New Delhi: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has told Indian agencies that the US could share with India “encrypted data” on the internet and social media platforms pertaining to terror suspects, organisations and other criminals through legal channels.
However, how much this would be of help to Indian investigators is difficult to say as decrypting the evidence like chats between terrorists will be a tough and time consuming exercise.
The Indian government and agencies have time and again told American authorities that they failed to get timely evidence from the “digital space” as a large number of social media platforms — including websites and internet-based messaging applications like WhatsApp, Facebook, Google and YouTube — had their servers in the US.
The National Investigation Agency’s top brass, during a meeting with FBI deputy director Andrew G McCabe earlier this month in New Delhi, said getting “digital evidence” quickly could really help in counter-terrorism and counter-radicalization efforts.
In several cases registered by the NIA against Islamic State-inspired Indian youngsters, the agency approached the US seeking details about their chats, emails or coded conversations over messaging platforms.
Both countries have signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) for sharing evidence through proper court procedures. McCabe told NIA officials that even US authorities had to approach the court for sharing data of private internet service providers with other countries.
McCabe informed us that first data has to be retrieved and then encryption is an issue. He said they (FBI) can share encrypted data with us (through MLAT),” an NIA official said.
Officials said terrorists these days keep track of mobile-based application services which provide end-to-end encryption and use them to discuss targets, recruitment plans, travel details or to share propaganda material.
Usually, sources said, the US is very helpful in sharing details on terrorists and terror outfits, but it is a time consuming process. The US recently shared thousands of internet-based conversations between Jaish-e-Muhammed members involved in the Pathankot airbase attack, which helped NIA build a strong case against Maulana Masood Azhar.