Vol. 5 Num 438 Fri. August 19, 2005  

Intelligence failure of epic proportions
The government must take the entire blame
To say that the more than five hundred near-simultaneous bombings were a case of intelligence failure will be an understatement given the enormity of the incidents that involved all but one of the sixty-four districts of the country. It was a failure of epic proportions that cannot admit of any excuse. The government will have to take the entirety of the blame for this failure.

We are horrified, flabbergasted, awestruck and confounded by the utter incompetence and failures of our security apparatus. It will not be an exaggeration to suggest that those that are entrusted to ensure our security jeopardized it. We are similarly worried to see the operational proficiency of the perpetrators of the 17 Aug bombings, nearly five hundred of whom managed to evade the eyes of the SB, NSI, DGFI, local police intelligence, and other intelligence apparatuses in Bangladesh, and carry out the attacks.

The fact that almost five hundred bombings were carried out must have involved very thorough and laborious logistics and planning. This was not planned overnight, certainly not in seven days. This must have also involved no less than five hundred ground operators, not to speak of the many that were involved in the planning and preparation stages. The whole operations involved movement of men and material over many days to almost five hundred different places and set off in very precisely synchronised a manner. It's all the more ludicrous when, going by the admission of the state minister, the government had taken special measures in view of intelligence reports of possible untoward incidents between 14 and 16 Aug. Surely the perpetrators did not move just on the morning of the 17th but quite possibly during the time when the law enforcing and intelligence agencies were supposed to be more alert than normal. One can only shudder at the state of alertness of our security agencies.

It is even more disconcerting and absurd that the failure occurred in the backdrop of several incidents of the previous years. There has been, over the last several years, spate of bombings and terrorist acts in which foreign dignitaries were made targets while in some instances senior members of the opposition fell victims. Only last year there was the biggest arms haul in our country, which still remains a mystery, insofar as its destination, source and the brain behind the operation were concerned. August 21 grenade attacks, where 21 people were killed, remain unsolved. Apparently, no action beyond a so-called judicial inquiry has been taken in this regard. Given this background, the failure of our intelligence agencies to get a wind of the operation is as puzzling as deserving a thorough inquest into the affairs of our intelligence apparatus.

The less said about the counter intelligence capability of the relevant intelligence agencies the better. But we will be remiss if the entire responsibility of the failure was laid at the doors of the agencies. We feel that much of the blame must lie squarely on the government for lack of proper direction and also on the shoulders of those responsible for tasking and utilising our intelligence assets. Whatever is the capability of these agencies, in most cases their efforts are misutilised, mostly on political purpose. Instead of performing the counter intelligence work, they are utilised either to snoop on the political opponents or cover someone who has fallen foul of the administration and needs to be sorted out. It is thus no wonder that the real anti-state elements and the evildoers are left free to go about their business of endangering the lives of the citizens.

The intelligence and the security apparatus have totally failed to protect the people and the government of the day; the responsibility for this failure must fall squarely on those at the helms of affairs.