Intelligence: Professional Courtesy


March 19, 2009: Bangladesh has called in U.S. and British investigators to help sort out what went wrong with the Bangladeshi intelligence agencies, when they all failed to spot a mutiny in late February. The army quickly put down the mutiny by members of the Bangladesh Rifles (a paramilitary organization of 40,000 that mainly guards the borders). A few percent of the officers and troops mutinied, and killed eighty army officers and some family members.

The causes of the mutiny were several. For example, The Bangladesh Rifles has long had a policy where all senior officers (colonel and above) came from the army. Thus 150 army officers dominate the Bangladesh Rifles leadership. There are also complaints that the Bangladesh Rifles work harder (border patrol is grueling and dangerous) than army personnel, for less pay. The Bangladesh Rifles were particularly upset that they were not allowed to take part in UN peacekeeping operations (where the UN pay levels were several times what border guards normally made). The army is now searching for about a thousand Bangladesh Rifles members who were responsible for planning the rebellion, and doing most of the killing. But government believes there may also be foreign influence here, or perhaps Islamic radicals or domestic political parties.

For a while, the government has blocked Bangladeshi access to YouTube, and other sites, for making available an audio recording of a meeting between the recently elected prime minister and some senior army officers. The generals could be heard talking back to the prime minister when she insisted on trying to negotiate with the Bangladesh Rifles mutineers. The army wanted to attack immediately.

The American FBI sent ten investigators, and Britain sent four from Scotland Yard. Meanwhile, the Bangladeshi government replaced the leadership of several intelligence and police organizations. There has long been a contentious relationship between the military (including police and intelligence organizations) and the politicians. Calling in American and British investigators is a good way to get an expert opinion from outside professionals. For the FBI and Scotland Yard, the assistance is a favor that will be repaid in good relations with Bangladesh in the future. Bangladesh has its own local Islamic radical problems, and it's feared that some Islamic terrorist groups simply use Moslem Bangladesh as a safe haven, and adopt a low, non-violent, profile. But some of the local Islamic radicals have been active in Bangladesh, and the government is willing to cooperate with foreign counter-terror organizations when it comes to containing Islamic terrorism.


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