National Technical Research Organisation

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The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO)[1] is a technical intelligence agency under the National Security Adviser in the Prime Minister's Office, India.[2] It was set up in 2004.[3] It also includes National Institute of Cryptology Research and Development (NICRD), which is first of its kind in Asia.[4]

History[edit]

The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), originally known as the National Technical Facilities Organisation (NTFO), is a highly specialised technical intelligence gathering agency. While the agency does not affect the working of technical wings of various intelligence agencies, including those of the Indian Armed Forces, it acts as a super-feeder agency for providing technical intelligence to other agencies on internal and external security. The agency is under the control of India's external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing, although it remains autonomous to some degree. The Group of Ministers (GOM) headed by then Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani had recommended the constitution of the NTFO as a state-of-the-art technical wing of intelligence gathering. Due to security concerns, the recommendation along with such other matters were not made public when the GOM report was published. The organisation does hi-tech surveillance jobs, including satellite monitoring, terrestrial monitoring, internet monitoring, considered vital for the national security apparatus. The NTRO would require over 700 crore (US$110 million) to procure different hi-tech equipment from specialised agencies around the globe to become fully functional. The officials have identified countries from where such gadgets could be procured but refused to reveal them due to 'security and other implications'. The Government had been working in this direction after the Kargil war in 1999 when the Subrahmanyam committee report pointed out weaknesses in intelligence gathering in the national security set up.[5] Sources said the road-map for constitution of the National Technical Facilities Organisation was prepared by Dr A P J Abdul Kalam in October 2001 when he was the Principal Scientific Adviser. It was subsequently mentioned in the Group of Ministers report on internal security.

Activities[edit]

The agency develops technology capabilities in aviation and remote sensing, data gathering and processing, cyber security, cryptology systems, strategic hardware and software development and strategic monitoring.[6]

The National Critical Infrastructure Protection Centre, an agency under the control of National Technical Research Organisation, has been created to monitor, intercept and assess threats to crucial infrastructure and other vital installations from intelligence gathered using sensors and platforms which include satellites, underwater buoys, drones, VSAT-terminal locators and fiber-optic cable nodal tap points.

NTRO also has access to data from Technology Experiment Satellite(TES), Cartosat-2A and Cartosat-2B besides two Radar Imaging Satellites namely RISAT-1 & RISAT-2. RISAT-1 was launched from Sriharikota Spaceport on 26 April 2012 on board a PSLV. RISAT-1 carries a C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) payload, operating in a multi-polarisation and multi-resolution mode and can provide images with coarse, fine and high spatial resolutions.[7] RISAT-2 was acquired from Israel at a cost $110 million and placed into orbit using a PSLV launcher in 2009.

In September 2013, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan allotted 180 hectares of land to set up the NTRO at Borda village near Bhopal.[8][9]

It December 2014 it intercepted communication emanating out of Karachi regarding transfer of vital equipment to receivers on the western coast of India. The Coast Guard and navy, already on alert because of heightened tension with Pakistan were then informed. The Coast Guard kept a close vigil through the day on December 31. Around 11 pm on New Year's Eve a suspicious boat was spotted about 200 km off the coast of Porbandar. On intercepting instead of cooperating the boat headed back towards Karachi. After few hours of chase the occupants set the fishing boat on fire. At least four men were spotted on the boat before it sank[10]

Controversies[edit]

  • In September 2007, an article appeared in India Today detailing the difficulties faced by the NTRO, specifically how the other spying agencies of the Govt. of India are not allowing the NTRO to fulfill its duties.[11]
  • In February 2010, Indian Express reported that NTRO has become the first Indian Intelligence Agency to be subjected to the ignominy of an audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and an investigation by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).[12]
  • In April 2010, an Outlook India article (issue dated 3 May 2010), detailed further the issues plagueing the organisation, chiefly the issues of nepotism, inefficiency and corruption amidst the telephone tapping scandal.[13]
  • In June 2011, Indian media broke the news that CAG has found that Israeli UAVs bought by NTRO in 2007 at the cost of 450 crore (US$70 million) was lying unused as the bundled satellite link purchased was not meant for dedicated military transmission, which would have made it vulnerable to electronic eavesdropping. An internal enquiry was ordered by PMO to find out if there has been a case of financial corruption.[14][15]
  • The Supreme Court of India, has ordered a probe into the allegations of financial irregularities in the procurement of military hardware. The lawsuit was filed by a whistleblower VK Mittal, who resigned as a senior scientist of NTRO and perused initiatives to unmask the officers behind the 800 crore (US$120 million) scandals.[16] The court also observed that it might have to monitor the investigation, given the nature of allegations which point to systemic corruption in the procurement of surveillance equipment.[17] In later proceedings Supreme court of India clarified its stand on the progress of the investigation[18]
  • In September 2011, an article appeared in The Times of India about how the spy agency had to force an officer 'to quit in 2007 after he used counter-intelligence equipment, including a hidden camera, to bug the bathroom of its security and counter-intelligence director in NTRO headquarters in Delhi. The official was found guilty of placing a hidden, 'pin-hole' camera in the bathroom and linking it to his office computer. The bathroom, located on the second floor of the building, was used by not just the counterintelligence director Anil Malhotra but several other officials, including women staffers.' The incident came to light in September 2007 itself, but was hushed up.[19][20]
  • In August 2011, a whistleblower reported that NTRO has tapped 7,50,000 phones illegally.The matter was hushed up and no investigation was done.[21]
  • In April 2013, the department of electronics and information technology (DeitY) accused NTRO of cracking national informatics center (NIC) network.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://ntro.gov.in/
  2. ^ Special Correspondent (6 May 2007). "Technical research agency planned in State". The Hindu. Retrieved 26 December 2008. 
  3. ^ Sandeep Unnithan (7 September 2007). "Spy versus spy". India Today. Retrieved 26 December 2008. 
  4. ^ Syed Amin (5 May 2007). "Top tech body to come up in Hyderabad". Rediff.com. Retrieved 26 December 2008. 
  5. ^ BHAVNA VIJ-AURORA (31 July 2008). "Dad’s army versus terror Flop tag on tech trackers". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 December 2008. 
  6. ^ "National tech research body to be housed in Hyderabad". The Hindu Business Line. 8 May 2007. Retrieved 26 December 2008. 
  7. ^ "'ISRO successfully launches 'spy satellite' RISAT-1'". ndtv. 26 April 2012. 
  8. ^ http://ibnlive.in.com/news/state-govt-allots-land-for-ntro-in-borda-village/424811-3-236.html
  9. ^ http://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/madhya-pradesh-allots-hectares-of-land-to-set-up-ntro-28441.html
  10. ^ http://www.rediff.com/news/report/how-ntro-coast-guard-stopped-explosive-laden-pak-ship/20150102.htm
  11. ^ "Spy vs Spy". India Today. 2010-09-01. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  12. ^ "CAG to audit NTRO". Indian Express. 2010-02-11. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  13. ^ "Who Monitors the Monitor?". Outlook India. 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  14. ^ "CAG unearths Rs 450 crore scam". GovernanceNow.com. 2011-06-14. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  15. ^ "CAG nails RAW arm in Rs 450-cr UAV purchase scam - Rediff.com India News". Rediff.com. 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  16. ^ "Court to probe into national research organisation Rs800 crore scam - India - DNA". Dnaindia.com. 17 August 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  17. ^ Nikhil Kanekal (2011-08-16). "SC wants explanation on NTRO scandal; issues notices to centre". Livemint. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  18. ^ "No more monitoring of probe into NTRO purchases: SC". timesofindia.com. 2012-11-27. 
  19. ^ "NTRO staffer booted out for loo snoop". The Times of India. 2011-09-21. Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
  20. ^ NTRO's ethical hackers to conquer China[dead link]
  21. ^ "Did NTRO tap phones?". Times of India. 2 Aug 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2012. 
  22. ^ "DeitY Accused National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) Of Cracking National Informatics Center (NIC) Network". Centre Of Excellence For Cyber Security Research And Development In India (CECSRDI). 22 April 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 

External links[edit]