For the second time in five months, Pakistani authorities have angered the Central Intelligence Agency by tipping the Pakistani media to the identity of the CIA station chief in Islamabad, a deliberate effort to complicate the work of the US spy agency in the aftermath of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, US 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 US interests in the country, both sides said.
In an address before Parliament on Monday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani furthered Pakistan’s bristling response to the raid, making clear that Pakistani officials at the highest levels accepted little responsibility for bin Laden being 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-Qaida 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 US officials suspect but say they have no proof of.
The prime minister’s statements, along with the leak related to the CIA station chief, signaled the depths of the recriminations and potential for retaliation on both sides as US 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, US and Pakistani officials said. The ISI commonly plants stories in the Pakistani media and is known to keep some journalists on its payroll.
The name that appeared in print was misspelled but close enough to send a clear signal, the officials said. Similarly, in December, the cover of the station chief at the time was deliberately revealed by the ISI, again by a close approximation of the name, US officials said. As a result, he was forced to leave the country.
In that case, the leak appeared in at least one Pakistani newspaper, including The News, a widely circulated English language paper. A Pakistani lawyer representing a family of victims of a US drone strike against militants in the tribal region later included the name in a legal complaint sent to the Pakistani police.
From that exposure, the station chief received death threats and quickly left the country, Obama administration officials said.
The new station chief had no intention of leaving Pakistan, US officials said. The New York Times generally does not identify US 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 in Abbottabad where bin Laden is believed to have lived for five years. Economic Times