Operation Dunnage – How British MI6 Broke Into Indian Embassy For Intel On Rajiv Gandhi Assassination

Under Operation Dunnage and Operation Horoscope, British MI6 broke into Indian and Iranian Embassies for intelligence on assassinations of their Prime Ministers, Rajiv Gandhi and Shapour Bakhtiar.

  • Britain’s intelligence agency MI6 targeted the Indian and Iranian Embassies for illegal break-ins in the late 1980s and early 1990s
  • Thousands of photographs were sent back to the UK to decipher the communications of Indian and Iranian government officials and diplomats
  • The covert attack which the Indian and Iranian missions faced was a joint move by the New Zealand SIS for MI6
  • The operation was codenamed Operation Dunnage for India and Operation Horoscope for Iran
  • It’s objective of the operation is believed to be the gathering of intelligence for the assassinations of Indian and Iranian Prime Ministers, Rajiv Gandhi and Shapour Bakhtia
Operation Dunnage – How British Intelligence Broke Into Indian Embassy For Intel On Rajiv Gandhi Assassination
Operation Dunnage – How British Intelligence Broke Into Indian Embassy For Intel On Rajiv Gandhi Assassination

Operation Dunnage

Britain’s intelligence agency MI6 targeted the Indian High Commission for illegal break-ins in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This was reported by Radio New Zealand (RNZ), an independent public service media organisation. It reported that New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) broke into the Indian mission for Britain’s MI6 and it even broke into the Iranian embassy for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to “photograph code books, plant bugs and steal communications”.

In 1989 and 1991 the Indian High Commission in Wellington was almost raided twice to “photograph thousands of pages from the commission’s code books, which were used to encrypt communications”.

The covert attack which the Indian mission faced was a joint move by the NZSIS for MI6. It was code-named Operation Dunnage. Thousands of photographs were sent back to the UK, to the Britain’s foreign intelligence service so that it could decipher the communications of Indian government officials and diplomats,” reported RNZ.

The Indian officials had no immediate reaction of the event.

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Operation Horoscope

In 1990s, NZSIS also targeted the Iranian embassy in Wellington, the mission was named Operation Horoscope. This was driven by CIA, which “altered circuit boards on a telex machine used by the Iranian Embassy in Wellington, allowing the American intelligence agency to intercept”.

NZ SIS and MI6 also jointly raided the Czechoslovakian embassy in 1986 to seize Warsaw Pact codes.

Five Eyes

The secretive “Five Eyes” which is a five country party to a treaty for cooperation in signals intelligence that includes the UK, the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, has faced criticism in recent years for its covert activities.

RNZ also cited one New Zealand source, who spent more than 20 years at the highest levels of the public sector. He was concerned about the nature of the work NZ SIS carried out for its Five Eyes partners.

The source, having close dealings with intelligence agencies, said “New Zealand came under pressure from its Five Eyes partners, especially the US and Australia, to do their dirty work”. The source also emphasized that it felt New Zealand “sometimes risked its international reputation by doing things that largely benefited Five Eyes partners”.

Five Eyes aka Project Echelon
The Five Eyes is an intelligence umbrella based on the foundations laid by the spies of East India Company. India is the number one target of Five Eyes.

The Five Eyes is an intelligence umbrella based on the foundations laid by the spies of East India Company. It emerged from an informal agreement related to the 1941 Atlantic Charter initially between United States and United Kingdom. The secret treaty was renewed with the passage of the 1943 BRUSA Agreement. In the following years it was extended to encompass Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

India is the Top target of Five Eyes

It is under Five Eyes umbrella that US National Security Agency spies on India’s missile systems through signals intelligence program RAINFALL in Australia that successfully geo-located signals of Indian Nuclear Weapons storage facility and targeted it through two NSA stations INDRA and LEMONWOOD in Thailand.

Under Five Eyes the NSA also operates the so called SCS sites (Special Collection Service). The NSA has installed a super spy software named APPARITION in one of its SCS sites in New Delhi. The APPARITION program pinpoints the locations of people accessing the Internet across sensitive locations – that include our political, military and scientific institution.

In response to India’s anti-satellite ASAT missile codename Mission Shakti the US launched what is dubbed as Operation Olympic Defender sharing for the first time American Space War plans, with a small number of allies. The operation was launched in alliance with the members of the Five Eyes.

Much of the sharing of information is performed via the ultra-sensitive STONEGHOST network, which contains “the western world’s most closely guarded secrets.” Later this operation was extended to Project Echelon. India is the number one target of Five Eyes.

Violation of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which states that foreign missions are inviolable and the host country should not even open diplomatic mail bags; is clearly violated by breaking into an embassy.

Geoffrey Palmer, New Zealand’s prime minister between August 1989 and September 1990, said he had not heard of the raids on the Indian and Iranian embassies. He asserted that if it should have happened, he might have been alerted by SIS as he was in charge of the agency.

“If it was at the time I was prime minister, I most certainly should have been,” he told RNZ.

Jim Bolger, New Zealand’s prime minister during 1990-97, said he too couldn’t recollect approving any warrants to allow NZSIS to break into foreign embassies. He was surprised to hear there had been a raid on the Indian mission. He even asked why New Zealand would want to carry out a covert attack on India.

Bolger said: “I have no recollection of that ever hitting my desk and if it did, I have to say, my memory is not gone yet, I’d be very surprised if I was ever advised of any such event. I have no recollection – and that’s not just a brush-off.”

Former premier Helen Clark also totally refused to confirm or deny whether raids happened during her term as prime minister between 1999 and 2008.

In a statement, SIS said, it was “unable to respond to questions about what may or not be specific operational matters”. And that “The mission of the NZSIS has always been to keep New Zealanders safe, protect our key national institutions and promote New Zealand’s national advantage.”

RNZ discovered the raids after putting together evidence and information gained over months of engaging with multiple sources in New Zealand, Britain and the US. A Wellington-based writer and documentary maker John Daniell brought the raids to light. His mother and stepfather worked for SIS, and RNZ journalists.

Covert attack on India and Iran

The motivations for the raids on the Indian and Iranian embassies remain unknown, although both countries would have been of particular interest to the Five Eyes alliance at the time.

India, a nuclear power since the mid-1970s, suffered intense political unrest in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which included the 1991 assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi by Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers. MI6’s direty war in the Sri Lankan theater has since been exposed in international tribunals.

Meanwhile, Iran had just resumed diplomatic relations with Iraq after a decade of war and in 1990 it remained neutral during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

Iran had long suspected the CIA was intercepting its communications. Those fears intensified after the 1991 assassination of former Iranian prime minister Shapour Bakhtiar.

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