Discussion of Indo-U.S. Cooperation
T.G.K. Murthy and John Holdren,
The presentations by K. Santhanam and Richard Garwin were followed by an extensive discussion of steps that might advance Indo-U.S. cooperation in applying science and technology to combating terrorism. The discussion moderators in this session were T.G.K. Murthy and John Holdren, who both discussed opportunities and pitfalls; the subsequent discussion attempted to narrow down the subjects for cooperation, but also noted political and other obstacles.
Murthy began by reiterating the commonalities between India and the United States: they are the biggest democratic countries in the world, and they have a shared faith in human freedom, which is sometimes exploited by terrorists. The manifestations of terrorism will be different at different times and are highly unpredictable. Murthy regarded terrorism as an effect, but what is its cause? The mitigation of terrorism requires a holistic approach, not a single-point solution. There must be sensors, surveillance systems that operate from different platforms, stretching from the ground to elevated platforms, to space-bound systems. Murthy expressed his surprise that space technology had been ignored in the workshop’s discussion. Space technology plays a vital role in society and in the world as a whole; there is a potential for terrorist activity to spread to space programs.
Murthy asserted that a key element in combating terrorism is information-gathering systems that act as eyes, ears, and intelligence, for which there should be newer materials such as biomaterials and nanomaterials, appropriate process technologies, and maybe some body-embedded microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), perhaps for security guards assigned to important figures. He suggested that MEMS-based systems could be embedded into bridges, high-value systems, highways, and even nuclear platforms, and monitored from space-based surveillance systems. They could be complemented by high-resolution thermal vision systems, which the workshop had not considered. Murthy concluded by reiterating the problem, discussed earlier by Santhanam and P. Rama Rao, of the difficulty of exchanging information between states because of walls of laws, embargoes on technology, and so forth.
Holdren tried to organize the problem of applying science and technology into different tasks, and these might be undertaken in different fora. One task is that of “sharing and comparing.” The two countries could share and compare perceptions, practices, experiences, and analytical results relating to different threats and responses. They could also share and compare technology, designs and hardware, and intelligence.
A second approach would go beyond sharing and comparing. It would involve the joint analysis of threats and responses and codesign of strategies, laws, and regulations. It would also involve working together to develop, improve, and test technologies; to build individual and institutional capacity; to educate the public and policy makers; and to implement the identification of actual emergent threats, and the interdiction and defense against them in recovery from attacks if they cannot be prevented. There would also be joint work to conduct what Holdren called “integrated assessment” of an area of terrorist threat and response; for example, what does the whole landscape look like, what more could be done, what are the unexploited opportunities, what are the areas where resources are being wasted, what are the areas where resources are inadequate? Those are all forms of joint work that could be envisioned.
Next, there was the practical question of how the two countries would interact and cooperate. Is it best done with ad hoc workshops, lab-to-lab working parties (of the sort that had taken place between the United States and Russia on such problems as nuclear materials protection, control and accounting, and, briefly, between the United States and China)?
Other forms of interaction include standing joint committees for oversight and analysis (such as an existing committee within the National Academies and Russian Academy of Sciences for oversight and analysis of U.S.-Russian cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation and counterterrorism). There are also joint centers for analysis and technologies, and various joint operations for implementation, identification, interdiction, defense, and recovery.
Another way to characterize these kinds of cooperation is by asking who organizes them? What are the organizing entities, academies, think tanks, universities, national laboratories, and institutes, for example, the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and various combinations of United Nations’ agencies, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)? Holdren noted that in his paper he had applied this framework to develop an architecture for actual and potential forms of Indo-U.S. cooperation on nuclear threats.
Holdren noted that this was the moment to start thinking systematically about recommendations for cooperation. He added that there is the further issue of relevant criteria; that is, we need to identify the intersection points between the most dangerous threats and the most compelling opportunities. It is particularly important that the subject chosen should have some chance of delivering helpful results quickly: it does not make sense to pick important problems that were close to impossible to solve.
Two interventions from earlier discussions were especially relevant to the question of selecting topics for joint U.S.-India research. Marco DiCapua suggested that there might be separate matrices for India and the United States—the weight that the threat represents, the ease or difficulty of implementation, and the strength of each country to engage in dealing with that threat. There might be activities where India has strengths that would greatly benefit the United States and vice versa. For the United
States, one would rate the importance of communications and information technology (IT) very highly, and give a very low weight for difficulty; agriculture and biotechnology would be important, but slightly more difficult, whereas for nuclear safety the weight of importance would be very high, but so would the weight assigned to the difficulty of coping with the problem. Thus, disease and pathologies in cattle would be an excellent theme for collaboration, because there are some big asymmetries in the cattle industry in the United States and India, and the cattle industry has such a large economic importance when one cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) disease can have a major impact on U.S. industry, as recently occurred. Similarly, for India, cattle are important for agriculture and for protein production.
The safety of nuclear installations and the response to nuclear disasters has already been vetted by the U.S. Inter-Agency Group. From the U.S. perspective this is easy to do; whether India will agree is an open question. Other joint projects could involve nuclear materials protection, control, and accounting; exchange of best practices; and techniques for surveillance of e-mail and Internet networks.
M.K. Rasgotra proposed a nongovernmental meeting of 20 or 25 countries that have nuclear assets or have a potential of acquiring them. He suggested that the United States could meet with two, three, or four similarly placed countries and discuss the nature of their safety measures. Similarly, India could assemble a different group of two or three countries to discuss safety issues, and then these six or eight states should come together. After a few years the group could be enlarged to 20 or 25 countries.
Rasgotra advocated such a group because events had bypassed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the IAEA, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which he termed a “denial group.” The NSG had to be converted to a “nuclear safety group.” There might also be a consortium of nuclear plant builders to develop a standard design, and evolve standard safety practices, and pool expertise to develop cheaper alternative sources of energy for countries that cannot afford civilian nuclear plants. Rasgotra concluded by observing that unless there was a world organization or facility that collectively devised means of providing cheap, affordable, nonnuclear energy to such countries, this race for nuclear power will continue.
Roddam Narasimha reiterated that while there was agreement that the terrorism problem is not the same in the United States as it is in India, there are many areas where the two countries might be able to work together—and identifying these areas is important. He restated the criteria for selection of joint projects that had been proposed by Ambassador Harry Barnes in an earlier session. Barnes had offered six guidelines for selecting cooperative projects: (1) prioritize a few feasible projects, with deadlines for completion, (2) assign specific responsibilities to each side, (3) identify and confirm funding sources, (4) establish clear channels of communication, (5) flag potential obstacles, and (6) remain aware of what the two governments were doing. He also suggested that Indians and Americans, when working together, are apt to be very ambitious, which is good, but were sometimes ambitious to the point of being unrealistic, and Barnes urged that the criteria be “MA” or “AM”: modestly ambitious or ambitiously modest.
Christopher Davis suggested five initial criteria for a joint Indo-U.S. project that applied science and technology to the problem of terrorism: (1) mutual interests, (2) individual strengths, (3) complementary requirements, (4) nonsensitive issues and, (5) mutual benefits.
Narasimha stated that funding should not be a problem if good topics were chosen; he judged that the best Indian partner for such a joint project was not the Indian Academy of Science but one of the national laboratories or institutes. He agreed with earlier speakers that there were still sensitivities in both countries, and that an early failure would damage the chance for continued cooperation.
Nuclear reactor safety was an area of strong common concern. So were projects that drew upon Indian strengths in IT, both in academia and in the private sector. India was also strong in matters connected with surveillance, sensors, and sensor technology development, and was very interested in electronic interceptors, jammers, and technologies related to surveillance. Further, one interesting possibility is sharing experiences with power transmission, where India is in the peculiar position of having a system that is so bad that it has learned to live with it. There may be lessons for others, notably the questions of islanding, analyzing transmission, and grid management, which are noncontroversial and seem to be promising areas for U.S.-Indian collaboration.
Kumar Patel suggested that proposals for collaboration fell into at least five categories, that is, software-based activities, nuclear facility security, personnel identification, sensor networks, and biosecurity, and perhaps others.
A potential software project is database development and integration, which is important when information is incomplete. The task is how best to organize such a database, how to integrate it to find what we are looking for with a high level of probability. Other software-related projects might include what Patel called Internet surveillance software, which, by monitoring Internet traffic, might enable the discovery of connections between various groups. There also is the general area of cybersecurity and computer modeling of contamination and cleanup to achieve maximal cost-effectiveness. Another software-related challenge is to measure the norms of behavior across networks, so that we can better distinguish bad activity from good activity, and use cyberintelligence to help enforce laws.
The problem of nuclear facility security raises political sensitivities, but it is important to protect these facilities from terrorist attacks; getting the right language that would allow this type of cooperation is something that intelligent people can work on.
In the area of personnel identification and authentication, Patel noted that it was evident that inexpensive biometrics both for identification and for authentication would help enormously. It would also help for access control to nuclear and other sensitive facilities, specifically for reducing the level of potential terrorist threats to these installations.
Sensors and sensor networks, whether of people, motion, or vibration, may be something on which both countries can work. The United States and India have a shared problem of illegal aliens crossing borders. Can we do something together even if there is little or no terrorist implication for securing the U.S. border? The real issue is, can you beneficially construct an inexpensive network or a cost-effective network to do what you want to do?
In the area of biosecurity, perhaps some sort of a disease surveillance system might help distinguish naturally occurring outbreaks from intentionally caused diseases—an Indian equivalent for agriculture of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control andPrevention.
Finally, there are such issues as the protection of transmission networks against electromagnetic pulse terrorist threats, and physical attacks against the grid infrastructure.
DiCapua noted that there already was a proposal from the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration to discuss nuclear emergency management, although he noted that there had not yet been a response from the Indian Atomic Energy Commission. Further, the Defense Attaché Office has discussed the idea of cooperation in installing sensors along India’s borders; in addition, there already was a joint program in which India and the United States collaborated on the development of vaccines. Finally, India has tremendous experience in pulse vaccinations, vaccinating millions of people in a short time.
Several Indian participants reminded the group that there were still obstacles to cooperation on terrorism-related issues. Narasimha noted that President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Vajpayee had announced an agreement the previous day, but expressed caution about early expectations for major collaborative efforts at the official level. He suggested the possibility of collaboration with the Safety Research Institute of the Indian Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB); this might supplement other official channels.69 Narasimha pointed out that historically there had been much skepticism in the Indian energy and space sectors regarding collaboration with U.S. counterparts, and that the United States had not even provided technology that would enable India to examine cracks in pressure vessels. K. Santhanam cautioned that whatever is undertaken should be kept simple, and that there had been numerous technology exchanges that failed, or in some cases, U.S. technologies were unsuitable for Indian circumstances. New technology applications must consider local conditions, and the Indian experience with some U.S. remote monitoring systems in the past was that they were not applicable to Indian conditions.
Richard Garwin also offered two cautions: (1) There may be structural problems with collaboration. Some U.S. organizations may be competitive with Indian ones, unless they found that working together provided a competitive edge. (2) There were cases where the technology was developed by intelligence agencies, or funded by them, and in such cases (for example, jamming or premature detonation of explosives) it is extremely unlikely that there will be any sharing of the information.
Continuing in the same vein, Lawrence Papay and others noted the sensitivity of data mining of Internet or cell network surveillance. The U.S. government and the National Security Agency want to close-hold such technology, so this may not be an area for genuine bilateral partnership. He and others also noted the sensitivity of the problem in terms of laws and civil liberties.
To this, Raja Menon suggested that many terrorists caught in Southeast Asia and in India have confessed to extensive use of the Internet. He was unsure of the U.S. view, but asked whether concerns over fundamental rights could prevent us from looking at the Internet when the terrorists use it extensively for their command and control and to
execute their operations. Lewis Branscomb responded that this is a lively issue in the United States, and that any joint Indo-U.S. project would have to include an analysis of the legal and philosophical views of different countries—this was not just a technical issue.
Seymour Goodman, who had developed a group at Stanford University that combined legal and technical expertise, suggested that the prospect of cyberlaw, which would make it a serious crime to attack information systems, computer communication systems directly, or to use them to attack other things, was worth exploring. Such laws are notably lacking worldwide, and an Indo-U.S. team might work together to develop such laws. These issues involve not just lawyers, but require a lot of technical talent to write laws that are workable, protect civil liberties, and establish a legitimate international baseline. This would be noncompetitive, there could be a clear point of achievement, and it would have a short time line. Above all, these laws are necessary, not in the least to provide the basis for extradition. The need is for a congruent set of laws that essentially agree on what is a serous crime. Without such laws, even very advanced technology may not be enough.
DiCapua noted that the U.S. Legal Law Attaché in New Delhi was working on cyberterrorism issues, yet the lack of a body of law in India to deal with computer terrorism was a real obstacle in working together. A seminar of lawyers and technical people who can discuss these matters would be a strong addition to two cultures that are based upon the rule of law. Narasimha noted that the National Institute for Advanced Studies in Bangalore has worked intermittently with a group of academics from the National Law School University (Bangalore), and there are some firms in Bangalore that specialize in legal issues connected with computers. Branscomb noted that he was planning a collaboration with an Austrian computer scientist and lawyer on the subject of piracy and security, and agreed that law-technology-terrorism was a very realistic project, certainly requiring the deep participation of technical experts.
Goodman agreed, and emphasized that writing such laws, and getting them adopted, would be a strong form of closure, perhaps a model for other countries.
N. Balakrishnan noted that the legal and political sensitivities regarding the Internet and cyberterrorism are especially important in the United States. When India tried to find out more about a U.S. Internet service provider (ISP), the U.S. response cited its privacy laws, and the need for a subpoena, with the result that nothing much happened. He also noted U.S. sensitivity on such issues when Admiral Poindexter was required to change the name of a Central Intelligence Agency program from Total Information Awareness to Terrorist Information Awareness.
Menon noted the difference in U.S. and Indian vulnerabilities to cyberterrorism and the Internet, pointing out that the United States has an infrastructure, which is so developed that it can be attacked by cyberterrorism, but India does not, at least for now. He pointed out that there was already a task force in operation between India and the United States on legal cooperation in law enforcement, under the joint chair of the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) and the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB). These would be the “customers” for a joint Indo-U.S. study. The immediate problem for Indians is not their vulnerability to a cyberattack, but the use of the Internet by terrorists, and using it to attack them.
Narasimha suggested that the next step would be to turn to the Indo-U.S. Forum on Science and Technology to support a few small expert workshops to develop specific projects from among those discussed at this workshop. Patel agreed, and suggested that these workshops focus on three major areas: biometrics and related bioproblems, data mining and fusion, and the general area of nuclear safety. These seemed to be the subjects on which there is consensus and expertise.
In discussing biometrics, there was agreement that it is important to distinguish between cooperative or joint studies of biowarfare and the spread of disease through animal and plant populations on the one hand, and developing technologies by which biological indicators could be used to verify individual identities on the other. The latter might have application in many fields, including nuclear reactor safety. There were also possibilities of developing cheap diagnostic tools, or sharing expertise in biological weapons cleanup or mass vaccination. Christopher Davis noted that the United States was eager to reach agreement with other countries on biometrics.
There were some dimensions of data management that did not fall afoul of civil liberties, or involve comprehensive sifting of communications intercepts, an approach that raises political issues. As Branscomb noted, this is the area of sensors and networks. While the National Academies’ report70 says that there is plenty of work on sensors, there is an inadequate understanding of how to manage thousands of sensors spread around when some have been destroyed, some give false positives, and some give false negatives. How, for example, would a mayor interpret the data that does come in? This is a very sophisticated computer science and logic problem that might involve both U.S. and Indian scientists.
As for nuclear and reactor safety, a participant pointed out that work on biometrics—developing authentication systems—could be a dual-use application for security access to sensitive nuclear facilities. Such a system would enable the monitoring of workers as they moved from plant to plant and keep track their total accumulated dosage. Santhanam noted that for a physical security program involving radioisotopes, we must also determine where the greatest area of seepage is—from the former Soviet Union or some other country—and what is likely to be the target, a country in the West or India?
Rose Gottemoeller suggested that, building on her understanding of U.S.-Russian cooperation, the United States and India could work together to establish a regional training center in India for security best practices. This would not force the issue either bureaucratically or institutionally, or raise concerns, such as premature access to facilities. The experience with the Russian strategic rocket forces did turn out to be an appreciable confidence-builder.
Narasimha concluded the workshop by outlining four sets of issues that seemed to be of great concern to both countries:
IT-related problems and processes, including software, data mining, knowledge management, and analyzing vast amounts of data from sensors
National Research Council. 2002. Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism, National Academies Press, Washington, D.C. The report is available in PDF format at http://books.nap.edu/hml/stct/index.html.
biometrics and biomedical research and development, including perhaps agriculture-related diseases
a cluster of surveillance-related issues, with an overlap between some kinds of biometrics and human surveillance
nuclear safety, possibly with the involvement of the Indian Safety Research Institute and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board