ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Not a Very Intelligent Attempt at Intelligence Reform

Intelligence agencies like the Research and Analysis Wing, Intelligence Bureau and National Technical Research Organisation are notorious for their abuse of civil liberties and also have a pathetic record of effectiveness. A private member's bill, the Intelligence Services (Powers and Regulation) Bill, 2011 which is meant to set things right, however contains ambiguous provisions that hold immense possibilities for abuse of powers. It also hands out near total control over the agencies and their accountability bodies to the prime minister and the executive.

India’s intelligence agencies are as notorious for their civil liberties abuses as they are for their intelligence failures.1 In a lecture sponsored by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in 2010, Vice-President Hamid Ansari expressed the need for parliamentary oversight over intelligence agencies because of concerns related to the concentration of power over intelligence agencies in the executive, the executive’s misuse and abuse of intelligence powers, the absence of accountability for such abuse, the lack of inter-agency coordination and the need for transparency and public debate.2 Manish Tewari, Member of Parliament (MP) and spokesperson for the Congress Party, the main partner in the ruling United Progressive Alliance, advanced a private member’s bill that seemingly targets these issues.3 ­Unfortunately, the Intelligence Services (Powers and Regulation) Bill, 2011 (here­after the bill) does little to address its stated goals of increasing intelligence coordination, regulation, oversight and accountability. The bill uses vague terms and broad provisions to give the agencies free rein; it concentrates power in the executive; and creates toothless oversight and accountability mechanisms that lack independence from the executive. The failings of the bill are so great that it is hard to avoid concluding that it is little more than a cosmetic effort to appear to be reforming the intelligence community while actually doing nothing.


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