Following reports that India is soon to have it’s own version of No Such Agency, The Unreal Times reporter for technology, Gill Bates, was invited to chat up with the newly anointed head of the National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC) (who will be referred to as Mr N in order to protect his anonymity until the official announcement of his position). In a free-wheeling, and at times startlingly frank, chat, Mr N discusses the important role that will be played by NCCC in an increasingly policed Internet environment.
URT: Sir, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
Mr. N (smiles): Well, well. I must say, the pleasure is all mine. Can we jump right to the questions? I am a little pressed for time…
URT: Er, of course. The Indian government has just announced the setting up of a national intelligence agency that would have uninhibited access online activities of Indians. This announcement has come just days after the US NSA snooping controversy. Do you think the setting up of NCCC is a knee-jerk reaction to this development?
Mr N: Of course not! The present Indian government has always intended on snooping on its citizens at some point in the future. I wouldn’t say this is a knee jerk reaction. This proposal was put forth during the 1970s, but has come to fruition only now. I mean, come on, when has the Indian government EVER reacted knee-jerkingly to ANY issue of ANY importance?
URT (startled at the frankness of Mr N): Oh, um, well. Actually you do have a point… So would you give us an insider’s view on how exactly you are going to go about with the surveillance of more than 300 million Indians who have an internet connection?
Mr N: Well, we are pretty organized on that front. We have divided the whole surveillance operation into three phases: (counts on fingers) Number 1: monitoring e-mail accounts; Number 2: enhanced digital patrolling of social network accounts; Number 3: snooping on Search Engines…
Wait, we also have a wonderful graphic artist who has recently joined us today. He has done a superb illustration of the three-phase operation. Let me show you. You can also put it up on your website. Here’s a print out…
URT (looks at the graphics and tries to control laughter): Oh, um well. That is indeed a colourful riot!
Mr N (smiles proudly): Nice no?
URT: Yeah, wonderful. Er… are you sure you can show this to the outside world?
Mr N (caught unawares and quickly snatches away the paper): Oh, sorry. I was caught up in the moment. He he, it happens to everyone. Just got a little bit excited…Of course, you can’t put it up on your website… It’s G14 classified stuff.
URT (raises eyebrows): Umm, okay, let’s talk about the advanced systems that will be put in place for monitoring the online activities of Indians. So how do you plan to procure start-of-the-art equipment for cyber surveillance? Are you planning to import them or would they be “home-made”?
Mr N (gives a mysterious smile): Ha ha, I wouldn’t worry too much about that eh?
URT (doggedly): Would you care to elaborate?
Mr N: Well, we are procuring all our intelligence surveillance equipment from a very well-reputed first-rate manufacturer.
URT: Oh, would you tell us whether the vendor is domestic or international based?
Mr N: Ha, you are very clever, eh? Trying to extract classified information from me? (guffaws) Well, all I can tell you is that the vendor is from India’s most friendly neighboring nation, which also happens to be the most populous right now. We managed to find a supplier who quoted rock-bottom prices for the equipment we are purchasing…
URT (interrupts, stunned): You are telling me that the intelligence equipment will be procured from a Chinese vendor?
Mr N (unflustered): Oh you are so clever at deducing clues! Yes, we have gone for the cheap and best option.
URT (recovering from the stunning revelation): Er, have you considered the ramifications of procuring intelligence equipment from a Chinese vendor to spy on Indians? Wouldn’t that be a…
Mr N (interjects, smiling): Conflict of interest?
URT (mutters): Well, more like betrayal of interest…
Mr N: HAHAHA… you are real funny. Let me tell you something, our agency is not that dumb. Once we get the equipment from our vendor, we will break it down and clearly sweep for any spying devices that may have been planted during the production process.
URT (relieved): Well, I think that’s a wonderful idea! But don’t you think that will add to the cost of the project and lead to delays?
Mr N (again smiles enigmatically): I wouldn’t worry about that! We have found a very reliable and cheap and best firm that will conduct a super thorough sweeping for spyware in the devices. The production chain is such that the surveillance equipment will be produced and then directly transported next door for sweeping. You see, both the production and inspection facilities are located just a few minutes away from each other… So no worries!
URT reporter shakes head in disbelief.
Mr N: Ha, I see you are stunned at the ingenuity of the whole process, eh?
URT reporter, clearly at a loss for words, just shakes head and takes a deep breath.
Mr N: Well, well. Never underestimate the intelligence of a government agency (winks at the reporter).
URT (rattled): Um, yes. Of course not… So going back to the earlier question where you mentioned that e-mail accounts, social network websites and search engines will be monitored… Can you tell us what are the websites that will be under the scanner?
Mr N: Well in order to know our surveillance demographics better, NCCC conducted a clandestine market research and came up with three main websites that Indians use these days. So we will be concentrating all our energies in conducting surveillance of these websites…
URT (hopefully): I guess you are not going to divulge the names of these websites now…
Mr N (indignantly): Of course not. It’s Hotmail, Google Wave and Bing, but, again, it is G14 classified information so really cannot tell you…
URT (faintly): Well, thank you for taking the time to talk to The Unreal Times. I, er.., wish you all the best for your agency’s work.
Mr N (smiles radiantly): Well it was a pleasure talking to you too. Will send an Orkut friend request to you soon eh? (winks at reporter and laughs heartily).
URT reporter tries to laugh half-heartedly, fails, and walks out of the room in a daze.