India’s Federal Investigation Agency

India, it should be clear to anyone who’s watched the news in recent days, or who followed events in Mumbai on the web, is very, very different from the United States. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just the way things are. The broad, sweeping social and cultural changes that have taken place in recent decades – and which continue to this day – may be changing India, but in doing so they haven’t made the country “more American”, or “more British”; the country remains – and will probably remain – uniquely Indian… and that’s a good thing.

I get accused of being unpatriotic whenever I say this sort of thing, but I really believe that the United States is not a country that others should aspire to emulate. History, I think, bears this out; out track record on social and cultural exports isn’t exactly earth-shattering. That’s one of the reasons I’m concerned about a recent announcement from India in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

In direct response to some of the perceived shortcomings, the Indian government has announced the creation of a federal anti-terrorism organization, the Federal Investigation Agency. From what I can tell from media reports, this is going to be a big, umbrella-style organization along the lines of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The parallels are striking: suffer a massive attack by foreign terrorists, reflexively create a new federal anti-terror agency.

I think it’s a horrible mistake, for India.

They don’t need a new “investigation agency”, and I’d argue they can’t afford to create one: it can only be staffed by the young and inexperienced – which limits its effectiveness rather drastically – or by experienced personnel removed from one of the dozens of existing agencies, where they’re probably, quite frankly, badly needed. Too, the country has enough law-enforcement, military, para-military, and counter-terrorism bodies already; adding another is only going to confuse matters more than they currently are.

From all I’ve read, what they need to do seems fairly simple: fund the existing agencies better, and get them to talk to each other. The funding, I’m sure, is a political issue which – at least in the short term – will probably no longer be an issue. Communication is another question – one which won’t be answered by adding another new agency into the mix. No, what India needs to do is emulate the United States, not by creating their own Department of Homeland Security, but by creating and successfully implementing intelligence fusion centers.

The failure to stop the Mumbai attacks was not one of having too few dots, or too few agencies to collect and store dots; the failure was one of not connecting the dots they already had, and following up on them. A “Federal Investigation Agency” won’t do India much good, if any; intelligence fusion centers are not magic bullets that will make everything better, but they are, I think, a huge step in the right direction.

Fusion centers, in the U.S., are not without their critics – usually those who decry “data mining” in all its myriad forms. Their shortcomings, real or perceived, would probably need to be addressed by India beforehand; at worse, we’d probably find that what critics in this country object to in fusion centers are not an issue in India, either for social or technological reasons; at best, India could take the opportunity to teach the West how fusion centers should be done. Either way, it’s a win-win situation… for everyone but terrorists, at any rate.

Published in: General, Security | on December 1st, 2008| Comments Off on India’s Federal Investigation Agency

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