‘ISI blew CIA station chief’s cover in retaliation to Mumbai massacre implication’

Saturday, December 18, 2010

WASHINGTON - The Central Intelligence Agency has pulled its top clandestine officer out of Pakistan amid an escalating war of recriminations between American and Pakistani spies, with some US officials convinced that the officer’s cover was deliberately blown by Pakistan’s military intelligence agency.

The US officials said they strongly suspected that operatives of Pakistan’s spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had a hand in revealing the CIA officer’s identity- possibly in retaliation against a civil lawsuit filed in Brooklyn last month implicating the ISI chief in the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008, the New York Times reports.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, did not immediately provide details to support their suspicions, but said that the CIA station chief had received a number of death threats since being publicly identified in a legal complaint sent to the Pakistani police this week by the family of victims of earlier drone campaigns.

The top CIA spy’s hurried departure is the latest evidence of mounting tensions between the two uneasy allies, which could intensify in the coming months with the prospect of more American pressure on Pakistan to hunt for militants in its tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

The job of the CIA station chief in Islamabad is perhaps the spy agency’s most important overseas post, one that requires helping oversee the agency’s covert war and massaging its often testy relationship with the ISI.

That relationship has often frayed in recent years, the paper said, adding that American officials believe that ISI officers helped plan the deadly July 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, as well as provided support to Lashkar-e-Taiba militants who carried out the Mumbai attacks later that year.

Michael J. Morell, the CIA’s deputy director, met with Pakistani officials in Islamabad on Thursday, but US officials said that his visit was not the result of the station chief’s case.

Last month, a lawsuit filed in Brooklyn, which was brought by families of American victims of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, had named the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, as being complicit in the attacks. The suit asserts that General Pasha and other ISI officers were “purposefully engaged in the direct provision of material support or resources” to the planners of the Mumbai attacks.

A senior Pakistani official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the Pakistani government “believes that the suit in New York does not have a sound legal basis, and is based on conjecture.”

“We did not need to retaliate,” he said. “As far as the government of Pakistan and the ISI are concerned, we look forward to working with the Americans in securing the world from transnational threats, especially the shared threat of terrorism.”

The legal complaint in Pakistan, which identified the station chief was filed on Monday over CIA drone attacks that killed at least two Pakistanis, seeking police help in keeping the top spy in the country until a lawsuit could be filed.

Mirza Shahzad Akbar, the lawyer who brought the case against the CIA, said that it would continue despite the station chief’s absence. He is representing Kareem Khan, a resident of North Waziristan, who said that his son and brother were killed in a drone strike, and is seeking 500 million dollars in compensation. (ANI)

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