Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Terrorists Had Better Tools

I haven't had time to post this until now:

When the attackers arrived on the shores of Mumbai last month, they had studied satellite images of the city, were carrying handheld GPS sets and were communicating with their handlers via the Internet and satellite phone.

Many of the Indian police they encountered did not even have walkie-talkies.

The Mumbai gunmen not only overwhelmed security forces with their weaponry and willingness to die, but also with their sophisticated use of technology, security experts said.

"These (terrorists) are well aware of the technology available and also know that the police are several steps behind. And a lot of this technology is extremely easy to use and to learn," said Pavan Duggal, a technology expert and New Delhi-based lawyer.
Several thoughts come to mind.

First, the Indian police are woefully underfunded, ill-equipped and poorly trained to handle such situations.

Second, the terrorists may be sophisticated in their tactics but not in technology. Many of the equipment they used were the off-the-shelf variety, that can be had cheaply and quickly. The Indian police could avail themselves of the same technologies but the bureaucracy is so mired in the dark ages that their is an institutional aversion to anything beyond the oscillating fans (which were only introduced after great handringing and clenching of teeth).

And third, the United States, for all its failure at HUMINT, has a first rate ELINT capabiliy. If the terrorists were communicating via the internet and satellite phones, there is a good chance several United States intelligence agencies (specifically the NSA) has it on file somewhere.

It's possible, I suppose, tht the United States had an inkling something big was in the works. The question is: did the United States know it, and if they did, did they notify India? And if India did receive such intelligence, why did they fail to act on it?