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The American media has again been complaining about perfidious Pakistan over the report that five men had been arrested for helping the United States kill Osama bin Laden. The complaining is ridiculous. It was inevitable that Pakistan would try to identify and arrest those Pakistanis who had been recruited by CIA and were working as agents. The FBI would do exactly the same if the situation were reversed.

A number of websites where former intelligence officers congregate are also buzzing over the story. The initial reports were followed by media accounts that CIA Director Leon Panetta had personally met with his counterparts in Pakistan and had asked that the detainees be released. The New York Times followed up with an article revealing that the five men had indeed been arrested, confirmed that they had been working for CIA, and added that one of them was a Major in the Pakistani Army who had been providing a list of license plate numbers on the vehicles entering and leaving the bin Laden compound. A subsequent story suggested that the Pakistani authorities had released four of the five men arrested, but as far as I can tell that has not been confirmed.

Former intel officers are angry because Panetta apparently confirmed to the Pakistanis that the men were indeed CIA agents. Depending on how one looks at it, that could be equivalent to a death sentence, but it is possible that part of the tale is missing. Panetta might have already known that the men had confessed, presumably under torture, but if there were any remaining doubt in the mind of the Pakistanis he would have dispelled that through his plea. The New York Times report, based as it was on an official government source, served as confirmation of Panetta.

One former CIA officer described the Panetta plea and the NYT story as together “executing the five agents.” It is the ultimate no-no in The Business never to reveal the identity of a source and thereby endanger him. Panetta is, of course, not a real spy and the NYT has never indicated that it understands what goes on either. If the White House made the decision to try to free the men on some kind of humanitarian grounds, it was a bad choice because most agents are trained to have cover stories that enable them to plausibly deny any clandestine activity. Intervening on their behalf would have confirmed that they were American spies and would have eliminated any possibility that they might talk their way out of jail.

Possibly the most disturbing aspect of the whole affair is the possibility that Obama acted in the belief that we are the good guys and that the Paks would understand that it was all in a great cause, i.e. killing bin Laden. I don’t think Islamabad would quite see it that way.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Osama bin Laden 
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  1. Oh who really gives a shit about those men as long as we got our man, right? Obama is just carrying out the polices of GWB, and we know those policies were inspired by Providence. So let’s just forgive the administration for doing God’s work.

  2. TomB says:

    Phil Giraldi wrote:

    “The American media has again been complaining about perfidious Pakistan over the report that five men had been arrested for helping the United States kill Osama bin Laden. The complaining is ridiculous.”

    Yeah, and even worse than ridiculous in one way, and perhaps even malignant.

    Worse in not perceiving how we have worn out our welcome over there with our policies, or to recognize how bloody important it is that Pakistan not turn fundamentalist or against the West.

    And perhaps even malignant in that I suspect that at least some hearts would take great satisfaction seeing us at sword’s point with yet another arab/moslem country.

    Especially given that he always seemed to accept that we would get him once he started his movement, one can only imagine how joyful it would be for bin Laden to think that we importantly helped radicalize Pakistan against us via the way we whacked him.

    Of course Pakistan might not turn, and not that I mourn the bastard, but in thinking about him sometimes I can’t help but thinking about that line from the policeman in that recent movie “V” talking about how the protagonist there understood the establishment he was fighting even better than those in the establishment understood it.

  3. tbraton says:

    “one can only imagine how joyful it would be for bin Laden to think that we importantly helped radicalize Pakistan against us via the way we whacked him.”

    Tom B, I hope you don’t think that Pakistan suddenly became radicalized once we “whacked” Bin Laden. Who do you think was responsible for financing and organizing the Taliban in Afghanistan, after the U.S. withdrew following the Soviet pullout in 1989? The radicalization goes back at least to the 1970’s when religious radicals in Pakistan were empowered by the military dicatator Zia.

  4. TomB says:

    @ tbraton:

    No no; I well appreciate both that there was a radicalizing movement going on in Pakistan for a long time now, and that part of it—and indeed a goodly part—probably had nothing to do with the U.S. (Which however didn’t seem to *focus* on us as its prime enemy at least.)

    Was in essence just seconding Giraldi’s point about how incredibly obtuse we seem to be about how our policies are actually creating more enemies than we had before. Sorta like the thickness displayed by those congresspeople just a few weeks ago who were demanding of the visiting Iraqis that they pay us for our invasion and occupation of them.

    In any event thanks for pointing out my lack of clarity.

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