On November 30, The Express Tribune, Pakistan’s first internationally affiliated newspaper (partnered with The International Herald Tribune – the global edition of The New York Times) reported:
A North Waziristan tribesman, whose brother and teenage son were killed in a drone strike last year, said on Monday that he would sue all those US officials supposedly in control of the predator’s operations in Pakistan.
Karim Khan, a local journalist from Mirali town of the lawless tribal district, had sent a $500 million claim for damages to the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, CIA chief Leon Panetta and its station head in Islamabad Jonathan Banks.
On December 10, a report appearing in the Miami Herald repeated the same claims:
The lawsuit, which stands little chance of being won, is lodged against the CIA station chief in Islamabad, identified as Jonathan Banks; CIA Director Leon Panetta; and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. There’s speculation that the publicity has compromised the position of the CIA chief in Pakistan. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad refused to confirm that Banks was the right person.
“What CIA station chief? I can’t talk about employees,” embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez said.
But yesterday, the New York Times started reporting like a newspaper that takes directions from the government censors.
Just as in Israel, where secrecy can be imposed through censorship even when the “secret” has been made known everywhere else in the world, the New York Times is now following government directions by refusing to reprint the CIA station chief’s name even though it has been widely reported outside and inside the United States.
The Central Intelligence Agency’s top clandestine officer in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, was removed from the country on Thursday amid an escalating war of recriminations between American and Pakistani spies, with some American officials convinced that the officer’s cover was deliberately blown by Pakistan’s military intelligence agency.
The American spy’s hurried departure is the latest evidence of mounting tensions between two uneasy allies, with the Obama administration’s strategy for ending the war in Afghanistan hinging on the cooperation of Pakistan in the hunt for militants in the mountains that border those two countries. The tensions could intensify in the coming months with the prospect of more American pressure on Pakistan.
As the cloak-and-dagger drama was playing out in Islamabad, 100 miles to the west the C.I.A. was expanding its covert war using armed drones against militants. Since Thursday, C.I.A. missile strikes have killed dozens of suspects in Khyber Agency, a part of the tribal areas in Pakistan that the spy agency had largely spared until now because of its proximity to the sprawling market city of Peshawar.
American officials said the C.I.A. 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.
So, before his cover was blown and this cloak-and-dagger drama started playing out, are we to suppose that the CIA station chief was happily cruising round Islamabad in an open-top Cadillac proudly flying the Stars and Stripes on the hood?
Even if the station chief who must now not be named was less exposed before a name which might be his name appeared in print, let’s not pretend he operated in Pakistan with anything less than maximum security.
The Washington Post confirms: “Ordinarily, station chiefs in Islamabad rarely stray beyond the sprawling American diplomatic compound, living and working in a warren of apartments and offices set deep inside the embassy complex’s walls.”
Maybe the issue is not threats to the station chief’s life as much as threats to his liberty. Pakistan’s judicial system, unlike its government, has at times displayed what American officials might regard as an irksome level of independence.
A report in Pakistan’s Daily Mail, published on December 1 (part of which appears below without corrections — the English and editing are rough, but the story is strong), provides interesting background on the legal action being brought by Kareem Khan.
Kareem Khan challenged the precision of drone attacks and specifically questioned the precision of 31st December 2009 attack where in three innocent lives were taken by CIA in a secretive mode. He further challenged that if CIA can establish involvement of any of victims of 31st December attack in terrorism he will pay damages to United States instead.
While talking about the catastrophe he told The Daily Mail how his18 years old son Zaenullah, his young brother Asif Iqbal and a mason who was working on construction of village masque and had came from another village of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa were killed.
Kareem Khan told The Daily Mail that “his family is one of few educated families from the North Waziristan .He himself is M .Phil while his son was employee of Government school in town and his brother was graduate of National University of Modern languages from Islamabad .After compilation of his studies he went back to his town to add his positive contribution in educational uplifting of tribal area. They were innocent Pakistani citizen of Islamic Republic Of Pakistan whose fundamental rights have been guaranteed under the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan
In the response of one question about the families of victims he told Asif Iqbal left two years old son Muhammad Kafeel and a widow. Mohammad Kafeel has no one to look after as his mother is suffering great emotional and mental trauma. . “I lost my son and brother and now family’s full responsibility is now on me now we are living in uncle’s house waiting for justice or compensation”. He told The Daily Mail
Kareem Khan told the Daily Mail after this tragedy “I went here and there for Justice but all in vain because of undefined and so called system in tribal areas than one of my good friend suggested me to ask for Justice through legal way”. On November 29 2010 I through my lawyer Mirza Shahzad Akbar issued a legal notice to United States Secretary Defence Mr. Robert Gates, Director CIA Leon Panetta CIA Islamabad Station Chief Jonathan Banks for damages of $ 500 Million .he added
He also told that Drone attacks in tribal areas are carried out by CIA in langly, Virginia USA with co-ordination of local intelligence gathered by spies on ground in tribal area. CIA, s Islamabad station Chief, Jonathan Banks coordinates such intelligence through the network of on ground spies, who are paid a hefty amount for pointing out any militant. On these uncorroborated reports, CIA is executing people of tribal areas.
He stated that “CIA Director Leon Panetta has been reported in media saying that ‘Drone attacks are precise and limited in terms of collateral damage’.
“CIA officials are not part of United States armed forces, therefore under international law they are civilians directly participating in hostilities. Furthermore being non-diplomat and non-armed forces members CIA officials, who are operating drone attacks have no immunity and therefore are liable for murder and damages under laws of Pakistan and principles of natural justice throughout the world’ Kareem Khan explained
Kareem Khan also grumbled that media is not playing vibrant role and journalists even don’t bother to find ground realities. Every time we watched in media that numbers of militants are killed in the result of drone attacks. All the time they go for figures they don’t even bother to differentiate the innocent people and militants. Unfortunately they just rely on people who are present there and love to create hype for their own purpose.Kareem Khan gave the example of Hakeem Ullah Mehsood, Jalal Din ,Aimen Alzwari and Sheikh Usamma and told that according to so called reliable sources media published news regarding their, several times deaths . Which is very funny situation because in my limited knowledge a person died once in his or her life .
Shahzad Mirza Akbar ,the legal representative of Kareem khan who was present during the interview told The Daily Mail Drone attacks on house of his client is in clear violation of United Nations declaration of Human Rights ,International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCRP) and the citizens of Pakistan through the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan .Those who have committed this atrocity are liable to be charged under the Penal Code of Pakistan and no law custom or authority gives CIA the permission to carry out killing in the sovereign territory of another country .So this is illegal act of United States and CIA and cannot be recognized as legal at any judicial or legal forum .The UN special report on extra –judicial ,summery and executions declared in 2004
“Empowering Government to identify and kill “known terrorists” places no verifiable obligation upon them to demonstrate in any way that those against whome lethal force is used are indeed terrorists, or to demonstrate that every other alternative had been exhausted”.
He told Court issued the notice on November 29, 2010 and count down has been started from today .He also talked about next step is to go in American court for justice.
So what’s the story here? Is it about the life of a CIA station chief being placed at risk? Or is it about the struggle among the victims of drone warfare who believe that tribal people should be afforded the same political, legal and human rights and protections as anyone else?
Strangely, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, while acceding to a CIA request not to reprint the station chief’s name, nevertheless provide additional identifying information about him which I have not included here, nor has it appeared in the Pakistani press. That information was, no doubt, provided to them by the CIA!