Monday, September 7, 2015

Preventing Terrorist Infiltration and/or Exfiltration

As the current migrant influx continues in Europe, the EU nations are facing an overwhelming security concern while welcoming the war refugees. The newly emerging challenge and threat to the law enforcement agencies in Europe is how to identify and weed out potential members of ISIS who might infiltrate into EU nations disguised as civilians.

The idea of isolating the terrorists from general populace does have a long term strategic advantage and we could benefit from it down the road. First we have to isolate the insurgents/terrorists from the general populace. Let the refugees come out and settle them in other countries thereby showcasing the soft power of EU nations while engaging the source of terrorism by the NATO led hard power strategy which is bombing ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. 

By weeding the insurgents out of legitimate refugees, we can eventually apply Mao Zedong’s theory that “insurgents are like fish in an ocean of people”. By separating the “ocean” of general populace from the insurgent “fish” we will be able to determine the survival of the enemy insurgents/terrorists.

Then there is a question of how should one separate the ocean of population from the insurgent fish?

The answer is simple; if we're able to win the hearts and minds of the general populace they will do the job for you, which is the core strategy of COIN doctrine. Yes, we have to win the hearts and minds of the people. That’s where a great nation’s soft power plays its part. Hard power is vital in order to safe guard a nation’s interest, however, when we confront an enemy of different faces we have to explore other options and tools to combat them by the means of non-military strategies. As Sun Tzu reminded us, the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting; eliminating the will to fight and destroying the spirit of the enemy’s potential to fight is also paramount. An ideology has to be fought with another set of ideologies, rather than by swords and guns; may it be a religious ideology, ethno-nationalist ideology or secessionist ideology.

It is against this backdrop I pondered and wondered how the law enforcement agencies could prevent terrorists from infiltrating/exfiltrating EU nations and decided to post here a method called “Spotter Force Multiplier Theory” (SFMT), which is a successful tradecraft in human intelligence also known as “Link Analysis”.

So how does it work?

In any enemy organization, may it be police, intelligence and military or even among the non-state actors, such as gangs, mafia or terrorist groups; you can only identify the members of the particular organization using its own members. When we confront/combat these organizations we would definitely come across and identify at least one single genuine member of such organization, whom I would call as “Joe”. Using Joe as a “spotter” we’ll be able to identify few other Joes. And then keep using every Joe as a “spotter force multiplier” till we get the big fish. Please note that the each Joe we arrest/capture should undergo a brief rehabilitation process; instill them with compassion and indoctrinate them with soft power, contrary to the usual aggressive interrogation techniques. The advantage of using SFMT is that we would have a complete picture and understanding of insider information regarding any enemy organization, which is known as the tactical intelligence in the field.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

Countering Terrorism via Soft Power

This notion is meant to think outside the box when combating one’s enemy, especially terrorism. I thought about this when I came to know a former Tamil Tiger cadre, named “Oppilan”, operated as a mole and was willingly providing intelligence to India’s foreign intelligence agency RAW, while Oppilan himself held a position in the Tiger organization’s notorious intelligence wing.

Oppilan later confessed during an interview that he worked with the RAW operatives between the periods of 1992-95 when the agency conducted a covert operation against Tamil Tigers in order to oust its leader V. Pirabhakaran, following the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. When the Tamil Tigers began to investigate and arrest many Tiger cadres and other operatives who were involved in this conspiracy, Oppilan ran away and surrendered to the Sri Lankan military in June 1995.

Oppilan, who surrendered with invaluable information that was used against the Tigers to recapture the Jaffna peninsula in October 1995 during the operation Riviresa. Afterwards he was relocated by the Sri Lankan military intelligence to a foreign country where Oppilan had played a key role in dismantling the Tamil Tigers’ international operations until the terrorist organization was militarily defeated in May 2009. 

Oppilan has now settled down in a western country with his entire family, says that he did all this because he was indoctrinated by the south Indian popular culture, especially the melodious music of Ilayaraja and A.R. Rahman through which he felt a brotherhood with Indians!

He says, it is hard for him to describe how crucially important music has been in his life. From the Hindu bhajans praising God, to the sweet, romantic South Indian cinema music of Ilaiyaraaja and AR Rahman, he feels that music has taught him and inspired him to a higher purpose. It has almost been like a drug to him, helping him to escape the sometimes unthinkable realities of his life and to hope and believe that other things were possible, he says.

When A.R Rahman's hit film music first album ‘Roja’ came out, he couldn't resist secretly going to his parent’s home and listening to it, because in the Tiger organization it was prohibited to listen to music or watch any romantic films. Rahman’s music is really a beautiful combination of western and eastern style of music. When the Tiger cadres would leave the camps, they would hear this music in the air and in the papers they would read about cinema and entertainment. Oppilan was tired of listening to Tigers news about war and death; he would try to distract himself by reading the papers and listening to this music. It could even be said that A.R Rahman’s music finally saved him in a way as it was more powerful than Tigers’ brainwashing nonsense!

Point here is that, I believe, the international community could utilize and balance its soft power and hard power when combating terrorism. Each and every nation has a unique popular culture that is so rich and deep that it can be greatly utilized against hardcore individuals and enemy organizations. Oppilan’s story is not the first one; we know that the Beatles music was used to undermine the idea of communism.

Here is an article on how Americans using their “Popular Culture as a Means of Soft Power”:

This essay will examine the use of popular culture as a means of America’s soft power in world politics. The importance of soft power is being increasingly recognized as more countries seek to persuade rather than coerce. Soft power can be achieved by the country’s foreign policies which consider other countries’ interest. As revealed by Pew Global Attitudes Project, U.S.’s global image continues to be largely favorable with the exception of Muslim countries. In addition to policies, popular culture is also an effective means of soft power. In this essay, America’s use of popular culture as a means of soft power in world politics is examined through the use of The Oprah Winfrey Show and Hollywood, both of which are great promoters and exporters of Americanism. In concluding this essay, it is proposed that U.S.’s success in world politics is best achieved through the use of smart power – a combination of both hard power and soft power.

Popular Culture as a means of Soft Power

Monday, September 29, 2014

Obliterating Islamic State (ISIS)

As the whole world is coming forward to combat ISIS, I would like to share here my opinion regarding how to fight ISIS and eventually obliterate them just like the Sri Lankan military defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) just six years ago.

ISIS, as an offshoot of Al Qaeda, continues to commit atrocities against humanity in Iraq, Syria and now into Libya. Unless this fast spreading violence and hatred is stopped, the carnage will most likely expand throughout the Middle East and Asia in the near future.

In reading Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) in the ongoing counterterrorism operations in Iraq, Syria and Libya, I have noticed a pattern, in the Islamic State terrorists’ “modus operandi”, that of a spider.

Spiders have eight legs and two body parts - a head region (cephalothorax) and an abdomen. Most spiders have toxic venom, which they use to kill their prey.

So if the international community wants to get rid of ISIS, hypothetically speaking, they have to get rid of the head region of ISIS, the “cephalothorax” of the spider, instead of fighting with its eight legs.

What I try to pinpoint is that, while ISIS's headquarters (cephalothorax) is located in Syria, their survival (abdomen) depends on how much area they control in Iraq. Thus before this ISIS "spider" transform into "multi-headed" and "multi-pronged" the international community has to get rid of them.

Of course, they will replace it with another head, so get rid of the other one too, then the next one and so on. All we need is accurate and effective tactical military intelligence collection.

I feel that the international intelligence agencies have a bigger role to play, than just being the eyes and ears of any nation, with feet of clay, when faced with an enemy of many different faces.

Recommendations for an appropriate tradecraft to achieve such a role are the need of the day. There is NO truth to search for, there is no absolute truth, and everything is subjective! But the kind of role intelligence play in deterrence is what paramount! And achieving A STATE OF GLOBAL DETERRENCE is what I consider the bottom line.

In conclusion, since Al Qaeda, Taliban, and now ISIS are using exactly the same modus operandi and tradecraft as the LTTE did in Sri Lanka, I believe that the international community could combat ISIS in a similar model that Sri Lankan military did against the LTTE in order to obliterate them.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Combating Terrorism: The Sri Lankan Experience

Sri Lanka, a small South Asian island nation located in the Indian Ocean, has been politically and economically destabilized due to an ethnic conflict that lasted over three decades. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers”, a secessionist-cum-terrorist organization, fought against the Sri Lankan government to establish a separate homeland for Tamils in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka. This organization acted as a “trendsetter” for the rest of the terrorist groups around the world. Many other organizations including Al Qaeda, Taliban and now ISIS have used LTTE’s tactics as a template for terrorism. In May 2009, the Sri Lankan security forces militarily obliterated LTTE.

As such, I would like to share here the major causes that led to the defeat of this terrorist organization, which is rare among the global war on terrorism. This outline is divided into four sections. The first part briefly examines the way LTTE became a threat to the regional and global security; the second part examines the causes of internal conflict within the LTTE during 2002-2008, ceasefire; the third section deals with the international intelligence agencies sharing information with each other following 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States; and the final section concludes this outline with broader reflections.

Threat to the regional and global security
As a terrorist organization that possessed an army, navy, and rudimentary air force the LTTE was an example for other terrorist groups, and therefore, it became a threat not only to the domestic stability of Sri Lanka but also the security of the regional and global system as a whole. This led the international community to support the Sri Lankan government in its war against terrorism, which ended in the eventual annihilation of LTTE.

Internal conflict within the LTTE during ceasefire
The defection of LTTE’s top commander Karuna with two thirds of the organization’s manpower created a split within the LTTE, and this militarily weakened the organization. The Sri Lankan military intelligence exploited this situation and enlisted Karuna and his cadres in the Sri Lankan army as a paramilitary group, thereby making their fight against terrorism easy.

International intelligence sharing after the 9/11 terrorist attacks
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the United States, the international community came together and began to share intelligence on terrorist organizations to dismantle their operations throughout the world. This essentially crippled the LTTE’s maritime logistics support on which their survival depended on.

As such, the LTTE’s threat to the global security was obliterated due to the infighting within the organization and the international collaboration in combating terrorism.

Does this latest military defeat of a terrorist organization make us ponder the improbable? Can we learn anything from the Sri Lankan experience to deal with ISIS? Can we apply a similar counterinsurgency or counterterrorism model that Sri Lankan military used against LTTE?

Let’s discuss!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Intelligence led warfare in Sri Lanka

Anyone who has been closely monitoring the current military operation in the north-east of Sri Lanka, where the battle to liberate the rest of the Wanni region is getting close day by day, would know that it is a do or die situation for the LTTE. The LTTE has claimed that they have pinned down and killed around 1000 troops in an infiltration offensive into the army FDL during the last five days.

In turn the army has claimed that Mullaittivu battle has reached its last phase as LTTE cadres made several desperate attempts in vain, to infiltrate the military forward defenses which left over 100 cadres killed and as many injured since the dawn of Friday (March 6). LTTE was preparing for a large scale offensive towards the existing military defenses at Palamathalan and North of Puthkkudiyirippu, inducting over 200 cadres including suicide bombers and sea tigers. Following the initial thrust the LTTE had planned to send waves of around 200 odd cadres to provide reinforcements.

Bahnu, Soosai, Swarnam, Theepan, Pottu Amman, Lowrence, Ratnam Master, Sasikumar Master, Thinesh Master and few other high profile LTTE commanders were directly involved in master minding the pre-emptive assault, security sources said. According to the military, this is the first time during recent battles LTTE has inducted many of its 'high profiles' to the battlefront. Yet, timely detection and precise ground intelligence received from the directorate of military intelligence proved decisive as LTTE’s offensive waves were received with intense military counter attacks. Over 150 cadres were killed during the initial thrust while the rest were hunted down by 2nd Commando Regiment troops, 12 GR, 12 GW and 8 GW troops during the past 48 hours.

As repeatedly claimed by some defense experts it is widely believed that the fighting power of LTTE is enormously weakened due to the scarcity of military supplies and lack of man power. These are the main reasons for the 'defeat' according to those experts’ assessment. But the latest LTTE attempt from the 65 square km area still controlled by it has proven that the LTTE is still capable of planning, preparing and executing surprise raids on the rapidly advancing military. It is against this backdrop the security forces are rethinking their strategy in order to implement intelligence led unconventional warfare tactics.

As we know from open source you can extract to 95% of strategic intelligence, but for tactical intelligence the security forces need to depend on the human intelligence (HUMINT). Other types include signals intelligence (SIGINT), obtained by intercepting and decrypting the LTTE’s communications information, transmissions, and imagery intelligence (IMINT), which comes from the study of photographs taken from the air or space. It is not news that the security forces have been trying to strengthen its HUMINT gathering capacity for some time now; indeed, it has been openly recruiting former LTTE cadres and other Tamil militants who are working with security forces as “Para-Military” groups. In addition to this the SL Army’s Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) and/or Special Force Regiment (SF) also play vital role in its HUMINT gathering effort.

Hence the security forces are planning to exploit its latest HUMINT asset in the current military operation. To fully liberate the Wanni terrain and wipe out LTTE completely as the security forces did in the east, the directorate of military intelligence should engineer another “break-away” faction just like Karuna Amman defected in 2004. For this purpose security forces may utilize Karuna Amman to convince some LTTE senior cadre to run away from the LTTE and surrender to the security forces. The military intelligence may use LTTE’s communications and transmissions intercepting systems for this purpose.

Given the current context it is very easy to do such psychological warfare projects as most of the non-hard core LTTE cadres and leaders are in low morale while the security forces are moving in. As humans all LTTE cadres would be thinking of survival these days. But the security forces can’t expect LTTE leaders like Bahnu, Soosai, Swarnam, Theepan, Pottu Amman, Lowrence, or Nadesan to defect because these guys are married to female LTTE cadres and have kids. Therefore the security forces must be looking for some young but clever LTTE cadres for the job. It’s indeed a good plan as Karuna Amman is made a minister this week and the former LTTE child soldier Pillaiyan is the chief minister of the east now. It will make other LTTE cadres to think about this option. President Mahinda Rajapaksha should be applauded for appointing Karuna Amman and Pillaiyan to these high posts within a short period of time because it’s definitely a strategic move.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

A Typical Terrorist Cell

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) Intelligence Wing, Tiger Organization Security Intelligence Service (TOSIS).

The author would like to dedicate this article to Colonel Tuan Nizam Muthaliff RWP, MI (July 12, 1966 - May 31, 2005) was the former Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion Military Intelligence Corps, Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) of Sri Lanka, whose perseverance and courage in the face of adversity has served as an inspiration.

Fall 2003


“Secret operations are essential in war, upon them the army relies to make its every move. ... An army without secret agents is exactly like a man without eyes or ears.”                           

                                                            Sun Tzu – ‘The Art of War’

It has been said by many that in order to fight a war the most basic and important asset is that of a secret service or organization especially dedicated to intelligence gathering operations. It may be a government agency, the military or the police.  This is also relevant to a non-state actor or a terrorist group.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as a guerrilla-cum-terrorist organization fighting to establish a separate homeland for the minority Tamil population in Sri Lanka, staged about 250 suicide operations since July 1987 until the present day. All these have been within Sri Lanka, with the exception of the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by Thenmozhi Rajaratnam, alias Dhanu, on 21st of May 1991. With a few exceptions, the LTTE claimed responsibility only for the suicide attack operations it conducted against military targets in Sri Lanka's north-eastern region.  The organization refrained from claiming responsibility for operations against VIP and non-military infrastructure targets, since all such missions and/or operations were carried out by its Intelligence Wing.  Attributable to this Intelligence Wing’s operations is the LTTE’s labelling as a “terrorist outfit” rather than a “liberation movement” by the USA, Canada, the EU and India.
Even though the Terms of Engagements and/or the Rules of Engagements differ from a conventional force, a terrorist network’s secret missions and/or operations are still conducted in a well organized and professional manner nowadays. As I had no choice but to work for the Intelligence Wing of the LTTE, I experienced how a terrorist “cell” is structured and operates. My understanding is that they were not well structured to begin with but after incurring heavy losses of their sources such as agents and informants who were identified and arrested by the Sri Lankan security forces, the LTTE organization realized that it should establish a professional intelligence unit.
Since they didn’t have the resources that a government intelligence agency would have, they mostly tended to rely on Human Intelligence only, rather than more sophisticated Signal Intelligence, Electronic Intelligence, Imagery Intelligence, Technical Intelligence, etc. In order to train their cadres, the organization acquired books, magazines, films/movies and training manuals from foreign countries to learn about the world’s famous intelligence agencies such as the Gestapo of Germany, the KGB of Soviet Union, the CIA of America, MI5 and MI6 of Britain, the SDECE/DGSE of France, Savak and Vevak of Iran, Mossad and Shin Bet of Israel, RAW of India and ISI of Pakistan. For instance, LTTE’s Intelligence Wing somehow managed to acquire an original copy of the training manuals belonging to Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), the Pakistani internal and external intelligence agency.
They also brought in mercenaries to train their most senior cadres who had the necessary linguistic skills; later those senior cadres trained the rest of the Intelligence Wing cadres in the organization.

LTTE Intelligence Dominance
In the region of Indian subcontinent, LTTE had the dubious distinction of having been a sort of pioneer in terrorism. Some of its ground-breaking achievements were the suicide vest/belt, suicide vehicle bombing and the elimination of leaders using suicide commando raids, all of which the Taliban and al-Qaeda have imitated. The think-tank behind all these terrorist groups’ operations, including the LTTE’s, was the Pakistan military-backed Inter Service Intelligence (ISI). As an insider of the LTTE’s Intelligence Wing, I’m very well aware that after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by the LTTE, the ISI cunningly exploited the opportunity to use LTTE to systematically destabilize India from the South where it’s strategic hard targets are located. Since then, the ISI began covertly aiding the LTTE with intelligence trainings and tactics. For instance, most of the intelligence training I underwent in 1993, including intelligence gathering, intelligence analysis and agent recruitment, handling and exploitation with Mathavan Master of the LTTE Intelligence Wing, was based on the original ISI agent handling and exploitation model.
In May 1993, following the assassination of Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa that was led and handled by Janan Master of the LTTE Intelligence Wing, Pirbakharan and his Intelligence Chief, Pottu Amman, decided to send Janan Master to Tamil Nadu to act as liaison between the LTTE Intelligence Wing’s “political activities and liaison division” and the pro-LTTE political party leaders in Tamil Nadu, such as V.Gopalaswamy, President of the Marumalardchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (MDMK), Dr. S. Ramadoss, the founder-leader of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), Pazha Nedumaaran, President of the Tamil Nationalist Movement (TMM), K. Veeramani, President of Dravidar Kazhagam (DK),  and Thol.Thirumavalavan, President of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Kadchchi (VCK). Pirbakharan wanted to understand the mindset of the Tamil Nadu politicians towards his organization and had hoped to ignite the Tamil nationalism induced by the politicians by placing a high-level LTTE liaison in their midst.
There was also another reason behind sending Janan Master to Tamil Nadu. In the aftermath of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), waged a massive covert operation against LTTE. However due to LTTE's excellent counter-intelligence unit led by Kapil Amman and including Janan Master, this mission was a huge disaster and embarrassment for India. The LTTE mounted surveillance on all of RAW's rings inside their controlled area, arrested all the agents, spies and the cadres who were involved and eventually dismantled the entire operation.

The LTTE as a template for terrorism
In 1995, I was given a video tape by Pirbakharan’s military advisor, Thinesh Master, and was asked to identify what type of an aircraft had been shot down by an LTTE missile so that they could provide the technical details of the particular aircraft to the LTTE-controlled newspapers. On the tape, I saw a few men with long beards and wearing turbans, giving demonstrations to LTTE cadres in Jaffna on how to shoot down the Avro HS-748 transport aircraft with shoulder-fired surface-to-air Stinger missiles. I was curious and asked Thinesh Master who the men were. He replied that they were Afghan Mujahedeen.
According to Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence, intelligence experts have long suspected the existence of connections between the LTTE and other internationally designated terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda and the Taliban. These connections came under more detailed scrutiny as a result of 9/11 attacks.
 Some of the incidents cited to prove these suspicions include:
  • The similarities between previous LTTE attacks against Sri Lanka Navy ships and the al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole which killed 17 US Navy sailors.

  • Evidence that the LTTE provided forged passports to Ramzi Yousef, the man who carried out the first attack against the World Trade Center in New York in 1993.

  • The smuggling of weapons by the LTTE from Islamics in Pakistan to their counterparts in the Philippines.

  • Allegations that the LTTE stole Norwegian passports and sold them to the al-Qaeda organization to earn money to fund their arms purchases.

  • Increasing intelligence reports that the LTTE was smuggling arms to various terrorist organizations using their covert smuggling networks, and findings by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies that they were building commercial links with al-Qaeda and other militants in Afghanistan.

 Other security experts, including Glen Jenvey, have also claimed that al-Qaeda has copied most of its terror tactics from the LTTE. He highlighted the LTTE as the mastermind that sets the pattern for organizations like al-Qaeda to pursue. Some of the comparisons he used to draw his conclusions are:
  • The LTTE invented the modern suicide bomber and deployed it against political, military, and civilian targets. Islamic groups copied the LTTE by carrying out similar suicide attacks.

  • The LTTE attack on the World Trade Centre in Sri Lanka was followed by attacks by al-Qaeda on the World Trade Center in New York.

  • The LTTE's use of a women's section has being copied by al-Qaeda and Chechen terrorists, for example the "Black Widows" who played a role in the Moscow theater hostage crisis and have carried out suicide bombings.

  • Attacks on civilians in buses and trains in Sri Lanka are similar to the al-Qaeda attacks on public civilian transport during the July 2005 bombings in London.
In this context it is vital to analyze the LTTE’s Intelligence Wing, also known as “The Tiger Organization Security Intelligence Service” (TOSIS) in detail.  The TOSIS was reportedly founded at the end of the 1980s when the LTTE was fighting with the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF). It functioned as the prime intelligence service of the LTTE until 1993, when it was divided into two sub-units, the “National Intelligence Service”, and the “Military Intelligence Service”. The latter did not have cadres on the ground in hostile areas but it had agents in the Sri Lankan security forces. The presence of a second intelligence service gave the LTTE the advantage of cross-checking and verifying both raw data and assessments.

National Intelligence Service ( Thesiya Pulanaivu Pirivu) Headed by Pottu Amman
Although the LTTE was trained by India’s RAW in the early 1980s, the LTTE’s National Intelligence Service’s strategic operating structure and tactics were more similar to the Mossad of the 1980s, except for its agent handling model. The number of personnel engaged in both Mossad and the LTTE are about 1500. Furthermore, the Mossad’s operating language is Hebrew and one of the reasons LTTE’s Intelligence Wing is successful is that they function entirely in Tamil. The LTTE-Mossad nexus was further corroborated when ex-Mossad officer Victor Ostrovsky’s book “By Way of Deception” was published in September 1990.
 There are 5 known departments to the National Intelligence Service:

(i)        Collections Department:   (Thakaval Sekatippu Pirivu) headed by the deputy Kapil Amman. This was the largest department, with the responsibilities of agent handling and espionage operations and with sub-divisions in the northern, eastern and southern parts of Sri Lanka. This body also coordinated with the LTTE’s police force in the areas they controlled. The department consisted of a number of desks which were responsible for specific areas such as,

  • Agent Handling
  • Counter-Espionage Operations
  • Internal Security
  • Political Activities and Liaison Division
  • Interrogation and Detention Center

(ii)       Research and Publications Department: (Aaivu Mattrum Veliyeeddu Pirivu) headed by Mathavan Master and responsible for intelligence production, including daily situation reports, weekly summaries and detailed monthly reports. This Department was organized into number of categorically specialized sections such as,

  • Planning and Operations
  • Data-Bank
  • Computers
  • Press and Library
  • Communications
  • Dubbing Movies

(iii)      Special Operations Division: (Ellalan Padai) headed by Janan Master, also the Principal Agent Handler of the LTTE Intelligence Wing. The “Black Tigers” - a highly secretive suicide squadron – were also attached to this division under the direct command of the LTTE leader. This secretive squadron conducted highly sensitive operations such as

  • Assassinations
  • Sabotage and Raids
  • Paramilitary Operations
  • Psychological Warfare Projects
  • Propaganda and Deception Operations

(iv)      Training and Technology Department: (Payitchi Mattrum Tholilnudpa Pirivu), also headed by Mathavan Master, responsible for the training and development of advanced technologies for support of both National and Military intelligence, including the suicide vest/belt, modifying weapons and explosive-filled vehicles, spy tools, etc.

(v)       Administration and Records: (Nirvaakam Mattrum Arikkai Pirivu) headed by Sankar. This body particularly focused on administration, personnel, finance, transport and welfare.

Military Intelligence Service, (Iranuva Pulanaivu Pirivu) Headed by Sasikumar Master
The Military Intelligence Service of LTTE was formed in 1993, almost 10 years after the LTTE had established their primary National Intelligence Service, in order to keep the military-related operations compartmentalized. There was a “Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol” (LRRP) team operating under the LTTE’s military wing, known as Viseda Vevu Pitivu, that played a key role in assassinating Sri Lankan Army General Denzil Kobbekaduwa and ten other high rank army officers with him. LRRP cadres infiltrated and laid an anti-tank mine in a military complex in the northern part of the Island. The LRRP’s Sasikumar Master was praised for the victory and then appointed as the head of the newly-formed Military Intelligence Service.
The Military Intelligence Service was relatively small and operated on a lower scale compared to the National Intelligence Wing. It only focused on gathering intelligence on Sri Lankan security forces. Even though the operations were highly compartmentalized, the Military Intelligence Wing nonetheless relied on the National Intelligence Wing for their training and advanced technologies.
 There were 4 known departments to the Military Intelligence Service:

(i)            Collections Department on Sri Lanka Army: (Iranuva Thakaval Sekarippu Pirivu) Headed by Kowthaman.
This body exclusively gathered intelligence on SL Army bases, artillery units, armoured core, heavy weapons, infantry vehicles and high ranking officers and their families. They studied in detail the entire Army’s Order of Battle (ORBAT) structure, knowing each division and divisional commanders, each brigade and brigade commanders and each regiment and regimental commanders up to the company, platoon and section level officers and then locating where they had been deployed in real time.
This detailed intelligence gathering helped them to know the exact strength of each army base located anywhere in the country. For instance, LTTE had been gathering intelligence on a northern army complex called “Pooneryn Military Complex” for almost two years before they successfully raided the complex in November 1993. They monitored army communication transmissions and sent their LRRP team to infiltrate and gather real-time intelligence. Then they made an exact model of the complex and knew the exact strength of the army, each officer’s name and the location of the artilleries and the armoured vehicles. A model was even made of the driving compartment of the Czech-made T55 main battle tank that SL Army had in that base; two of them were eventually seized.

      (ii)          Collections Department on Sri Lanka Navy: (Kadatpadai Thakaval Sekarippu Pirivu)
 Responsible for gathering intelligence on Sri Lankan naval bases, harbours, naval vessels and personnel. Since LTTE operated from an island, it depended largely on the sophisticated amphibious group known as the “Sea Tigers” for logistic support. Their duty was to take control of the north and east territorial waters of Sri Lanka and to support the special “Exclusive Economic Zone Marine Logistics Support Team” (EEZ-MLST) of the Sea Tigers.
It was therefore this body that coordinated with the Sea Tigers in order to gather intelligence on the SL Naval bases and vessels. It also collaborated with the special “Underwater Demolition Teams” (UDT) of the Sea Tigers who infiltrated the harbours and gathered maritime intelligence. On the other hand, acquiring the “Jane’s Naval Fighting Ships” catalogue made it easy to build models of each and every class of the Sri Lanka Navy fighting ships/gun boats. The EEZ-MLST’s sophisticated maritime surveillance radar systems, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and the dual-purpose special binoculars known as the “Steiner” helped to keep surveillance on daily naval patrolling.

(iii)        Collections Department on Sri Lanka Air Force: (Vaanpadai Thakaval Sekarippu Pirivu)
Responsible for gathering intelligence on Sri Lankan Air Force bases, aircrafts, helicopters and personnel.  To make the task easy, this body coordinated with the LRRP team and the special “Sky Tigers” of the LTTE. The LRRP team infiltrated and gathered intelligence on the Air Force bases, runways, signal stations, hangers, oil storages and personnel. Afterwards, the contemporary intelligence was used to make models of the Air Force bases. Meanwhile, by gathering data from “Jane’s Fighter Planes” this body worked with the “Sky Tigers” unit to make models of Air Force fighter planes and helicopters.
The final intelligence products were given to the decision makers who planned, prepared and executed special raids, using highly-trained suicide commando units.    

(iv)          Administration and Records: (Nirvaakam Mattrum Arikkai Pirivu)
As in the National Intelligence Service, this sub-division particularly focused on the administration, personnel, finance, transport and welfare of the Military Intelligence Service.

 LTTE Intelligence Training Centre (Pulanaivu Payitchi Maiyam)
Headed by Mathavan Master.

"I have a high regard for the LTTE for its discipline, dedication, determination, motivation and technical expertise... I was left with the impression that the LTTE was the expression of popular Tamil sentiment and could not be destroyed, so long as that sentiment remained......"
 Lieutenant General S.C. Sardesh Pande, IPKF Divisional Commander, Jaffna in his book "Assignment Jaffna"

               i.         Recruiting Informants & Public Relations.
              ii.         Tradecraft and Skills.
             iii.         Intelligence Gathering.
             iv.         Intelligence Analysis, Assessment and Exploitation.
              v.         Agent Handling.

(i)            Recruiting Informants & Public Relations
As intelligence gathering is by its very nature a difficult task of utmost importance, the organization was extremely cautious when recruiting their agents and informants. Most of the time they tended to cultivate personnel from the same ethnic nationalist group as themselves who also had the potential to access enemy targets. Great emphasis was therefore placed on public relations among their own people. They necessarily went through an extensive background check of all the individuals they hired, in the process focusing on the individual’s profile, character, vulnerabilities and motivation to assess if he/she was the right person for the job as well as on the factors that made that particular person want to work for them.
An inadequate administration, poor management, discrimination, ignorance and oppression by a government sometimes can drive its own people to support a terrorist organization. This makes the organization’s job easier as they can take advantage of this opportunity to hire more informants and agents from within the target group.  For instance, a few political parties that represent minority groups in southern Sri Lanka were continuously discriminated against and ignored by successive ruling parties. This neglect ensured the LTTE success when it invited the leaders of these political parties (Vaasudeva Nanayakara and Aarumugam Thondaman) who were then Members of the Sri Lankan Parliament and indoctrinated them to work for LTTE’s Intelligence Service as long-term resident agents.

(ii)          Tradecraft and Skills
Recruits had to go through a special training period to acquire the skills to perform their tasks and to learn specific techniques in the trade of espionage. This is called Tradecraft and could include such specialties as Agent Handling, Covert Communication, Counter-Interrogation, Reconnaissance, Coding and Decoding, Drawing Maps, Photography, Martial Arts, Linguistic Skills, Driving Skills, Swimming Skills and so on, depending on the task the agents/informants were assigned to.
Once a recruit went through the tradecraft and skill training period, the handlers made an assessment of each recruit, keeping the individual’s potential and background in mind, to confirm whether he/she was fit to be an agent.

     (iii)        Intelligence Gathering
Before spies and informants were assigned to a mission they were instructed in every single detail of the target. The target could be a harbour, airport, refinery, warship, aircraft or even a VIP - whatever it might be, the handlers would brief every single thing that they already knew about it in detail and then debrief for the information they need. Informants had to learn about the specific physical environment in detail beforehand so that they could easily provide updates on selected targets. In order to make this task easier the organization preferred to hire government employees working in the area, selecting them carefully after identifying and confirming their potential usefulness.
For instance, LTTE Intelligence Wing hired a retired government employee who worked as a panel board controller in Sri Lanka’s largest refinery. They first assigned him to teach a group of Intelligence Wing cadres everything about a refinery from crude oil tanks to petrol tanks - the whole process of refining, storing, distributing petrol and then the structure of a refinery as well. Later, they asked him to pay a visit to Colombo where he had colleagues and friends who were still working in the same refinery. While visiting his friends at the refinery he was able to collect the plans of the buildings, maps, the latest technological developments, security measures, storage tanks and its locations. He was just asked to mail in the information.
Similarly, LTTE Intelligence hired an informant who was working in China Bay Air Force Base in Trincomalie as a leading aircraft man. He had been visiting his family, living in LTTE’s controlled area, and was forced to work for its Intelligence Wing.  Since then, whenever he was visiting he was asked to provide the latest developments, security measures and maps for the Air Force Base.
While the LTTE was gathering intelligence on Colombo Harbour, they hired an Engineering student who was studying Marine Engineering on a scholarship at Mahapola Institute, part of the Colombo Port Authority. A student from a poor family, it was very easy to motivate him by monetary means. As he had access to the entire container terminal and mechanisms, he was able to provide the latest developments, maps, locations and security measures.

(iv)          Intelligence Analysis, Assessment and Exploitation
Once all the intelligence was gathered it had to be centralized in the Data Bank. The Principal Agent Handler (PAH) was in charge of the Data Bank. He was provided with thousands of situational briefing reports every day from various sources: Intelligence Wing cadres (spies) who operated from all parts of the country, the government employees (informants) across the country, military communication and transmission monitoring teams, special reconnaissance teams (LRRP), FDL (border) patrolling and open source intelligence (OSINT) all reported back to the PAH.
The PAH and his team consisted of an Agent Handler, a Deputy Agent Handler and more than a dozen Principal Agents. All these agents worked together on analyzing, assessing and exploiting the intelligence they gathered and submitted the final intelligence product to the decision makers in order to take full advantage of any information that had come to hand for tactical, operational, or strategic purposes. Whether the decision makers took any action or not, the Principal Agent Handler and his staff always did an assessment on a weekly basis to facilitate the Data Bank.

(v)            Agent Handling
The most successful part of intelligence gathering depends on the security and covert communication that an organization provides to its sources. As without security there’s no intelligence, it is of utmost importance that an organization protect its human assets. This can only be done if there is a systematic way for intelligence to flow from hostile areas to the organization’s data bank. It was also the Principal Agent Handler’s responsibility to make sure that his sources were safe and secure.
The PAH directed the Agent Handler, Deputy Agent Handler and Principal Agents within the organization’s controlled areas, who worked from inside offices and therefore were known as “Desk Agents”. There was another set of agents also directed by PAH who worked in the field (hostile area) controlled by the enemy and therefore were known as “Field Agents”. There was always a middle man who worked as a “contact” or go between Desk Agents and Field Agents, known as the Intermediary or Cut-Out.
In the hostile area there were well-established agents working for the PAH known as Resident Agents (RA), who organized and directed compartmentalized “cells” operating there. Each Resident Agent dealt with a maximum of 4-5 Agents (A, B, C, D, and E) who were cultivated or hired and trained by those Desk Agents.  As they worked under a considerable amount of risk, they were proactively given a cover story and a back- up to ensure their security.  For instance, a well-known journalist living in the hostile area, sending and receiving information from all parts of the country, would have the perfect cover story to be a Resident Agent. A marine engineer working in a harbour would have a perfect cover story to be a source of information.
When a Resident Agent (RA) contacted one of his agents and/or informants in order to exchange information he had to be extremely careful not to expose or compromise them to anyone, even to each other. He would meet with them in different Safe Houses and afterwards the Intermediary would meet the Resident Agent in a separate Safe House and pass the information on further to the Desk Agents.
In special cases an Agent might contact the PAH directly without going through the Resident Agent and/or the Intermediary. In such instances, the Agent would use covert communications and code sheets to pass the information. These kinds of cells were not only used in order to pass information but also to transfer other resources such as weapons and personnel.
For example, when LTTE’s Intelligence Wing planned an attack on Colombo Harbour, they began by acquiring a blueprint of the area. In order to achieve this, they identified a harbour employee by confirming his potential, mind-set, motivation and risk assessment, then hired him for the job of Agent/Informant. This Agent/Informant was instructed to contact the Resident Agent (RA) on a regular basis and provide contemporary intelligence. An Intermediary would contact the Resident Agent to obtain the information to pass on to the Principal Agent, or mailed the information in segments directly to him.
They also hired another agent, working, for example, as an engineer at the harbour, to provide technical information such as storage, oil tanks, container terminals, warehouses, ammunition depots and so on.  He provided the information to the Resident Agent or when he was travelling between government controlled area and LTTE’s controlled area, he gave the information directly to the Principal Agent or even Principal Agent Handler, acting as an Intermediary himself. 
In the meanwhile, the Data Bank provided information to the Intelligence Wing for building a model of the harbour and another cell was engaged to transfer weapons and personnel to the government controlled area, using the same process of agent handling.
Finally the attack squad was trained and briefed about the plan and sent to the location using another route.  Since this was an attack on a harbour, the assault team and weapons were moved to the location by a sea route.
For this mission, if a Black Tiger suicide bomber was required who had been cultivated as “sleeper” to use long-term, he or she were also contacted by the Principal Agent Handler to brief the plan and were provided weapons and resources through yet another cell. The Principal Agent Handler did not, under any circumstance, expose or compromise the sleeper to the rest of the cells or vice versa, in order to ensure everyone’s security.

According to Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessments, “...the LTTE was a highly innovative force capable of retaliation against aggression, reprisals and pre-emptive strikes. Regular features of the LTTE doctrine included the unleashing of widespread terror on soft targets. Concentrating on lightly or unprotected targets is a classic diversionary tactic in warfare, pinning down troops to static sentry or bunker duties and restraining search and destruction operations. The LTTE had specialized in surprise raids - many of them suicide bombings. Prime ministers and presidents were killed, high-security army, navy and air force headquarters infiltrated, passenger planes at the international airport destroyed and the country's many economic infrastructures, including the Central Bank, blown up. The LTTE bombed Sri Lankan passenger ships, commercial aircrafts, trains and buses; gunned down priests, nuns, pilgrims and bystanders in a sacred royal city and shot Muslims while worshipping in mosques; frequently raided non-Tamil border villages and towns, massacring men, women and children; and land mined, ambushed and assaulted military and police patrols and posts in Sri Lanka....”
The LTTE Intelligence Wing threatened not only the domestic stability of Sri Lanka and India but also, by its example, the security of the regional and global system as a whole.
Mao Zedong said that guerrillas are like fish in an ocean of people. The LTTE “fish” brilliantly exploited how to make use of the “ocean” of the general populace. Since every LTTE Intelligence Wing cadre was Sri Lankan of Tamil origin, unfortunately the whole Tamil society in Sri Lanka came under suspicion. In an effort to detect and disrupt potential attacks, the Sri Lankan security forces established extreme security measures, including check points, cordon and search operations, abductions, detention camps, aggressive interrogation, disappearances, harassment and humiliation.
Tamil men and women are still being treated in this way on a daily basis because they could possibly be former LTTE Intelligence Wing cadres. These counter measures of the Sri Lankan Security Forces in turn justify   criticism that Tamils are not granted basic human rights within their own homeland.

Intelligence Terminology

-       Agent: a person who is hired by an intelligence agency or security service, to act in their interest.

-       Back Up: a support or backing information of an undercover operative, for the purpose of substantiating his/her cover story. It’s also known as Backstop.

-       Compartmentalization: management of an intelligence service so that information about the personnel, organization or activities of one component is made available to any other component, only to the extent required for the performance of assigned duties.

-       Cover Story: a persona, profession, purpose, activity, fictitious image maintained by an agent or undercover operative.

-       Dead-Letter Box (DLB): a physical location where communications, documents, and/or equipments are covertly placed for another person to collect, without direct contact between the parties. It’s also known as a Dead-Drop.

-       Electronic Intelligence (ELINT): information derived by intercepting and studying electromagnetic radiation from non-communication sources, such as radar

-       Human Intelligence (HUMINT): intelligence collected by humans.

-       Imagery Intelligence (IMINT): an intelligence gathering discipline which collects information via satellite and aerial photography.

-       Informant: a member of a target group, who provides intelligence to the surveillance team or organization

Intermediary: a contact or go-between used to preserve the safety or anonymity of the Principal and Resident Agents, also known as Cut-Out.

-       Live-Letter Box (LLB): an address used to receive communication to be forwarded to an Agent and/or Intelligence Agency. It’s also known as a Mail-Drop.

-       Mole: a spy who works for an enemy nation, but whose loyalty truly lies within his nation's government.

-       Open Source Intelligence (OSINT): an information processing discipline that involves finding, selecting, and acquiring information from publicly available sources and analyzing it to produce actionable intelligence.

-       Principal Agent: an agent who, under the direction of the principal agent handler, is responsible for the operational activities of other agents.

-       Resident Agent: the head of a legal or illegal residency in the hostile nation who supervises subordinate intelligence personnel.

-       Safe House: a dwelling place or hideout unknown to the adversary.

-       Signal Intelligence (SIGINT): intelligence-gathering by interception of signals, whether between people (i.e., COMINT or communications intelligence) or between machines (i.e., ELINT or electronic intelligence), or mixtures of the two.

-       Sleeper: an inactive undercover agent, who is cultivated for long term use.

-       Technical Intelligence (TECHINT): intelligence about weapons and equipment used by the armed forces of enemy nations, often referred to as foreign material.

-       Tradecraft: specialized techniques used in intelligence operations.