terror in delhi 10/29
Thursday, January 12, 2006
  Combating Terror: Taking Babysteps at Home
Much outrage has been expressed after the terrorist attacks in 2005 especially those in Delhi and Bangalore. The response varied from attacking the terrorist camps in PoK using covert operations, to supporting the Baloch freedom fighters to wean away the Pakistani Army from helping jihadis in Kashmir. Bold steps as they may as we ourselves argued elsewhere, they alone cannot protect our citizens at home at this point. We would like to highlight two immediate steps which need to be taken before any costly counter-terror operations can be undertaken out of our home soil. 1) The problem of "physical security": A low-tech measure such as verifying the photo id before entering places of importance such as the IISc, defense establishments, etc. will go a long way in deterring some of the attacks. Note that not all terrorists are suicide bombers who will gate-crash in an explosive-laden car. Bangalore is not Baghdad. A photo ID verification will definitely prevent a wannabe terrorist from freely carrying out "reconnaissance missions". More details on this topic in this lucid article by B. Raman:
The effective physical security of any establishment---sensitive or non-sensitive, private or public--- depends on effective access control. Poor access control has been responsible for many successful terrorist strikes the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by the LTTE was a glaring example. The Bangalore incident of December 28, 2005, is similarly attributed to poor access control. Access control has four aspects. First, control of access to the establishment to the members of its staff. Second, control of access to outsiders who come to the establishment on legitimate work. Third, control of access to the venues of conferences, seminars etc held inside the campus of the establishment. Four, control of access to motor vehicles and restrictions on their parking. Access control is ensured through means such as renewable identity cards for the permanent members of the staff; temporary identity cards to outsiders coming on legitimate work; numbered invitation cards to those invited to conferences, meetings etc; restrictions on the entry of vehicles of outsiders into the campus; restricting the number of entry points and exits to the minimum unavoidable; identity checking at doors; checking for weapons and explosives through door-frame detectors; checking of vehicles for explosives; installation of closed circuit TV at the points of entry and exit and at sensitive points in the establishment; a central control room to monitor all happenings at the entry points and exits and inside the premises through the CCTV etc.
The classical liberal/libertarian response is "Don't enroach my civil liberties". This is a distorted view of the meaning of liberty itself. The highest and the most sacrosanct of the liberties is the the freedom to live without fear. Such small measures are just minor inconveniences which responsible citizens should be willing to undergo. Now an alert reader might ask "Can you deploy security and do ID checks everywhere, in front of every mall, cinema? " The obvious answer is "No". For that, we come to the second point of our post. 2) Enhancing local intelligence capabilities: We are wrong when we say that India's terrorism problem can be solved by liquidating a few terrorist camps in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The roots of terror goes much deeper. As we pointed in this post about Mr. Mohammad Ibrahim, a Hyderabad native who became a JeM operative. Note that he was trained not in PoK, but in ISI hideouts in Karachi, Pakistan and got his fake passport from terrorist camps in Bangladesh. We cannot eliminate the terror threats by taking down camps in PoK when there are home-grown terrorists from ordinary middle-class backgrounds such as Mr. Ibrahim. This needs a coordination between different state police organizations not only for nabbing the culprits of the attacks but also to share intelligence in a faster manner and not waste precious time to go through bureaucratic channels. We need to systematically address these basic issues first and provide law-enforcement officials with the necessary means in fighting terror at a local level before we take the big steps. Alert citizens and residential associations should take it upon themselves to report suspicious activities in their communities to authorities.
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