Security of military information and media responsibility
SECURITY: Directed by the President Mahinda Rajapaksa the military
authorities would have now completed their findings of the Muhamalai
debacle and the Habarana devastation. While the contributory causes and
possible security lapses would have been determined, one great
imponderable is the possible breach of security information.
Some newspaper reports and military analysts have commented and
speculated on the possibility of the LTTE having prior information of
the plans Muhamalai Operations and of the movements of the large Navy
contingent on leave.
Considering the nature of the LTTE offensive at Muhamalai, cunningly
luring the Armed Forces to a well laid trap and attacking from the front
and rear and devastation of the Navy contingent proceeding on leave with
clockwork precision tend to lend some support to the possibility of the
LTTE being aware of the precise Armed Services operation and movement of
the Navy personnel.
Further the recent news item in the local newspapers ‚ÄúMajor admits
spying for the LTTE. If these revelations are true it is shocking, very
disturbing and requires immediate review of the present systems and
strategies adopted to ensure security of information of all military
operations, logistics and personnel movements.
Apart from pursuing action on the findings of inquiries of the
Muhamalai debacle and Habarana devastation a ‚ÄúThink Tank‚ÄĚ should be
constituted at the highest level to throw up new thinking on the entire
aspect of security of information of all military operations, and allied
aspects and map out fresh strategies to ensure that all military
information is effectively safeguarded and secured.
It is admitted that it is easy to prescribe solutionsh, but thought
has to be given to them if we are to resolve the painful dilemma thrust
on us by these maniacal terrorists. They have in the past gathered
information by dubious and ingenious ways which have had very adverse
effects on the operations and the morale of the servicemen.
Threats to security
The general task of security, presents at the highest level two main
problems. The first is that of building up a complete picture of the
possible threats to security, hostile organisations and agencies, their
personal methods and objectives.
The second is that of framing counter measures to contain the threat.
While the assessment of the threat is undertaken at a national level,
the counter measures adapted should be directed to safeguard the war
strategies both defensive and offensive operations.
Which is principally subject to attack through espionage.
Which is principally subject to attack through sabotage.
Morale and loyalty which is subject to attack through propaganda and
Security of information
Normally service secrets are graded according to the relative
importance. While various measures are adapted to effectively safeguard
all important information, during the twenty years of the ethnic
conflict, the principle risks to classified information have been those
(C) Cultivation of social relationships
(D) Interception of communications and electronic transmissions
(E) Indiscrete/irresponsible news reports and commentaries by
The services are adequately conscious of these risks and have adopted
certain strategies but not with complete success due to certain
Espionage is procuring of official information, documents and
equipment for the information of the enemy by unauthorized means.
Espionage or spies as they are called work from outside by contacting
personnel within. They naturally place the highest value upon access to
We have reported cases of some misguided service personnel who are
lured by money being used by both the Northern and Southern terrorists
to obtain vital information. In armed insurrection of 1971 the Janatha
Vimukthi Peramuna obtained vital information by infiltration and duress.
Effective defense against espionage depends in the first place of
ensuring only trustworthy personnel have access to classified
information. In this respect it is necessary to constantly screen these
persons and regularly monitor their movements.
Cultivation of social relationships
There have been instances where both the Northern and Southern
terrorists have subtly cultivated social relationships with Armed Forces
and Police personnel for the purpose of gaining information or for
carrying out a particular terrorist assignment.
An example of this is the suicide bomber who befriended some Army
personnel to gain access to the Army Headquarters and made an attempt on
the life of the Army Commander.
The effective way to counter this threat is to be continuously alert
to the dangers arising from social relationships with outsiders. Without
ascertaining their background and bona fides, relationships with
outsiders should not be cultivated.
Interception of communications and electronic transmissions
Direct access to classified information is possible by the
interception of communications. With the sophisticated methods
available, the LTTE has been able to intercept and subvert vital
information. It is important that proper steps are taken to safeguard
all classified communications whether written, by signal, telephone or
other speech systems or correspondence.
Irreparable damage has been caused to the war effort by some media
persons both local and foreign by their indiscrete reports on military
operations. Some of them with little knowledge of the war, logistics and
allied operational aspects often make devastating comments on the
The media scoops are essentially to be one above their rivals. They
revel in sensation to draw the attention of the readers.
In these commentaries they tend to comment on the operations with a
degree of dogmatism and infallibility and even predict the next
operational moves and thrust. By comments and analysis of the operations
of the war journalist tend to boost the LTTE morale.
They are of little solace to our brave soldiers and military
establishments. Strangely most of the articles are critical rather than
complimentary. It has to be remembered that wars cannot be fought
without loss of lives and limbs.
By a piquant paradox the weekly commentaries of the security
situation in the North and East have been of great benefit to the LTTE
while virtually shattering the morale of serviceman.
It will be recalled that sometime ago an LTTE militant Selvadurai
Senthilanathan who defected from the LTTE told the Forces the reports on
the military operations have been of immense help to the LTTE.
The maps and diagrams which are often carried with the reports have
been made use in planning their offensive. While some practicing
journalists have published military information with circumspection and
restrain others have virtually jeopardised the planned operations and
caused undue embarrassment to those in authority and demoralised the
soldiers, by their adverse comments and disclosure of military
This is why Service officials have considered the need to control the
media in respect of military information.
Importance of securing information
The need to effectively and zealously safeguard military information
cannot be overemphasised. This is an aspect which is inextricably
interwoven with intelligence gathering and operational planning.
The effective impact and success of all military operations depend
largely on the element of surprise. Taking the enemy without any prior
indication of the planned operations is essential. It is the
responsibility of all officers to appreciate fully the safeguarding of
all operational and related information and set the right security tone
over the personnel under their review.
There may be lull periods due to build ups and negotiations between
warring sections, but the prime factor that intelligence organisations
may it be national or military organisations have to be hundred per cent
alert and alive to the situation.
Good security coverage and good flow of intelligence are the only
basis on which proper assessment could be made to counter and minimise
terrorist activities and dubious methods used to obtain military
information:- ‚ÄúAs intelligence is the first line of defence‚ÄĚ.
Apart from information military operations have been regularly under
surveillance, the movement of high ranking Armed Forces and police
officials in important positions, should be carefully monitored apart
from providing them with the required security.
Information about their movements have to be kept secret as far as
possible. Both in the case of Major General Parami Kulatunge and Colonel
T.R. Meedin the terrorists were well aware of their detailed movements.
Education is the foundation of security and if everyone is alive the
reasons for zealously safeguarding security information, the risk of
failure is substantially reduced and regulations in respect of security
information will become fully intelligible.
The need to regularly and persistently impress on all service persons
of their sacred obligation to zealously safeguard all military
information cannot be overemphasised.
Media men and women should act with a greater sense of responsibility
when reporting on military operations. It is appreciated that their task
is challenging and unenviable.
They risk their life and limb to take photographs and obtain scoops
for the press and electronic media. The soldiers risk their life and
limb to save the country from sequestration. What is the greater