Who leaked Army chief General VK Singh’s secret letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the poor state of the armed forces to the media? Is it possible that the same sources helping the media with information could be disclosing the same to spies of the enemy countries as well? Do the sources help shady agents of arms dealers too? This is something the government must consider seriously in the wake of the controversy over General Singh’s letter.
Top secret documents are supposed to be top secret documents, accessible to only a handful of people. These carry sensitive information concerning the security and other interests of the country. Given the delicate nature of the content, the documents are kept out of the public domain as a normal bureaucratic practice. These are available exclusively to experts and a select few decision makers.
The documents should strictly be no-go area for outsiders. Simply because the matters involved are not meant for fish market discussion and insane television debates. Media organisations keep getting sensitive information from top secret documents, courtesy their sources, but they take a judgement call whether to go public with it depending on the nature of the subject.
Responsible editors prefer not to sensationalise issues of national interest and make a public tamasha of it. However, it is always a subjective call. Sense of responsibility could be interpreted in different ways. But the problem does not lie with the news organisations. It lies with the custodians and caretakers of the top secret documents. It is clear that there are rogue elements among them who would shell out information for some consideration. Given too many leaks are happening these days, it is possible there are too many rogues in responsible positions.
It is not surprising that the political class is disturbed over the development. Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley called it an "alarming situation that letters which are otherwise intended to be secret and meant to be kept secret find their way into the media...The fact that they can be leaked and come into the public domain itself is a matter of serious concern," he said today.
Speaking in Rajya Sabha, opposition leaders expressed concern that matters of national security were being leaked to the media. "Responsibility will have to be fixed and action be taken, irrespective of the position they (those responsible for leaks) may hold in the defence forces or the civilian administration. And that assurance must be given," said CPM leader Sitaram Yechury.
That the opposition agreed that the issue is serious and should not be subject of "acrimonious public debate" tells a lot about the gravity of the lapse.
The source of the leak could be in General VK Singh himself, who is at loggerheads with the government after it refused to entertain his plea for the date of birth petition. If he is responsible, he should be sacked immediately. He is compromising the trust reposed in his office by the nation by making his battle with the defence ministry personal. If he is actually the man behind the leak then he might reveal more sensitive information.
If the leak has happened from the prime minister’s office, the bureaucrats concerned must be brought to book. There have been several leaks from the PMO in recent times, putting the UPA government in an embarrassing situation. But this one is more serious. The communication between the prime minister and the Army chief is a top secret affair. It should not be handled casually.
The government must start an investigation with required urgency and find out whether top secrets documents are routinely handed over to spies inside the country and those operating from outside.
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Updated Date: Mar 28, 2012 18:33:41 IST