Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I Spy a Secret Agent

The name and fame of a 007 elude most covert intelligence operatives. But if you are lured to life as a spy by more than silver screen glamour, read right on

It is a career where your greatest successes might forever remain unlauded by the public. It is a career you can’t always plan for with certainly. But if you’re still inclined to pursue a career whose public image has been influenced largely by movies and novels, the best thing to do may be to arm yourself with the right knowledge and appropriate attributes, and then just hope to be picked up. 

Secret Serving in India

A career in government intelligence isn’t always about disguises, secret meetings, code words or fast paced action. Work opportunities are diverse. And it’s a job demanding absolute anonymity. But a career crucial to national security can be rewarding.

India’s top intelligence agencies are the Intelligence Bureau (IB), responsible for domestic intelligence, and the cabinet secretariat’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), dealing with foreign intelligence. Both recruit officers directly through competitive examinations as well as indirectly, selecting those already working in other government departments.

Cleared for Entry

One route of entry is through the annual civil services examination conducted by the UPSC. The UPSC itself does not recruit candidates for these organisations, but those who make it to the top ranks in the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, Indian Police Service (IPS) or even the Indian Accounts and Audit Service are ‘potential recruits’.

The UPSC provides a short-list of top candidates to RAW, which then looks for those demonstrating potential for intelligence. Not all on the list will be approached. RAW looks for an aptitude in languages and interest in international affairs, approaching promising candidates individuality.

Those who opt in go through another set of tests and interviews. The tests, again, evaluate their aptitude for languages and knowledge of current affairs. There is a battery of psychological tests as well, to gauge resourcefulness, innovativeness, ability to think and react fast – very similar to tests for applicants to defence services.

Some other attributes for a career in intelligence are the abilities to maintain a low profile, make friends and get along with people. 

“It is often people who are the best source of intelligence. Good intelligence officers need to identify, understand and befriend people, to persuade them to release information,” says a former officer on condition of anonymity.

Entry is easiest if the candidate has already been selected for a civil service job, but the opportunities for direct entry do exist. For the posts of assistant central intelligence officer, IB, the government holds a competitive exam whenever a vacancy arises. These are advertised in Employment News. Yet another route into IB is through IPS. The home ministry periodically asks states to depute a police officer interested in this agency. The agencies also recruit from other departments. Officers may come from almost any government department or defence services. The agencies need political analysts, experts in international affairs and, with increasing emphasis on technology in intelligence gathering, engineers and people technically skilled in computer science and telecommunications. Opportunities in RAW exist for those skilled in foreign languages as well –not just French, German or Spanish, but the less common Arabic, Chinese or Pushto.

Undercover Plus

What the agencies do and how they gather intelligence is, for obvious reasons, secret. Both agencies collect and analyse information with potential to safeguard national security. Just like the CIA in the US, or any other intelligence agency, they might be expected to have field agents involved in collecting information and desk analysts to put together that information and come up with possible scenarios and forecasts. Intelligence gathering isn’t always covert - there are a myriad open sources, such as newspapers, magazines, television and radio broadcasts.

Increasingly, technology is taking over from human labour. The most important area is telecommunications. Intercepts of telephone communications have emerged as a major source of intelligence. Satellites let countries spy from space. The US is the global leader, with a constellation of secret spy satellites. But India is also gradually establishing its technical capabilities. This opens fresh opportunities for technical experts in remote sensing and satellite-based imagery analysis. Just last week, the cabinet secretariat advertised for the posts of ‘imagery analysts’.

Among the biggest challenges is living in anonymity. Successes, or even failures, can’t be talked of. Intelligence officers cannot expect an active social life. Many have few friends outside the profession. Even their families can’t talk about their jobs. “But you can still derive immense pleasure,” says a former officer. 

“Say, when you got some really crucial information, or you predict something and it comes true – those are the rewards.”

Driving and Motor Mechanism Essential for Junior Intelligence Officer

The oldest intelligence agency in the world, India’s IB has a strict procedure to recruit best of brains in the agency. The entry level and a good position to start with is Junior Intelligence Officer. The following include the qualifications in order to get an opportunity to work with premium intelligence agency of India.

Age Limit: Applicant should not be more than 32 years in age. For SC/ST age limit extends to 5 years. For OBC quota, the age limit can be adjusted to 3 years more. 

Some other qualifications: 

a) Must possess a valid driving license
b) Must have knowledge of mechanics of motor parts, and at least 3 years of driving experience.
c) You must have the aforesaid certificates without any changes before appearing for the interview. The agency will take a test before land you an interview panel.
d) In the first part of the test, you are asked to do some mechanical jobs or activities that you have mentioned in your form. You must have the proper knowledge about the motor mechanism that you mentioned in your application form. Once you pass the first half, then you will be undergone a driving test. Mind it; it is not a regular driving test but a thorough test that assess your capabilities of driving in various situations. You are given a route that you have to follow order to assess your driving abilities.
e) Once you pass the practical driving exercises, you are eligible for sit in the interview panel. The venue will be given to you by the bureau. 

Flip Side of Secret Service Job

•    IB postings are often involve awfully risky duties in antagonistic population

•    In sensitive areas such as J&K and North East regions, the pace of security operations is very swift. It means you have to very fast in collecting, collation and diffusion of information.

•    One part of the job of IB is with Counter-Intelligence operations. This part of the wing is under severe criticism because all internal disturbances are projected as a failure in this cell. So, naturally this part of the wing is more pressurized.

•    There is no working schedule as such. Less or no friends, strict secrecy in personal lives, and always an active mind can be stressful.
•    Working in ungodly hours can take a toll on your body and family



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