How a secret gets revealed and then becomes secret again

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!

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5 thoughts on “How a secret gets revealed and then becomes secret again

  1. Norman

    Interesting. Seems as though the C.I.A., the State Department, the P.O.T.U.S., have gotten their collective knickers caught in the wringer. The arrogance that the C.I.A. operates from is truly amazing, as is the State Department & the P.O.T.U.S. This attitude that they can go anywhere in the world and conduct any operation with reckless abandonment, because they are who they are, is what turns the people of that country against the U.S.A. The agencies are so used to disregarding the rules, that it seems almost impossible the change. Perhaps that the reason the War is dragging on for so long. Because the U.S. is who it is and the might behind it, they don’t seem to be able to tell the forest from the trees. Denial seems to be the forte of the U.S. Government. There certainly doesn’t appear to be any voice that can or has reason strong enough the changes needed. The hope is that the so called lowly fighters who have fought the U.S. Military, don’t get the Nuclear bombs that are in the Pakistani arsenal, because if they do, heaven help the world.

  2. Ian Arbuckle

    “no law custom or authority gives CIA the permission to carry out killing in the sovereign territory of another country ”

    Imagine if someone went to Nevada and killed about 100 people in an area near Las Vegas because they had “reliable” information that 5 or 6 of them were working for the CIA, (Noting that the CIA is in every sense of the definition an international criminal and terrorist organization), do you think the US legal system would feel it had reason to charge them with something? Do you think the US people would think it a reasonable and justified action with “acceptable” collateral damage?

    What makes me really wonder about this WikiLeaks thing and their further revaluations of American malfeasance, I ask myself what is the point? What are we doing about the innumerable criminal acts that the US Government and its agencies are doing and have done right out in the open clearly and documented already.

    In the ME providing aid and weapons to Israel, in Pakistan with murder, in Iraq with a war of aggression, and an entire litany of crimes against humanity, in Iran with state terrorism, etc. etc. the Bush and Obama administrations have been and are in breach of international treaties, conventions, and even their own constitution, and absolutely nothing has come of it as they brazenly continue to put themselves above the law.

    What further evidence is needed? What revelation will tip the balance? When will people in the US and around the world actually accept and come to terms with the fact that if they want to return to a world of sanity with laws or at least a presumption of law at the foundation of states and statecraft, the problem is not global terrorism, what is needed is to dismantle and prohibit the brazen tyranny of an empire.

  3. Paloma

    There is a spy culture growing fast. What is going on in the world? Let’s finish with this rotten development. All the names of spys should be published. So nobody can act illegally and without resposibility, assassinating in the name of any government. Those big criminals Robert Gates, succeding the war criminal Rumsfeld, and all those criminal CIA staff as Leon Panetta, ( the follow-up of criminal John Negroponte) and Jonathan Banks ect… What do the CIA think after such a big list of crimes (Mossadeq- Iran, Lumumba – Congo, Allende – Chili and so on) do they really think that they can go on indefinitely in the crime history? Let’s close the CIA bureau – there is nothing human in it, just violence combined with perversion and their Mossad dog- contractors – the crime corporation “par excellence”!

  4. A

    I am at point in my life where the amount of despicable acts done by my own government literally sickens me. I no longer have any faith in our Government or the ability for us to change it from within. The amount of spying, even on its own citizens, or other acts by our government that we know about has to be only a very small percentage of what actually occurs. What we know should be enough to enrage a complete revolution, but it doesn’t, and it won’t. We can watch on the history channel and see how the NSA duplicated ATT’s internet hub in San Fransisco giving them the ability to read 80-90% of all internet traffic and phone calls. We can watch how our own government experimented by drugging and infecting homeless citizens, prisoners and minorities in the 70’s, without their knowledge or consent. This is now common knowledge. Yet, watched on the History channel it becomes… sanitized, somehow acceptable, perceived in way that is forgivable by the majority. After all its History…
    I just watched The Road to Guantanamo and I found myself in tears. Not because I learned anything new. Watching the reenactments of the torture that occurred to fellow human beings while being backed up by real interviews of the people who were tortured, just made the scenes… hard hitting.
    I have had a few minor brushes with the FBI for involvement in protests. I was once spied on by the FBI for simply having a conversation via the internet with the grandchild of an old X president. I had no idea who she was. We simply belonged to the same email group. I sent her sick son art by Lenard Peltier. This was Pre-911, No warrant yet they tapped my phone, read my emails. This was proven when the transcripts were sent to me with a deep apology by the… X presidential grandchild . In the end I was deemed ” To have strong political beliefs but presented no immediate threat.” My phone was tapped for 2 weeks. The Govt scares the shit out me.

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