The gruesome 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks which claimed the lives of 166 people could have been averted if the spy agencies of US, UK and India had remained more vigilant after gathering the high-tech surveillance information for foiling the attack. Even though the state government had received alerts pertaining to the attack but if failed to act on it. After the attack, security was beefed up at various establishments but it was a case of too little too late.
A detailed report by the New York Times, ProPublica and the PBS series ‘Frontline’ titled ‘In 2008 Mumbai Killings, Piles of Spy Data, but an Uncompleted Puzzle’ said “that hidden history of the Mumbai attacks reveals the vulnerability as well as the strengths of computer surveillance and intercepts as a counter-terrorism weapon.
“What happened next may rank among the most devastating near-misses in the history of spycraft. The intelligence agencies of the three nations did not pull together all the strands gathered by their high-tech surveillance and other tools, which might have allowed them to disrupt a terror strike so scarring that it is often called India’s 9/11,” said the lengthy report.
Citing classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, it said although electronic eavesdropping often yields valuable data, even “tantalizing” clues can be missed if the technology is not closely monitored, the intelligence gleaned from it is not linked with other information, or analysis does not sift incriminating activity from the ocean of digital data.
Advocate Sushan Kunjuraman said, “Yes it could have been averted as both the internal and external security had failed. 26/11 was a well coordinated attack and will always be remembered as the worst terror incident witnessed by the city. The security agencies had miserably failed in executing their plans. There is lack of coordination between the countries hence the terrorist outfits succeed in their plans and motives.”
Criminal lawyer Abbas Kazmi said, “All our security agencies like RAW, CBI had miserably failed. What were our intelligence agencies doing if they knew about the possible terror attack? US and UK should have alerted India to avert such a terrible attack as there were American citizens and foreigners among those who were killed on that fateful day.”
In one of the most glaring intelligence failures, the report said Indian and British intelligence agencies monitored online activities of a key 26/11 planner Zarrar Shah, the technology chief of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group, “but couldn’t connect the dots” before the attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.
In the fall of 2008, Shah “roamed from outposts in the northern mountains of Pakistan to safe houses near the Arabian Sea, plotting mayhem in Mumbai, India’s commercial gem.”
He was, however, unaware that by September, the British were spying on many of his online activities, tracking his Internet searches and messages, the report said.