Pakistan identifies top CIA officer

Leak angers US, escalates tension following raid

Pakistanis in Karachi watched the prime minister, Yousaf Gilani, address Parliament yesterday. Gilani denied allegations that Pakistan was complicit in protecting Osama bin Laden. Pakistanis in Karachi watched the prime minister, Yousaf Gilani, address Parliament yesterday. Gilani denied allegations that Pakistan was complicit in protecting Osama bin Laden. (Shakil Adil/ Associated Press)
By Jane Perlez
New York Times / May 10, 2011

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — For the second time in five months, Pakistani officials have angered the CIA by tipping the news media to the identity of the US station chief in Islamabad, a deliberate effort to complicate the work of the spy agency in the aftermath of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, American officials said.

The leak demonstrated the tilt toward a near-adversarial relationship between the CIA and the Pakistani spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, since the bin Laden raid. It appeared to be intended to show the leverage the Pakistanis retain over American interests in the country, both sides said.

In an address before Parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani made clear that Pakistani officials at the highest levels accepted little responsibility for the fact that bin Laden was able to hide in their country for years.

Instead, Gilani condemned the United States for a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and called the Al Qaeda leader’s presence in Pakistan an intelligence failure of the “whole world.’’

He said it was “disingenuous’’ for anyone to imply that the ISI or the army was “in cahoots’’ with bin Laden, something American officials suspect but for which they acknowledge they have no proof.

The prime minister’s statements, along with the publication of the name of the CIA station chief, signaled the depths of the recriminations and potential for retaliation on both sides as American officials demand greater transparency and cooperation from Pakistan, which has not been forthcoming.

The Pakistani spy agency gave the name of the station chief to The Nation, a conservative daily newspaper with a small circulation that is supportive of the ISI, American and Pakistani officials said. The name that appeared in print was misspelled but close enough to send a clear signal, the officials said.

Similarly, last December, the cover of the station chief at the time was deliberately revealed by the ISI, again by a close approximation of the name, American officials said. As a result, he was forced to leave the country.

The new station chief has no intention of leaving Pakistan, US officials said. The New York Times generally does not identify American intelligence operatives working undercover.

Described as one of the agency’s toughest and most experienced officers, the current station chief supervised aspects of the successful raid against bin Laden, including the CIA safe house used to spy on the compound where bin Laden lived for five years.

The safe house was located close enough to the compound at Abbottabad for CIA agents to gather details of the daily life of the Al Qaeda leader that helped in planning the operation, Obama administration officials said.

The relationship between the new station chief and the head of the ISI, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, has been described by officials familiar with their meetings as particularly acrimonious.

The two men first clashed over the case of Raymond A. Davis, a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis in January during an attempted robbery. Davis was detained by Pakistan for more than a month, despite arguments from the Americans that he had diplomatic immunity.

The killing of bin Laden, and suggestions by the Obama administration that officials in the ISI may have known his whereabouts and provided him support, have infuriated Pasha, Pakistani officials said.

Pasha, and the chief of the Pakistani Army, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, were humiliated that the United States had deliberately not warned Pakistan of the raid, they said.

Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said that although the White House kept the raid a secret from Pakistan until it was over, Pakistan helped the United States develop intelligence on bin Laden.

“We actually worked with them on certain parts of the intelligence that helped to lead to him,’’ Kerry said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.’’

Yesterday, Jodi Seth, a spokeswoman for Kerry, said: “Without violating details of classified briefings, Senator Kerry was referring to the fact that Pakistan has helped American intelligence agencies follow up on leads about the identity of people who traveled in circles around bin Laden and has permitted US operatives to be on the ground as they followed up leads inside Pakistan.

“Obviously there have been disagreements and instances in which US agencies and the Obama administration chose not to share specific information with the Pakistani government and its intelligence agencies, and the divergent interests of the Pakistanis in some instances have been well-documented,’’ Seth said.

“The precise information that led to the killing of bin Laden was one of those instances in which we correctly withheld specific information, but it doesn’t change the fact that as everyone from Secretary of State [Hillary Rodham] Clinton to national security adviser [Thomas] Donilon has acknowledged, cooperation has been key in threading together vital intelligence these last years,’’ she said.

Gilani did not explain how bin Laden managed to remain sequestered for five years in the garrison city of Abbottabad, about 75 miles by road from Islamabad, the capital. He said that Lieutenant General Javed Iqbal, a senior army general and close aide to Kayani, would conduct an inquiry, but he gave no timetable. A joint session of Parliament on Friday would be given a briefing by the military, he said.

In Washington, Obama administration officials sought to tamp down tensions over the Navy SEAL raid, deflecting questions about Gilani’s speech and refusing to comment on the leak.

“Counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan is in our national security interests,’’ said Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman. “It has yielded results, tangible results, over the last decade, and so we believe it’s worthwhile and in our national interests to continue that cooperation. We also believe it’s in Pakistan’s long-term interests.’’

In what could be another flash point, Washington has asked Pakistan to give American officials access to the women who were at the compound in Abbottabad with bin Laden and who have been questioned by the ISI since the raid a week ago. So far, such access had not been granted, an American official said yesterday.

Gilani was the second official of the civilian government to publicly address the bin Laden raid, while Kayani and Pasha have remained behind the scenes.

According to accounts from two journalists who attended the closed-door session, the army chief criticized the civilian government for failing to give guidance to the military on counterterrorism and for never asking about the progress the military was making. Kayani, they said, bitterly reproached the Americans for the raid, saying that now they would have “Hollywood movies for the next decade.’’

Many expected the prime minister to give an accounting of what Pakistan knew about bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan, but instead he focused on how the raid was a breach of Pakistani sovereignty, and warned that a repeat of such a raid could be met with “full force.’’

He defended the ISI as the best in the world, describing the agency as a “national asset’’ that had done more than any other intelligence agency to take on Al Qaeda. “No other country in the world and no other security agency has done so much to interdict Al Qaeda than the ISI and our armed forces,’’ he said.

Gilani’s account of the history of Al Qaeda essentially blamed the United States for allowing Islamic militants to take hold in Pakistan. “We didn’t invite Osama bin Laden to Pakistan or Afghanistan,’’ he said.

Donovan Slack of the Globe’s Washington bureau contributed to this report.