Intelligence: Secrets That Can't Be Kept Secret


October 24, 2011: The Indian Air Force recently published a request for companies to bid on a job that involved providing helicopter transport to remote army and air force bases. The document contained the exact location of 2,056 army helicopter pads, bases and outposts, and air force air strips along the Chinese and Pakistani borders. The problem was that the location of many of these bases was classified. This stuff was supposed to be secret.

The air force does not have enough helicopters to service all these bases, especially the ones at higher altitudes. Moreover, helicopter transport is crucial this time of year, as some of the more remote mountain bases must be supplied sufficiently to allow the troops to survive weeks of isolation because of storms and heavy snow.  The air force was in a hurry to get some civilian helicopter transport, before the snow and wind became too fierce.

The air force downplayed the security angle by pointing out that just using Google Earth, anyone can find most of these bases. Moreover, China has photo satellites that can scour the Indian side of the border for any signs of military activity. But the recently published list does enable Chinese and Pakistani intelligence analysts to see how accurate their earlier efforts were, and that does have value.



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