Adrian Levy, one of the most sought after guests at the Zee Jaipur Lit Fest is an award-winning journalist who frequently writes for The Guardian. He was in the news recently for his book, 'The Seige' in which he spoke about how the Pakistanis and the ISI had an Indian mole within the security establishment. Adrian sheds some light on some of the ideas he put forward in his book and answers some questions about journalism in general, the state of free press and the foreign intervention policies of the United States.
The first question that Adrian wanted to address was about whether the authorities or the Taj personnel had prior warning and notice about the attacks on 26/11.
"I don't think they knew anything". Adrian went on to say that the Mumbai attacks were as much a political failure as an intelligence failure.
"I mean there was a mole, and he said the information was passed to P Chidambaram and the cabinet and we were asked not to mention it. But the point is they did know that information was being passed."
Adrian has spoken at several sessions about US politics, the Afghan war, and the inside details of the Mumbai terror attacks at the Taj which took place on the night of November 26, 2008. According to him, after the attacks the atmosphere was tense all over the world.
"I heard nothing but horror and dismay from the Pakistanis but that got whittled away. 4,725 people have died due to terrorism in Pakistan." he said.
He further spoke about the fact that with governments these days, State doesn't necessarily mean the ones that make the decisions.
"What was really interesting is, what you mean by state. It's quite an ambiguous area, if you're talking about the people in power, the people who control Pakistan, you know Lashkar-e-Taiba and the government are one and the ISI is conveniently just a ball of talk. It's a difficult question really."
We then spoke about how internal politics hampers the effective functioning of intelligence agencies taking into account that there are obvious reasons why intelligence sharing between countries is not common.
Speaking about the Taj attacks Adrian said, "It's impossible to say if information was to be shared or not." However drawing from his experience with on the ground reporting he did say that at hot borders, military information is shared, but that's not the case with intelligence.
Coming back to the point of internal politics within agencies, we spoke about the reformation of intelligence practices. "Look at the internal culture of these agencies and how it matches those of places like Turkey and the Middle East. I believe that the intelligence culture does not encourage an entrepreneurial culture; they just breed a culture of extreme secrecy which places politics at the forefront. So that makes it very hard to step outside your pay grade and it’s very hard to question hierarchy."
This led to the topic of whether journalists can actually report a story. "There is a sort of shepherding of media. Some of it may be required to curb the chaos and panic of the public but other times it isn't needed at all." The journalist believes that free press in India is vitally needed because there are a lot of vested interests between the public sector, the private sector and the political sector.
With respect to foreign intervention by the CIA and America's involvement in matters of foreign affairs, Adrian gave some very interesting inputs."Why are we in the position where governments and their agencies are arming ISIS, what was happening in Syria? These wars going on today show that the west has lost all the moral ground they may have had at some point. These interventions have massive long term ramifications."
"There is no such thing as a successful incision with a huge bomb, there are way more people being killed." He went on to say that using drones and torturing people, unauthorised detention and these are all going against all legal manifestoes. And effectively what happens due to the use of such strategies shows that the west loses all of its arguments and fuels the long term war with al-Qaeda.
"Remember that while things are wrapped up in the nature and name of democracy, they really are about self interest. We should just call it what it is, America represents Americans and the President's policies are all in self-interest. Let's just call it that, let's not pretend it is for democracy, they are in line with America's interests which are not the same as the interest of India or Pakistan."