Indian Lieutenant colonel in soup for befriending ISI agent on Facebook

NEW DELHI: In yet another security breach in the military, an Army officer has been caught for establishing contact on social networking site Facebook with a Bangladeshi woman working for Pakistan’s ISI. The woman, in fact, had earlier “honey-trapped” another Indian officer in an ISI espionage operation in Bangladesh late last year.

The Army is conducting a court of inquiry (CoI) against the officer, a lieutenant colonel from the 82 Armoured Regiment deployed in a forward formation in Suratgarh district of Rajasthan, to ascertain whether he divulged or compromised classified operational information along the western front with Pakistan.

The Army strongly denied reports that the lieutenant colonel had also got entangled in a honey trap — basically an intelligence operation for first seducing and then blackmailing a person into divulging confidential information – or that two laptops with sensitive information had gone missing.

“The officer was just chatting online with the woman on the computer … there was no physical contact. No laptops have been lost. We are conducting a CoI into the incident,” a senior officer said.

Intelligence Bureau got wind of the matter as they were already tracking the Bangladeshi woman, identified as Sheeba, after she had honey trapped another Indian lieutenant colonel, this time a Para Regiment commando, who was undergoing a staff college course in the Bangladesh military academy in Dhaka last year.

“The Para officer was compromised in the ISI honey trap at Dhaka. But instead of giving away any information, he alerted Indian authorities and was promptly flown out of Bangladesh,” an official said.

Other military officers have also been caught in honey traps in recent years. The Navy, for instance, last year sacked Commodore Sukhjinder Singh after his sexually explicit pictures with a Russian woman had surfaced. Singh was posted in Moscow as part of the Indian negotiating team for the acquisition of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov (now rechristened INS Vikramaditya), for which India finally agreed to pay $2.33 billion after protracted and bitter negotiations with Russia.

Several military officers are also in the dock for compromising classified information and data through the improper use of internet or social networking websites like Facebook, Orkut and Twitter despite strict guidelines against such conduct.

Five to six officers, for instance, are facing a naval board of inquiry (BoI) after Chinese hackers were recently detected to have broken into sensitive naval computers, in and around Eastern Navy Command HQs at Visakhapatnam, with the help of “worm-infected” pen-drives.

Another BoI in the Mumbai-based Western Navy Command has recommended stringent action, including dismissal from service, against at least two commanders for posting confidential information and data, including location of warships and their patrolling patterns, on Facebook.

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Intel Alert: Mobile Phone Guns Available In The Market

Pakistan’s preimier intelligence agency has warned of the danger posed by the availability of mobile phone guns in the local market.

An urgent letter from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency to law-enforcement and intelligence outfits has warned of the infiltration of the sets, which appear to be normal cellular phones, and could potentially be used to assassinate key individuals.

The news has come as a shock to officials and organisations that have yet to devise a strategy to eradicate the threat.

“These guns are reportedly of European origin and look just like a normal cellular phone but can fire 4 rounds of 0.22 calibre in quick succession using just the keypad,” said an intelligence source citing details of the warning received through the ISI.

“The guns are available in Peshawar’s Karkhano Market priced at around Rs30,000 a piece. But obviously there are concerns that the supply of these guns to other parts of the country may begin any time, as the weapon is popular among those in the arms business.”

Among other threats, the spy agency sees a serious danger to the lives of senior government functionaries and political leaders. The guns, as the source said, could easily be used as a tool to target people from a very close range.

“Since the gun looks like a cellphone, there is a strong possibility that terrorists may use it in places where they cannot get through with a conventional weapon,” said the source.

The mobile phone guns are believed to have been manufactured in Yugoslavia or Croatia. The antennae of the gutted phones function as gun barrels and the numbers 5 through 8 on the keypad work as triggers. Security experts say the cell phone guns, as well as other improvised explosive devices, can be detected by screening equipment now in use at airports internationally.