The arrest of an Indian Air Force non-commissioned officer, leading aircraftsman Ranjith, posted at Air Force Station, Bathinda, on charges of spying is the second such case to have cropped up in Punjab in the past 16 months wherein social networking sites were used by enemy agents to ‘trap’ Indian military personnel.
In August 2014, the Punjab police had arrested an Airman, Sunil Kumar, who was posted at the Air Force Station in Pathankot, and who was believed to have passed on information about the airbase, the equipment at the base, military exercises and the deployment of aircraft to an ISI agent through a social networking site.
In both these cases, cyber surveillance had led to the personnel being arrested. While in the case of Ranjith, he was enticed by someone by the name of ‘Damini’, Sunil Kumar was in touch on the internet with one ‘Meena Raina’. Both these profiles were found to be fake and in both instances cash had been transferred to the bank accounts of the two personnel in lieu of information.
The Indian Express had earlier reported in July 2015 that the Military Intelligence had sounded warnings that fake profiles of women were being used on social networking sites in order to extract confidential information relating to the Order of Battle (ORBAT) of various military units.
Senior intelligence officials say this trend of using sites such as Facebook and Whatsapp to contact military personnel and then lure them into friendship through sexually explicit conversation has been consistently coming to light. “In fact, many service personnel have voluntarily reported such attempts to their superior officers when they suspected that information was being extracted from them,” said a senior officer.
It is learnt that both in the case of the Bathinda incident as well as the Pathankot case, fake profiles of girls were used by ISI agents who use internet protocols of western countries instead of Pakistan in order to avoid suspicion. These agents also pose as Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) in order to allay any fear and entice the service personnel into violating security protocols.
The Army too had earlier identified three officers who were suspected to have passed restricted information about movement of units and ORBAT to a girl named ‘Simran’ on Facebook. An inquiry had been ordered against these errant officers.