In your interest.
Online Personal Finance Magazine
No beating about the bush.
According to Concise Oxford dictionary, surveillance means 'close observation, especially of a suspected person'. Congress party through Aadhaar, UIDAI and Nilekani is facilitating surveillance of the nation, citizens and the national assets by transnational actors—with impunity
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.' 'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.' 'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master—that’s all.'
Lewis Carroll’s character Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass
If World Bank Group is not the master of language being used in the world economy then who else is? Is it the “financial Interpol” as well? The body which undertakes financial surveillance is a “financial Interpol” for sure.
An official publication of World Bank Group’s International Monetary Fund (IMF) reveals, “Surveillance, a central pillar of IMF activities and responsibilities in the modern era, is not an easy concept to grasp.”
It will have us accept that only the master can grasp and communicate the meaning of ‘surveillance’. IMF commiserates with the lesser mortals stating that it knows that ‘surveillance’ does sound terrible. This is understandable.
Jacob A Frenkel, an official of IMF is quoted as arguing that this word ‘surveillance’ should be made to sound benign. It “should give way to concepts of cooperation, partnership, and consultation; of bringing on board the rest of the world’s considerations.” This publication states, “In practice, surveillance has encapsulated all of the above notions, but at its best it has been motivated by and has itself promoted a spirit of international cooperation.”
This publication informs that the first official use of the term came in June 1974. IMF was concerned that “Few, if any countries, however, were prepared to be subjected to surveillance in that strong sense. The 1980s therefore became a decade of experimentation, in which the staff and management of the Fund constantly probed and prodded to see how far they could go in persuading countries to respond positively to Fund analysis and advice.” This concern of IMF is deeply touching. But IMF’s efforts did yield results and by the mid-1990s, a “silent revolution” had happened in countries like India, it infers.
By 2013, at least citizens of 35 countries and their heads know exactly what ‘surveillance’ means. It does sound terrible. Both National Security Agency (NSA) of the US and World Bank Group have a different and benevolent sounding meaning in mind. The publication admits, “Even among IMF staff, those questions did not yield uniform answers.” This incomprehension among them is understandable because The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English tells them that it means “close observation especially of a suspected person.” Heads of financial institutions, Barack Obama and Dr Manmohan Singh should consider getting this dictionary meaning changed through their power of persuasion, peer pressure and advertising to avoid confusion that still exists despite relentless and sincere efforts at least since 1974.
This IMF publication states, “If surveillance was to have any substance, the Fund would have to develop that influence: through the power of persuasion (Fund management and staff to country authorities), through peer pressure (country to country in the forum of the Fund), and through publicity (Fund to the public). The relative merit of each of these channels was always the subject of much debate. Was publicity appropriate, or would it conflict with and even nullify the benefits of persuasion and peer pressure?” The publication uses the word ‘Fund’ to refer to IMF.
IMF asks itself, “Did surveillance mean that the IMF was expected to be a financial Interpol, seeking out and punishing errant behavior, or should its role be more that of a faithful confidant of those entrusted with implementing macroeconomic policies around the world?”
Hasn’t India become “a faithful confidant” of World Bank Group?
There is a chapter “On the Map: Making Surveillance Work” under the section Revolutions in the International Monetary System in the publication titled Silent Revolution: The International Monetary Fund 1979–1989 by James M Boughton published in 2001. The chapter deals with the principles and procedures of surveillance. It may be recalled that Pranab Mukherjee, our President was deeply engaged with the World Bank in various roles from 1982 to 1985.
Notably, it was Mukherjee who formed Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and announced its setting up during the 2009-10 budget speech. He was the Finance Minister from 24 January 2009 to 26 June 2012. In fact, it is remarkable that within four days of taking over as Finance Minister, he got the UIDAI notified on 28 January 2009 by the Planning Commission. In all likelihood, he was part of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) too, which took a decision about the formation of UIDAI on 4 November 2008.
It may recalled that while presenting the Union Budget in 2011-12, Mukherjee, the then Union Finance Minister informed the Lok Sabha that Technology Advisory Group for Unique Projects (TAGUP) headed by Nandan Nilekani, chairman, UIDAI has submitted its report dated 31 January 2011 and its recommendations have been accepted in principle. As a consequence the sovereign function of tax collection is all set to be handed over to an entity called National Information Utility (NIU), which will be a private company with a public purpose and with profit making as the motive but not profit maximizing. This is yet another lesson either in language or in linguistic corruption.
Earlier, it must be recalled that on 11 January 2011, Business Standard reported that “India has sought an assessment under the Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. “India did a self-assessment (by the Committee on Financial Sector Assessment, or CFSA) of its financial sector in 2009. This has given us the confidence to get our financial sector evaluated by international financial institutions like IMF and the World Bank. We have voluntarily sought a full-fledged Financial Sector Assessment Programme,” the then finance minister Mukherjee said at the second International Finance Conference at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta. This is an admission of the fact that India has subjected itself to the surveillance principles and procedures of IMF. By now Indians know how tricky the use of word ‘voluntary’ is when the Bank is involved in any way.
Chronologically, after this announcement by Mukherjee, Government of India and the World Bank signed a loan agreement of $150 million on 10 May 2011 for the e-Delivery of Public Services Development Policy Loan under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP). NeGP is a flagship e-governance initiative approved in May 2006 as a national program to create 'single window' Common Services Centers. NeGP has identified 27 priority projects to be transformed using e-services including details on land records in some 250,000 areas. This loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has a 5-year grace period and a maturity of 18 years.
And on 13 May 2011, delivering his speech ‘India in a Multipolar World’, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, managing director of World Bank said, “The President of India has recently spelled out among the priorities of her government a set of reforms on governance. This includes initiatives to promote e-governance, which is potentially an effective tool for enhanced transparency, equity and accountability as well as hopefully for administrative reforms. I met Nandan Nilekani this morning and was impressed by the potential impact of the Unique ID scheme for service delivery—more than five million Unique IDs have been issued since September 2010, providing people with a legal identity they probably did not have before. Innovative ICT tools such as this can be an effective mechanism to both supply information and services to citizens and receive feedback from citizens.”
No one will dispute that World Bank has been an undemocratic organization since its inception and is likely to remain so for all times to come. This motivated outreach towards citizens at large especially in developing countries merits attention. It is noteworthy that the annual reports of Congress party led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) refers to biometric-based Aadhaar/UID as parts of its e-governance initiative.
Earlier on 20 April 2010, the World Bank Group announced that it has thrown open the doors to its statistical databases to provide free, open, and easy access to its comprehensive set of data on living standards around the globe - some 2,000 indicators, including hundreds that go back 50 years. It appears to be a case of paving the path for developing countries. And on 23 April 2010, the Bank launched its eTransform Initiative by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with France and South Korea besides transnational companies like L-1 Identity Solutions, IBM, Gemalto, Pfizer and others. It was launched in the presence of Ministers of Finance and Communications from many developing countries. The World Bank is currently funding 14 projects related to e-government and e-ID around the world.
It merits recollection that Mukherjee was the Finance Minister during January 1982 to December 1984, which is part of the relevant period with which the IMF publication deals. He led the Indian delegation at the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) during 1982, 1983, 1984, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and he was on the Board of Governors of the IMF during 1982 to 1985 and during 2009 – 2012. Mukherjee was rated one of the best five finance ministers of the world in 1984 according to a survey conducted by “Euro Money” Journal published from New York and was declared ‘Finance Minister of the year’ for Asia in 2010 by “Emerging Markets”, the journal of record for the World Bank and the IMF.
Unless one is not acting as a foundation stone of the “central pillar” of World Bank Group, why will it shower accolades on him and Nilekani?
There is a revelation in the publication that IMF is concerned with the “viability of military spending” as well. IMF took a formal position on the role of military spending in national economic policy in October 1991. At that time, executive directors concluded that, “as military expenditure can have an important bearing on a member’s fiscal policy and external position, information about such expenditure may be necessary to permit a full and internally consistent assessment of the member’s economic position and policies” If this is not an exercise in surveillance, which admittedly sounds ‘terrible’, what else is it?
Metamorphosis in simple words means transformation. Metamorphosis of the state, the government and citizen is the core motive of electronic and biometric identification as part of the Transformational Government initiative of the World Bank Group.
As a man of Indian National Congress, Nilekani, the biometric data collector, knows quite well how his party operates. Mukherjee resigned from the party on 25 June 2012 prior to contesting to the office of President of India. His presidential speech linking welfare services to biometric Aadhaar/UID faces legal challenge.
In a related development, a RTI application filed by Qaneez-e-Fatemah Sukhrani, an urban affairs researcher sought a copy of MoU/ Contract executed between UIDAI and/or Planning Commission with L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company, currently a subsidiary of French conglomerate Safran Group, Sagem Morpho Security Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of Safran Group, Ernst & Young, a US company, Accenture Services Pvt Ltd, a US company and ID Solutions company and the tender cost. At the time of award of contract to L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company was a US company.
A reply dated 25 October 2013 from Shirish Kumar, assistant director general and chief public information officer (CPIO) of UIDAI reveals that the value of contract for L1 was Rs33.87 crore and for Ernst & Young it was Rs7.05 crore. With regard to Sagem Morpho Security Pvt Ltd, it states that the “effort is on find the data” about the value of contract awarded. This reply in the matter of Sagem Morpho Security Pvt Ltd is quite intriguing. Notably, L1 has undergone metamorphosis and become part of Safran Group along with Morpho Security Pvt Ltd.
It is relevant to reiterate in this context that Nilekani was given ID Limelight Award at the ID WORLD International Congress, 2010 in Milan, Italy on 16th November wherein Safran Morpho (Safran group) was a key sponsor of the ID Congress. Its subsidiary, Sagem Morpho Security Pvt Ltd has been awarded contract for the purchase of Biometric Authentication Devices on 2 February 2011 by the UIDAI.
Earlier, on 30 July 2010, in a joint press release, it was announced that “the Mahindra Satyam and Morpho led consortium has been selected as one of the key partners to implement and deliver the Aadhaar program by UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India).” This means that at least two contracts have been awarded to the French conglomerate led consortium. Is it a coincidence that Morpho (Safran group) sponsored the award to chairman, UIDAI and the former got a contract from the latter?
Nilekani was given the award "For being the force behind a transformational project ID project in India...and "to provide identification cards for each resident across the country and would be used primarily as the basis for efficient delivery of welfare services. It would also act as a tool for effective monitoring of various programs and schemes of the government."
It may also be noted that UIDAI awarded contracts to three companies namely, Satyam Computer Services Ltd (Mahindra Satyam), as part of a “Morpho led consortium”, L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company and Accenture Services Pvt Ltd of US for the “Implementation of Biometric Solution for UIDAI” on 30 July 2010.
Following Central Information Commission (CIC)’s intervention in the matter of application filed by Col Mathew Thomas, an octogenarian defence scientist, and submissions by the author on his behalf, UIDAI shared its contract agreement with French and US biometric technology companies but crucial pages are missing from the contract agreement after the CIC heard the matter on 10 September 2013. CIC has ruled, “Any agreement entered into by the government is an agreement deemed to have been entered into on behalf of and in the interest of ‘We the people’ in the past.
For long UIDAI refused to share copy of all contracts given to French and US biometric technology companies, namely, L-1 Identity Solutions and Accenture respectively. L-1 was a US company till recently.
Sushma Singh, the Information Commissioner gave UIDAI’s letter written to CIC submitting that "contractual obligation in respect of BSP (Biometric Solution Provider) contracts has expired. Therefore, UIDAI has no objection in sharing the following contract details:-a) Copy of contract of UIDAI with M/s L-1 Identity Solutions for Biometric Technology; and b) Copy of contract of UIDAI with M/s Accenture for Biometric Technology".
After examining these documents with regard to the Accenture for Biometric Technology, it has come to notice that the first 237 pages appear to be in order but after that there is a one pager titled Annexure J Technical Bid (Technical Bid as submitted by M/s Accenture Services Pvt Ltd). The Technical Bid document is missing. After that there is a one pager titled Annexure K Commercial Bid Commercial (Bid as submitted by M/s Accenture Services Pvt Ltd). The Commercial Bid document is missing.
With regard to the L-1 Identity Solutions for Biometric Technology, one noticed that the first 236 pages appear to be in order but after that there is a one pager titled Annexure I non-disclosure agreement as submitted by L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company Pvt Ltd. But this document is missing. After that there is a one pager titled Annexure J Technical Bid as submitted by L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company Pvt Ltd. The Technical Bid document is missing. After that there is a one pager titled Annexure K Commercial Bid as submitted by L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company Pvt Ltd. The Commercial Bid document is missing. UIDAI has been asked for the missing pages from the copies of the contract.
The reasoning of UIDAI in its letter to CIC dated 10 September 2013 stating that "contractual obligation in respect of BSP (Biometric Solution Provider) contracts has expired” is flawed in the light of the previous judgment of CIC.
Under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the PIO cannot deny information citing commercial confidence for agreements between a public authority and private party.
While giving this judgment, CIC said “The claim of 'commercial confidence' in denying access to agreements between private parties and the masters of the public authorities—citizens—runs counter to the principles of the Right to Information.”
“Any agreement entered into by the government is an agreement deemed to have been entered into on behalf of the and in the interest of ‘We the people’. Hence if any citizen wants to know the contents of such an agreement, he is in the position of a principal asking his agent to disclose to him the terms of the agreement entered into by the agent on behalf of the principal. No agent can refuse to disclose any such information to his principal,” the CIC said in its order dated 27 July 2009.
The Commission was of the view that “The objectives of the RTI Act would be defeated if public authorities claim exemption based on a claim that ‘terms and condition were much more favourable to the government’, and therefore these must be kept away from the Public. In fact public feels that quite often the contrary is the case,” the Commission noted. The CIC observed, “Any so called imaginary moral or reciprocal obligation cannot be permitted to subvert a solemn constitutional and legal obligation” and directed the PIO to provide copy of the agreement.
In the contract agreement between the President of India, as purchaser and L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company, as a "Biometric Solution Provider" it has been officially admitted that the latter is a corporation of US based in Delaware as of 24 August 2010. L-1 has since been bought over by French corporate conglomerate, Safran Group after the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) was convinced that there are no unresolved national security concerns with respect to the transaction. L-1 Identity Solutions announced agreement to be acquired by Safran on 20 September 2010.
From the contract agreement between the President of India, as purchaser and Accenture Services Pvt Ltd as a "Biometric Solution Provider" dated 1 September 2010 it is evident that it has not been disclosed that Accenture Services Pvt Ltd is a subsidiary of Dublin, Ireland based Accenture plc, a US company. Till 1 January 2001 it was known as Andersen Consulting. As a consequence of French corporate conglomerate Safran’s purchase of US company L-1 Identity Solutions, the de-duplication contracts of UIDAI’s Centralized Identities Data Repository (CIDR) and Home Ministry’s National Population Register (NPR) which was given to foreign companies on 30 July 2010 to three companies now lies with two companies of French and US origin namely, Safran Group and Accenture.
UIDAI has not disclosed whether there has been any fresh agreement between UIDAI and Safran Group and its subsidiaries and who all are the biometric solution providers after the expiry of the “contractual obligations” with L-1 Identity Solution and Accenture. The contract agreement with Accenture Services Pvt Ltd at clause 15.1 it reads: "By virtue of this Contract, M/s Accenture Services Pvt Ltd/Team of M/s Accenture Services Pvt Ltd may have access to personal information of the Purchaser and/or a third party or any resident of India, any other person covered within the ambit of any legislation as may be applicable." The purchaser is President of India through UIDAI.
The clause 15.3 reads: "The Data shall be retained by Accenture Services Pvt Ltd not more than a period of 7 years as per Retention Policy of Government of India or any other policy that UIDAI may adopt in future."
The contract agreement with L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company at clause 15.1 reads: "By virtue of this Contract, M/s L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company/Team of M/s L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company may have access to personal information of the Purchaser and/or a third party or any resident of India, any other person covered within the ambit of any legislation as may be applicable." The purchaser is President of India through UIDAI.
The clause 15.3 reads: "The Data shall be retained by L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company not more than a period of 7 years as per Retention Policy of Government of India or any other policy that UIDAI may adopt in future."
This implies that all the biometric data of Indians which has been collected so far is now available to US Government and French Government.
Meanwhile, as of 18 October 2013, Ernst & Young, the firm which had won a contract from UIDAI has agreed to pay $99 million to former Lehman Brothers investors who have accused the auditor of helping Lehman misstate its financial records before the investment bank's collapse triggered a financial crisis in 2008. Lehman is accused of using an accounting practice to misleadingly understate its leverage to make itself appear more financially solvent. In a reported statement Ernst & Young claimed that it is settling the case "to put this matter behind”. It has been alleged that Ernst & Young contributed to the fraud by failing to investigate and ensure the truthfulness of the statements. The question is why Ernst & Young was awarded the contract by UIDAI despite knowledge about its credential at least since 2008.
In the matter of National Identification Authority of India (NIAI) Bill, 2010, “NHRC’s views on the NIAI Bill, 2010″ in the Human Rights Newsletter (Vol. 18 No.8, August 2011) reveals that biometric UID/Aadhaar Number has dangerous ramifications is quite relevant in this regard. The Bill seeking the rubber stamp of legitimacy for UIDAI was trashed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance. NHRC’s view was presented to the PSC. NHRC’s view on “need for protection of information” and “the possibility of tampering with stored biometric information” and “disclosure of information in the interest of national security” has been ignored by Congress Party because it has accepted the principles and procedures of surveillance fixed by the World Bank Group. It is apparent that this party is facilitating surveillance of the nation, citizens and the national assets by transnational actors with impunity. The party has structurally adjusted the national institutions to ensure it.
Do opposition parties have the political courage to make it an electoral issue in national interest or do they agree with Humpty Dumpty that SURVEILLANCE means “cooperation, partnership, and consultation”?
You may also want to read…
(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)
An exercise in rewriting and engineering the electoral ecosystem underlines that the use of biometric technology and electronic voting machines or EVMs is not as innocent and as politically neutral as it has been made out to be
As part of Government’s plan A, it appears that biometric-based Aadhaar/unique identification (UID) number was and remains an attention diversion exercise. The concerned authorities seem to have known that when its legality will be challenged, it will most likely be halted. This has happened in other countries. As part of their Plan B, the real work is being done by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). What is happening is that one institution, MHA will have Census data, National Population Register (NPR) data, National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) data and the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) data-their integration is creating world's most powerful database since mankind came into existence.
Mere opposition to NCTC by non Congress governments is hardly sufficient because with NPR, NATGRID and UID alone they can do what Indian National Congress (INC) led Government wants without NCTC. NCTC is proposed in compliance with an illegal UN Security Council Resolution of 28 September 2001. India's cooperation was enlisted by co-opting Permanent Representative of India to the UN.
NCTC like a number of other related initiatives such as NATGRID, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and Registrar General of National Population Register (NPR) is being established through governmental notifications or subordinate legislations rather than legislation passed in Parliament in manifest contempt towards legislatures, States and citizens’ democratic rights.
Even Julio Ribeiro, the Mumbai police chief, who has vast experience with both state-level and counterterrorism policing argues, “NCTC is not required. Improve whatever is there on the ground, get them to act, and co-ordinate”.
Ministry of Home Affairs notified the setting up of the anti-terror body called NCTC on 3 February 2012 through National Counter Terrorism Centre (Organisation functions Powers and Duties) Order 2012. NCTC is headquartered in New Delhi. It is supposed to have the power to carry out operations including arrest, search and seizure. It will draw its functional power of search and seizures under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 and amendments therein. It is supposed to work as an integral part of Intelligence Bureau (IB). The notification mandates the terror-fighting agencies to share their inputs with NCTC and it also appoints the director and his core team. Director of NCTC will have full functional autonomy and he will have the power to seek information on terror from National Investigation Agency (NIA), NATGRID, intelligence units of CBI, National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in addition to all seven central armed police forces including National Security Guard (NSG). He will report to the IB chief and the MHA. The notification was issued under the Article 73 of the Constitution of India.
Expressing concern about the conspiracy of the non-state actors that disturbs the confidence of ‘global investor’, the 121 page 2009 report of the Task Force on National Security and Terrorism constituted by the undeclared undemocratic political party of pre-independence times - Federation of Indian Commerce and Industry (FICCI)-refers to assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914 by Gavrilo Princip, a Yugoslav nationalist, as a terrorist act that led to World War I. This war narrative runs all through the report that explicitly recommends the evolved framework of counter terrorism in the US, UK and Israel and commissioning of safe city plan by companies at page 96.
The fact is politically powerful members of the Serbian military armed and trained Princip and two other students as assassins and sent them into Austria-Hungary for the act. The reasons for the war goes deeper, involving national politics, cultures, economics, and a complex web of alliances and counterbalances that had developed between the various European powers since 1870, including previous economic and military rivalry in industry and trade. FICCI report is quite shallow and deals with selective historical facts. It refers to possible targeting of Indian, Western and Jewish installations as retaliation against ongoing North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), a 28-nation military alliance led operations in Afghanistan. It contends that the link between Afghanistan and Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) is permanent.
At page 70, the FICCI report argues for a secure E-network for connecting all district headquarters and police stations NATGRID under National Counter Terrorism Agency. It observes, “As Nandan Nilekani goes into operationalising the UIDAI, there is a case for factoring inclusion data as part of the national grid to assist in counter terrorism.” This is not the first time that NATGRID and UID link is underlined. Another joint report of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM), an undeclared political party of companies and KPMG, Swiss Consultancy titled “Homeland Security in India, 2010” had revealed it. ASSOCHAM’s joint report of June 2011 with Aviotech, an initiative of the promoters of the Deccan Chronicle Group titled “Homeland Security Assessment India: Expansion and Growth” refers to the “The requirement in Biometrics for all the subsequent programs under the National Census will become significant. This shows where the NPR program which is linked to UID is headed.
It is noteworthy that the origins of the UID and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) process within the US Department of Defense started under Michael Wynne, former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) from 2003 till 2005. Within NATO, two documents deal so far with unique identification of items. The first one is standardization agreement, which was ratified in 2010. The second one is a “How to “guide for NATO members willing to enter in the UID business. Is India a NATO member? It appears to be behaving like one.
In such a backdrop, the most recent proposal of both the Election Commission of India (EC) and the UIDAI to MHA “to merge the Election ID cards with UID” is an exercise in rewriting and engineering the electoral ecosystem underlining that the use of biometric technology and electronic voting machines (EVMs) is not as innocent and as politically neutral as it has been made out to be. This proposal makes a mockery of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on Finance on UID Bill. It is noteworthy that all EVMs have a UID as well. Notably, proposed Land Titling Bill makes a provision for linking land titles to UIDs of Indian residents. These acts of convergence is undermining the constitutional rights and change the meaning of democracy as we know it.
It is an act of changing both the form and content of democracy and democratic rights in a new technology based regime where technologies and technology companies are beyond regulation because they are bigger than the government and legislatures.
At page 92 of the FICCI report, it is acknowledged that Government of US has made concerted efforts to leverage IT as a weapon against terror and has spent billions of dollars on IT related projects. These projects include common information exchange, systems for mining data from collection of unsorted documents and databases, biometric identity cards etc. Launched in April 2010, World Bank’s e-Transform Initiative that is working to converge private, public and citizen sector with an explicit ulterior motive to transform governments beyond recognition fit into the scheme of US IT efforts.
The report seeks role of private sector in fighting terror. It underscores a “National Counter Terrorism Architecture”. It recommends ‘National Counter Terrorism Agency with all India jurisdiction as a central system for intelligence gathering, analysis and dissemination of information’. It approves of the ‘formational of National Intelligence Grid as an integrated model of information sharing under the proposed National Counter Terrorism Agency’ as ‘an urgent imperative.’ At page 49, the report refers to UN Security Council Resolution 1373 adopted in September 2001 for initiating action if tangible evidence exists. It recommends intense attack should a Mumbai style attack happen again as a hard option and joint military interaction and economic free trade zone as a soft option.
A perusal of the report gives the impression that given the fact that objections of Chief Ministers and members of Parliament (MPs) are not rooted in concerns for civil liberties, they are simply interested in getting the MHA to stop the misuse of Intelligence Bureau, which has also been recommended by the FICCI report. Concerns of citizens and progressive political parties are based on the grave threat potential of NCTC, NATGRID, NPR, UID/Aadhaar, RFID and DNA Profiling Bill for democratic rights which are under assault from both the central and state governments. What else can explain the studied silence of most of the Chief Ministers in the matter of biometric profiling through UID/Aadhaar and NPR that has been rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance. UID/Adhaar, NPR and NATGRID and NCTC are two sides of the same coin. They are two ends of the same rope. They pose an unprecedented threat to constitutional rights and the federal structure of the country.
MHA’s NCTC meets FICCI’s demand and is obstinately reluctant to pay heed to the demands of citizens, Chief Ministers and opposition MPs and even MPs from United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
The Indian NCTC is a poor imitation of USA’s National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC). US NCTC was formed in 2003. It is a governmental organization responsible for national and international counter terrorism efforts that advises government of US on terrorism. It works under USA’s Director of National Intelligence which operates on an annual budget of $49.8 billion and about 1,500 people. It draws experts from the CIA, FBI, the Pentagon, and other agencies, who try to ensure that clues about potential attacks are not missed. Matthew G Olsen was sworn as the Director of NCTC after his appointment was confirmed by the US Senate. He reports to the Director of National Intelligence and to the President of USA. In his earlier assignment, he has supervised the implementation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
USA’s NCTC is headquartered in McLean, Virginia. The precursor organization of NCTC, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center established on 1 May 2003, was created by the President of US by an executive order. It was established in response to recommendations by the ‘National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States’ that investigated the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 renamed Terrorist Threat Integration Center to NCTC and placed it under the US Director of National Intelligence. NCTC analyzes terrorism intelligence (except purely domestic terrorism), stores terrorism information, supports USA’s counter terrorism activities using information technology, and plans counter-terrorism activities as directed by the President of the United States, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council.
India and US signed Counter Terrorism Cooperation Initiative on 23 July 2010. It was initialed on the sidelines of the visit of Dr Manmohan Singh to the US in November 2009. The then Union Home Secretary, GK Pillai signed for India whereas Ambassador Timothy J Roemer signed on behalf of the US. Nirupama Rao, the then Indian Foreign Secretary, was also present on the occasion. It seeks to further enhance the cooperation between two countries in Counter Terrorism as an important element of their bilateral strategic partnership. The initiative, inter alia, provides for strengthening capabilities to effectively combat terrorism; promotion of exchanges regarding modernization of techniques; sharing of best practices on issues of mutual interest; development of investigative skills; promotion of cooperation between forensic science laboratories; establishment of procedures to provide mutual investigative assistance; enhancing capabilities to act against money laundering, counterfeit currency and financing of terrorism; exchanging best practices on mass transit and rail security; increasing exchanges between Coast Guards and Navy on maritime security; exchanging experience and expertise on port and border security; enhancing liaison and training between specialist Counter Terrorism Units including National Security Guard with their US counter parts.
Within India, NCTC traces its genesis, objectives, structure and powers of the proposed NCTC in the recommendations of a Group of Ministers in 2001 that reviewed the internal security system in the aftermath of the Kargil conflict that made a case for the establishment of a Multi Agency Centre (MAC), a permanent Joint Task Force on Intelligence and an Inter State Intelligence Support System, which were broadly accepted by the NDA Government. It seeks justification from the 2008 report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission that recommended a Multi Agency Centre should be converted into a National Centre for Counter Terrorism with personnel drawn from different intelligence and security agencies.
NCTC’s mandate is to draw up plans and coordinate action for counter terrorism. Its duties and functions are confined to counter terrorism. The Office Memorandum dated 3 February 2012 provides for a Standing Council consisting of the Director, NCTC, the three Joint Directors, NCTC and the Heads of the Anti-Terrorist Organisation or Force in each State. The Standing Council shall meet as often as necessary and may also meet through video conference. The Standing Council shall ensure that NCTC is the single and effective point of control and coordination of all counter terrorism measures. It is proposed to subsume the Multi Agency Centre in the NCTC.
It appears that there is complicity between Indian National Congress and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). The latter appears more concerned about the form rather than the undemocratic and regressive nature of the proposals. Not surprisingly, in his key note address at the FICCI conference on national security and terror, former National Security Advisor, Brajesh Mishra opined that at least the political leadership of Congress and BJP should unite and not allow electoral politics to defeat in National Interest. He advocated Federal Counter Terrorism Agency even if requires constitutional amendments terming States right to the subject of law and order as a mere political excuse but revealed that IB is involved in the business of political intelligence. In such a situation, his recommendation for NCTC like agency which operates under IB is quite inconsistent.
In the case of US, the 9/11 Committee recommended, "The NCTC should perform joint planning. The plans would assign operational responsibilities to lead agencies, such as State, the CIA, the FBI, Defense and its combatant commands, Homeland Security, and other agencies. The NCTC should not direct the actual execution of these operations, leaving that job to the agencies. The NCTC would then track implementation; it would look across the foreign-domestic divide and across agency boundaries, updating plans to follow through on cases."
Both the US and Indian versions of NCTC empowers an intelligence agency with executive action. This poses gravest threat to democracy and civil rights.
In any case in the US, the NCTC is a legal institution set up through legislation after bipartisan consultations, without legal powers to arrest, detain, interrogate, search, etc. The Indian NCTC has been set up by executive notification under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967. This act of subordinate legislation does not have legislative mandate.
Parliamentarians and senior lawyers have contended that IB is used for harassing political opponents. IB is supposed to undertake clandestine intelligence collection. However, it is strange that while giving powers of search and arrest to the NCTC is unwarranted at the centre such arbitrary powers are uncalled for even for states.
Several Chief Ministers have expressed persistent opposition. They were not consulted before the notification of the NCTC. It violates the federal structure of the country. The potential of misuse of NCTC by the IB is immense and can create Emergency like situation. There was an unprecedented voting in the Parliament on this issue wherein President’s Address mentioned NCTC. In Parliament, 82 votes were against the government’s current proposal and 105 votes in favour. It is clear that there is massive opposition within the Parliament and outside it.
It has been argued in the Parliament that “in USA and the United Kingdom, there are Oversight Parliamentary Committees to look into the activities of the Intelligence Bureau, which is not here in India.” The opaque manner of MHA merited strong objection because it has chosen not to seek consent of legislatures, states and citizens. The IB has no legal basis for its existence nor legal charter to do any operations work.
It is noteworthy that a 20 page Private Members’ Bill titled The Intelligence Services (Powers and Regulation) Bill, 2011 has been introduced the Lok Sabha by Manish Tewari “to regulate the manner of the functioning and exercise of powers of Indian Intelligence Agencies within and beyond the territory of India and to provide for the coordination, control and oversight of such agencies.”
There is an immediate need for parliamentary scrutiny of the pre-existing intelligence agencies and mandatory legislative consent for the creation of security, surveillance and database agencies besides the agreement of the States and the citizens. At present there is no transparency and accountability of the working of intelligence agencies and in the creation of the proposed agencies. At a time when the constitutionality of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, 2008 itself is in question and found unacceptable by the States, the NCTC, NPR an UIDAI proposal was fated to meet stiff and bitter opposition from all.
It is noteworthy that Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigation Agency (NIA) and NATGRID are exempted from the applicability of Right to Information Act, 2005, the only transparency law of India. This exemption for CBI and NATGRID which are not governed by any law at all is quite bizarre.
Such exemptions are unacceptable given the fact that central monitoring system (CMS), a centralised mechanism that is meant to assist in lawful interception of communications from landline, mobile and Internet without any lawful interception law in India. India does not have any legal and constitutionally sound phone tapping and e-surveillance law. The birth of NCTC itself is illegitimate. The fact that it will rely on the databases of agencies which are themselves working without any legislative and democratic mandate is quite unnerving.
While States and citizens are concerned about their rights and are resisting efforts to turn them into subjects of centralized powers, the emergence of a regressive convergence economy based on databases and unregulated surveillance, biometric and electoral technologies remains largely unnoticed and unchallenged.
You may also want to read…
(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)
In our country, it is rarely noticed as to when the concept of massively organised information quietly emerges to become a means of social control, a weapon of war, and for the victimisation of ethnic groups. Aadhaar is trying hard to make us believe that the UIDAI would fulfil the constitutional promise of economic equality
"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking” said George Patton, US General during World War II.
Indeed, “unfair share of highly educated people” in certain mega business enterprises, countries and automatic identification technologies based on digitalization of human biology is having a disruptive impact on human civilization and democratic rights.
After the adoption of National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by AK Antony, defence minister, is deliberating on the issue of resident identity cards to all usual residents of the country of age 18 years and above under the scheme of National Population Register (NPR). As per the terms of reference given to the GoM, it is supposed to “examine all aspects relating to the proposal for issuing resident identity cards to the usual residents of the country keeping in view all relevant issues and finalize its recommendations at an early date.” There is no news about what this GoM has done since its creation January 2013. It seems they are waiting for the judgement of the Supreme Court given the fact that Aadhaar/Unique Identification (UID) Number and NPR are one and the same as per the documents on record.
The creation of this GoM must be seen along with a letter of Ajit Seth, cabinet secretary, Government of India dated 18 July 2012, which was sent to all secretaries stating that “There is an urgent need to bring rich data assets into the public domain for the use by civil society for scientific, economic and developmental purposes.”
In an interview, Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks informed Imran Khan about the grave act of omission and commission. Assange said, “…we discovered a cable in 2009 from the Islamabad Embassy. Prime minister Gilani and interior minister Malik went into the (US) embassy and offered to share National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) – and NADRA is the national data and registration agency database. The system is currently connected through passport data but the government of Pakistan is adding voice and facial recognition capability and has installed a pilot biometric system as the Chennai border crossing, where 30,000 to 35,000 people cross each day. This NADRA system is the voting record system for all voters in Pakistan. A front company was set up in the United Kingdom – International Identity Services, which was hired as the consultants for NADRA to squirrel out the NADRA data for all of Pakistan. What do you think about that? Is that a…? It seems to me that that is a theft of some national treasure of Pakistan, the entire Pakistani database registry of its people.” The interview is available here.
It must be noted that NPR is being prepared by C Chandramouli, census commissioner & registrar general of India, is meant to create resident identity cards is exactly like Pakistan’s version of biometric exercise for citizens’ identity card which was completed by NADRA, ministry of interior, Government of Pakistan and their database has been handed over to US Government.
Was NADRA made accountable for this theft of national treasure of Pakistan? Will census commissioner & registrar general of India be made accountable if “rich data assets” are stolen or sold? Has anyone been made accountable till date?
In an interview James Manyika, a director in McKinsey’s San Francisco office, and Eric Schmidt, Google executive chairman explored the phenomenon of technological disruption, which is likely to have the greatest impact on economies, business models, and people. This interview was conducted in February 2013.
Eric corroborates what has been apprehended all along that “There are now firms and foundations building databases of DNA to use, to move to a model of individual diagnosis of disease, where you literally just press a button, the sequences occur, and it tells you what’s wrong. So the use of analytical tools in a historically analog world is a very big change.”
He prophetically states that we are entering into a situation where the computer knows, “Well, we kind of know what you care about.”
Eric Schmidt says, “We’re going, in a single lifetime, from a small elite having access to information to essentially everyone in the world having access to all of the world’s information. That has huge implications for privacy, communications, security, the way people behave, the way information is spread, censorship, how governments behave, and so forth.”
Eric underlines the existing situation of “a small elite having access to information”. He is making a prophesy that we are amidst a technological era, which is going to create a situation wherein “essentially everyone in the world having access to all of the world’s information.” This prophesy hides an essential pre-condition to the possible access to “all of the world’s information”. The pre-condition is purchasing capacity.
To reveal the true colours of such sophistry, paraphrasing George Orwell’s contention from his book, Animal Farm, in this context would not be inappropriate. All men did not have access to all the information in the past. But all men will soon have access to all the information if they can afford it. Essentially, all men are equal in the digital world if they can afford equality.
In the second part of his statement, the Google official is telling the official from McKinsey that when all the people in the world will have all the information then it have “implications for privacy, communications, security, the way people behave, the way information is spread, censorship, how governments behave, and so forth”.
Even if one takes this part of his statement on its face value, the core issue is that whenever either “a small elite” has access to information or all the people who can afford to have access to information there are implications for privacy, communications, security, human behaviour, information dissemination, censorship and governments.
Eric will have us believe that when the analog world of biology—how genes work, how diseases work is put in a digital framework, calculate for a while, do some machine learning on how things happen, these seemingly disruptive technologies will be able to make one become a better human being and predict what’s going to happen to human beings in terms of health etc.
While States and citizens are concerned about their rights and are resisting efforts to turn them into subjects of centralised powers through their opposition to National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), the emergence of a regressive convergence economy based on databases and unregulated surveillance, biometric and electoral technologies remains largely unnoticed and unchallenged. Political clout of technology based companies seems to be creating a property based rights regime through financial surveillance making national boundaries redundant. But surprisingly, non Congress governments in states and at the centre are acting like unthinking obedient boys.
If one takes cognizance of the claim that “UID system is a civilian application of biometrics”1 and compares it with current practices, one finds that such a claim is quite misplaced. In the report there is reference to a Study commissioned by the US Department of Homeland Security to International Biometrics Group.2 Is it too difficult to comprehend the implications of the “civilian application” of a military tool?
In our country, it is rarely noticed as to when the concept of massively organized information quietly emerged to become a means of social control, a weapon of war, and for the victimisation of ethnic groups.
It has emerged that it all started rolling in the aftermath of a meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers on 4 November 2008 and a meeting of the prime minister's council of the UID Authority on 12 August 2009, wherein it was decided that there was a “need for a legislative framework.” The legislative framework is unlikely to take birth but the citizens have been framed and biometrically profiled awaiting post dated endorsement from the legislatures.
The 13th Finance Commission has made a provision for an incentive of Rs100 per person (Rs400-Rs500 per family) to bribe citizens below the poverty line to register for the UID/Aadhaar and recommended a grant of Rs2,989.10 crore to be given to the state governments for the same. The deafening silence of the state governments appears to be influenced by this financial allocation.
As per an office memorandum dated 29 September 2009, “The main objective is to improve benefits service delivery, especially to the poor and the marginalized sections of the society. To deliver its mandate, the UID Authority proposes to create a platform to first collect the identity details and then to perform authentication that can be used by several government and private service providers.”3
The reference to “private service providers” is inexplicable for the work is meant to be an exercise for public purpose and for the poor and the marginalized. The promise of service delivery to the poor and the marginalised hides how it will enable access to profit for the IT industry and the biometrics industry. Such claims are quite insincere, misleading and factually incorrect. It reminds one of the pledges in the preamble of the Constitution of India; it will have us believe that UID Authority would fulfil the constitutional promise of economic equality. Such objectives are bad sophistry at best.
“Biometrics data are national assets and must be preserved in their original quality.”4 It is noteworthy that the cabinet secretary refers to “rich data assets” and government’s committee on Biometrics refers to database of citizens’ biometric data as “national assets.”
1 Biometrics Design Standards For UID Applications, Planning Commission, prepared by: Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Committee on Biometrics, p. 9, Version 1.0, December 2009
2 Study titled “Independent Testing of Iris Recognition Technology, Final Report, May 2005” referred in the report of the Biometrics Design Standards For UID Applications, Planning Commission, prepared by: Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Committee on Biometrics, p. 56, Version 1.0, December 2009
3 Biometrics Design Standards For UID Applications, Planning Commission, prepared by: Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Committee on Biometrics, p. 25, Version 1.0, December 2009
4 Biometrics Design Standards For UID Applications, Planning Commission, prepared by: Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Committee on Biometrics, p. 5, Version 1.0, December 2009
You may also want to read…
(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)