NATIONAL

NTRO now under Intelligence Act

Will have same curbs as IB, RAW

The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), which reports to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the National Security Advisor (NSA), will now have the same “norms of conduct” as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).

The Home Ministry issued a notification on May 15 listing NTRO under The Intelligence Organisations (Restriction of Rights) Act, 1985, a demand being made by the organisation for over a decade now.

The Act prevents employees of a notified agency from forming unions/associations, puts restrictions on the employee’s freedom of speech, bars any communication with the press, or publishing a book or other document without the permission of the head of the intelligence organisation.

Both IB and R&AW have on earlier occasions opposed the inclusion of any other organisation in the list of monitoring agencies under the Act.

In 2012, the Home Ministry under the UPA government had declined to grant phone surveillance powers to NTRO based on the argument that it was not notified under the Act.

Slice of the pie

The NTRO was created after the 1999 Kargil conflict as a dedicated technical intelligence agency. It has been fighting tooth and nail to get included in the list as it has the right to lawfully intercept and monitor communications externally. Many security agencies like the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) among others have been asking the Home Ministry to include them under the Intelligence Organisations Act.

“In the schedule to the Intelligence Organisations (Restriction of Rights) Act, 1985 after serial number 3 and the entries relating thereto, the following shall be inserted namely-The National Technical Research Organisation,” the notification issued by the Home Ministry said.

Interception powers

An NTRO official told The Hindu that the amendment had nothing to do with enhanced interception powers but to “bring certain norms of conduct applicable to other intelligence agencies.” The official said the Act does not allow them to intercept phones internally.

NTRO hires many people from the private sector and the Act means they will have the same safety net and restrictions available to other spy agencies.

“The Official Secrets Act is already applicable to NTRO employees. We have restrictions about getting involved in political activities in the country among other things. We only make external intrusions,” said the NTRO official.

Another official said, “We are also working for the country. No one seems to recognise that. The notification will bring that respect and sanctity to our work.”

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