Ex-spies pitch for parliamentary oversight

Say lack of accountability of intelligence agencies has led to repetition of mistakes

prasanna

Prasanna Mohanty | July 24, 2012



It is not just vice-president Hamid Ansari or an odd politician like Manish Tewari who, apart from civil society activists, are seeking accountability of our intelligence agencies, even the old intelligence hands themselves feel the need for it.

B Raman, former R&AW official and an eminent security analyst, strongly pitched for a ‘parliamentary oversight’ on the plea that these agencies dealing with national security matters continue to commit the same mistakes because there is little discussion or appraisals. “When there is a setback or failure, analyse it professionally to know the deficiencies….It happens in the UK and elsewhere but there is reluctance to discuss it here. There is no damage assessment, no scholarly or professional analysis to know why it happened”, he said in New Delhi on Monday. He was speaking at a function to mark release of a spy thriller, Escape to Nowhere, by retired special secretary of R&AW, Amar Bushan, which is based on the infamous defection of Ravindra Singh, a serving joint secretary in R&AW then, in 2004 to the US.

Raman, though confessed that he hadn’t read the book, wondered if a fictional account contributed anything to our understanding of the sordid episode. “Are we any wiser?” he sought to know.

Ved Marwah, retired IPS officer who held several sensitive posts dealing with national security, too lamented about the lack of checks and balances in the way the intelligence agencies functioned and pointed out how no follow up action was taken in response to Ravindra Singh’s defection even when it had a far greater security implication because he was known to be in constant touch with a former R&AW chief.

Bhushan explained how it was the Official Secrets Act and other gag laws that prevented open debate and forced him to write a fictional account. He was chief of the counter-intelligence wing of R&AW at the time of Ravindra Singh’s escape. He mounted an elaborate watch and collected crucial evidence but reluctance of his higher ups to act against the mole led to his eventual escape to the US, according to his book.
 

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