A new book by a former official of the Research & Analysis Wing on the botched attempt by the organisation to net an alleged CIA mole in its midst must prompt a rethink on the Official Secrets Act, a retired intelligence official told The Hindu.
B. Raman, a former head of the R&AW’s counter-terrorism division, who advocates more transparency in the intelligence services, told The Hindu that Escape to Nowhere by Amar Bhushan should be an opportunity to “review and modernise the OSA so that more knowledge on the state of our intelligence is available in the public domain.”
According to Mr. Raman, as broad details of the Rabindar Singh case were already public knowledge, the novel is unlikely to have given away any secrets. The only parts that the government “may find objectionable,” he said, was the detailed discussion about the techniques employed to watch the suspect.
Even if the book was an attempt by Mr. Bhushan to ‘whitewash’ his own role in the goof-up, Mr. Raman said, it served to shed more light on an important but “sad’ episode in the R&AW’s history, and the government should not “needle Amar” for this.
Now leading a retired life in a village in Jharkhand, Mr. Bhushan told The Hindu that the book was not an attempt to fight back the criticism he faced in the aftermath of Singh’s escape to the U.S.
“I didn't want young intelligence officers to be afraid of failure and lose heart in face of criticism. I was worried that if this happened, the Agency will become slowly hollow and there will be nothing left of being proud,” he wrote in response to questions emailed to him.
The upright Jeevnathan in the book is none other than Mr. Bhushan, and Ravi Mohan is Rabindar Singh. Though clearly no John Le Carre, the author provides a riveting account of 96 days of watching, following and finally losing his quarry.
The book also details the fights within about the best way to corner the suspect, and how some officials in government wanted the surveillance ended in order to avoid unpleasantness with the U.S.
He is not shy about dealing with the strains at the top of the organization, the rivalries and the ego clashes that beset the R&AW (in the book, just the “Agency”) in the early part of the last decade, when C.D.Sahay was heading it.
Maloy Dhar, in 2005, and Mr. Raman, in 2007, were the first to write books on the intelligence services. Mr. Raman said he did not need to take permission from the organisation for his The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane, as he had retired from service 13 years earlier.
Also published in 2007 was Major-General V.K. Singh’s, India’s External Intelligence: Secrets of RAW, two years after he retired from service. Unlike the previous books, this one brought immediate retribution from the government. His home was raided and a case was registered against him for violating the Official Secrets Act, though nothing much has been heard of the case since then.
Mr. Bhushan said he was “committed to the law,” and even if others followed his lead, there would be no danger to the country’s secrets. “No officer worth his salt will spill beans that compromise the security of his organisation, safety of operations and operatives and help the enemy. Only ignorant, innocent and ill informed officers with streaks of disloyalty will do that,” he said.