ATM thieves aka “terrorists”

The story received breathless play in the media: Pakistan’s NSA tipped off his Indian counterpart about 10 terrorists who had infiltrated into India. Manhunt launched. TV channels quote top officials to say three of the terrorists killed. Manhunt continues for the other seven. And so on. Turns out they were ATM thieves.

Jadeja said following confirmation of their identities by Jharkhand police, prima facie it was ruled out that they were the suspected 10 militants who had entered Gujarat to carry out a 26/11-like attack. Bhuj police said all nine were also arrested by Arnala police of Palgarh district in September 2015 in connection with ATM theft.

“One group had arrived in Bhuj on February 29 and another on March 3. They also had been to tourist places like Mandvi beach and had done camel riding for recreation. We are doing investigation if they were involved in any of the ATM thefts reported in the state,” police said.

What bugs me though is the larger question here: Assume for argument that the tip-off was genuine. Assume terrorists had infiltrated into India. How did that story land up on the front pages? What was the rush for the national security apparatus to leak to the media? And what was the need for the media to provide breathless, move by move coverage of the hunt — details of which buildings had been secured, where security had been stepped up, which areas the manhunt was focussing on, etc?

Would you — if common sense guided your actions — investigate under the radar, or would you provide the terrorists with detailed information on where you were focussing so they knew which places to avoid?

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