Monday, February 21, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to the latest U.S.-Pakistan diplomatic crisis


Even before this latest bit of news, Raymond Davis wasn't exactly the most popular fellow in Lahore. Now, says the U.S. "official" who gabbed anonymously to the Washington Post, "I think this is just going to inflame the Pakistanis."

by Ken

Up till now we've been confronted with an old-fashioned he-says/they-say situation with that American fella who says he killed the Pakistani fella in self-defense, a charge that indignant Pakistanis resolutely denied. We're also claiming that our fella has diplomatic immunity, a claim the Pakistanis also resolutely deny.

I don't suppose this latest bit of information necessarily tips the balance of truth one way or the other, but admit it, it makes you think about the incident a little differently, doesn't it?
U.S. officials: Raymond Davis, accused in Pakistan shootings, worked for CIA

By Greg Miller
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 21, 2011; 2:14 PM

The American who fatally shot two men in Pakistan last month and who has been described publicly as a diplomat is a security contractor for the CIA who was part of a secret agency team operating out of a safe house in Lahore, U.S. officials said.

The contractor, Raymond A. Davis, 36, has been detained in a Pakistani jail since his arrest. He has said he opened fire on two Pakistani men at a traffic signal in Lahore after they attempted to rob him.

The disclosure compounds an already combustible stand-off between the United States and Pakistan at a time of growing distrust between them and complicates U.S. efforts to win Davis's release.

President Obama and other senior administration officials have repeatedly described Davis as a diplomat who was assigned to the U.S. consulate in Lahore, and said he is entitled to immunity from prosecution in Pakistan.

But in fact Davis has spent much of the past two years working as part of a group of covert CIA operatives, whose mission appears to have centered on conducting surveillance of militant groups in large cities including Lahore.

At the time of his arrest, Davis was based at a house with five other CIA contractors as well as an agency employee, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The official said the impact of the disclosure that Davis is a CIA employee "will be serious." . . .

Here's an interesting detail the Post story goes on to reveal:
The Washington Post learned of Davis's CIA affiliation after his arrest, but agreed not to publish the information at the request of senior U.S. intelligence officials, who cited concern for Davis's safety if his true employment status were disclosed.

Those officials withdrew the request not to publish on Monday after other news organizations identified Davis as a CIA employee, and after U.S. officials made a final attempt to prevail upon Pakistan's government to release Davis or move him to a safer facility.

It appears that our government has been tetchy about our boy Raymond's, er, affiliation becoming known to: (a) the American people, and (b) the Pakistani people. The anonymous official who talked to the Post reporter conceded that the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service, probably "knows what this guy is," but voices concern that wider knowledge may not be helpful to the cause. Says the official, "I think this is just going to inflame the Pakistanis." Oh, you think?

If you want to know more about Raymond, well, not much more is being revealed, but there are, shall we say, some evocative glimmerings:
Even while shedding new light on the circumstances of his detention, U.S. officials continued to provide scant information about his assignment. A former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, Davis was hired as a contract employee of the CIA's Global Response Staff, a unit that is responsible for providing security for agency employees and facilities in other countries.

Current and former U.S. officials said that Davis had previously been employed by the sprawling security firm once known as Blackwater. A spokeswoman for the company, now known as Xe Services, did not respond to a request for comment.

U.S. officials said that at the time of the shooting, Davis was doing what CIA employees refer to as "area familiarization," meaning basic surveillance designed to familiarize operatives with their surroundings.

The work would help to explain a collection of items found in Davis's possession when he was arrested, including a camera, a small telescope, a first-aid kit, flashlights, and a Glock semi-automatic pistol.

The description of his activity is at odds with early accounts by U.S. officials who had indicated he was not on a particular assignment when the shooting occurred, and was attacked in his vehicle after withdrawing money from an automated teller machine.

Davis has testified that he was approached by two Pakistani men on a motorcycle, and that they brandished a weapon in an apparent attempt to rob him.

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