The National Intelligence Grid or NATGRID is the integrated intelligence grid connecting databases of core security agencies of the Government of India to collect comprehensive patterns of intelligence that can be readily accessed by intelligence agencies. It was first proposed in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in 2008.The government of India in July 2016 appointed Ashok Patnaik as the Chief Executive Officer of the National Intelligence Grid. The appointment is being seen as the government's effort to revive the project.
Reason for establishmentEdit
The 26/11 attacks on Mumbai led to the exposure of several weaknesses in India's intelligence gathering and action networks. NATGRID is part of the radical overhaul of the security and intelligence apparatuses of India that was mooted by the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram. The National Investigation Agency and the National Counter Terrorism Centre are two organisations established in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks of 2008. Before the attacks, the American Lashkar operative David Coleman Headley had visited India several times and done a recce of the places that came under attack on 26/11. Despite having travelled to India several times and having returned to the US through Pakistan or West Asia, his trips failed to raise the suspicion of Indian agencies as they lacked a system that could reveal a pattern in his unusual travel itineraries and trips to the country. It is argued that had a system like the NATGRID been in place, Headley would have been apprehended well before the attacks.
Structure and functionsEdit
NATGRID is an intelligence sharing network that collates data from the standalone databases of the various agencies and ministries of the Indian government. It is a counter terrorism measure that collects and collates a host of information from government databases including tax and bank account details, credit card transactions, visa and immigration records and itineraries of rail and air travel. This combined data will be made available to 11 central agencies, which are: Research and Analysis Wing, the Intelligence Bureau, Central Bureau of Investigation, Financial intelligence unit, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Enforcement Directorate, Narcotics Control Bureau, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs and the Directorate General of GST Intelligence.
NATGRID is being implemented in four phases, the first two of which will be operationalised by 2014 at a cost of ₹1,200 crores and the first data sets will be retrievable by early 2013. The Cabinet Committee on Security approved the first two phases in 2011. The same year, P. Raghu Raman was appointed the Secretary and CEO of NATGRID and tasked with the establishment of the grid. The implementation of the third and fourth phases are expected to require amendments to several laws to allow for the sharing and transfer of data on items such as property and bank transaction details and internet usage.
Unlike the NCTC and the NIA which are central organisations, the NATGRID is essentially a tool that enables security agencies to locate and obtain relevant information on terror suspects from pooled data of various organisations and services in the country. It will help identify, capture and prosecute terrorists and help preempt terrorist plots.
NATGRID faced opposition on charges of possible violations of privacy and leakage of confidential personal information. Its efficacy in preventing terror have also been questioned given that no state agency or police force has access to its database thus reducing chances of immediate, effective action. NATGRID claims to be protected by several structural and procedural safeguards and oversight mechanisms including that of external audits and technology safeguards.
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