Rohit Kumar's Views

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Posts Tagged ‘American government

American Held in Pakistan Worked With C.I.A.

leave a comment »

WASHINGTON – The American arrested in Pakistan after shooting two men at a crowded traffic stop was part of a covert, C.I.A.-led team collecting intelligence and conducting surveillance on militant groups deep inside the country, according to American government officials.


Raymond A. Davis, center, was escorted to court by a Pakistani security official in Lahore on Jan. 28.

Working from a safe house in the eastern city of Lahore, the detained American contractor, Raymond A. Davis, a retired Special Forces soldier, carried out scouting and other reconnaissance missions as a security officer for the Central Intelligence Agency case officers and technical experts doing the operations, the officials said.

Mr. Davis’s arrest and detention last month, which came after what American officials have described as a botched robbery attempt, have inadvertently pulled back the curtain on a web of covert American operations inside Pakistan, part of a secret war run by the C.I.A.

The episode has exacerbated already frayed relations between the American intelligence agency and its Pakistani counterpart, created a political dilemma for the weak, pro-American Pakistani government, and further threatened the stability of the country, which has the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal.

Without describing Mr. Davis’s mission or intelligence affiliation, President Obama last week made a public plea for his release. Meanwhile, there have been a flurry of private phone calls to Pakistan from Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all intended to persuade the Pakistanis to release the secret operative.

Mr. Davis has worked for years as a C.I.A. contractor, including time at Blackwater Worldwide, the private security firm (now called Xe) that Pakistanis have long viewed as symbolizing a culture of American gun-slinging overseas.

The New York Times had agreed to temporarily withhold information about Mr. Davis’s ties to the agency at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk. Several foreign news organizations have disclosed some aspects of Mr. Davis’s work with the C.I.A.

On Monday, American officials lifted their request to withhold publication. George Little, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to comment specifically on the Davis matter, but said in a statement: “Our security personnel around the world act in a support role providing security for American officials. They do not conduct foreign intelligence collection or covert operations.”

Since the United States is not at war in Pakistan, the American military is largely restricted from operating in the country. So the Central Intelligence Agency has taken on an expanded role, operating armed drones that kill militants inside the country and running covert operations, sometimes without the knowledge of the Pakistanis.

Several American and Pakistani officials said that the C.I.A. team with which Mr. Davis worked in Lahore was tasked with tracking the movements of various Pakistani militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, a particularly violent group that Pakistan uses as a proxy force against India but that the United States considers a threat to allied troops in Afghanistan. For the Pakistanis, such spying inside their country is an extremely delicate issue, particularly since Lashkar has longstanding ties to Pakistan’s intelligence service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.

Still, American and Pakistani officials use Lahore as a base of operations to investigate the militant groups and their madrasas in the surrounding area.

The officials gave various accounts of the makeup of the covert team and of Mr. Davis, who at the time of his arrest was carrying a Glock pistol, a long-range wireless set, a small telescope and a headlamp. An American and a Pakistani official said in interviews that operatives from the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command had been assigned to the group to help with the surveillance missions. Other American officials, however, said that no military personnel were involved with the team.

Special operations troops routinely work with the C.I.A. in Pakistan. Among other things, they helped the agency pinpoint the location of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy Taliban commander who was arrested in January 2010 in Karachi.

Even before the arrest of Mr. Davis, his C.I.A. affiliation was known to Pakistani authorities, who keep close tabs on the movements of Americans. His visa, presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in late 2009, describes his job as a “regional affairs officer,” a common job description for officials working with the agency.

According to that application, Mr. Davis carried an American diplomatic passport and was listed as “administrative and technical staff,” a category that typically grants diplomatic immunity to its holder.

American officials said that with Pakistan’s government trying to clamp down on the increasing flow of Central Intelligence Agency officers and contractors trying to gain entry to Pakistan, more of these operatives have been granted “cover” as embassy employees and given diplomatic passports.

As Mr. Davis is held in a jail cell in Lahore – the subject of an international dispute at the highest levels – new details are emerging of what happened in a dramatic daytime scene on the streets of central Lahore, a sprawling city, on Jan. 27.

By the American account, Mr. Davis was driving alone in an impoverished area rarely visited by foreigners, and stopped his car at a crowded intersection. Two Pakistani men brandishing weapons hopped off motorcycles and approached. Mr. Davis killed them with the Glock, an act American officials insisted was in self-defense against armed robbers.

But on Sunday, the text of the Lahore Police Department’s crime report was published in English by a prominent daily newspaper, The Daily Times, and it offered a somewhat different account.

It is based in part on the version of events Mr. Davis gave Pakistani authorities, and it seems to raise doubts about his claim that the shootings were in self-defense.

According to that report, Mr. Davis told the police that after shooting the two men, he stepped out of the car to take photographs of one of them, then called the United States Consulate in Lahore for help.

But the report also said that the victims were shot several times in the back, a detail that some Pakistani officials say proves the killings were murder. By this account, Mr. Davis fired at the men through his windshield, then stepped out of the car and continued firing. The report said that Mr. Davis then got back in his car and “managed to escape,” but that the police gave chase and “overpowered” him at a traffic circle a short distance away.

In a bizarre twist that has further infuriated the Pakistanis, a third man was killed when an unmarked Toyota Land Cruiser, racing to Mr. Davis’s rescue, drove the wrong way down a one-way street and ran over a motorcyclist. As the Land Cruiser drove “recklessly” back to the consulate, the report said, items fell out of the vehicle, including 100 bullets, a black mask and a piece of cloth with the American flag.

Pakistani officials have demanded that the Americans in the S.U.V. be turned over to local authorities, but American officials say they have already left the country.

Mr. Davis and the other Americans were heavily armed and carried sophisticated equipment, the report said.

The Pakistani Foreign Office, generally considered to work under the guidance of the ISI, has declined to grant Mr. Davis what it calls the “blanket immunity” from prosecution that diplomats enjoy. In a setback for Washington, the Lahore High Court last week gave the Pakistani government until March 14 to decide on Mr. Davis’s immunity.

The pro-American government led by President Asif Ali Zardari, fearful for its survival in the face of a surge of anti-American sentiment, has resisted strenuous pressure from the Obama administration to release Mr. Davis to the United States. Some militant and religious groups have demanded that Mr. Davis be tried in the Pakistani courts and hanged.

Relations between the two spy agencies were tense even before the episode on the streets of Lahore. In December, the C.I.A.’s top clandestine officer in Pakistan hurriedly left the country after his identity was revealed. Some inside the agency believe that ISI operatives were behind the disclosure – retribution for the head of the ISI, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, being named in a New York City lawsuit filed in connection with the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, in which members of his agency are believed to have played a role. ISI officials denied that was the case.

One senior Pakistani official close to the ISI said Pakistani spies were particularly infuriated over the Davis episode because it was such a public spectacle. Besides the three Pakistanis who were killed, the widow of one of the victims committed suicide by swallowing rat poison.

Moreover, the official said, the case was embarrassing for the ISI for its flagrancy, revealing how much freedom American spies have to roam around the country.

“We all know the spy-versus-spy games, we all know it works in the shadows,” the official said, “but you don’t get caught, and you don’t get caught committing murders.”

Mr. Davis, burly at 36, appears to have arrived in Pakistan in late 2009 or early 2010. American officials said he operated as part of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Global Response Staff in various parts of the country, including Lahore and Peshawar.

Documents released by Pakistan’s Foreign Office showed that Mr. Davis was paid $200,000 a year, including travel expenses and insurance.

He is a native of rural southwest Virginia, described by those who know him as an unlikely figure to be at the center of international intrigue.

He grew up in Big Stone Gap, a small town named after the gap in the mountains where the Powell River emerges.

The youngest of three children, Mr. Davis enlisted in the military after graduating from Powell Valley High School in 1993.

“I guess about any man’s dream is to serve his country,” his sister Michelle Wade said.

Shrugging off the portrait of him as an international spy comfortable with a Glock, Ms. Wade said: “He would always walk away from a fight. That’s just who he is.”

His high school friends remember him as good-natured, athletic, respectful. He was also a protector, they said, the type who stood up for the underdog.

“Friends with everyone, just a salt of the earth person,” said Jennifer Boring, who graduated from high school with Mr. Davis.

Mr. Davis served in the infantry in Europe – including a short tour as a peacekeeper in Macedonia – before joining the Third Special Forces Group in 1998, where he remained until he left the Army in 2003. The Army Special Forces – known as the Green Berets – are an elite group trained in weapons and foreign languages and cultures.

It is unclear when Mr. Davis began working for the C.I.A., but American officials said that in recent years he worked for the spy agency as a Blackwater contractor and later founded his own small company, Hyperion Protective Services.

Mr. Davis and his wife have moved frequently, living in Las Vegas, Arizona and Colorado.

One neighbor in Colorado, Gary Sollee, said that Mr. Davis described himself as “former military,” adding that “he’d have to leave the country for work pretty often, and when he’s gone, he’s gone for an extended period of time.”

Mr. Davis’s sister, Ms. Wade, said she was awaiting her brother’s safe return.

“The only thing I’m going to say is I love my brother,” she said. “I love my brother, God knows, I love him. I’m just praying for him.”

Advertisements

The World’s Biggest Banana Republic

leave a comment »

Shobhan Saxena

A couple of days ago, a Scottish delegate got a shock of his life when he saw a dog shitting on a bed inside a ‘swanky’ apartment at the Commonwealth Games village in Delhi. The Scotsman clicked a photo of the dog, and now the picture is part of the evidence submitted by the Scottish delegation to the Organising Committee to prove that the multi-million dollar village is not “fit for human habitation”. In the past few days, foreign TV crews and photographers have been busy chasing and clicking photos of dogs – peeing and shitting in the apartments, running on practice tracks, jumping into swimming pools and sleeping under the police cars and other vehicles parked at Games sites and venues. The foreigners are horrified – and scared to death – by the sight of street dogs running wild in the “sanitized areas”. For them, it’s a sign that India is not ready for the Games and the infrastructure here is not “world class”.

Now, there is no doubt that India’s carefully created, and airbrushed, image of an ’emerging superpower’ and the ‘second-fastest growing economy’ in the world rots in the piles of rubbish. The myth of ‘India Shining’ (BJP’s slogan) and ‘India Rising’ (the Congress’ slogan) has been busted. We have proved to the world – and to ourselves as well – that we are a third world banana republic which is sinking into a bottomless pit.

I am not worried about the mismanagement at the Games sites. We shouldn’t have organized the Games at all. The country which in 63 years of independence hasn’t been able to provide proper living houses, clean drinking water, uninterrupted electricity, fulltime jobs, healthy food, clean air and free education to all its citizens despite spending trillions of dollars, how did you expect the same country to pull off an international sporting event without it sinking into the slime and grime of corruption and bad governance.

I am not justifying corruption, but it’s a fact that graft is part and parcel of capitalism, though the level differs from country to country. This has been proved by western politicians and Wall Street bankers in the past couple of years. In the US, the bankers and financial giants robbed the American people, mostly the middle and working-class, clean and then declared themselves bankrupt, and they were bailed out by the American government with public money. This was the world’s biggest daylight robbery. And no one, except Michael Moore, raised the red flag.

In the US, this brazen act of corruption made thousands of houses go under water and millions became jobless, but in India something more sinister and dark has been happening in the garb of the Games. In the past two years or so, the governments of this country and this city have launched a full-scale war on the poor. Millions of poor people from the country’s dustbowls have been brought here to work at the Games’ construction sites. They have been slogging day and night at the venues and living like animals under plastic sheets, sleeping on wet ground and eating filthy food. That food is just about enough to keep their body and soul together so that they can build the glass and chrome buildings and showcase India Shining to the world.

In 21st century India, the street dogs are luckier than the poor. The dogs make news for shitting on expensive beds and the poor workers go to snake-infested swamps to take a leak at night, get bitten and die and not a soul is stirred.

On one hand the government has brought these people from poverty-ravaged villages to work on its corruption-tainted buildings, and on the other hand lakhs of hard-working but poor people have been thrown out of the city so that the foreigners coming here for the Games do not see the ugly, dirty side of India. Thousands of people living in Yamuna Pushta area were plucked from their houses and dumped on a wasteland in Haryana. Beggars were packed off earlier. Now, the police are scanning the slums of Delhi and Gurgaon and people are being forced to board trains back to their villages. These people have been living and working here for years and suddenly they have been asked to leave. The government doesn’t want any filth in the city during the Games. It’s putting bamboo screens in front of the slums.

But, now the filth is out in the open. The mismanagement and corruption has been exposed by the photos of dirty, filthy and unhygienic apartments at the Games village. And guess who gets blamed for it. Not the politicians or babus or contractors but the poor workers at the site. And when 27 workers got injured on Wednesday, when the footbridge near the JL Nehru stadium collapsed, they were herded like animals into private vehicles and dumped at a sarkari hospital. No ambulance for them, no post-recovery package for them. Just Rs 50,000 in damages for broken legs, cracked heads and damaged spinal chords.

And, to hide the accident near the Nehru stadium, the area was cordoned off and cops in full riot gear were stationed so that ordinary people and media and foreigners can’t get anywhere near the site and see one more horrendous accident. Suddenly, the government has one solution for every problem across the country: post heavily-armed police and paramilitary men at the scene of a “disturbance” and give them license to shoot at will. It happens everyday in Srinagar. It’s happening everyday in the jungles of Chhattisgarh. It’s happening in the villages of West Bengal. It’s happening in the villages of UP. Now, with Ayodhya verdict round the corner, the temple town is being turned into a fortress with men in khaki swarming over it.

These are symptoms of a failed state. We are catching up with Pakistan. We make tall claims about growth, but we treat out poor worse than animals. We aspire to be world power, but we can’t even provide drinking water to all our citizens. We claim to be world’s biggest democracy, but we ‘solve’ all our social and political problems with loaded guns in hand. It’s time we accepted that we are a banana republic and we are going to the dogs.