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Intelligence agencies are reported to have stepped up vigilance on the ground level personnel of sensitive establishments like our airports to strengthen national security. Employees of airlines, lounges, duty free shops and ground handling companies at airports that are vulnerable to terrorist threats and machinations of the enemy agents, are sought to be brought under the watch of our national security set-up as a preventive measure for safeguarding airports and air travel. Prioritising this has come not a day too soon. Verification of character and antecedents of those posted at critical points at the airport by our Intelligence agencies, restriction of access to employees in sensitive segments of the establishment and surprise security audits are some of the measures that suggest themselves.
While this kind of vigilance or lookout was always a part of the Intelligence charter, it is appropriate that today a new level of importance is being attached to what is called the ‘Insider Threat Management’ in security parlance. Some years ago an FBI study had revealed that nearly 40 per cent of security breaches emanated from ‘insiders’ – bringing out the need for special measures that would be required to scan the members of a sensitive organisation suspected to be on the radar of the enemy, from time to time. A whole set of tradecraft in Intelligence is now devoted to reading signs of ‘vulnerability’ in an employee and detecting indicators of ‘suspicion’ for further operational action and mitigation that might become necessary.
In these times of ‘proxy wars’ and foreign-aided ‘insurgencies’ – India is at the receiving end of both – it is easily understood that the adversary is banking on ‘agents’ and collaborators raised by it in the targeted territory or institution. An ‘insider’ collaborating with the enemy would have been ‘planted’ by the latter or ‘turned in’ by the adversary after first working out an ‘approach plan’ for the targeted individual and then using friendly obligation, lure of money or even a honey trap for blackmail, to convert the latter into an ‘agent’. In Indian experience the adversary – a rogue neighbour to be specific – had worked on junior personnel or even part-time associates of the targeted entity to raise a ‘source’ of information. Because of the renewed threat of hijacking or terror bombing, India’s security agencies have now given priority to the ‘Intelligence coverage’ of airports as reported in the media. But, the principles of ‘insider threat management’ would have to be applied to all sectors of strategic importance in the country.
The ‘post-370’ situation in Kashmir illustrates the challenge of detecting and neutralising Pak agents there who had flourished in the regimes of the Valley-based political parties. Collusion of these parties with the pro-Pak separatists for the sake of power, made it possible for the Pak agents to spread their network without fear of law. While the terrorists sent in by Pakistan to launch Jehad in Kashmir engaged in subjugating the population and influencing some local youth to take to gun, the ISI agents hibernating in the state administration and outside masterminded organised stone-pelting on security forces and precipitated civic disturbances to create an environment of destabilisation and raise the bogey of total ‘alienation’ of the Kashmiris against India.
When a clampdown was enforced following the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A to prevent the separatists and Pak agents from indulging in disruptive activities, a lot of cleaning up was still required by way of detection and immobilisation of these elements. This has been a cumulative problem in the Valley for years and Mehbooba Mufti’s government, if anything, proved to be the worst ever regime at Srinagar from the point of view of national security as it gave a free hand to pro-Pak elements and militants joining up with Lashkar-e-Taiba of Pakistan. To prevent the return to normalcy, Pak agents have started burning down the apple orchards in South Kashmir. There is no reason why local authorities cannot identify the ring masters behind this activity and put them away. The difficulty in Kashmir is attributable to the total absence of ‘insider threat management’ by the state administration and the police so far – this is the result of the collusive political leadership that had ruled the state in long spells in an unwritten alliance with the pro-Pak separatists.
Insider Threat Management would not be successful unless the leadership administering strategic segments of the government and sensitive establishments – including senior bureaucrats – are given an orientation on the national security scenario, the threat spectrum and the framework of policy responses India had adopted to deal with the same. Security for all requires a contribution from all too. The head of a sensitive establishment must regard himself or herself as the top security authority as well since security measures – preventive or post-event – would become enforceable only in his or her name.
Security of an enterprise is now deemed to be a mainstream function and not a ‘cost’ to be grudgingly put up with. A close collaboration and working coordination of the security of the institution with the country’s security set-up and agencies is a requirement of our times – this will work for both sides to the nation’s advantage. The Ministry of Home Affairs under the new Home Minister must step up efforts to carry out the security audit of all sensitive establishments of strategic importance in both Civil and Defence sectors and evolve a programme of security orientation for their top management in a short time frame. The country has a large pool of experienced professionals to help it out in this project. (IANS)
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said final congressional passage of the Biden administration's major infrastructure plan comes down to "a fundamental issue" of the lack of water brought on by climate change.
Harris made the comments Monday during a visit to Lake Mead, a man-made reservoir near the gambling and tourist destination city of Las Vegas, Nevada, which provides drinking water and electricity for more than 40 million people across seven western U.S. states and northern Mexico.
The U.S. government in August declared the first-ever water shortage at Lake Mead, which has fallen to record lows amid a two decade-long drought in the Western United States. The shortage has forced officials to impose water rationing next year for Nevada, the neighboring state of Arizona and Mexico.
A buoy once used to warn of a submerged rock rests on the ground along the waterline near a closed boat ramp on Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, near Boulder City, Nev. Water levels at Lake Mead Image credit: VOA
During the visit, the vice president promoted a $550 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, an agreement reached earlier this year between President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators. The investment includes tens of billions of dollars to shore up the nation's water infrastructure and protect communities against the impact of climate change, including lingering heat waves and droughts, along with investments in water recycling and technology to convert sea water into usable drinking water.
"This is about thinking ahead, recognizing where we are and where we're headed -- if we don't address these issues with a sense of urgency, understanding this is literally about life," Harris said.
The infrastructure plan has been approved by the U.S. Senate, but is stalled in the House over intense and increasingly bitter negotiations over funding for the president's $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan, which would provide a significant boost to the nation's social safety net. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Climate Change, Kamala Harris, Urgency, Infrastructure Plan
As a legal battle plays out in the courts, the Biden administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block a Texas law that bans most abortions in the state.
The Justice Department asked the high court Monday to reverse a decision by an appeals court that allows the law to remain in effect while litigation over the policy continues.
The Republican-backed law bans abortions once cardiac activity has been detected in an embryo, which typically occurs at six weeks, a point when some women are not aware they are pregnant.
The law also allows members of the public to sue people who may have facilitated an abortion after six weeks.
The Supreme Court has already ruled on the issue once before in a lawsuit filed by abortion providers. In a 5-4 vote last month, the court allowed the law to remain in effect as the legal battle over it continues.
The Supreme Court, however, has not yet ruled on the constitutionally of the Texas law.
The high court became more conservative under former President Donald Trump, who appointed three justices to the nine-seat bench. Conservatives now hold a 6-3 majority.
The court's handling of the abortion issue is being closely watched since it allowed the restrictive Texas law to take effect last month. Later in September, the court announced it would hear arguments in December in a case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade, the decades-old ruling that gives women the right to an abortion.
The court scheduled oral arguments for December 1 to hear a case concerning a Mississippi state law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The case asks justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that allows women to have abortions in most circumstances. Roe v. Wade establishes a woman's constitutional right to an abortion before a fetus is viable, typically around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The court's latest actions have fueled speculation that a majority of the justices could be inclined to formally curtail abortion rights.
A poll released by Monmouth University last month found that 62% of Americans believe abortion should either always be legal or be legal with some limitations. Twenty-four percent said it should be illegal except in rare circumstances such as rape, while 11% said it should always be illegal. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Abortion Law, Texas, Biden Administration
The Olympic Flame that will be burning for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games was ignited on Monday at the birthplace of the Games in Ancient Olympia, Greece. During the traditional ceremony, actress Xanthi Georgiou in the role of an ancient Greek High Priestess used a concave mirror to focus the sun's rays and light a torch before the 2,500-year-old Temple of Hera, a goddess in ancient Greek mythology.
At the end of the ceremony, the High Priestess handed over the flame to the first torchbearer, Greek skier Ioannis Antoniou, inside the stadium which hosted the first Games centuries ago. A total of three torchbearers will relay the torch in Ancient Olympia. Former Chinese short track speed skating athlete Li Jiajun was the second runner, reports Xinhua.
Following a short symbolic torch relay, the flame will be transferred to Athens to be passed over on Tuesday to the organizers of Beijing 2022. The XXIV Winter Olympics will take place from February 4 to 20, 2022, followed by the Paralympics Winter Games. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: ancient, olympics,torchbearers,chinese,beijing,olympia,ceremony,winter