“I am deeply saddened”, began the Minister for IT and Telecom, “by the aspersions that have been cast on the capability and intentions of this government, by honourable members of the Opposition.”
“Are you saying that our country has not been the target of a secret surveillance programme carried out by NSA (National Security Agency) of the US?”, a firebrand young member of the Opposition queried, before the Minister could start the next sentence.
The Minister took a sip of water from a glass placed on his table. He calmly said “No, not at all.”
A murmur of excitement buzzed through the room at this, almost insolent, declaration, and died down. The Minister continued, addressing the Lower House of Parliament, “The media will say anything. You cannot believe everything the media says.”
It was a truism. All members of Parliament knew that. Their careers and reputations were built on fuelling rumours that were picked-up by the media, and feeding off the untruths. They could not question this statement.
“Firstly, let me tell you that the US government has kept us fully in the loop, as is expected from trusted friends and allies. They have even told us that their monitoring has only involved looking at patterns and trends for indications of aberrations. This is why we have given them unfettered access allowing them to tap into computer networks of our telephony and technology companies. But we have limited their access to phone-calls, emails, video-sharing, voice-over-IPs, chats and social networking, as no other medium currently exists for communication. I can assure you that if a new medium were to come into use for any sort of communication in the future, we will limit their access even further to include that medium as well”, the Minister stated.
There was muted applause from the audience at this move which takes the security of the country so seriously that it took even future events into account.
The Minister continued after the applause had died down, “Hence, whoever has told you that it is a secret programme has obviously misled you. I suggest you check your sources of information before you question the government on such sensitive matters. Do you think we would let the security of the country and its citizens be compromised without any knowledge? Of course not. The security of the country and its citizens can be compromised only with our full knowledge and consent.”
There was an audible sigh of relief from the opposition benches. Nobody wanted nasty surprises. It was comforting to know that the government was following laid-down principles of governance.
The minister was not done.
“And I heard the word ‘surveillance’ being used in your statements, is that correct?”, the Minister roared.
The Opposition was on the run. They were scared of looking him in the eye. They had dared to insinuate that it was a secret programme and the minister had provided an adequate explanation. What else did he have up his sleeve now?
“Breach of any Indian law pertaining to the privacy of Indian citizens by surveillance is unacceptable. It would be a matter of concern for our government if intrusive data capture has been deployed against Indian citizens or government infrastructure. Don’t use that word lightly, I advise you. It has serious and sinister connotations. NSA is not carrying out surveillance. I repeat, they are not carrying out any surveillance,” the Minister concluded.
The Opposition members were just not sure of anything any more. They meekly waited for the next sentence from the Minister.
“The NSA is only doing some snooping and spying”, the Minister thundered, protected by the armour of righteousness that he had snatched from the Opposition members.
There was disarray in the Opposition ranks. Everyone was looking at everyone else, as if accusingly saying “you put me up to this embarrassment, didn’t you?”
“The government is convinced that it has not compromised the security of the country and privacy of its citizens”, the Minister continued, in a somewhat conciliatory tone, now that he had been able to convince the Opposition.
“Private calls made by citizens are safe. They are only studying data pertaining to India’s domestic politics, military plans, strategic and economic interests, including its nuclear and space programs.”
At this, the Opposition members got up and applauded whole-heartedly. The Minister had looked into each and every detail of the operation. Their private lives were, once again, clean and beyond reproach.