers. They are now more sophisticated than original designs where the mere establishment of a carrier or a ring was sufficient to detonate a device. Today, there are devices in which detonation will not occur until communication has been established and a
four- or six-digit code has been entered. It is not unusual for terrorists to wait for an army convoy to approach to establish the connection and then wait until the intended target approaches to enter the code and detonate the device. Thus far, Sandhu stated, security agencies have not been able to develop effective ways of detecting the presence of such a device or defeating it. For example, they would like to operate a vehicle that can send out a barrage of frequencies at sufficient strength to cause a device to detonate far in advance of those who may be approaching. There is a third part of the physical aspects of explosives that needs to be addressed. Terrorists have begun to create shaped explosives like claymore mines to direct the maximum fury of the device in a certain direction. For example, recent Indian Mujahidin bomb blasts were created from a wooden boat-shaped structure. The structures are lined with metal and then filled with explosives following the boat’s shape. Ball-bearings were placed in front and a detonator was placed in the back and with a timer. When the blast occurred, shrapnel flew in a certain direction. Copper-backed shapes are also used to launch the maximum impact of the explosive in a certain direction. Booby-trapped bodies are another means of delivering a detonation that causes significant challenges. When someone is killed and the body is booby-trapped, anyone who comes to inspect the body can be blown up in a secondary explosion.
India has cooperated with the U.S. Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) on detection of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), below ground and elsewhere. Sandhu stated that the two or three programs conducted with JIEDDO did not provide a satisfactory means of detecting and disrupting IEDs dug into roads 2 or 3 feet below ground. It was not possible to detect any of these devices. There is insufficient emission of vapor for detection, and the metallic parts are too deep for even a deep-search metal detector to detect a device.
Sandhu raised another challenge to which they have not yet found a solution. Terrorists have dug tunnels in at least three instances under the LoC. These tunnels are typically 3 to 4 meters underground and are usually 1.5 meters high and about 1 meter wide. They run approximately 700 to 800 meters, starting approximately 200 meters on the other side of the LoC and extend 500 meters into the Indian side. Two broad techniques have been tried to disrupt this tactic: ground-penetrating radar and conductivity tests, neither of which has been successful. Although there are strong defenses on the surface (e.g., good fences), there is no apparent solution to the challenge of deeply burrowed tunnels.
Sandhu described areas where India has conducted significant research. One such area is on increased equipment reliability. Recently, in Central India, there have been several cases where helicopters used for casualty evacuation, for flying commanders from point A to point B or for flying policemen from point A to point B, have been struck by adversary weapons at critical moments which bring them down. There have been cases of hydraulic failure, and cases in which the tail rotor has been blown off. There have also been cases of fuel tank puncture. A program has been initiated to protect these helicopters by bullet-proofing critical sections of the helicopter. Unfortunately, vulnerabilities remain.
Sandhu noted that there is yet another area, a relatively soft area, where terrorists have done a great deal in terms of using technology for harmful purposes: the replication of travel documents, identity papers such as election ID cards, drivers licenses, and passports. The high quality of the counterfeiting makes these false documents very difficult to detect. He noted that they have tried four or five ways of embedding security features into these documents, some of which have worked, while others of which have not. Certainly, this is an area where solutions are urgently needed.
Another area of concern that Sandhu noted is the poisoning of the water supply, which has been declared as an intended target by terrorists. There have only been two cases thus far. Fortunately, in both cases the quantity of cyanide put into the water was too small, and therefore, it did not create the kind of impact that the perpetrators were intending. Therefore, detection of even small qualities of poisonous substances, not only cyanide, in large volumes of water available for consumption is needed.
In closing, Sandhu stated that radiological dispersal devices, so called dirty bombs, are also of concern, although there have been no such incidents in India. This is another area where India will need a great deal of assistance and cooperation from the scientific and technical communities because it is quite a challenge.
Sandhu then concluded his prepared remarks and stated his willingness to answer questions from workshop participants.
Norman Augustine, co-chair of the workshop planning committee, began by thanking Sandhu and noting that his remarks were sobering due to the magnitude of the challenges faced in India. He asked a question about the progress and success in reducing casualties caused by terrorism in India and in the United States. Did Sandhu notice a difference in the threat or in the nature of the activities as India has been more successful at interdicting terrorists? Have they changed the nature of their attacks?
Sandhu replied that he was referring to the counter-terrorism grid that was established in Jammu and Kashmir in conjunction with the army and paramilitary forces. Essentially, what the grid does is rid the populated areas of terrorists. They have to move away into the upper reaches and away from civilian pockets. If the civilians and terrorists can maintain that separation, they are reasonably certain that terrorists would not have the capacity to conduct a mass killing. That is what they concentrate on.
Once the terrorists are driven into the hills, there are fewer civilians amongst them and the ability to engage terrorists without causing collateral damage is much better. However, they continue to identify means of creating problems. For example, it is not unusual for them to use surrogates or unsuspecting collaborators to cause harm. They may fabricate an explosive device packed in an innocuous item
such as a transistor radio and tell an innocent person that it needs to be given to a specific person for repair, asking that person to deliver the item. Upon delivery, the radio blows up. There is very little one can do about these incidents. Police try to keep changing their tactics such as setting up checkpoints for detecting the material that comes into civilian areas, but terrorists continue to innovate such that they can get around whatever devices are erected to prevent terrorist acts.
R. Narasimha thanked Sandhu for his informative account of the terrorist problems in India, especially those that demand solutions in the realm of science and technology. There was a similar India-U.S. meeting 10 years ago, and at various times discussions with American and Indian colleagues have been held about these issues. What mechanisms are there in India to discuss these problems with scientists and technical experts and not necessarily within the government?
Sandhu replied that sadly there is no such mechanism. When M. K. Narayanan was the director of the Intelligence Bureau, he established a mechanism whereby there was a Technology Group within the Bureau that had representatives from all over. They had then taken up something very interesting with the Defence Institute of Psychological Research about “what makes a terrorist,” looking at a large body of material collected over a period of time, and very worthwhile work resulted.
There is obviously a case to be made to reviving a forum for the exchange of ideas where at least the practitioners of counterterrorism can bring their problems forward and put them on the table and have the scientific community address those issues. There are many bilateral discussions, but nothing like a platform, for example. Prof. Balakrishnan is assisting with big data analytics and sentiment analysis. This is all one on one, which is not necessarily the only way to proceed.
Sandhu stated that he was just struck by another possibility regarding science and technology integration into counterterrorism efforts. The National Knowledge Network (NKN) will soon become a reality, connecting 1,562 institutions within the country; 1,003 have already been connected.7 The NKN permits the creation of communities that facilitate collaboration across geographies on a given subject. Maybe Indian experts could suggest to R. Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to the Prime Minister, and Professor Raghavan that a closed group be created on the NKN where counterterrorism practitioners could pose problems, and those with capacities to address the challenges could log in, see the problems, and select problems with regard to which they could assist. There would be money within the PSA’s office to finance such activities. Perhaps this is a model that could help.
A workshop participant strongly seconded the proposal and added that it is certainly possible for this type of group interaction via the NKN and that it should certainly be pursued.
Sandhu replied that he thinks the biggest advantage of this kind of a group would be flexibility, because different sets of skills are needed, and one does not necessarily need to have a permanent set of people at one place for solving all problems.
Sandhu agreed that there are some very interesting experiments of this nature that have taken place in India. There is an annual event at IIT Delhi where one can see new technologies on display. Technologies that could help, and programs are initiated with those who developed the technology. Notably, one of them was low power transmitters to be left on unattended buoys in the sea. They had other applications too. Another example was video analytics being done in the Bharti (2) Building. What Sandhu noticed at IIT Delhi of particular interest was what they called the Technology Business Incubation Unit. Some technologies identified 10 years ago have spun off into successful enterprises. A company called Kritikal is an example; they created an automatic number plate recognition device. They created underbody cameras for detecting devices. Now they have come to the stage where they are a credible independent company. That is a huge success story. Certainly, there is a need for the scientific community to at least be aware of the problems. A workshop participant then asked if there are any laboratories in India that specialize in forensics and technology for counterterrorism.
Sandhu noted that there are a number of very, very good labs. For example, most of the computer devices and other computer media or mobile phones seized from terrorists receive the best imaginable examination at the Forensic Science Laboratory in Hyderabad. In terms of voice matching, Gandhinagar is impressive. In terms of DNA analysis, the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad is extremely good. In terms of explosives, Madhuban Forensics Laboratory in Haryana is fantastic. These are centers of excellence that have done great work in these areas, and there is no limit to the kind of challenges that they can take on.
Another participant addressed a question to Sandhu. India has a long coastline, and there are a number of chemical facilities along the coast that are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. There are also 21 different ministries that coordinate security within India. Is there any hope of creating a Department of Homeland Security, as was created in the United States after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks? Is there any move to bring a coordinated approach toward counterterrorism?
Sandhu stated that there are 17 agencies that are involved in coastal security apart from the government of India itself. There are three different elements to the response that the Indian government has mounted, particularly after the 1993 Bombay attacks. There is the marine police. Every state is to have marine police stations. There is the coast guard, and then there is the navy. The traditional breakdown of jurisdictions has been by the number of nautical miles from the coastline. At a distance of up to 5 nautical miles into the sea, marine police are to address every incident. Between 5 and 12 nautical miles, the coast guard has jurisdiction, and beyond 12 nautical miles, the navy has jurisdiction over
response. There has been inadequate collaboration among these three organizations, and the marine police have taken a long time to develop. The people recruited into the marine police do not have sea legs, and they do not understand what operating in the sea water means. Sandu said that they have something called the National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security, and under that committee, a Maritime Domain Awareness Project is being pursued. The lead in that effort is provided by the navy, with the coast guard and marine police included.
The entire plan is yet to unfold, but it is in the process of being developed. Workshop participants may be aware that fishing communities are being contacted, and campaigns are being conducted among them. Selected fishermen are being given mobile phones and asked to report unusual events from the high seas.
All of that is being aggregated into a system. There are periodic exercises involving the maritime police, the coast guard, and the navy. The third layer remains weak. The navy and the coast guard are proceeding as they should, but the marine police are not yet as effective as they should be.
Another question was asked of Sandhu: Is there any indication that terrorists are resorting to newer, cheaper technologies for their attacks? If so, is there any way of countering this?
Sandhu responded that this is happening in two ways. About 8 years ago, India seized what was called a Radio-Controlled Aerial Module (RCAM) that had a wide span of about 6.5 feet and a capacity to carry about 3 or 4 kilograms with its own magnetic drop mechanism. The fact that terrorists had thought of this 8 years ago, and India actually seized RCAMs, which could be controlled from the ground, indicates that they have explored these options quite intently.
The second issue came up during the run-up to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. There were a number of alerts about terrorists wanting to use micro lights. The difference between an unmanned aerial vehicle and the micro light is that the micro light must be manned. The advantage of the micro light is that noise levels are very low. It would not be detected as something unusual. Police had to undertake a number of measures to prevent that kind of activity as it is certainly within the realm of terrorist thinking.
The next question addressed social media. In the United States, offices are opening that are dedicated to social media and to obtaining useful information and getting it out to the public as well as to inhibiting misinformation. Is there any similar activity in India? How is social media being addressed?
Sandhu replied that he suspected that the participant was referring to using social media for propagating a viewpoint that a person believes is correct so that people can understand that perspective. Some of the better police forces are already doing this. The problem is how to detect the dominant sentiments, and which populations are affected by them? Once this is done, then we can create operational responses for mitigating misrepresentation that causes concern to people.
There are a couple of very interesting studies on this, including one by a company called Autonomy, which was bought by Hewlett Packard. They did a great job during the London Olympics, not just in mapping sentiments and identifying what was troubling whom, but also in judging peoples’ reaction to the way in which the police acted in certain situations in order to provide scope for modifying their responses. There is a very interesting four-page paper available on the Internet with regard to Autonomy’s success. There were 3 billion messages examined every day, which was interesting.
Following this, Srinivas Mukkamala stated that Sandhu had raised very good points regarding IEDs and tracking terrorist activities on social media. In the United States, universities are given problems to solve. One example was on a project called Computational Analysis of Cyber-Terrorism Against the United States.8 Under this project, researchers were not allowed to examine what was happening in the United States due to privacy issues. Instead, they looked at Iraq, Afghanistan, eastern Europe, and several other countries. They were able to translate foreign language transmissions. Their examinatiton helped identify where people were buying raw materials, who was building what, and who was funding what, and they built a prototype and gave it back to the intelligence community where it can be used in models.
One of the aspects involved was investigating social media as a means of recruiting. This was very successful. They were able to build volumes of data to show how groups selected school students. They showed how these groups were infiltrating the U.S. school system, compromising websites, and posting positive messages about Islam.
Mukkamala came back to how scientific communities can help. There are several universities in the United States that were given really hard problems. While the suspect is working, the problem is also being explored by researchers to identify solutions and determine where basic research converges with operational issues. There was a project for the U.S. government on future combat systems that aimed to determine if it is possible to disable a future war fighter using radio frequency identification (RFID). They took an RFID tag, put a real mallet on it, and were able to disable the authentication between command control and a war fighter. This technology could take down pacemakers and insulin pumps eventually.
In the United States, SWAT teams assist cities, banks, and hospitals in identifying measures to secure their information. It has been working very well, and is a true private/public partnership where universities are given an opportunity to solve problems and still commercialize the solutions. Is there anything like this in India?
Sandhu replied that the Technology Based Incubator of Delhi University is one example. There is another initiative that has just begun at IIT Bombay,
8See Washingtonwatch.com. Computational Analysis of Cyber-Terrorism against the United States. Description available at: http://washingtonwatch.com/bills/show/ED_40857.html; accessed September 26, 2014.
called the National Center for Internal Security. IIT Madras is going to do some of these projects as well. There is a Reliance Institute of Communication in Ahmedabad, which is doing some work in this area. There are a number of enterprises, but Sandhu does not believe they have an aggregate view of what is happening.
Stephen Cohen asked what really inhibits the Indian government from being more proactive in terms of monitoring or attacking groups on the Internet?
Sandhu replied that this is a question of technical capacity, not a question of authority. Once they know how to do this, they can approach the government for authorization, and sections of the IT Act have relevant provisions. The government will not permit “fishing,” i.e., the examination of a mass of information in a bid to find a needle in the haystack. The government will certainly permit directed monitoring. For that, they need to know the source of the trouble, which is where the scientific community can help. They can localize the target area.
Byron Gardner asked a question about the threats India is facing. He and his colleagues spent a great deal of effort worrying about attacks on distribution and transmission systems, transportation systems for liquid fuels, and public transportation systems. What is India’s experience with attacks on those facilities and that kind of infrastructure?
Sandhu replied that as far as transmission systems and power distribution systems are concerned, they have had two kinds of attacks. The most frequent and most primitive has been to put explosives onto the feet of pylons and bring them down and thereby disrupt transmission. They have had to deal with any number of cases and in any number of states with that kind of activity.
This is not to say that people have not had their share of sophisticated attacks. They have targeted load dispatch centers, regional load centers, SCADA systems, and so forth. That is why the power sector has been one of the first to establish Computer Emergency Response Teams and Information Sharing and Analysis Centers. They are the ones that are networked with the national center; this is an ongoing effort.
As far as transportation security is concerned, Indian efforts have been more on the side of passenger security on metros and on urban trains. A number of efforts have been put into place to ensure security of those systems, but beyond this, not much work has been conducted.