Report: Despite Spying, US couldn’t gauge BJP’s revival
There is turmoil in the Indo-US relations with America's top spy agency, National Security Agency (NSA), garnering attention for being authorised by a US court in 2010 to carry out surveillance on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) along with five other political organisations across the globe. The document made public by The Washignton Post says that BJP figures in the list of foreign political parties along with Lebanon's Amal, the Bolivarian Continental Coordinator of Venezuela, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian National Salvation Front and the Pakistan People’s Party for whom the NSA had sought permission to carry out surveillance. Though the allegations are not new it has been now substantiated with the document made available.
There are sharp reactions about the report but the US has expressed hope that it will not impact the bilateral ties.
The NSA which leads the U.S. Government in cryptology with primary objective of ensuring ‘a decision advantage’ for the US and its allies under all circumstances through both Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Information Assurance (IA) equated the BJP with all the notorious and extremist political groupings of the world like Muslim Brotherhood. The document lists the 193 foreign governments as well as foreign factions and other entities that were part of a 2010 certification approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. “These are the entities about which the NSA may conduct surveillance, for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence,” the paper said, citing documents provided to it by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. It said each year a new certification must be approved by the court to permit such surveillance under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. “Virtually no foreign government is off-limits for the National Security Agency, which has been authorized to intercept information 'concerning' all but four countries, according to top-secret documents,” The Post reported.
Without specifically responding to questions related to surveillance on India and the BJP in particular, NSA spokesperson Vanee' Vines told PTI that the agency collects foreign intelligence based on specific intelligence requirements set by the President, the Director of National Intelligence, and departments and agencies through the National Intelligence Priorities Framework. “In short, there must be a particular intelligence need, policy approval, and legal authorization for US signals intelligence activities, including activities conducted pursuant to Section 702,” Vines said.
Snowden leaked thousands of classified documents to media uncovering the existence of numerous global surveillance programmes, many of them run by the NSA, triggering an outrage worldwide. After reports of a US court allowing spy agency NSA to carry out surveillance on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the government summoned top American diplomat over the issue.
BJP also raised its concerns about the report. Party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said he was sure India’s external affairs ministry would take note of the report and take necessary steps. “This report is a matter of concern,” he said. BJP’s IT Cell chief Arvind Gupta termed the report a “Matter of great concern and interference with democratic process.”
The spokesperson in the external affairs ministry said previously that “When information trickled down to us,” the issue was raised with the US both in New Delhi and in Washington with the “concerned authorities”. “We will follow the same process because it is totally unacceptable that an Indian organisation, Indian individual's privacy is transgressed upon, if that is correct,” he said.
When revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden were made in 2013 then also India had reacted sharply. Significantly, the US currently has an interim ambassador Kathleen Stephens who came in after former US Ambassador Nancy Powell resigned from her post. It is perceived that Powell failed to give realistic inputs about changing political equations in India. Now with this report, it is also clear that despite the snooping attempts by NSA on the then opposition party, the US could not gauge its ascendance to power.
(Bureau Report with inputs from agencies)