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Hawkish US Think Tanks By Brig(R) Asif Haroon Raja

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hawkish US Think Tanks

 

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Brig(R) Asif Haroon Raja​

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asifharoonraja@gmail.com

(War veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan,DG Measac Research Centre.​)​

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The two leading US think tanks namely ‘Hudson Institute’ and the ‘Heritage Foundation’ have advised the Donald Trump administration to adopt tough measures against Pakistan.

 

In their view Pakistan is not doing enough in controlling terrorism and is making its soil available for export of terrorism into Afghanistan, thereby threatening the US vital security interests in the region. They have suggested a critical review of intelligence on Pakistan’s involvement in supporting terror since in their view the previous administrations have been taking a lenient view. In their estimation, Pakistan is not an American ally and has been playing a double game by cooperating occasionally and partially.

In their recommendations they have stated that Pakistan must be firmly asked to fully share the US counterterrorism objectives, end its support to the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network (HN) and given stern warning that failure to do so would deprive it of the status on non-NATO ally within six months and result in declaring Pakistan as a State sponsor of Terrorism. In their assessment, China and Gulf Arab States share the US concern about Pakistan’s tolerance of terrorist organizations/individuals. They hasten to add that Pakistan being an important country should also be induced by offering a mutually beneficial trade and investment package, while continuing humanitarian and social assistance programs.  

It is a well-known fact that there are 1984 think tanks in USA with 350 in Washington. Both Heritage and Hudson are among the 50 most influential think tanks. Other important ones are American Enterprise Institute, Centre for Security Policy, Foreign Policy Research Inst, Institute of Foreign Policy Analysis, Brookings Inst etc.  These institutes are required to provide research solutions to a variety of world problems and then lobbying for policy changes. Perceptions are built and the US policy makers influenced to formulate foreign policies or make changes in policies, and frame responses to external challenges. 

These intellectual institutes are however mostly controlled by the Far-Right Zionist lobby which is pro-Israel and guided by American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPIAC). Of the 30 top executives of the major think tanks, 19 are Jews (63%), whereas Jews are mere 2% of the total population. 94% of American Jews live in 13 key Electoral College State, who play a predominant role in the election of US president. Zionist lobby is closely aligned with Indian lobby in USA. The two lobbies besides having influence over think tanks and media, also have strong influence over the US Congress and play a big role in the election of each member. It is therefore quite logical to assume that like hundreds of anti-Pakistan reports dished out by the US think tanks, US Congress, New York Times, Washington Post and Voice of America, this report was also manufactured by these lobbies that are hostile to Pakistan. Purpose is to influence the new administration to pursue old policies to keep Pakistan in the dock.

Rather than focusing on foreign policy and security issues, these think tanks work on tutored themes and burn midnight oil in justifying the crimes of USA, Israel and India against humanity, painting the targeted Muslim countries particularly the radical groups in black and blaming the victims of aggression as terrorists or sponsors of terrorism. Pakistan has been the biggest victim of Indo-US-Israeli propaganda since 2005. Since none of the sinister objective against Pakistan could be accomplished through covert means, the propaganda continues unabated and this report is in continuation of the malicious campaign. 

I may like to ask the wise guys of the two think tanks some probing questions:

Whether their counsels helped USA in winning the war on terror, or at least in improving their image. If not, have they ever prepared a paper highlighting why the US has failed to achieve its stated and hidden objectives after fighting the longest war in its history and spending over $ 1 trillion, where the US went wrong and how could it make amends to restore its lost prestige. (I have). 

Instead of the next door neighbor Pakistan feeling insecure, how come the US located 7000 miles away and across the seven seas feel threatened by the chaos in Afghanistan which it had intentionally created? 

I want to know as to what are the accomplishments of the US-NATO forces and in what way they have fared better than Pakistan to ask it repeatedly to do more? In my reckoning, the US need to do a lot more. 

Can the US deny that CIA in league with RAW, NDS, MI-6, Mossad and BND been exporting terrorism into Pakistan since 2003 with the help of its proxies created in FATA, Swat, Baluchistan and Karachi? Can it deny that RAW and NDS are still supporting them?

Why the ISAF withdrew bulk of 1, 30, 000 troops from Afghanistan in December 2014 without eliminating its principal objective of eliminating terrorism?

Was it because of resurging Taliban power which it couldn’t defeat, or the sagging morale of ISAF soldiers due to mounting war casualties, suicides, in-house attacks, huge number of post stress disorder cases and uninspiring military leadership?

Isn’t it true that the morale of occupying forces drawing handsome salaries drooped because they had no cause and that they were fighting a wrong war for selfish motives of the elites?    

When the US accepted in principle that the Taliban could neither be defeated on the battlefield nor cowed down and decided to quit Afghanistan by December 2014, what was the need for keeping behind a token force along with airpower? Did it really expect that what the combined military force of 48 countries couldn’t achieve, would be accomplished by ANSF rived in so many discipline problems?

Isn’t it a fact that rather than accepting defeat in good grace and quitting honorably, the US military brazenly blamed Pakistan for all its failures? Can the prestige and honor of the sole super power be restored by making Pakistan a scapegoat?

Pakistan security forces and ISI on the other hand successfully broke the back of terror network and demolished all the sanctuaries, communication and command infrastructure from FATA and settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, enfeebled foreign backed separatist movement in Baluchistan and demolished the militant structure of MQM in Karachi. All this was done single-handed against all odds and astounded the world. USA is among the ones acknowledging Pakistan’s spectacular successes.

If Pakistan had fought the war with ill-motives and without a genuine cause, could it have achieved the miracle? 

It is now an open secret that the US had occupied Afghanistan under a preconceived design and with sinister objectives against Pakistan and other regional countries. It has been calculatingly inflaming terrorism in the region and particularly in Pakistan and at no stage made any sincere effort to quash terrorism.

Had the US been sincere and serious in eliminating terrorism as professed by George W. Bush and his successor Barak Obama, it would have made Pakistan its strategic partner and banked upon it based upon its astounding performance in the war against the Soviets in the 1980s.

The US relied upon India which has nothing in common with Afghans and is a far distant neighbor. Driven by acute animosity against Pakistan, India kept pressing US military to focus on Pakistan rather than on consolidating its gains in Afghanistan. Gen Mc Chrystal, Gen Petraeus and former Secretary Defense Chuck Hegel publically declared India as a problem child. 

Wasn’t it a big mistake on part of the US to sideline the Afghan Pashtuns that are in big majority, and instead rely upon minority Tajiks, Uzbeks and others in Northern Alliance and unpopular and inefficient regimes of Karzai and of Ghani?

One may ask as to why the US has been striving hard since 2011 to have dialogue with the Taliban who are supposed to be the foes and are still vying to make them agree to talk? And why Pakistan is being asked to stay away from them? Concept of good and bad Taliban is the brainchild of USA and not of Pakistan. In its view, all those agreeing to talk are good and those refusing to talk are bad.

Since 2008, the Taliban are constantly gaining ground in Afghanistan and are striking targets in all parts of the country including Kabul and northern and western parts. Their resurgence became menacing after 2014 and coming spring offensive will prove highly perilous for the unity government in Kabul and for the 3, 50,000 ANSF supported by 12000 Resolute Support Group that have failed to stem the tide. So how come Pakistan is responsible for their dismal performance particularly after it cleared the last stronghold of North Waziristan in 2014 where HN was based?    

The US has been suspecting and distrusting Pakistan from the outset since it was never made an ally. Marked as a target, friendship was a ruse to deceive Pakistan, make it complacent, weaken it from within through covert operations and then extract its nuclear teeth at an opportune time. This feat if achieved would have justified its most expensive Afghan venture. So who has been playing a double game?? 

Rather than learning lessons from past mistakes and blunders and taking corrective measures by working out a face saving formula, the two think tanks have suggested the same old remedy which will prove counterproductive.

Pakistan has been kept on the leash all these years. So, what tough measures are now being suggested? The threat of declaring Pakistan a terrorist state, or to make the financial assistance condition based, or drone war are coercive tools in use for over a decade.

What is so new suggested by the sages and that too at a time when Pakistan has weathered all the pains, its armed forces are fully battle inoculated and have proved their mettle, its nuclear and missile programs are vibrant and in safe hands, it has overcome its energy and economic crisis, it is no more isolated, it is a coalition partner of ascending power and has other options as well? On the other hand, USA is a declining power ruled by controversial, unpredictable and unpopular president, annoying everyone including the Americans other than the most detestable Israel and India. How has the Trump administration responded to Iran’s tough response? It is on a weaker wicket to threaten nuclear Pakistan.  

The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, DG Measac Research Centre. asifharoonraja@gmail.com

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Pakistan looks forward to work with Trump administration: FO

Pakistan looks forward to work with Trump administration: FO

Foreign Office says Pakistan has a longstanding relationship with America and is looking forward to work with the new US administration.

This was stated by Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria at his weekly news briefing in Islamabad on Thursday.

The Spokesman said Pakistan and US have strategic dialogue mechanism covering diverse areas including economic, security, defence, education, scientific research and cooperation in other areas. He hoped that relations between the two countries will be strengthened further in the coming years.

To a question regarding US President Donald Trump’s statement about terrorism, the Spokesman said terrorism has no religion, caste, creed or colour. It is a global phenomenon and global cooperation is required to deal with this menace.

READ MORE:  China-US will face head-on collision: Global Times

Nafees Zakaria while answering a question said Kashmir is a core issue between Pakistan and India which is a matter of concern to the world community.

He said we have always welcomed anyone who wants to play a role in mediation to resolve the dispute over Kashmir and other issues between Pakistan and India.

Answering a question, he emphasised that politically negotiated settlement is a more viable solution for Afghanistan. He said no result has come out of fifteen years military action in Afghanistan. He said blame game is not in the interest of anyone. He said all parties should engage each other in talks.

READ MORE:  the US says Israeli settlements may not help peace

He said Pakistan has played its role for peace and stability in Afghanistan and will continue to do so. He said pursuing peace should be through Afghan-led and Afghan-owned initiatives.

To a question, the Spokesman said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has instructed that Afghan refugees would not be repatriated forcefully, and their return will be voluntary in a dignified manner.

He said the Government has evolved a plan for their smooth repatriation. He said a date for the voluntary return of Afghan refugees has been extended to 31st December of this year.

READ MORE:  Indian Army violent military operation in Samba, IHK

Replying a question, Nafees Zakaria said Indian RAW agent Kulbushan Yadav has given considerable information during the investigation regarding India’s involvement in subversive activities in Pakistan. He said we in touch with the Indian government in this regard.

The Spokesman said currently, the situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir is getting worse. The killing, arbitrary arrests and fake encounters of Kashmiris continue and their fundamental rights are being denied constantly.

He said International Community must act to hold India accountable for their crimes against humanity.

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Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria By Robert F.Kennedy, Jr

Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria

They don’t hate ‘our freedoms.’ They hate that we’ve betrayed our ideals in their own countries — for oil.
In part, because my father was murdered by an Arab, I’ve made an effort to understand the impact of U.S. policy in the Mideast and particularly the factors that sometimes motivate bloodthirsty responses from the Islamic world against our country. As we focus on the rise of the Islamic State and search for the source of the savagery that took so many innocent lives in Paris and San Bernardino, we might want to look beyond the convenient explanations of religion and ideology. Instead, we should examine the more complex rationales of history and oil — and how they often point the finger of blame back at our own shores.
America’s unsavory record of violent interventions in Syria — little-known to the American people yet well-known to Syrians — sowed fertile ground for the violent Islamic jihadism that now complicates any effective response by our government to address the challenge of ISIL. So long as the American public and policymakers are unaware of this past, further interventions are likely only to compound the crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry this week announced a “provisional” ceasefire in Syria. But since U.S. leverage and prestige within Syria is minimal — and the ceasefire doesn’t include key combatants such as Islamic State and al Nusra — it’s bound to be a shaky truce at best. Similarly President Obama’s stepped-up military intervention in Libya — U.S. airstrikes targeted an Islamic State training camp last week — is likely to strengthen rather than weaken the radicals. As the New York Times reported in a December 8, 2015, front-page story, Islamic State political leaders and strategic planners are working to provoke an American military intervention. They know from experience this will flood their ranks with volunteer fighters, drown the voices of moderation and unify the Islamic world against America.
 
 To understand this dynamic, we need to look at history from the Syrians’ perspective and particularly the seeds of the current conflict. Long before our 2003 occupation of Iraq triggered the Sunni uprising that has now morphed into the Islamic State, the CIA had nurtured violent jihadism as a Cold War weapon and freighted U.S./Syrian relationships with toxic baggage.
This did not happen without controversy at home. In July 1957, following a failed coup in Syria by the CIA, my uncle, Sen. John F. Kennedy, infuriated the Eisenhower White House, the leaders of both political parties and our European allies with a milestone speech endorsing the right of self-governance in the Arab world and an end to America’s imperialist meddling in Arab countries. Throughout my lifetime, and particularly during my frequent travels to the Mideast, countless Arabs have fondly recalled that speech to me as the clearest statement of the idealism they expected from the U.S. Kennedy’s speech was a call for recommitting America to the high values our country had championed in the Atlantic Charter; the formal pledge that all the former European colonies would have the right to self-determination following World War II. Franklin D. Roosevelt had strong-armed Winston Churchill and the other allied leaders to sign the Atlantic Charter in 1941 as a precondition for U.S. support in the European war against fascism.

US Secretary of Defense Robert Kennedy gives a speech on September 2, 1964

U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy gives a speech in September 1964
But thanks in large part to Allen Dulles and the CIA, whose foreign policy intrigues were often directly at odds with the stated policies of our nation, the idealistic path outlined in the Atlantic Charter was the road not taken. In 1957, my grandfather, Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, sat on a secret committee charged with investigating the CIA’s clandestine mischief in the Mideast. The so-called “Bruce-Lovett Report,” to which he was a signatory, described CIA coup plots in Jordan, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Egypt, all common knowledge on the Arab street, but virtually unknown to the American people who believed, at face value, their government’s denials. The report blamed the CIA for the rampant anti-Americanism that was then mysteriously taking root “in the many countries in the world today.” The Bruce-Lovett Report pointed out that such interventions were antithetical to American values and had compromised America’s international leadership and moral authority without the knowledge of the American people. The report also said that the CIA never considered how we would treat such interventions if some foreign government were to engineer them in our country.
This is the bloody history that modern interventionists like George W. Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio miss when they recite their narcissistic trope that Mideast nationalists “hate us for our freedoms.” For the most part, they don’t; instead, they hate us for the way we betrayed those freedoms — our own ideals — within their borders.
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For Americans to really understand what’s going on, it’s important to review some details about this sordid but little-remembered history. During the 1950s, President Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers — CIA Director Allen Dulles and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles — rebuffed Soviet treaty proposals to leave the Middle East a neutral zone in the Cold War and let Arabs rule Arabia. Instead, they mounted a clandestine war against Arab nationalism — which Allen Dulles equated with communism — particularly when Arab self-rule threatened oil concessions. They pumped secret American military aid to tyrants in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon favoring puppets with conservative Jihadist ideologies that they regarded as a reliable antidote to Soviet Marxism. At a White House meeting between the CIA’s director of plans, Frank Wisner, and John Foster Dulles, in September 1957, Eisenhower advised the agency, “We should do everything possible to stress the ‘holy war’ aspect,” according to a memo recorded by his staff secretary, Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster.
The CIA began its active meddling in Syria in 1949 — barely a year after the agency’s creation. Syrian patriots had declared war on the Nazis, expelled their Vichy French colonial rulers and crafted a fragile secularist democracy based on the American model. But in March 1949, Syria’s democratically elected president, Shukri-al-Quwatli, hesitated to approve the Trans-Arabian Pipeline, an American project intended to connect the oil fields of Saudi Arabia to the ports of Lebanon via Syria. In his book, Legacy of Ashes, CIA historian Tim Weiner recounts that in retaliation for Al-Quwatli’s lack of enthusiasm for the U.S. pipeline, the CIA engineered a coup replacing al-Quwatli with the CIA’s hand-picked dictator, a convicted swindler named Husni al-Za’im. Al-Za’im barely had time to dissolve parliament and approve the American pipeline before his countrymen deposed him, four and a half months into his regime.
Following several counter-coups in the newly destabilized country, the Syrian people again tried democracy in 1955, re-electing al-Quwatli and his National Party. Al-Quwatli was still a Cold War neutralist, but, stung by American involvement in his ouster, he now leaned toward the Soviet camp. That posture caused CIA Director Dulles to declare that “Syria is ripe for a coup” and send his two coup wizards, Kim Roosevelt and Rocky Stone, to Damascus.
Two years earlier, Roosevelt and Stone had orchestrated a coup in Iran against the democratically elected President Mohammed Mosaddegh, after Mosaddegh tried to renegotiate the terms of Iran’s lopsided contracts with the British oil giant Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP). Mosaddegh was the first elected leader in Iran’s 4,000-year history and a popular champion for democracy across the developing world. Mosaddegh expelled all British diplomats after uncovering a coup attempt by U.K. intelligence officers working in cahoots with BP. Mosaddegh, however, made the fatal mistake of resisting his advisers’ pleas to also expel the CIA, which, they correctly suspected, was complicit in the British plot. Mosaddegh idealized the U.S. as a role model for Iran’s new democracy and incapable of such perfidies. Despite Dulles’ needling, President Harry Truman had forbidden the CIA from actively joining the British caper to topple Mosaddegh. When Eisenhower took office in January 1953, he immediately unleashed Dulles. After ousting Mosaddegh in “Operation Ajax,” Stone and Roosevelt installed Shah Reza Pahlavi, who favored U.S. oil companies but whose two decades of CIA sponsored savagery toward his own people from the Peacock throne would finally ignite the 1979 Islamic revolution that has bedeviled our foreign policy for 35 years.

Mohammed Mosaddegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran from 1951-1953, pictured left in 1951, the same year he was named TIME Person of the Year, right. His tenure was cut short by a United States-led coup in 1953, which installed Shah Reza Pahlavi

Mohammed Mosaddegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran from 1951-1953, pictured left in 1951, the same year he was named TIME Person of the Year, right. His tenure was cut short by a United States-led coup in 1953, which installed Shah Reza Pahlavi
Flush from his Operation Ajax “success” in Iran, Stone arrived in Damascus in April 1957 with $3 million to arm and incite Islamic militants and to bribe Syrian military officers and politicians to overthrow al-Quwatli’s democratically elected secularist regime, according to Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA, by John Prados. Working with the Muslim Brotherhood and millions of dollars, Rocky Stone schemed to assassinate Syria’s chief of intelligence, the chief of its General Staff and the chief of the Communist Party, and to engineer “national conspiracies and various strong-arm” provocations in Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan that could be blamed on the Syrian Ba’athists. Tim Weiner describes in Legacy of Ashes how the CIA’s plan was to destabilize the Syrian government and create a pretext for an invasion of Iraq and Jordan, whose governments were already under CIA control. Kim Roosevelt forecast that the CIA’s newly installed puppet government would “rely first upon repressive measures and arbitrary exercise of power,” according to declassified CIA documents reported in The Guardian newspaper.
But all that CIA money failed to corrupt the Syrian military officers. The soldiers reported the CIA’s bribery attempts to the Ba’athist regime. In response, the Syrian army invaded the American Embassy, taking Stone prisoner. After harsh interrogation, Stone made a televised confession of his roles in the Iranian coup and the CIA’s aborted attempt to overthrow Syria’s legitimate government. The Syrians ejected Stone and two U.S. Embassy staffers—the first time any American State Department diplomat was barred from an Arab country. The Eisenhower White House hollowly dismissed Stone’s confession as “fabrications” and “slanders,” a denial swallowed whole by the American press, led by the New York Times and believed by the American people, who shared Mosaddegh’s idealistic view of their government. Syria purged all politicians sympathetic to the U.S. and executed for treason all military officers associated with the coup. In retaliation, the U.S. moved the Sixth Fleet to the Mediterranean, threatened war and goaded Turkey to invade Syria. The Turks assembled 50,000 troops on Syria’s borders and backed down only in the face of unified opposition from the Arab League whose leaders were furious at the U.S. intervention. Even after its expulsion, the CIA continued its secret efforts to topple Syria’s democratically elected Ba’athist government. The CIA plotted with Britain’s MI6 to form a “Free Syria Committee” and armed the Muslim Brotherhood to assassinate three Syrian government officials, who had helped expose “the American plot,” according to Matthew Jones in “The ‘Preferred Plan’: The Anglo-American Working Group Report on Covert Action in Syria, 1957.” The CIA’s mischief pushed Syria even further away from the U.S. and into prolonged alliances with Russia and Egypt.
Following the second Syrian coup attempt, anti-American riots rocked the Mideast from Lebanon to Algeria. Among the reverberations was July 14, 1958, coup, led by the new wave of anti-American Army officers who overthrew Iraq’s pro-American monarch, Nuri al-Said. The coup leaders published secret government documents, exposing Nuri al-Said as a highly paid CIA puppet. In response to American treachery, the new Iraqi government invited Soviet diplomats and economic advisers to Iraq and turned its back on the West.
Having alienated Iraq and Syria, Kim Roosevelt fled the Mideast to work as an executive for the oil industry that he had served so well during his public service career at the CIA. Roosevelt’s replacement as CIA station chief, James Critchfield, attempted a failed assassination plot against the new Iraqi president using a toxic handkerchief, according to Weiner. Five years later, the CIA finally succeeded in deposing the Iraqi president and installing the Ba’ath Party in power in Iraq. A charismatic young murderer named Saddam Hussein was one of the distinguished leaders of the CIA’s Ba’athist team. The Ba’ath Party’s Secretary, Ali Saleh Sa’adi, who took office alongside Saddam Hussein, would later say, “We came to power on a CIA train,” according to A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite, by Said Aburish, a journalist, and author. Aburish recounted that the CIA supplied Saddam and his cronies a murder list of people who “had to be eliminated immediately in order to ensure success.” Tim Weiner writes that Critchfield later acknowledged that the CIA had, in essence, “created Saddam Hussein.” During the Reagan years, the CIA supplied Hussein with billions of dollars in training, Special Forces support, weapons and battlefield intelligence, knowing that he was using poisonous mustard and nerve gas and biological weapons — including anthrax obtained from the U.S. government — in his war against Iran. Reagan and his CIA director, Bill Casey, regarded Saddam as a potential friend to the U.S. oil industry and a sturdy barrier against the spread of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Their emissary, Donald Rumsfeld, presented Saddam with golden cowboy spurs and a menu of chemical/biological and conventional weapons on a 1983 trip to Baghdad. At the same time, the CIA was illegally supplying Saddam’s enemy, Iran, with thousands of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to fight Iraq, a crime made famous during the Iran-Contra scandal. Jihadists from both sides later turned many of those CIA-supplied weapons against the American people.
Even as America contemplates yet another violent Mideast intervention, most Americans are unaware of the many ways that “blowback” from previous CIA blunders has helped craft the current crisis. The reverberations from decades of CIA shenanigans continue to echo across the Mideast today in national capitals and from mosques to madras schools over the wrecked landscape of democracy and moderate Islam that the CIA helped obliterate.
A parade of Iranian and Syrian dictators, including Bashar al-Assad and his father, have invoked the history of the CIA’s bloody coups as a pretext for their authoritarian rule, repressive tactics and their need for a strong Russian alliance. These stories are therefore well known to the people of Syria and Iran who naturally interpret talk of U.S. intervention in the context of that history.
While the compliant American press parrots the narrative that our military support for the Syrian insurgency is purely humanitarian, many Arabs see the present crisis as just another proxy war over pipelines and geopolitics. Before rushing deeper into the conflagration, it would be wise for us to consider the abundant facts supporting that perspective.
In their view, our war against Bashar Assad did not begin with the peaceful civil protests of the Arab Spring in 2011. Instead, it began in 2000, when Qatar proposed to construct a $10 billion, the 1,500-kilometer pipeline through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey. Qatar shares with Iran the South Pars/North Dome gas field, the world’s richest natural gas repository. The international trade embargo until recently prohibited Iran from selling gas abroad. Meanwhile, Qatar’s gas can reach European markets only if it is liquefied and shipped by sea, a route that restricts volume and dramatically raises costs. The proposed pipeline would have linked Qatar directly to European energy markets via distribution terminals in Turkey, which would pocket rich transit fees. The Qatar/Turkey pipeline would give the Sunni kingdoms of the Persian Gulf decisive domination of world natural gas markets and strengthen Qatar, America’s closest ally in the Arab world. Qatar hosts two massive American military bases and the U.S. Central Command’s Mideast headquarters.

Syrians look down at a poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad | Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

Syrians look down at a poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad | Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images
The EU, which gets 30 percent of its gas from Russia, was equally hungry for the pipeline, which would have given its members cheap energy and relief from Vladimir Putin’s stifling economic and political leverage. Turkey, Russia’s second largest gas customer, was particularly anxious to end its reliance on its ancient rival and to position itself as the lucrative transect hub for Asian fuels to EU markets. The Qatari pipeline would have benefited Saudi Arabia’s conservative Sunni monarchy by giving it a foothold in Shia-dominated Syria. The Saudis’ geopolitical goal is to contain the economic and political power of the kingdom’s principal rival, Iran, a Shiite state, and close ally of Bashar Assad. The Saudi monarchy viewed the U.S.-sponsored Shiite takeover in Iraq (and, more recently, the termination of the Iran trade embargo) as a demotion to its regional power status and was already engaged in a proxy war against Tehran in Yemen, highlighted by the Saudi genocide against the Iranian-backed Houthi tribe.
Of course, the Russians, who sell 70 percent of their gas exports to Europe, viewed the Qatar/Turkey pipeline as an existential threat. In Putin’s view, the Qatar pipeline is a NATO plot to change the status quo, deprive Russia of its only foothold in the Middle East, strangle the Russian economy and end Russian leverage in the European energy market. In 2009, Assad announced that he would refuse to sign the agreement to allow the pipeline to run through Syria “to protect the interests of our Russian ally.”
Assad further enraged the Gulf’s Sunni monarchs by endorsing a Russian-approved “Islamic pipeline” running from Iran’s side of the gas field through Syria and to the ports of Lebanon. The Islamic pipeline would make Shiite Iran, not Sunni Qatar, the principal supplier to the European energy market and dramatically increase Tehran’s influence in the Middle East and the world. Israel also was understandably determined to derail the Islamic pipeline, which would enrich Iran and Syria and presumably strengthen their proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.
Secret cables and reports by the U.S., Saudi and Israeli intelligence agencies indicate that the moment Assad rejected the Qatari pipeline, military and intelligence planners quickly arrived at the consensus that fomenting a Sunni uprising in Syria to overthrow the uncooperative Bashar Assad was a feasible path to achieving the shared objective of completing the Qatar/Turkey gas link. In 2009, according to WikiLeaks, soon after Bashar Assad rejected the Qatar pipeline, the CIA began funding opposition groups in Syria. It is important to note that this was well before the Arab Spring-engendered uprising against Assad.
 
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  • Bashar Assad’s family is Alawite, a Muslim sect widely perceived as aligned with the Shiite camp. “Bashar Assad was never supposed to be president,” journalist Seymour Hersh told me in an interview. “His father brought him back from medical school in London when his elder brother, the heir apparent, was killed in a car crash.” Before the war started, according to Hersh, Assad was moving to liberalize the country. “They had internet and newspapers and ATM machines and Assad wanted to move toward the west. After 9/11, he gave thousands of invaluable files to the CIA on jihadist radicals, who he considered a mutual enemy.” Assad’s regime was deliberately secular and Syria was impressively diverse. The Syrian government and military, for example, were 80 percent Sunni. Assad maintained peace among his diverse peoples by a strong, disciplined army loyal to the Assad family, an allegiance secured by a nationally esteemed and highly paid officer corps, a coldly efficient intelligence apparatus and a penchant for brutality that, prior to the war, was rather moderate compared to those of other Mideast leaders, including our current allies. According to Hersh, “He certainly wasn’t beheading people every Wednesday like the Saudis do in Mecca.”
Another veteran journalist, Bob Parry, echoes that assessment. “No one in the region has clean hands, but in the realms of torture, mass killings, [suppressing] civil liberties and supporting terrorism, Assad is much better than the Saudis.” No one believed that the regime was vulnerable to the anarchy that had riven Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia. By the spring of 2011, there were small, peaceful demonstrations in Damascus against repression by Assad’s regime. These were mainly the effluvia of the Arab Spring that spread virally across the Arab League States the previous summer. However, WikiLeaks cables indicate that the CIA was already on the ground in Syria.
But the Sunni kingdoms with vast petrodollars at stake wanted a much deeper involvement from America. On September 4, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry told a congressional hearing that the Sunni kingdoms had offered to foot the bill for a U.S. invasion of Syria to oust Bashar Assad. “In fact, some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing, the way we’ve done it previously in other places [Iraq], they’ll carry the cost.” Kerry reiterated the offer to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.): “With respect to Arab countries offering to bear the costs of [an American invasion] to topple Assad, the answer is a profound yes, they have. The offer is on the table.”
Despite pressure from Republicans, Barack Obama balked at hiring out young Americans to die as mercenaries for a pipeline conglomerate. Obama wisely ignored Republican clamoring to put ground troops in Syria or to funnel more funding to “moderate insurgents.” But by late 2011, Republican pressure and our Sunni allies had pushed the American government into the fray.

US President Barack Obama | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama | Mark Wilson/Getty Images
In 2011, the U.S. joined France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UK to form the Friends of Syria Coalition, which formally demanded the removal of Assad. The CIA provided $6 million to Barada, a British TV channel, to produce pieces entreating Assad’s ouster. Saudi intelligence documents, published by WikiLeaks, show that by 2012, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were arming, training and funding radical jihadist Sunni fighters from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere to overthrow the Assad’s Shiite-allied regime. Qatar, which had the most to gain, invested $3 billion in building the insurgency and invited the Pentagon to train insurgents at U.S. bases in Qatar. According to an April 2014 article by Seymour Hersh, the CIA weapons ratlines were financed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
The idea of fomenting a Sunni-Shiite civil war to weaken the Syrian and Iranian regimes in order to maintain control of the region’s petrochemical supplies was not a novel notion in the Pentagon’s lexicon. A damning 2008 Pentagon-funded Rand report proposed a precise blueprint for what was about to happen. That report observes that control of the Persian Gulf oil and gas deposits will remain, for the U.S., “a strategic priority” that “will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.” Rand recommended using “covert action, information operations, unconventional warfare” to enforce a “divide and rule” strategy. “The United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch a proxy campaign” and “U.S. leaders could also choose to capitalize on the sustained Shia-Sunni conflict trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world … possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”
As predicted, Assad’s overreaction to the foreign-made crisis — dropping barrel bombs onto Sunni strongholds and killing civilians — polarized Syria’s Shiite/Sunni divide and allowed U.S. policymakers to sell Americans the idea that the pipeline struggle was a humanitarian war. When Sunni soldiers of the Syrian Army began defecting in 2013, the western coalition armed the Free Syrian Army to further destabilize Syria. The press portrait of the Free Syrian Army as cohesive battalions of Syrian moderates was delusional. The dissolved units regrouped in hundreds of independent militias most of which were commanded by or allied with, jihadi militants who were the most committed and effective fighters. By then, the Sunni armies of Al Qaeda in Iraq were crossing the border from Iraq into Syria and joining forces with the squadrons of deserters from the Free Syrian Army, many of them trained and armed by the U.S.
Despite the prevailing media portrait of a moderate Arab uprising against the tyrant Assad, U.S. intelligence planners knew from the outset that their pipeline proxies were radical jihadists who would probably carve themselves a brand new Islamic caliphate from the Sunni regions of Syria and Iraq. Two years before ISIL throat cutters stepped on the world stage, a seven-page August 12, 2012, study by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, obtained by the right-wing group Judicial Watch, warned that thanks to the ongoing support by U.S./Sunni Coalition for radical Sunni Jihadists, “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (now ISIS), are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”
Using U.S. and Gulf state funding, these groups had turned the peaceful protests against Bashar Assad toward “a clear sectarian (Shiite vs. Sunni) direction.” The paper notes that the conflict had become a sectarian civil war supported by Sunni “religious and political powers.” The report paints the Syrian conflict as a global war for control of the region’s resources with “the west, Gulf countries and Turkey supporting [Assad’s] opposition, while Russia, China, and Iran support the regime.” The Pentagon authors of the seven-page report appear to endorse the predicted advent of the ISIS caliphate: “If the situation unravels, there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor) and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want in order to isolate the Syrian regime.” The Pentagon report warns that this new principality could move across the Iraqi border to Mosul and Ramadi and “declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria.”
Of course, this is precisely what has happened. Not coincidentally, the regions of Syria occupied by the Islamic State exactly encompass the proposed route of the Qatari pipeline.
But then, in 2014, our Sunni proxies horrified the American people by severing heads and driving a million refugees toward Europe. “Strategies based on the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend can be kind of blinding,” says Tim Clemente, who chaired the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force from 2004 to 2008 and served as liaison in Iraq between the FBI, the Iraqi National Police, and the U.S. military. “We made the same mistake when we trained the mujahideen in Afghanistan. The moment the Russians left, our supposed friends started smashing antiquities, enslaving women, severing body parts and shooting at us,” Clemente told me in an interview.
When the Islamic State’s “Jihadi John” began murdering prisoners on TV, the White House pivoted, talking less about deposing Assad and more about regional stability. The Obama administration began putting daylight between itself and the insurgency we had funded. The White House pointed accusing fingers at our allies. On October 3, 2014, Vice President Joe Biden told students at the John F. Kennedy Jr. forum at the Institute of Politics at Harvard that “our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria.” He explained that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE were “so determined to take down Assad” that they had launched a “proxy Sunni-Shia war” funneling “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except for the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra, and al-Qaeda” — the two groups that merged in 2014 to form the Islamic State. Biden seemed angered that our trusted “friends” could not be trusted to follow the American agenda.
Across the Mideast, Arab leaders routinely accuse the U.S. of having created the Islamic State. To most Americans, such accusations seem insane. However, to many Arabs, the evidence of U.S. involvement is so abundant that they conclude that our role in fostering the Islamic State must have been deliberate.
In fact, many of the Islamic State fighters and their commanders are ideological and organizational successors to the jihadists that the CIA has been nurturing for more than 30 years from Syria and Egypt to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush | Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

Former U.S. President George W. Bush | Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images
Prior to the American invasion, there was no Al Qaeda in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. President George W. Bush destroyed Saddam’s secularist government, and his viceroy, Paul Bremer, in a monumental act of mismanagement, effectively created the Sunni Army, now named the Islamic State. Bremer elevated the Shiites to power and banned Saddam’s ruling Ba’ath Party, laying off some 700,000 mostly Sunni, government and party officials from ministers to schoolteachers. He then disbanded the 380,000-man army, which was 80 percent Sunni. Bremer’s actions stripped a million of Iraq’s Sunnis of rank, property, wealth and power; leaving a desperate underclass of angry, educated, capable, trained and heavily armed Sunnis with little left to lose. The Sunni insurgency named itself Al Qaeda in Iraq. Beginning in 2011, our allies funded the invasion by AQI fighters into Syria. In April 2013, having entered Syria, AQI changed its name to ISIL. According to Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker, “ISIS is run by a council of former Iraqi generals. … Many are members of Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’ath Party who converted to radical Islam in American prisons.” The $500 million in U.S. military aid that Obama did send to Syria almost certainly ended up benefiting these militant jihadists. Tim Clemente, the former chairman of the FBI’s joint task force, told me that the difference between the Iraq and Syria conflicts is the millions of military-aged men who are fleeing the battlefield for Europe rather than staying to fight for their communities. The obvious explanation is that the nation’s moderates are fleeing a war that is not their war. They simply want to escape being crushed between the anvil of Assad’s Russian-backed tyranny and the vicious jihadist Sunni hammer that we had a hand in wielding in a global battle over competing pipelines. You can’t blame the Syrian people for not widely embracing a blueprint for their nation minted in either Washington or Moscow. The superpowers have left no options for an idealistic future that moderate Syrians might consider fighting for. And no one wants to die for a pipeline.
* * *
What is the answer? If our objective is long-term peace in the Mideast, self-government by the Arab nations and national security at home, we must undertake any new intervention in the region with an eye on history and an intense desire to learn its lessons. Only when we Americans understand the historical and political context of this conflict will we apply appropriate scrutiny to the decisions of our leaders. Using the same imagery and language that supported our 2003 war against Saddam Hussein, our political leaders led Americans to believe that our Syrian intervention is an idealistic war against tyranny, terrorism, and religious fanaticism. We tend to dismiss as mere cynicism the views of those Arabs who see the current crisis as a rerun of the same old plots about pipelines and geopolitics. But, if we are to have an effective foreign policy, we must recognize the Syrian conflict is a war over control of resources indistinguishable from the myriad clandestine and undeclared oil wars we have been fighting in the Mideast for 65 years. And only when we see this conflict as a proxy war over a pipeline do events become comprehensible. It’s the only paradigm that explains why the GOP on Capitol Hill and the Obama administration are still fixated on regime change rather than regional stability, why the Obama administration can find no Syrian moderates to fight the war, why ISIL blew up a Russian passenger plane, why the Saudis just executed a powerful Shiite cleric only to have their embassy burned in Tehran, why Russia is bombing non-ISIL fighters and why Turkey went out of its way to shoot down a Russian jet. A million refugees now flooding into Europe are refugees of a pipeline war and CIA blundering.
Clemente compares ISIL to Colombia’s FARC — a drug cartel with a revolutionary ideology to inspire its footsoldiers. “You have to think of ISIS as an oil cartel,” Clemente said. “In the end, money is the governing rationale. The religious ideology is a tool that inspires its soldiers to give their lives for an oil cartel.”
Once we strip this conflict of its humanitarian patina and recognize the Syrian conflict as an oil war, our foreign policy strategy becomes clear. Like the Syrians fleeing for Europe, no American wants to send their child to die for a pipeline. Instead, our first priority should be the one no one ever mentions — we need to kick our Mideast oil jones, an increasingly feasible objective, as the U.S. becomes more energy independent. Next, we need to dramatically reduce our military profile in the Middle East and let the Arabs run Arabia. Other than humanitarian assistance and guaranteeing the security of Israel’s borders, the U.S. has no legitimate role in this conflict. While the facts prove that we played a role in creating the crisis, history shows that we have little power to resolve it.
As we contemplate history, it’s breathtaking to consider the astonishing consistency of which virtually every violent intervention in the Middle East since World War II by our country has resulted in miserable failure and horrendously costly blowback. A 1997 U.S. Department of Defense report found that “the data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement abroad and an increase in terrorist attacks against the U.S.” Let’s face it; what we call the “war on terror” is really just another oil war. We’ve squandered $6 trillion on three wars abroad and on constructing a national security warfare state at home since oilman Dick Cheney declared the “Long War” in 2001. The only winners have been the military contractors and oil companies that have pocketed historic profits, the intelligence agencies that have grown exponentially in power and influence to the detriment of our freedoms and the jihadists who invariably used our interventions as their most effective recruiting tool. We have compromised our values, butchered our own youth, killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, subverted our idealism and squandered our national treasures in fruitless and costly adventures abroad. In the process, we have helped our worst enemies and turned America, once the world’s beacon of freedom, into a national security surveillance state and an international moral pariah.
America’s founding fathers warned Americans against standing armies, foreign entanglements and, in John Quincy Adams’ words, “going abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Those wise men understood that imperialism abroad is incompatible with democracy and civil rights at home. The Atlantic Charter echoed their seminal American idea that each nation should have the right to self-determination. Over the past seven decades, the Dulles brothers, the Cheney gang, the neocons and their ilk have hijacked that fundamental principle of American idealism and deployed our military and intelligence apparatus to serve the mercantile interests of large corporations and particularly, the petroleum companies and military contractors that have literally made a killing from these conflicts.
It’s time for Americans to turn America away from this new imperialism and back to the path of idealism and democracy. We should let the Arabs govern Arabia and turn our energies to the great endeavor of nation building at home. We need to begin this process, not by invading Syria, but by ending the ruinous addiction to oil that has warped U.S. foreign policy for half a century.
This article has been updated to identify Robert Kennedy as U.S. Attorney General.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is the president of Waterkeeper Alliance. His newest book is Thimerosal: Let The Science Speak.
SelectionEditor Faruq Khan
This article required many grammatical corrections! Review Editor

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America Has A Secret Weapon By Dr.Michio Kaku

America Has A Secret Weapon        

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Dr.Michio Kaku

 

 

 

 

 

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THE LAST DIPLOMAT BY ADAM ENTOUS AND DEVLIN BARRETT Wall Street Journal

 Thanks, Robin Raphel :

We Love You in Pakistan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Robin Raphel worked for the State Department in Pakistan, her brand of traditional diplomacy ran into the new realities of covert surveillance. The collision turned her life upside down

THE LAST DIPLOMAT

BY ADAM ENTOUS AND DEVLIN BARRETT

Wall Street Journal

 

BEGINNINGS /THE COMEBACK /THE INVESTIGATION THE AFTERMATH

Just before 8 on the morning of Oct. 21, 2014, Robin Raphel climbed into her Ford Focus, put her purple briefcase on the passenger’s seat and began the 20-minute drive from her house in Washington to her office at the State Department.

It was a routine Tuesday. The main event on her schedule was a staff meeting.

Raphel swiped her badge at the revolving security door and headed to her office where she placed her briefcase on the floor and sat down to check her email. Later, as she joined her colleagues in a conference room to discuss office schedules, her mobile phone, which she had left at her desk, began to ring. It was Slomin’s Home Security.

When she didn’t pick up, the operator called her daughter Alexandra, who raced to the house to check the doors and windows. When Raphel returned to her desk, the phone rang again. It was Alexandra, in a panic.

Burglars hadn’t set off the alarm. It was the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Raphel grabbed her purse and ran out. She left behind her purple briefcase—one she had bought at the Kohsar Market in Islamabad—with a bag of carrots and a Rubbermaid container full of celery sticks inside.

As she pulled up to her yellow-brick house, Raphel saw agents going in and out the front door, walking across the oriental rugs she had trundled back from tours in South Asia. They boxed up her two computers, Alexandra’s iPad and everything else electronic. In the basement, they opened the drawers of a mahogany file cabinet she had picked up during a posting in London. They pulled out a stack of files.

The agents, without saying a word, carried the boxes out to a white van.

Raphel, unsure of what was happening, paced in circles on her front porch.

Two FBI agents approached her, their faces stony. “Do you know any foreigners?” they asked.

Raphel’s jaw dropped. She had served as a diplomat in six capitals on four continents. She had been an ambassador and the State Department’s assistant secretary for South Asian affairs. Knowing foreigners had been her job.

“Of course,” she responded, “Tons…Hundreds.”

Three weeks before the FBI raided her house, Raphel had touched down at Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad. The city was in an anxious, turbulent state. Antigovernment protesters had closed off so many streets that her driver had to take a roundabout route to the diplomatic quarter.

All summer, U.S. intelligence agencies had been intercepting rumors from Pakistani officials about a possible coup. Alarm bells were ringing in the State Department’s office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Raphel worked and went all the way to the White House. She had come to figure out what was really going on.

In her apartment at the embassy, she found a bottle of wine—a welcoming gift from U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson, who was thankful for her help in an uncertain time.

At a dinner party at the home of an American diplomat in Islamabad’s elite E-7 sector, Raphel and a group of Pakistani politicians pulled their seats into a circle in the living room to discuss the rumors. One parliamentarian said he was bullish on the idea of the populist opposition leader Imran Khan taking power. A former Pakistan ambassador to Washington countered that Khan had moved too soon and predicted the sitting prime minister would survive.

With students at Damavand College in Tehran, 1971With Arnold Raphel at a cocktail party in Islamabad, Before leaving, Raphel reported her findings to the ambassador. Pakistan was prone to coup talk, she knew, but she didn’t believe the current conditions were right for an overthrow of the government. In the end, she was correct: The rumors had been overblown. Khan’s followers would soon disperse, and Nawaz Sharif would remain prime minister. She had flown home considering her trip productive.

Over a four-decade career in the foreign service, whether in Islamabad, London, Pretoria, New Delhi or Tunis, Raphel had distinguished herself by building vast networks of contacts. She had spent as much time as she could outside the embassy, rubbing shoulders with politicians, military officers, journalists, aid workers and spies over teas, lunches, and endless cocktail parties. Sources felt they could talk to her—that she understood them.

Nowhere was that more true than in Islamabad, where she had started her diplomatic career. “I could go to Robin and say, ‘does this member of parliament matter?’ ” said Cameron Munter, who took over as U.S. ambassador to Pakistan in 2010. “She knew them all.”

There was a downside to being trusted in a country that many of her colleagues in Washington loathed. Those who took a dimmer view of Pakistan, especially in intelligence circles, were suspicious of Raphel’s close connections in Islamabad. They believed she had become too close to the Pakistanis and that she was being used.

In moments when the two countries were at odds, Raphel had consistently argued against pulling up the drawbridge. In conference calls with Washington, her co-workers said, she would always say: “Let’s look at it from their point of view.” As early as the mid-1990s, intelligence officers saw her as an obstacle to isolating Pakistan over its nuclear program.

“For better or worse, she got a reputation within the intelligence community as tilting towards the Pakistanis, and she could never escape that,” said Bruce Riedel, a CIA veteran who served as deputy assistant secretary of Defense for the Near East and South Asia in the 1990s.

Unbeknownst to Raphel, as she had made her rounds in Islamabad in the fall of 2014, and spoke to contacts on the phone and on Skype, law-enforcement officials half a world away had been listening. Raphel’s old-fashioned way of doing business—working outside the confines of the embassy compound—had run headlong into the realities of America’s global surveillance web, on which the U.S. had increasingly come to depend on.

Since receiving a tip from an intercepted communication months earlier, the FBI had obtained warrants to monitor Raphel’s private accounts and to secretly search her home. They had transcribed information she had discussed with Pakistanis and taken it to intelligence officials, who had told them the topics were beyond her security clearance. The message, according to a former senior intelligence official, was that “Robin needs to shut up.”

What they heard during her trip to Islamabad had been the final straw. Law enforcement officials said the people listening were convinced Raphel was a threat to national security.

The following account of the FBI investigation of Raphel is based on interviews with dozens of her co-workers, Pakistani contacts, intelligence officials, law enforcement officers and attorneys involved in the case.

PART 1BEGINNINGS

When she landed in Tehran in 1970 to teach at a women’s college, Robin Lynn Johnson was 23, a native of the small lumber town of Longview, Wash., whose curiosity about the world had grown from reading her father’s collection of National Geographic magazines and historical novels. With blond hair, high cheekbones and a posture honed through years of ballet, she sometimes drew comparisons to the actress Candice Bergen.

There, she met Arnold Raphel, a political officer at the U.S. embassy. Arnold stood 6-foot-1, a full head taller than Robin. He wore aviator-style wire-rim glasses with conservative suits, giving him a perpetually serious look, though he was anything but. Wherever he went, a party seemed to erupt.

Tehran was in the throes of an oil boom and the young couple spent their nights dancing on the wraparound porch at the Naderi hotel, where the city’s elite turned out in the latest Paris fashions. In 1972, when Robin was 25, she married Arnold on the grounds of the U.S. embassy, which, just eight years later, would be overrun by followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

 

Raphel’s wedding to Arnold Raphel in Tehran in 1972. 

Posted to Islamabad in 1975, the Raphels were prolific entertainers, former colleagues remembered. Over cocktails and private screenings of American movies flown in by the U.S. military, they began to unravel Pakistan’s social and political dynamics. It was then that Raphel started to get a sense of what a confusing place Pakistan could be.

Islamabad wasn’t an easy place for diplomats to operate, much less comprehend. Double talk reigned—to the point where even veterans of the game couldn’t tell who was pulling the strings, or who was manipulating whom. Because most high-ranking officials there spoke English, many diplomats from both sides “made the mistake of thinking we’re speaking the same language, when we are not,” said Marc Grossman, who served in Islamabad with the Raphels in the 1970s. “Sometimes we live on entirely different planets.”

When the Raphels returned to Washington in 1978, Robin wanted to have children. Arnold, who had a daughter whom he rarely saw from his first marriage, did not. They divorced in 1982.

Six years later, Arnold, who returned to Pakistan as the U.S. ambassador, was killed in a mysterious plane crash with then-Pakistani President Muhammad Zia al-Haq.

Though she married twice after Arnold and had two daughters, Raphel never changed her name. She told colleagues that this was how everyone knew her professionally. Because of Arnold’s stature, the Raphel name carried huge prestige in Pakistan. One of Raphel’s oldest friends said he thought she kept the name because “Arnie was the love of her life.”

In 1993, President Bill Clinton, an acquaintance from her university days, tapped Raphel to serve as the nation’s first assistant secretary of State for South Asian affairs. Eighteen years after she first arrived in Islamabad as the young wife of a diplomat, Raphel found herself at the center of the action.

During her first trip to Islamabad as assistant secretary, Raphel visited the Foreign Ministry, a whitewashed building surrounded by manicured lawns. There she met a woman named Maleeha Lodhi, who had just been named Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S.

MALEEHA LODHI

Lodhi met Raphel in 1993 after she was tapped to serve as Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. for the first time. Raphel and Lodhi turned to each other, on and off, for information. In 2014, the FBI became suspicious of their relationship. Editor of The News, a prominent English-language paper in Pakistan, where her front-page foreign policy columns had made her a star.

At her home in Islamabad, Lodhi fostered a salon-like atmosphere where politicians, intellectuals, and journalists listened to music and debated the news long into the night. Pakistan’s new prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, would sometimes make an appearance. Raphel’s colleagues from the U.S. embassy, who attended some of these sessions, had concluded, based on the assembled guests, that Lodhi was a serious player.

Lodhi wasn’t from one of the prominent families that typically produced the country’s top leaders. She learned English from Irish nuns at a convent in Rawalpindi, where she grew up in an upper-middle-class home, the daughter of an oil company executive. She made her way to England, where she studied at the London School of Economics. Tim Carney, who served as Raphel’s deputy, said he always knew where he could find Lodhi at parties—outside in the middle of a boisterous crowd, smoking Cartier cigarettes.

Lodhi was drawn to Raphel. She knew that Raphel’s State Department title and her position as a friend of President Clinton would be useful to her in navigating Washington.

Raphel found Lodhi to be intelligent, ambitious and serious—if a bit reserved. She also recognized her as someone who would be a longtime influencer.

“Pakistan is a country of 200 million people. But its leadership is like a deck of cards,” said Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to Washington. “However you shuffle them, the same 52 people will show up in one hand or another. Robin understood that.”

Lodhi’s ambassadorial residence in Washington was a short walk from a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, where she liked to meet Raphel and other friends next to the lobby fireplace. Lodhi was 10 years younger than Raphel but the two women had a lot in common. Like Raphel, Lodhi was a single mother—she had married a Pakistani civil servant at 25 and divorced five years later. Both had strong opinions and didn’t hesitate to share them, and were climbing the rungs of power in a profession dominated by men.

In 1995, Congress took up the Brown Amendment, a piece of legislation that would begin to ease nuclear sanctions it had imposed on Pakistan. The two women joined forces in a monthslong lobbying campaign to support it.

For Lodhi, the bill’s passage helped build her credibility as a diplomat. Raphel considered the victory to be one of the signature accomplishments of her time as assistant secretary—but it also came at a price. The Brown Amendment, which President Clinton supported, had not been popular with some U.S. intelligence officials, who believed the U.S. should isolate Pakistan to pressure its leaders to end its nuclear program. Raphel took the brunt of the backlash.

Not long after the amendment passed, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott sent an aide to Raphel’s office with a disturbing message.

According to officials, the aide told Raphel U.S. spy agencies had intercepted communications in which Pakistani officials suggested that Raphel had revealed sensitive information to them about what the U.S. knew about Pakistan’s nuclear work. U.S. intelligence officials said the information was classified and the disclosure wasn’t authorized.

Raphel denied disclosing too much. She consulted with top officials at the State Department’s internal intelligence branch, who recommended she ask Diplomatic Security—the security and law enforcement arm of the State Department—to investigate the matter.

Diplomatic Security agents interviewed Raphel about the alleged disclosures. They found no evidence of wrongdoing and took no disciplinary action against her. But Raphel was rattled.

To provide “insurance” in case the allegations re-emerged, she later told friends, she took the relevant records, including papers marked as classified, and put them in her safe at the State Department.

Raphel, dressed for the Marine Ball in Islamabad, in 1975. 

In 2003, Raphel took a posting in Baghdad, where she helped steer Iraq’s postwar reconstruction in the teeth of a violent insurgency. She would don a head scarf and jump into local taxis to see Iraqi officials or drive to meetings alone in her SUV.

“Robin was the type that did what she knew had to be done and asked for forgiveness later,” said retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, one of her bosses in Iraq. “She lived on the edge but she never fell off.”

After two years of working on Iraq, Raphel had seen the insurgency hollow out much of the work the U.S. had done. She decided it was time to leave the State Department.

On the day before her 2005 retirement ceremony—which was held in the State Department’s Treaty Room—Raphel packed her books, mementos and photographs into boxes, along with the contents of her office safe, and took them home.

The next day, after the toasts and speeches had ended, Raphel had a plane to catch. She was due to appear at a conference in Dubai. She went to the basement and opened her mahogany file cabinet. She dumped the papers inside.

Raphel came from a generation of diplomats whose approach to the job had been honed in a different time. America’s presence in the world was changing.

Since 9/11, security concerns abroad had forced diplomats in volatile parts of the world to spend more time cooped up in fortified embassies. The volume of “human intelligence” or “humint” they gathered by talking to contacts began to decline. In its place, policymakers in Washington turned to another form of information—the kind collected electronically and surreptitiously.

To monitor foreign governments around the world, the U.S. uses satellites and ground-based sensors implanted in local communications networks that sweep electronic communications and reroute them to the U.S. Most of this information, known as “signals intelligence,” or “SIGINT,” is funneled into a steel and glass building 25 miles north of the State Department in Fort Meade, Md., the headquarters of the National Security Agency.

The Urdu-speaking analysts who covered Pakistan at the NSA sat in cubicles and worked in shifts listening to audio files that stacked up in queues on their computer screens like emails. To help them follow the conversations on their headphones, sound waves bounced on their screens. The analysts tracked political, military and economic developments in Pakistan, just like the diplomats, but by targeting the email addresses and phone numbers of senior officials, many of whom were also Raphel’s contacts. If they heard something of intelligence value, analysts wrote summaries that were compiled into signals-intelligence reports and disseminated to senior policy makers.

Raphel greeted Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Maleeha Lodhi stands on the stairs of the plane. 

Making sense of these conversations wasn’t easy, especially in Pakistan. U.S. analysts who covered the region often felt as if they had entered a hall of mirrors. The cryptic and deceptive nature of talk between Pakistani officials—who often knew they were being monitored—made it difficult to understand the context or judge the veracity of what they were saying.

Often, U.S. diplomats would read signals-intelligence reports and realize the Pakistanis were misreporting what Americans had told them, either because the messages were unclear, mistranslated or simply misunderstood—or because they were twisting them on purpose for professional or political reasons.

Among Pakistani diplomats, “The desire to tell your bosses what they want to hear is overwhelming,” said Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador.

As the NSA’s techniques grew more sophisticated, and as the business of government increasingly shifted to email and mobile phones, the volume, and quality of the intercepts grew. The information in these reports was so immediate and uninhibited—and often so salacious—senior officials could hardly wait to read them. In the four decades since Raphel joined the State Department, and especially during the Obama administration, officials say, the U.S. government’s reliance on signals intelligence had grown to the point where it made up anywhere from 60% to 75% of the information coming in. And yet it was impossible to know how much of it was reliable.

“You always have to be careful because you’re listening to a conversation. You aren’t listening to testimony. You aren’t listening to a brief that’s fully thought out,” said former NSA Director Michael Hayden. “You are trying to determine truth from a conversation that is oblique, indirect and casual, often in a language not your own and in a culture that you do not share.”

In 2009, as the Obama administration stepped up its drone war in Pakistan’s tribal areas, a staging ground for militants to launch cross-border attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan and to plot against the West, the embassy’s clandestine function became the top priority.

Four years into her retirement, Raphel was working as a lobbyist in Washington. Settled at home, with three ill-fated marriages behind her, she had more free time to spend with her two college-age daughters, Alexandra and Anna, and to take long walks with friends along the towpath in Georgetown.

She enjoyed her downtime but had grown tired of scaring up clients and tracking billable hours as a lobbyist.

In the spring of 2009, when she was 61, Raphel attended a cocktail party in Washington where she bumped into an old friend: Anne Patterson, the sitting U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. When the subject turned to Patterson’s work at the embassy, Patterson told Raphel she didn’t have enough people who really understood Pakistan’s complexities. Patterson often told aides that Islamabad was the “weirdest” place she had ever served.

ANNE PATTERSON

Ambassador Patterson ran into Raphel at a dinner party in Washington in 2009 and asked her to join her team at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. Patterson held up Raphel as a model to more junior foreign-service officers because of her long list of Pakistani contacts.

Pakistan had also become a more dangerous place for diplomats. One year earlier, terrorists had detonated a dump truck full of explosives at the Marriott Hotel, killing more than 50 people and carving a 60-foot crater in the ground. Much of Patterson’s time as ambassador had been devoted to overseeing the CIA’s covert drone strikes on militant targets.

The State Department’s Diplomatic Security service, charged with protecting the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, had grown so concerned about terrorism that the compound was often put on lockdown. Fewer embassy workers ventured out and usually only then in U.S. armored vehicles. For security reasons, the State Department had begun to limit foreign-service officers in Islamabad to one-year tours, giving them barely enough time to acclimate before shipping out. Many officials spent their time in a secure room reading signals-intelligence reports or working on their suntans by the pool.

Patterson knew Raphel wasn’t one for the “Fortress America” style of diplomacy that had taken root after 9/11, in which monitoring for threats was the top priority. Patterson needed someone to help manage billions of dollars in U.S. aid money aimed at shoring up the country’s new civilian-led government—someone who could open doors and who had deep connections within the country’s power structure. She asked Raphel if she would consider coming back.

Raphel liked the idea of serving her country again and asked Patterson for time to think.

She called one of her oldest friends from the State Department, Beth Jones, to ask her advice. “Go for it,” said Jones, who added that it sounded like an opportunity to do “things that really mattered.” A few days later, Raphel accepted the job.

PART 2   –   THE COMEBACK

In August 2009, Raphel moved into a white, two-story stucco house on First Street in Islamabad’s F-6 neighborhood.

Like every house on First Street, it was built in the 1960s, when Pakistan laid out its capital. It had a high-security wall topped with shards of glass. Unlike most other houses, however, it also had bars on the windows.

What the house lacked in curb appeal, it made up for in proximity. The outdoor cafés of the Kohsar Market, where Pakistan’s political class gathered in the evenings to trade conspiracy theories over fruit drinks and sandwiches, were a five-minute walk.

After settling in, Raphel went to a website that specialized in inexpensive, refurbished right-hand drive Japanese cars and purchased a silver Toyota—a kind that is ubiquitous in Pakistan. She figured it wouldn’t stand out and that she could use it to roam the city freely.

Dressed in a long traditional Pakistani tunic known as a kameez, worn over a pair of loose, lightweight trousers, or shalwar, she would drive herself to party after party in Islamabad, something few of her embassy colleagues would ever do. One of her bosses referred to her as “the last of the Mohicans.”

In the 1990s, when she was the State Department’s assistant secretary for South Asian affairs, Raphel had been the one shaping U.S. policy on Pakistan. Now, her superiors in Washington, many of whom were much younger and didn’t know the country as well as she did, were calling the shots.

 

In Islamabad, however, the power players had barely changed and she fell quickly back into the whirl. In the evenings, she would huddle with local journalists at café tables in the Kohsar Market. One day she would meet with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the powerful army chief, to talk about aid projects, then fly to Lahore or Karachi to sit down with television talk-show hosts, bureaucrats and businessmen the next, all with a level of informality and directness that came from spending so many years in the country.

By the end of her last tour there, Raphel had become such a ubiquitous figure, and so widely trusted, that many Pakistani officials mistakenly believed she outranked the ambassador. “You weren’t talking to a U.S. diplomat,” explained Abid Hasan, a former World Bank official in Islamabad. “You were talking to Robin.”

In Islamabad, Raphel’s job was to focus on aid projects. But she also “delivered the mail,” as State Department officials say, for other diplomats who didn’t have her level of access. In that informal role, co-workers recalled, Raphel was sometimes asked to raise issues that went beyond her remit.

The NSA regularly swept up Pakistani communications “to, from or about” senior U.S. officials working in the country. Some American officials would appear in Pakistani intercepts as often as once a week. What Raphel didn’t realize was that her desire to engage with foreign officials, the very skill set her supervisors encouraged, had put a target on her back.

As Raphel settled into Islamabad, she was reunited with Maleeha Lodhi, and the two women fell back into their working friendship. Once again, Lodhi became one of Raphel’s best contacts, and Raphel, in turn, became one of Lodhi’s.

Lodhi was out of government. She had returned to the news business, writing a regular column and appearing as a commentator on Pakistani television. American officials said they had no doubt that Lodhi was more than an ordinary journalist, however.

In her six years in Washington as Pakistan’s ambassador, Lodhi had earned a reputation as a reliable source for what Pakistani officials were thinking, and in particular, as a trusted conduit for relaying messages to Pakistan’s senior military leadership in Rawalpindi, U.S. officials said. She was, in State Department parlance, an “influencer.” One reason U.S. officials trusted her: The NSA had long been monitoring her communications.

Pakistani officials with ties to Lodhi said the Americans exaggerated her influence. They said she was a journalist first, not a go-between. If she picked up something interesting in a conversation, she would occasionally share it with her Pakistani military contacts, but only if they reached out to her.

“Yes, she was in this game of information,” one of the officials said. “American diplomats would ask her, ‘What’s the thinking here?’ Others would ask, ‘What do you think the Americans will do next?’ ”

When Raphel and Lodhi met, Lodhi would take notes. Officials close to her said they were for her newspaper columns. The Americans said the notes were for reports she would send to government and military officials. Raphel, always concerned with maintaining informality, kept her notebook in her purse, and scribbled down information once she got back to her car.

Raphel’s boss was Richard Holbrooke, who had been named to a new role in the State Department—the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, or SRAP. Holbrooke encouraged his team of advisers to embrace “creative chaos,” work through informal channels and bypass government bureaucracy to get things accomplished.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE

A diplomatic troubleshooter who sought to forge a political solution to the war in Afghanistan, Holbrooke encouraged his advisers to work outside established diplomatic channels.

U.S. intelligence officials had always chafed at the way the State Department handled sensitive information. They long suspected Pakistani diplomats in Washington tried to pry information out of the SRAP office, viewing it as more forthcoming than other departments—a charge SRAP officials deny. From the perspective of intelligence agencies, including the FBI, the very existence of the Holbrooke team, working outside regular channels, “was a disaster waiting to happen,” said one former law-enforcement official.

After Cameron Munter took over as the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan in 2010, the competing forces of intelligence and diplomacy began to collide. When Munter pushed the CIA to be more “judicious” in its drone strikes in the tribal areas, the CIA’s station chief responded by telling diplomats not to discuss the drone program even in private meetings with senior Pakistani officials. If asked, he told them, they should change the subject.

Senior diplomats in Islamabad knew this was impossible. The drone program came up all the time. There was no way to avoid the topic.

Raphel didn’t know the key details because her Top Secret clearance didn’t include access to the “compartment” that covered the covert program. When her Pakistani contacts complained about the strikes, Raphel told them what other diplomats would say—that the U.S. wouldn’t need to do so many if the Pakistani army did more to rein in militants in the tribal areas, according to people she spoke with.

She would argue drones caused less collateral damage than the alternatives: American ground troops, Pakistani artillery strikes or F-16 bombing runs.

The populist politician Imran Khan, the loudest advocate in Pakistan against the drone program, said he had two sit-downs with Raphel in which he protested the strikes and that Raphel came across as “sympathetic” to his concerns. “I actually didn’t know what her position was, but I thought that I could make her understand me,” he said.

In December 2010, Holbrooke died of a torn aorta. In his absence, hard-liners in Washington who saw Pakistan as the enemy worked to undo many of his team’s efforts, officials said.

The deaths of two Pakistanis at the hands of a CIA contractor inflamed tensions between the countries. Then, in May of 2011, U.S. commandos violated Pakistani airspace during a mission that killed Osama bin Laden, setting off a new furor.

With the CIA’s influence growing larger, and the U.S.-Pakistan relationship crashing down around her, Raphel urged the State Department to keep working hard to maintain strong ties. “Everyone else wanted to take a hard line against the Pakistanis,” Munter remembered. “She was saying, ‘We want to salvage what we can because it is so important.’ ”

As she managed the U.S. aid program, Raphel spent a little time in her embassy office. Sometimes she would leave her calendars and other papers on her desk instead of locking them away for the night. Marines who policed the embassy for security infractions cited her for these lapses. After three citations, Raphel received a reprimand from the State Department. Though it was a boilerplate letter many diplomats receive and represented the lowest level of sanction the department could take, its language sounded ominous to outsiders. It went in her personnel file.

With Afghan Foreign Minister Amin Arsala, Kabul, 1993Raphel after flight in training aircraft in Tunisia, 1998With Pakistani interim Prime Minister Moeen Qureshi, Indian Ambassador Siddhartha Shankar Ray and Indian Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, Washington, 1993Beside a fallen statue from Saddam Hussein’s palace, Baghdad, 2004With Nelson Mandela in Tunis, 1999

 

After the bin Laden raid, Raphel emerged as one of the few U.S. diplomats the Pakistanis were still eager to talk to. As Pakistanis scaled back contacts with American officials, “doors would still open for her,” said Mushahid Hussain Sayed, a prominent Pakistani senator.

As her tour in Islamabad was nearing its end, then-President Asif Ali Zardari invited Raphel to his residence for a private dinner, a signal he was ready to re-engage after the bin Laden raid. Munter, the ambassador, wasn’t invited.

After two years in Pakistan, the deterioration in relations made it harder to get aid projects done. Raphel was offered a new post in Washington as an adviser to Marc Grossman, who had replaced Holbrooke. Her new job was to collect political intelligence on Pakistan and help explain U.S. policy to officials there.

Before Raphel’s frequent trips to Islamabad, Grossman’s team would sit down with her to create a detailed itinerary of whom she would see and what she would tell them, her friend and diplomatic colleague Beth Jones recalled. Despite her past experience, Raphel had been excluded from the White House’s secret talks with the Afghan Taliban, and when high-level meetings took place at the Pakistan embassy, she wasn’t invited.

In Islamabad, the dynamics were different. Many Pakistanis still considered her to be the central player she was in the 1990s. Some of Raphel’s friends complained about the Obama administration’s approach to Pakistan. They thought Raphel was the one who should be formulating U.S. policy. The NSA picked up Lodhi and others criticizing Raphel’s superiors, officials said.

Though she scheduled her official meetings through the embassy and typically brought a note-taker, Raphel had fewer people to check in with and fewer constraints on her movements. She usually reported what she learned to a small number of senior State Department officials in informal emails that weren’t widely disseminated.

Some of the regular U.S. embassy diplomatic staffers, more isolated than ever, resented Raphel’s easy access. They seized on the old complaint that she was too quick to see things from Pakistan’s perspective. Over drinks at the American Bar at the embassy, said a senior official who worked there during Raphel’s final tour, “they badmouthed her. She was disrupting their comfort zone and they didn’t like it and they assumed she was doing something wrong.”

On Nov. 26, 2011, U.S. forces in Afghanistan accidentally attacked two Pakistani military checkpoints along the Afghan border, killing about two dozen Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan responded by blocking the Pentagon from using land routes to resupply U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan demanded an apology. The White House refused.

Raphel was exasperated. She couldn’t believe the U.S. would risk its relationship with Pakistan by failing to acknowledge what had clearly been a mistake. “We have to do this,” she would tell senior officials.

In January, in an email to her boss, Raphel wrote that in Pakistan, “The lack of a U.S. apology for the 24 dead still rankles very deeply.”

During her trips to Islamabad, Raphel was often more candid about her views with Pakistani officials, whom she felt comfortable confiding in, several of her colleagues said.

Raphel knew what intelligence analysts did at the NSA. She knew that when they swept up phone calls and emails from the Pakistanis she met with, they might see accounts of the things she had said. Some of her co-workers say she should have realized that her private comments would be reported by the Pakistanis and potentially twisted. They figured she might get in trouble for this.

They didn’t think anyone would accuse her of espionage.

PART 3   – THE INVESTIGATION

As Raphel settled back into her house in Northwest Washington in 2011, spy fears at home had soared to heights not seen since the Cold War. After an Army intelligence analyst leaked thousands of classified diplomatic cables, the White House issued an executive order establishing a governmentwide program to deter and detect “insider threats.”

President Barack Obama gave U.S. spy agencies and the FBI a one-year deadline to put the crackdown into motion.

By the time Edward Snowden leaked classified documents detailing the NSA’s global operations in 2013, the pressure to catch government moles had increased exponentially, former FBI officials say. The bureau was eager to bring cases.

Hunting for spies and moles had long been one of the FBI’s most secretive, time-consuming, complex and unpopular assignments. Many of the bureau’s counterintelligence agents worked out of a field office in Washington, in specially designed spy-proof rooms without internet access where they read the daily bounty of signals intelligence for anything that suggests an American shared classified information.

When analysts at the NSA heard chatter about classified information, they would send the FBI what is known as an “811 referral.” Of the hundreds of these referrals the bureau receives in a year, its agents typically investigate one in five.

In February 2013, according to law-enforcement officials, the FBI received information that made its agents think Raphel might be a Pakistani mole.

The tip came in the form of intercepted communications that suggested Raphel had shared sensitive inside information without authorization. Two officials said this included information collected on wiretaps of Pakistani officials in the U.S.

Two FBI agents—a man and a woman—were assigned to investigate. Both were experienced in so-called “65 work,’’ FBI-speak for espionage cases. One of the agents had past experience investigating alleged Pakistani spying. The other had done 65 work involving Israel.

Investigators began what they call “circling the target,” which means examining the parts of Raphel’s life they could explore without subpoenas or warrants. Sitting in their cubicles on the fourth floor of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, a modern sandstone-colored building on the edge of Chinatown, the agents began to map her network of contacts and search for signs of disloyalty.

One of the first things they looked at was her “metadata”—the electronic traces of who she called or emailed, and also when and for how long. Her metadata showed she was in frequent contact with a host of Pakistan officials that didn’t seem to match what the FBI believed was her rank and role.

The agents didn’t talk to the State Department officials who oversaw Raphel’s work. Instead, they approached the head of Diplomatic Security, Gregory Starr, to gain access to her personnel files and other records. Starr, in turn, kept State Department leaders who knew Raphel in the dark, worried about compromising the FBI investigation, State Department officials said.

State Department files showed she had been formally reprimanded for security infractions while working at the embassy in Islamabad. Over the course of her career, going back to 1977, she had been cited more than a dozen times. Raphel’s colleagues said this was a minor issue, considering her decades on the job. To the FBI it was a red flag.

After months of circling the target, FBI supervisors decided it was time to delve deeper. To monitor Raphel’s private conversations with Lodhi and other contacts on Skype, the FBI obtained a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court—a decision approved at the highest levels of the FBI and the Justice Department.

 

The agents dug into her personal life. They probed her finances and looked at who was making college tuition payments for her daughters. The agents wanted to see if the Pakistanis might be covering her bills. They noticed when Raphel was a lobbyist, she had once registered as a “foreign agent” in order to lobby for Pakistan.

The FBI didn’t have a clear picture of where Raphel fit on the State Department organizational chart. She was a political adviser with the rank of ambassador but she wasn’t a key policy maker anymore. She seemed to have informal contacts with everyone who mattered in Islamabad—more, even, than the sitting ambassador and the CIA station chief.

The sheer quantity of Raphel’s communications on the thorniest issues of the day raised suspicions for the FBI agents who were reading the transcripts.

The agents investigating Raphel didn’t have extensive experience dealing with State Department diplomats. They had even less exposure to diplomats of Raphel’s generation. By the way, she spoke, Raphel sometimes made it sound as if she was giving Lodhi and other Pakistani contacts extremely valuable information.

For months, the agents read emails, pored over records and listened to intercepts to try to learn whether Raphel was giving away U.S. secrets. While they didn’t find any smoking-gun evidence of wrongdoing, there was plenty of “smoke,” one former law-enforcement official said. The FBI decided it was time to up the ante.

In January 2014, the bureau obtained a court-issued “sneak and peek” warrant, allowing agents to secretly search Raphel’s northwest Washington home while she was away.

The FBI sent a special Evidence Response Team trained in surreptitious searches. Raphel’s home had an alarm system, which the FBI team bypassed. Once inside, agents searched the living room and the three bedrooms. From the kitchen, they descended the stairs into the basement where they found the mahogany file cabinet.

When the FBI agents looked inside, they discovered the 20-year-old classified documents from Raphel’s Diplomatic Security investigation—a group of papers officials would later refer to as “the nuclear file.”

The agents put everything back as they found it. At the least, they believed they had enough evidence to pursue charges against Raphel for the crime of mishandling classified information. The agents thought they could be dealing with a decades-old asset of the Pakistani government, and suspected Maleeha Lodhi, who had been a figure in her life since the 1990s, was her point of contact.

In the same month, the FBI searched Raphel’s house, James Comey, the new FBI director, visited a field office in Birmingham, Ala., where reporters asked him if the government was spying on people.

JAMES COMEY

Comey became the director of the FBI in September 2013. The Raphel investigation had already begun at that point, but Mr. Comey oversaw and approved key decisions to proceed further with the case. Earlier this year, speaking about the Clinton email investigation, Mr. Comey faulted the “security culture” of the State Department when it came to protecting classified information.

He said no—with a caveat. “Well, not the average person…Now, if you’re involved in one of the things I’m worried about if you’re trafficking drugs, if you’re involved in violent crime, if you’re a terrorist or spy, I would like to be spying on you because I need to know what you’re doing,” he said. “That’s our business.”

While the FBI agents conducted their own surveillance, the bureau approached the NSA for assistance in gathering foreign intercepts involving Raphel and emanating from Islamabad, law-enforcement officials say. They were looking for what they call “flags on the target.”

The FBI’s suspicions were piqued, the officials said, when in some intercepts, Pakistanis referred to Raphel as a “source,” rather than by name. To the investigators, it sounded like spycraft.

The agents listening to the back-and-forth between Raphel and Lodhi and her other contacts were struck by what law-enforcement officials described as the “one-way” nature of the conversations. It seemed to the FBI as though Raphel did most of the talking and provided most of the information. One law-enforcement official said Raphel appeared in those discussions to be what cops sometimes call a “hip pocket source’’—not a formal intelligence asset or informant, but a “friendly’’ who was willing to share the information she came across informally.

As the agents listened to the back-and-forth, they would check with U.S. intelligence officials to see if the topics which Raphel discussed with Lodhi— drones, coups and reconciliation talks with the Taliban—were classified. They were repeatedly told that yes, they were.

FBI officials could have raised concerns about Raphel’s communications with her State Department superiors to get her to back off, but they didn’t. They wanted to catch her in the act, officials said.

For the FBI, the tipping point was Raphel’s trip to Islamabad where she looked into the coup rumors.

During her visit, Raphel was in regular phone contact with Lodhi, who invited her to come to her home library to talk privately over tea. Officials briefed on the investigation said the information they exchanged during the trip about the prospects of a coup was similar to what U.S. spy agencies were picking up—the same kind of information that intelligence officials were putting in the President’s Daily Brief.

The agents at the FBI’s Washington Field Office decided it was time to confront her.

As Raphel stood on the small porch of her house in Washington on Oct. 21, 2014, the FBI agents leading the raid asked her for the names of the Pakistanis she spoke to most.

Raphel mentioned the Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., Jalil Abbas Jilani. She told the agents she had known him for a long time and that he was her primary contact. She didn’t mention Lodhi.

The agents, who had been monitoring her conversations for more than a year, thought she was being evasive, according to law-enforcement officials. They asked Raphel if she had any classified documents in her house. She said she didn’t.

The agents were holding some documents during the conversation. The male agent flashed one of the pages. She could see that it bore classification markings.

Raphel’s mind was spinning. She told the agents that she had taken the classified documents home in 2005 and forgotten about them.

The agents didn’t think she offered a clear reason as to why she would have the authority to possess them.

As the conversation went on, the agents’ questions became more aggressive. Raphel started to think about lawyers she knew.

Beth Jones heard from a mutual acquaintance that something bad was happening to Raphel. Jones called her office phone but got no answer. She tried her mobile, and Raphel picked up right away. “What in the world is going on?” asked Jones.

Raphel told her FBI agents were going through all of her personal things, and that Alexandra was terrified. “I don’t know what this is all about,” Raphel said.

“It must be some horrific mistake,” Jones said.

The agents saw Raphel talking on her cell phone on the porch. They asked her to hand it over.

Back at the State Department, as Raphel’s co-workers watched, plainclothes investigators snapped pictures in her office and put adhesive seals on the doors. A few days later, they replaced the seals with a lock.

The only person in the State Department who really knew what was going on was Gregory Starr, who had been briefed by the FBI in early 2013. Starr informed Raphel’s bosses about a “serious situation,” and recommended that Raphel’s Top Secret clearance be suspended.

Starr told David Wade, the chief of staff to Secretary of State John Kerry. According to Wade, Starr’s description of the case made him think the evidence against Raphel was “unimpeachable” and that the State Department could do nothing to push back. Wade informed his boss.

The next morning, agents from Diplomatic Security knocked on Raphel’s door. They took her State Department badge and BlackBerry. She was summoned to the State Department’s human-resources department and told that her employment contract, which was about to expire, wouldn’t be renewed.

Eight days later, on Oct. 30, FBI agents sent Raphel a list of personal items she would be allowed to take home. Among them: her purple briefcase, the bag of carrots and the Rubbermaid plastic container with celery sticks.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office wouldn’t tell her lawyers anything about the allegations. Everything, including the means by which the FBI obtained the evidence, was a national-security secret.

To keep the story out of the media, Raphel’s bosses hadn’t told her co-workers why she wouldn’t be coming back to work. Yet on Nov. 21, a story about the espionage investigation appeared on the front page of the New York Times.

That evening, Richard Hoagland, a former ambassador who worked closely with Raphel in Pakistan and Washington, met her at Bar Dupont, a popular hangout on one of Washington’s busiest traffic circles. Figuring the FBI was tailing her, Hoagland chose a table at the bar where the two of them would be easy to spot. “I wanted the FBI to see us together,” he recalled.

The next day Hoagland posted a message on his Facebook page: “Robin’s a friend of many years. We met last night for drinks. She said it’s like falling into Kafka World. People, we are a democracy with rule of law. Let’s remember every citizen is presumed innocent.”

Beth Jones worked to keep Raphel’s friends and colleagues informed. Jones figured the FBI was monitoring her office phone at the U.S. mission to the United Nations in New York, so she made her calls on Raphel’s behalf from her cellphone while walking the streets of Manhattan.

As the drama unfolded, Alexandra was in the middle of planning her wedding. She talked about postponing it—concerned that her future in-laws would think their son was marrying the daughter of a spy.

In Islamabad, the allegations were the talk of the town. Pakistani businessman Rashid Khan pulled aside Richard Olson, the U.S. ambassador, to ask him about the case against Raphel.

“Rashid, I can’t talk about it,” Olson said.

On Nov. 7, Lodhi tapped out an email to Raphel—knowing full well the FBI would likely read it. “I just wanted you to know my thoughts and prayers are with you,” she wrote. “I can think of no one more loyal to her country than you. I am sure this is a huge mistake.”

Thanks, Maleeha,” Raphel replied cautiously five hours later. “I am in total shock of course. I know you appreciate my patriotism as I have appreciated and respected yours over the years. I am confident this will be resolved.”

After this exchange, Raphel decided to cut off communications with most of her Pakistani contacts. To keep her mind occupied, she attended seminars. At an event sponsored by the Atlantic Council, she ran into Munter, the former U.S. ambassador. Munter could see how distressed she was about the allegations and how adamantly she rebutted them.

“They’re screwing her,” he thought to himself.

PART 4 THE AFTERMATH

In the fall of 2014, the FBI began interviewing Raphel’s State Department superiors and co-workers to try to fill in the missing pieces of their investigation.

They asked Grossman why he employed her, why she traveled to Pakistan, who she met with while she was there, whether he would give her instructions on what to tell her Pakistani interlocutors during her visits and whether she reported back on her conversations.

“Yes, yes, yes, because that was her job,” Grossman told them, according to an official briefed on the investigation.

Grossman told the FBI he “trusted her to do and say the right things,” the official said.

In other interviews, the agents asked her colleagues about a series of “incidents” that seemed suspicious to the FBI. Officials briefed on the investigation said the “incidents” referred to specific communication intercepts in which Raphel discussed sensitive topics, such as coup rumors, with Lodhi and others. The FBI agents wanted to know if she was authorized to discuss these things.

State Department officials told them she may not have been specifically “instructed” to do so in every instance, but she was “authorized” to discuss anything related to U.S.-Pakistan relations if her contacts wanted to—and so long as she didn’t divulge classified information.

“Any dinner party in E-7 is going to include a discussion about what are the odds of a coup,” one of Raphel’s superiors told the agents. “It may look secret from Washington’s perspective but it’s actually pretty widely known in Pakistan.”

State Department officials said that when they spoke to the FBI agents, they had the feeling they were explaining the basics of how diplomats worked.

At times, Raphel’s colleagues pushed back—warning the FBI that their investigation risked “criminalizing diplomacy,” according to a former official who was briefed on the interviews.

In one interview, the agents asked James Dobbins, who served as SRAP from 2013 to 2014, whether it was OK for Raphel to talk to a Pakistani source about information that wasn’t restricted at the time but would later be deemed classified.

“If somebody tells you something in one conversation, you might write that up and it becomes classified,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean the next time you see them that you can’t talk about what you’d already talked about.”

Agents asked if she was authorized to discuss topics in the President’s Daily Brief—the daily gathering of the U.S. intelligence agencies’ most valuable information. State Department officials were baffled by the question because she had no access to such a sensitive document. If she discussed similar information, they told the FBI, it came from her Pakistani contacts, not from reading U.S. intelligence reports.

Added together, the interviews undercut the notion that Raphel was working on behalf of Pakistan. Two senior law enforcement officials who were involved in the case said the bureau had misconstrued her conversations with Lodhi and others, and incorrectly identified her as a spy. The bureau had not fully understood Raphel’s role within the State Department and her bosses’ expectations of her. The critical distinction, many officials said, was in how differently the FBI and the State Department operate.

“It’s cultural,” a former official said. “The FBI is very structured about communications. Agents see things as binary—on or off, authorized or unauthorized, black and white. The State Department has a bunch of informal communications channels. Things are gray. It’s just the way State is.”

In the meantime, the FBI had ignited a wider debate about how the State Department handles secrets. In 2016, several diplomats who worked closely with Raphel were questioned by the FBI for sending vaguely worded emails related to U.S. drone strikes that were found on Hillary Clinton ’s private email server when she was secretary of state. Some of Raphel’s emails were included in the trove that was reviewed by the FBI during their now-closed investigation.

In July, FBI Director James Comey decried the “security culture” within the State Department as “generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.”

State Department officials, in turn, said it was the FBI probe that damaged national security.

In the spring of 2015, a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office handling the Raphel case notified Amy Jeffress, one of Raphel’s attorneys, that the Justice Department was no longer investigating her client for espionage.

That was the good news. Yet the FBI still wanted her to be prosecuted for mishandling classified information—a charge that could result in jail time.

Alexandra got married on May 23, 2015, in a ceremony in Washington that was attended by more than 250 guests, including Jilani, the Pakistani ambassador, who sat at a table with several other Pakistani friends.

Alexandra had invited Lodhi, who had taken a post as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York. Lodhi sent word at the last minute that she had to attend a conference in Europe.

Raphel heard nothing for months from the FBI. She had already spent about $100,000 on legal fees, which she paid by tapping into her savings, but the bills were piling up. Jones set up a legal-defense fund and 103 of Raphel’s friends and colleagues, mostly from the State Department, donated nearly $122,000.

Inside the Justice Department, prosecutors went back and forth on the merits of the case against Raphel, officials say. The most sensitive document the FBI recovered was 20 years old, and if she were charged, it could well have been routinely declassified while she awaited trial.

More importantly, the officials said, federal prosecutors tend to charge people with mishandling national secrets when they have reason to believe the suspect has in fact done worse—in part to avoid bringing spy charges that might result in having secrets aired in court.

On March 21, 2016, 17 months after the raid on her house, a U.S. prosecutor informed Jeffress the Justice Department had decided to decline prosecution.

Raphel called Jones to give her the news. “Can you believe it?” she said.

“We’re having a celebratory dinner tomorrow night,” Jones said. “Tell me who to invite.”

As Raphel and her close friends sipped Champagne, officials at the FBI and Diplomatic Security tried to come to terms with the outcome.

A senior law-enforcement official said given another chance the bureau would follow the same path again. “Clearly she was not a spy,” the official said. “But there was smoke. The FBI had to get to the bottom of it.”

Another official said that even though no charges were ever filed against Raphel, investigators were partially satisfied by the outcome. To law enforcement and intelligence officials, the loss of her government job was justified by the discovery of the documents in her house and by the signals intelligence that showed her allegedly discussing topics that the FBI considered off limits, this official said.

Raphel’s lawyer, Amy Jeffress, called it “deeply disturbing’’ that law enforcement officials “continue to make anonymous and self-serving allegations about her conduct,’’ adding that “there was no evidence she ever provided classified information to anyone without authority.’’

State Department officials now say they feel guilty about what happened. They think the FBI went off half-cocked and boxed them in by overstating the facts of the case.

Gregory Starr and other State Department officials briefed on the investigation now suspect the FBI agents wrongly assumed the information Raphel was exchanging with Lodhi and others came from classified intelligence reports, rather than from her own conversations with her contacts, according to officials.

It was a mistake, they said, to assume U.S. spy agencies had a monopoly on information in a place like Pakistan, where “secret” U.S. efforts were openly discussed in parliament, at dinner parties, and in the press.

Though the FBI probe of Raphel was dropped, Diplomatic Security has been reviewing the documents found in her basement to decide whether to cite her with a security violation. The outcome could clear the way for her to have her security clearance restored. They have yet to reach a verdict.

Over the past two years, diplomats in Pakistan and the U.S. have scaled back contacts, according to officials in both countries. U.S. diplomats say they are afraid of what the NSA and the FBI might hear about them.

“What happened to Raphel could happen to any of us,” said Ryan Crocker, one of the State Department’s most highly decorated career ambassadors. Given the empowerment of law enforcement after 9/11 and the U.S.’s growing reliance on signals intelligence in place of diplomatic reporting, he said, “we will know less and we will be less secure.”

“Look what happened to the one person who was out talking to people,” said Dan Feldman, Raphel’s former boss at State. “Does that not become a cautionary tale?”

Raphel returned to Islamabad this August. It was a personal trip. Ambassador Jilani had invited her to his son’s wedding.

To welcome her, and also to show Pakistani officials she was no longer an outcast, U.S. Ambassador David Hale hosted a dinner for Raphel in his residence. Several former ambassadors accepted the invitation, including Lodhi.

Raphel was honored by the gesture but wary of how the dinner might be perceived. She told the embassy she didn’t want any cameras present.

Dinner was called at around 8 p.m., early by Pakistan standards. The guests moved into the adjoining dining room and took their seats around the table, where Raphel, wearing a Pakistani kurta over narrow trousers, was placed directly across from Hale.

Still relatively new to Pakistan, Hale had yet to establish deep connections with many of the guests in the room. Colleagues describe him as reserved, in many ways the opposite of Raphel. After Hale delivered a gracious toast, calling Raphel one of his mentors, Raphel thanked him and thanked her old friends for their support. She didn’t mention the FBI.

At around 10 p.m., also early by Pakistan standards, Hale left the party. He told his guests he had phone calls to make to Washington. Hale declined to comment about the dinner party, citing embassy protocol.

Before the guests dispersed, Lodhi pulled Raphel aside to talk. The FBI investigation had a chilling effect on their relationship, mutual friends say. Raphel knew that her voluminous conversations with Lodhi had helped to fuel the bureau’s suspicions.

As they stood there together, apart from the other guests, Lodhi leaned in close to Raphel.

“I’m glad this is over,” she said.

In March 2016, Raphel wrote a personal letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging the department to do more to protect diplomats who are trying to do their jobs. She has yet to receive a response. Officials said Kerry was awaiting the outcome of the internal review of the classified documents found in Raphel’s house.

On Nov. 28, she attended a ceremony in the State Department’s seventh floor Treaty Room to mark Ambassador Olson’s retirement.

More than 100 of Olson’s colleagues, contacts and friends attended, including Beth Jones, Patterson, and Ambassador Jilani, who had supported Raphel during the investigation.

After the speeches were given and the photographs taken, Kerry and Raphel pulled away from the crowd for a private chat. It was their first face-to-face since the FBI torpedoed her diplomatic career.

Diplomatic Security had yet to restore her security clearance. Some of her friends at the State Department said they believed the FBI opposed the idea.

Kerry and Raphel stood close together for only a couple of minutes. On the sidelines of the noisy gathering, Kerry leaned over and whispered into Raphel’s ear: “I am sorry about what has happened to you.”

—Saeed Shah contributed to this article.

Write to Adam Entous and Devlin Barrett at  Den.Barrett@wsj.com

 

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