The Guardian report about America’s National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping on mobile phone conversations of 35 world leaders prompted me to put on my investigative hat. I wanted to find out if the NSA listened in on the phone conversations of India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
I met a deeply embedded source inside the national security establishment under a leaky and fusty smelling bridge somewhere outside Washington last evening. I could only see her hands under the eerie sodium light. It was reassuring that she was not married because she had no wedding ring. Her hands were slender in a way that suggested someone who was adventurous and yet discreet. I had to quickly remind myself that this was not to be an amorous encounter but a professional one.
She agreed to have a brief conversation with me. Given that she was violating half a dozen statutes of her the national security convention she decided to keep it tightly to the point with occasional humor. Here are the excerpts:
Q: Is India’s prime minister among the 35 world leaders you tapped?
A:: Yes and no.
Q: What do you mean yes and no? Either he is or he is not.
A: Precisely. He is but he is not.
Q: I am not following.
A: That is my job. I follow but jokes aside we did tap into his mobile phone but always heard a very strange static sound broken by an occasional clearing of the throat.
Q: That’s him alright, I say, that’s him alright.
A: Is that some weird Eastern yogic mind trick, I mean static—harrumph-static-harrumph?
Q: You tell me. You are the one expert at listening and deciphering.
A: We had a two-day voice analysis and code analysis by some of the brightest brains in the agency. We have filed this under “Inconclusive.” We think he was saying something terribly cryptic that only a couple of people understood. Before joining the agency I worked in a top secret SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) program. Only once did I hear a static that sounded so similar to your prime minister’s phone calls.
Q: So what do you propose to do?
A: Nothing. We don’t do anything but keep these with us in case of a future need…Alright, I got to go. I have talked enough.
She started to leave but turned right back and took something out of her pocket. It was a piece of paper that had a voice sample graph.(See below)
My secret source then said, “The last two spikes are him clearing his throat but the first one does say something. We had a Punjabi interpreter analyze the sample. We were told it said something like “Gursharan, Main thak giya si.”