By B. Raman
In a letter to the Chief Ministers, who have expressed their reservations over certain features of the proposed National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Shri P.Chidambaram, the Union Home Minister, has stated, inter alia as follows: “Before we take the next steps, I have asked the Home Secretary to call a meeting of the Directors General of Police and the Heads of the Anti-Terrorist Organisations/Forces of the State Governments and discuss in detail the scope and functions of the NCTC.”
This tends to confirm the claims of Ms.Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, who had met the Prime Minister at New Delhi on this subject that the Government has decided to withhold further follow-up action on the NCTC till there were prior consultations with the States. The Government of India needs to be complimented for not standing on false prestige and agreeing to hold consultations with the States “before we take the next steps”
With his letter, Shri Chidambaram has enclosed a note giving the background to the proposed creation of the NCTC and its salient features. The note states inter alia: “A body mandated to deal with counter terrorism must have, in certain circumstances, an operational capability. This is true of all counter terrorism bodies in the world. When engaged in counter terrorism operations, the officers must have the power to arrest and the power to search which are the bare minimum powers that would be necessary. Besides, the powers conferred under section 43A must be read with the duty under section 43B to produce the person or article without unnecessary delay before the nearest police station (which will be under the State Government), and the SHO of the Police Station will take further action in accordance with the provisions of the CrPC.”
The claim made in the summary regarding the position in other countries does not seem to be factually correct. In the US, the NCTC,created under law in 2004, as an independent institution to function under the supervision of Director, National Intelligence, has not been given any executive powers. Its charter says: “NCTC assigns roles and responsibilities to departments and agencies as part of its strategic planning duties, but NCTC does not direct the execution of any resulting operations.”
In the UK, the powers of arrest are still exclusively vested in the police. The Secret Service, known as MI-5, which is responsible for secret intelligence collection and covert action against terrorism, does not have these powers. A paper on Counter-Terrorism Strategy submitted by the British Government to their Parliament in July 2006 says as follows: “Covert operational counter-terrorist activity in the United Kingdom is conducted by the
Security Service in close collaboration with police forces across the country and the Anti-Terrorist Branch of the Metropolitan Police. The police are responsible for taking executive action, such as arrests, and conducting the investigation against those suspected of involvement in terrorism. The SIS and GCHQ, in collaboration with intelligence and security partners overseas, operate covertly in support of the Security Service to disrupt terrorist threat.”
SIS is the Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI-6, which is the UK’s external intelligence agency. GCHQ is the General Communications Headquarters which is the UK’s TECHINT agency. It is the UK’s equivalent of the USA’s National Security Agency and our National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO).
The Multi-Agency Centre (MAC), created in pursuance of the recommendation of the Task Force set up by the Atal Behari Vajpayee Government in 2000 under the chairmanship of Shri G.C.Saxena, former head of the R&AW, has tasks of joint analysis, joint assessment, joint identification of follow-up action required and assigning responsibilities for follow-up action. It will get its follow-up operations executed by other empowered agencies and the State Police. It has no executive powers of its own.
The NCTC is proposed to be given executive powers of follow-up action on its own on the basis of its assessment and informing the State Police thereafter. At present, the MAC alerts the State Police and suggests arrest of a suspect by them. In future, the NCTC can arrest a suspect on its own, hand him over to the police and direct it to start an investigation.
This is apparently meant to deal with contingencies where the State Police drag their feet in making an arrest— for example a BJP Government in respect of a suspected Hindu terrorist or some other Government in respect of a Muslim terrorist. The MAC is at present without powers to deal with such instances. The NCTC can, in future, arrest the suspect without alerting the police, take his house search, hand him over to the police and then direct it to start an investigation.
This is a power with serious implications for misuse, with the NCTC, taking its orders from the Intelligence Bureau, arresting a person in a State without keeping the Police in the picture and then confronting the Police with a fait accompli.
In other countries, the NCTCs or their equivalent came into being as part of a detailed National Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which was formulated after extensive political consultations and debate in the Parliament. In India, 41 years after terrorism made its appearance and over three years after the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai, we still do not have a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy drawn up in consultation with the political parties and States.
Without such a strategy, attempts are being made to smuggle through a mechanism with executive powers to enable the IB to make arrests in certain cases on its own through the NCTC without the prior knowledge of the States.
A note on the NCTC of the US taken from its web site is annexed.
USA’S NCTC MECHANISM
The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) was established by Presidential Executive Order 13354 in August 2004, and codified by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA). NCTC implements a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission: “Breaking the older mold of national government organizations, this NCTC should be a center for joint operational planning and joint intelligence, staffed by personnel from the various agencies.”
The Director of NCTC is a Deputy Secretary-equivalent with a unique, dual line of reporting: (1) to the President regarding Executive branch-wide counterterrorism planning, and (2) to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) regarding intelligence matters. NCTC follows the policy direction of the President, and National and Homeland Security Councils.
NCTC is staffed by more than 500 personnel from more than 16 departments and agencies (approximately 60 percent of whom are detailed to NCTC). NCTC is organizationally part of the ODNI.
NCTC’s core missions are derived primarily from IRTPA, as supplemented by other statutes, Executive Orders, and Intelligence Community Directives. NCTC’s mission statement succinctly summarizes its key responsibilities and value-added contributions: “Lead our nation’s effort to combat terrorism at home and abroad by analyzing the threat, sharing that information with our partners, and integrating all instruments of national power to ensure unity of effort.”
“Analyzing the Threat”
By law, NCTC serves as the primary organization in the United States Government (USG) for integrating and analyzing all intelligence pertaining to counterterrorism (except for information pertaining exclusively to domestic terrorism).
NCTC integrates foreign and domestic analysis from across the Intelligence Community (IC) and produces a wide-range of detailed assessments designed to support senior policymakers and other members of the policy, intelligence, law enforcement, defense, homeland security, and foreign affairs communities. Prime examples of NCTC analytic products include items for the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) and the daily National Terrorism Bulletin (NTB). NCTC is also the central player in the ODNI’s Homeland Threat Task Force, which orchestrates interagency collaboration and keeps senior policymakers informed about threats to the Homeland via a weekly update.
NCTC leads the IC in providing expertise and analysis of key terrorism-related issues, with immediate and far-reaching impact. For example, NCTC’s Radicalization and Extremist Messaging Group leads the IC’s efforts on radicalization issues. NCTC’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Counterterrorism Group pools scarce analytical, subject matter, and scientific expertise from NCTC and CIA on these critical issues.
NCTC also evaluates the quality of CT analytic production, the training of analysts working CT, and the strengths and weaknesses of the CT analytic workforce. NCTC created the Analytic Framework for Counterterrorism, aimed at reducing redundancy of effort by delineating the roles of the IC’s various CT analytic components. NCTC also created a working group for alternative analysis to help improve the overall rigor and quality of CT analysis.
“Sharing that Information”
By law, NCTC serves as the USG’s central and shared knowledge bank on known and suspected terrorists and international terror groups. NCTC also provides USG agencies with the terrorism intelligence analysis and other information they need to fulfill their missions. NCTC collocates more than 30 intelligence, military, law enforcement and homeland security networks under one roof to facilitate robust information sharing. NCTC is a model of interagency information sharing.
Through the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), NCTC maintains a consolidated repository of information on international terrorist identities and provides the authoritative database supporting the Terrorist Screening Center and the USG’s watchlisting system. The Center also produces NCTC Online (NOL) and NCTC Online CURRENT, classified websites that make CT products and articles available to users across approximately 75 USG agencies, departments, military services and major commands. NCTC’s Interagency Threat Assessment and Coordination Group (ITACG) facilitates information sharing between the IC and State, Local, Tribal, and Private partners – in coordination with DHS, FBI, and other members of the ITACG Advisory Council.
NCTC also provides the CT community with 24/7 situational awareness, terrorism threat reporting, and incident information tracking. NCTC hosts three daily secure video teleconferences (SVTC) and maintains constant voice and electronic contact with major Intelligence and CT Community players and foreign partners.
“Integrating All Instruments of National Power”
By law, NCTC conducts strategic operational planning for CT activities across the USG, integrating all instruments of national power, including diplomatic, financial, military, intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement to ensure unity of effort. NCTC ensures effective integration of CT plans and synchronization of operations across more than 20 government departments and agencies engaged in the War on Terror, through a single and truly joint planning process.
NCTC’s planning efforts include broad, strategic plans such as the landmark National Implementation Plan for the War on Terror (NIP). First approved by the President in June 2006 and then again in September 2008, the NIP is the USG’s comprehensive and evolving strategic plan to implement national CT priorities into concerted interagency action.
NCTC also prepares far more granular, targeted action plans to ensure integration, coordination, and synchronization on key issues, such as countering violent extremism, terrorist use of the internet, terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction, and counter-options (after an attack). NCTC also leads Interagency Task Forces designed to analyze, monitor, and disrupt potential terrorist attacks.
NCTC assigns roles and responsibilities to departments and agencies as part of its strategic planning duties, but NCTC does not direct the execution of any resulting operations.
NCTC monitors the alignment of all CT resources against the NIP and provides advice and recommendations to policy officials to enhance mission success.
The Director of NCTC is also the CT Mission Manager for the IC, per DNI directive3. Thus implementing a key recommendation of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. In that role, NCTC leads the CT community in identifying critical intelligence problems, key knowledge gaps, and major resource constraints. NCTC also created the CT Intelligence Plan (CTIP) to translate the NIP and the National Intelligence Strategy into a common set of priority activities for the IC, and to establish procedures for assessing how the IC is performing against those objectives.
NCTC, in partnership with NSC and HSC, is leading reform of CT policy architecture to streamline policymaking and clarify missions.