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China Counters Indian Influence in South Asia By Sajjad Shaukat

China Counters Indian Influence in South Asia

By Sajjad Shaukat

 

Under the caption “Chinese investment in Bangladesh rings India alarm bells, Beijing deepens ties across South Asia billion infrastructure loans”, a news item was published in the Financial Times on August 7, 2018. Its summary is:  “China has invested $3.7bn in Bangladesh to built a 6 km long bridge over Padma River which will link north and south Bangladesh by road and rail. India is disturbed over Chinese growing influence in South Asia where it funded similar projects in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and the Maldives. It is ringing alarm bells in India which surrounds Bangladesh on three sides and considers itself as Dhaka’s principal ally. India should be concerned, given the role China is also playing in other countries which surround it. In Pakistan, Beijing is planning to spend $60bn on roads, railways and power plants as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which will give China access to the sea via Gwadar port on Pakistan’s south coast. In the Maldives, it has signed a trade agreement and has been handed a contract to build a new airport that was originally granted to the Indian company GMR Infrastructure. In Sri Lanka, it has taken control of the southern port of Hambantota after Colombo was unable to repay the money it borrowed from Chinese state-backed lenders to build it.”

 

In fact, China is countering Indian influence in South Asia, as New Delhi has planned to establish its hegemony in the region.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this regard, the fast-growing economic power of China coupled with her rising strategic relationship with the Third World has irked the eyes of Americans, Israelis, some Western countries and particularly, Indians. Owing to jealousy, America desires to make India a major power to counterbalance China in Asia.

 

America which is backing Indian hegemony in Asia, especially to counterbalance China is supplying New Delhi latest weapons, arms, and aircraft. During President Barack Obama’s second visit to India, the US and India announced a breakthrough on a pact which would allow American companies to supply New Delhi with civilian nuclear technology, as agreed upon in 2008. Besides, America also announced $4 billion of new initiatives aimed at boosting trade and investment ties as well as jobs for the Indians. During Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to America, the then President Barack Obama strongly assured him to favour India’s membership in the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), Earlier; Washington also pressurized the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) to sign an accord of specific safeguards with New Delhi. America had already contacted the NSG to grant a waiver to India for starting civil nuclear trade on a larger scale. In the recent past, during the meeting in Washington, the US President Donald Trump also gave the same assurances to Modi.

 

 

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By availing the US secret diplomacy, in the pretext of the presumed threat of China, India has been trying to establish her dominance in South Asia.

 

Historically, India has continued interventionist and hegemonic policies vis-à-vis her neighbours through its secret agency RAW. Besides supporting separatism in East Pakistan which resulted in the dismemberment of Pakistan and continued assistance to the separatist elements of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, New Delhi occupied Sikkim, subdued Bhutan, sponsored terrorism in Sri Lanka, and has been teasing Nepal.

 

As part of the double game, India has also been making a cordial relationship with the small countries of South Asia with a view to colonializing them gradually. For example, during the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to New Delhi, India and Bangladesh on April 8, 2017, signed 22 agreements in the fields of defence cooperation, civil nuclear energy, space and cyber security among others, following bilateral talks between Indian Prime Minister Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart. Both the countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) through which India would extend a line of credit of $500 million to support Bangladesh’s defence-related procurements.

 

India is planning to counteract China’s influence in Sri Lanka. In this respect, two different stories in published in Indian media, need attention.

 

In this context, on April 27, 2017, on a website, LiveMint.Com, Elizabeth Roche under the title, “India renews Sri Lanka ties to counter China influence in South Asia” wrote, “India moved to cement closer economic ties with Sri Lanka in a bid to negate the growing influence of strategic rival China in the Indian Ocean region and South Asia. A pact on economic cooperation was signed in the presence of visiting Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his host Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The leaders welcomed the signing of the memorandum of understanding for Cooperation in Economic Projects, which outlines the agenda for bilateral economic cooperation in the foreseeable future”, an Indian foreign ministry statement said without giving details—Both sides expressed their commitment to ensuring that this mutually beneficial agenda is expeditiously implemented.”

 

Roche explained, “Analysts said this move by India was aimed at warding off increasing Chinese influence in South Asia which India considers its sphere of influence. In recent years, China has tried to co-opt Sri Lanka and the Maldives into its ambitious. One Belt One Road initiative—a programmes to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects including railways, ports and power grids across Asia, Africa and Europe—Given the subsequent hiccups in the neighborhoods first policy or placing—a deterioration of ties with Pakistan and strains in India-Nepal ties for instance—Modi seems to be looking at a new framework of ties with India’s neighbours with the aim of countering Chinese influence, Mansingh said. The new formula includes an element of strong economic cooperation, he said, pointing to India announcing the extension of a $4.5 billion line of credit for development infrastructure and other projects in Bangladesh and another $500 million for defence hardware purchases for Dhaka during the 7-9 April visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India.”

 

Similarly, Indian media and websites gave much coverage to an article, published by German TV Channel (Which also publishes online news items) under the title “India Nips at China’s Heels in Race to Collect Lanka Port Assets” written by Iain Marlow and Saket Sundria, April 26, 2017.

 

Iain Marlow and Saket Sundria wrote, “India is looking to invest in a colonial-era Sri Lankan oil-storage facility as it seeks to further its naval interests in the Indian Ocean and push China back in the process. A unit of state-owned Indian Oil Corp., the country’s largest refiner, is set to help fund the $350 million development of an 84-tank facility at the strategically located Trincomalee port on Sri Lanka’s east coast. India and Sri Lanka are also discussing setting up a refinery in the island nation, according to Shyam Bohra, managing director of Indian Oil’s subsidiary Lanka IOC. The talks come before a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in New Delhi. Still, India’s interests in the Sri Lankan port are probably more strategic than economic, part of its effort to displace hefty investment coming into the country from China and preserving a key gateway to the Indian Ocean. China is expanding both militarily and economically in the region, and its submarines have docked previously in Colombo. Lanka IOC is managing the 15 tanks and a lubricant blending unit. The governments of India and Sri Lanka have agreed in principle to jointly develop part of the tank farm…The Sri Lankan government has suggested that Lanka IOC retain 74 of the 84 reconstructed tanks through an equal joint venture with Ceylon Petroleum Corp., Chandima Weerakkody, Sri Lanka’s minister of petroleum resources development said by phone. The other 10 would be handed back to Ceylon Petroleum, he said… Shyam Bohra, managing director of Indian Oil’s subsidiary Lanka IOC said…Lanka IOC is open to the joint development of the tank farm. Something should definitely happen because we are very keen to see to it that the facility is developed, However, Weerakkody…the minister compared India’s investments unfavourably to China’s. India should expedite their projects that they engage in, he said. Chinese investments—they are pretty quick. India’s foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment. If India’s investments materialize, the historic but relatively obscure port could become a hub for New Delhi, whose navy must go around Sri Lanka as it crosses from ports on India’s west coast in the Arabian Sea to those on the east coast in the Bay of Bengal. But New Delhi’s plans would almost certainly be worth far less than Beijing’s ambitious infrastructure-building in Sri Lanka. China has already built a port at Hambantota in Sri Lanka’s south in a move that alarmed Indian observers.”

 

Iain Marlow and Saket Sundria further wrote, “Beijing has also invested heavily in Gwadar, a port in Pakistan that serves as the terminus of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

 

As regards Nepal, on Nov 28, 2016, a memorandum was forwarded by the Greater Nepal Nationalist Front (GNNF) to the UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon on facts, which disqualify India for attaining permanent membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC). The memorandum pointed out that “these days India is vying for a permanent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) seat. Greater Nepal Nationalist Front (GNNF) would like to register…reservations against Indian candidature for a permanent seat in the esteemed UNSC.”

 

It said, “Nepal has been a victim of Indian hegemonic and high handed mentality. India imposed a blockade against Nepal…why was India annoyed with Nepal? Because the people of Nepal did not heed Indian advise on promulgating a Nepalese Constitution. India refused to accept the mandate of the people of Nepal as the constitution was approved by more than 90% vote of the Constituent Assembly. India continues to illegally occupy 60000 square Kilo Meters of Nepalese territory.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this context, on March 25, 2017, ABC News conducted a talk programme/interview with Mr Phanidra Nepal (Mr PN) Chairman of Greater Nepal Nationalist Front, and Dr Bishnu Dahal. In the programme, the discussion was carried out on the need to change Nepal’s foreign policy so that Kathmandu can maintain an equal level of relations with both Beijing and New Delhi. Mr PN said, “Border blockade, unrest in Madhesh, growing anti-India sentiments, excessive Indian interference in internal affairs of Nepal is largely the consequence of our faulty foreign policy and diplomacy…None of the current crises being faced by Nepal is an overnight development, rather these were expected long time ago due to India dependent policies of our country, but Nepalese leaders have failed to read the writing on the wall. China has never opposed maintaining good relations with India but India always managed to alienate Nepal from China. Most of the Nepalese leaders are guided by selfish motives and they try to climb an easy ladder to power through India. This is one of the main reasons that Nepal is subjected to undue Indian pressures, harassments and humiliations. Nepal will have to bear some economic hardship in the short term, but it can lessen all difficulties and achieve a sustainable growth in the long term if it adopts Chinese funded mega projects especially OBOR [China’s One Belt One Road] to reduce dependency on a single country, i.e. India. India is worried about visits of Greater Nepal’s campaigner Phanindra Nepal to China and through diplomatic channels may express her concerns.”

 

In this connection, in an article, under the caption, “Nepal leader vows to revive Chinese dam project, open to review pact over Nepalese soldiers in India”, Debasishroy Chowdhury wrote on February 25, 2018: “The campus was a US$350 million gift from China, which built it in two years and handed it over last year to the paramilitary force, which plays an important role in checking Tibetan refugees from entering Nepal. “Apart from the bricks and mortar, they brought everything from China. All the fittings, the furniture, everything,” says a visibly impressed Shrestha as he points to the overhead projector and the desks in one of the many classrooms. “This entire campus in just two years, imagine the level of efficiency…As a new government takes power in Kathmandu, this widening rift puts it on the cusp of a geopolitical transformation as Nepal seeks a hedge in China to counterbalance India’s traditional dominance.”

 

Nevertheless, India’s endeavour to alienate Nepal from China will not succeed, as a majority of the Nepalese is aware of this duplicity of New Delhi.

 

Regarding the Maldives, David Brewster pointed out on February 8, 2018: “Maldives opposition leaders, such as former president Mohamed Nasheed, are pushing for India to again intervene to restore democracy. However, Delhi’s biggest worry about the Maldives is not the current threat to democracy, but its tilt towards China, especially the possibility that Beijing may establish a naval and airbase there.” 

 

In the recent past, under the title, “Cold War between China and India”,  Jamshed wrote,

“Evidently the relationship between China and India has been strained due to border disputes and economic competition…However, both the countries are in the race to influence the region due to its geo-strategic location…The Global Times said in a recent editorial, “India has a strong desire to control all South Asian countries. It regards the region as its backyard. New Delhi is particularly sensitive to any endeavour by small South Asian states toward independence and autonomy, especially ties with other major powers. All small South Asian nations want to extricate themselves from India’s excessive leverage.” Particularly in the case of the Maldives, India has some very alarming type of fears and apprehensions with reference to the increasing Sino-Maldivian closeness. On request of the Maldivian government, China has consented on doing co-operation in the construction of a port in Northern Atoll. Moreover, last year on 8th December 2017 a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was also signed between the Maldives and China during Maldivian President Abdulla Yasmeen’s four-day visit to Beijing. By signing this agreement, the Maldives became the second South Asian country after Pakistan to sign an FTA with China. This deal also proved a ‘stunning blow’ for India. Earlier in August 2017, the Maldives permitted three Chinese warships to visit the country, though India had expressed its strong resentment over the decision. Same is the approach of India towards the countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Myanmar and even towards Bangladesh. Whereas, China also wants to have its presence as well as influence in the region.”

 

An analyst wrote, Nepal maintains cordial ties with all its neighbours. Since it is one of the less developed countries in the region, it is interested in seeking investment for its economic development. Kathmandu intends to diversify its economic interdependence and develop its reliance on all the South Asian countries for resources and development. Nepal and Bhutan can be a big source of hydropower for neighbours. Bhutan and Maldives view regional economic cooperation as a strategy to bring about economic self-reliance and mutual prosperity. Bhutan aims to improve air links and telecommunication between member states. The Maldives, on the other hand, is interested in joint economic ventures, and in achieving greater liberalization of its economy. China’s observer status in SAARC was a product of the push from Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. China is investing in several infrastructure projects such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Corridor in South Asia. It is also investing in mega projects in Sri Lanka and the Maldives and enjoys cordial relations with Nepal.”

 

Besides, as part of the double game, based in Afghanistan, CIA-led Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad are also destabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan through terrorism-related attacks and are giving a greater setback to the collective efforts of Russia, China and Pakistan which want peace and stability in Afghanistan.

 

Nonetheless, China is successfully countering Indian influence in South Asia. New Delhi will have to understand that maintaining hegemony in the region through negative planning is a bad idea in the 21St century. If India has to create a positive role, she will have to lend a hand to its Chinese investment in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries.

 

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is the author of the book: the US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

 

Email: sajjad_logic@yahoo.com

 

 

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THE  LAST  DIPLOMAT – BY ADAM ENTOUS AND DEVLIN BARRETT

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THE  LAST  DIPLOMAT

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

BY ADAM ENTOUS AND DEVLIN BARRETT

 

BEGINNINGS /THE COMEBACK /THE INVESTIGATION THE AFTERMATH

Portrait by Stephen Voss for The Wall Street Journal

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 rumours 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 rumours. 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 rumours 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 truer 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.

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 1 BEGINNINGS

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 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.PHOTO: ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

Raphel already knew of Lodhi—she was the founding 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 months-long 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 headscarf 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, mementoes 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 policymakers.

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 talks 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 for more junior foreign-service officers because of her long list of Pakistani contacts.PHOTO: DANIEL ACKER/BLOOMBERG NEWS

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. armoured 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 neighbourhood.

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, was 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.PHOTO: SUSAN WALSH/ASSOCIATED PRESS

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 furore.

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 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 the 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-coloured 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 policymaker 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.PHOTO: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS

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 rumours.

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 put 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, though 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 cellphone 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 cell phone 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 4THE 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 travelled 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 rumours, 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 has a bunch of informal communications channels. Things are grey. 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-defence 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 honoured 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

 

THE LAST DIPLOMAT 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hawkish US Think Tanks

 

​​

Brig(R) Asif Haroon Raja​

​………….​

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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More Confessions of an Economic Hitman: This Time They’re Coming for Your Democracy

 

 

More Confessions of an Economic Hitman: This Time They’re Coming for Your Democracy

 04/21/2016 05:45 pm ET | Updated Apr 23, 2016
 
Twelve years ago, John Perkins published his book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and it rapidly rose up The New York Times’ best-seller list. In it, Perkins describes his career convincing heads of state to adopt economic policies that impoverished their countries and undermined democratic institutions. These policies helped to enrich tiny, local elite groups while padding the pockets of U.S.-based transnational corporations.

 
 
Perkins was recruited, he says, by the National Security Agency (NSA), but he worked for a private consulting company. His job as an undertrained, overpaid economist was to generate reports that justified lucrative contracts for U.S. corporations, while plunging vulnerable nations into debt. Countries that didn’t cooperate saw the screws tightened on their economies. In Chile, for example, President Richard Nixon famously called on the CIA to “make the economy scream” to undermine the prospects of the democratically elected president, Salvador Allende.
If economic pressure and threats didn’t work, Perkins says, the jackals were called to either overthrow or assassinate the noncompliant heads of state. That is, indeed, what happened to Allende, with the backing of the CIA.
Perkins’ book has been controversial, and some have disputed some of his claims, including, for example, that the NSA was involved in activities beyond code making and breaking.
Perkins has just reissued his book with major updates. The basic premise of the book remains the same, but the update shows how the economic hit man approach has evolved in the last 12 years. Among other things, U.S. cities are now on the target list. The combination of debt, enforced austerity, underinvestment, privatization, and the undermining of democratically elected governments is now happening here.
I couldn’t help but think about Flint, Michigan, under emergency management as I read The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.
I interviewed Perkins at his home in the Seattle area. In addition to being a recovering economic hit man, he is a grandfather and a founder and board member of Dream Change and The Pachamama Alliance, organizations that work for “a world that future generations will want to inherit.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 John Perkins

2016-04-21-1461274507-4624228-Perkinspic.jpeg
Photo by Paul Dunn for YES! Magazine

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sarah van Gelder: What’s changed in our world since you wrote the first Confessions of an Economic Hit Man?
John Perkins: Things have just gotten so much worse in the last 12 years since the first Confessions was written have expanded tremendously, including the United States and Europe.
Back in my day we were pretty much limited to what we called the third world, or economically developing countries, but now it’s everywhere.
And in fact, the cancer of the corporate empire has metastasized into what I would call a failed global death economy. This is an economy that’s based on destroying the very resources upon which it depends, and upon the military. It’s become totally global, and it’s a failure.
van Gelder: So how has this switched from us being the beneficiaries of this hit-man economy, perhaps in the past, to us now being more of the victims of it?
Perkins: It’s been interesting because, in the past, the economic hit man economy was being propagated in order to make America wealthier and presumably to make people here better off, but as this whole process has expanded in the U.S. and Europe, what we’ve seen is a tremendous growth in the very wealthy at the expense of everybody else.
On a global basis we now know that 62 individuals have as many assets as half the world’s population.
We of course in the U.S. have seen how our government is frozen, it’s just not working. It’s controlled by the big corporations and they’ve really taken over. They’ve understood that the new market, the new resource, is the U.S. and Europe, and the incredibly awful things that have happened to Greece and Ireland and Iceland, are now happening here in the U.S.
We’re seeing this situation where we can have what statistically shows economic growth, and at the same time increased foreclosures on homes and unemployment.
van Gelder: Is this the same kind of dynamic about debt that leads to emergency managers who then turn over the reins of the economy to private enterprises? The same thing that you are seeing in third-world countries?
Perkins: Yes, when I was an economic hit man, one of the things that we did, we raised these huge loans for these countries, but the money never actually went to the countries, it went to our own corporations to build infrastructure in those countries. And when the countries could not pay off their debt, we insisted that they privatize their water systems, their sewage systems, their electric systems.
Now we’re seeing that same thing happen in the United States. Flint, Michigan, is a very good example of that. This is not a U.S. empire, it’s a corporate empire protected and supported by the U.S. military and the CIA. But it is not an American empire, it’s not helping Americans. It’s exploiting us in the same way that we used to exploit all these other countries around the world.
van Gelder: So it seems like Americans are starting to get this. What is your sense about where the American public is in terms of readiness to do something?
Perkins: As I travel around the U.S., as I travel around the world, I see that people are really waking up. We’re getting it. We’re understanding that we live on a very fragile space station, and it’s got no shuttles; we can’t get off. We’ve got to fix it, we’ve got to take care of it, and we’re in the process of destroying it. The big corporations are destroying it, but the big corporations are just run by people, and they’re vulnerable to us. If we really consider it, the market place is a democracy, if we just use it as such.
van Gelder: I want to push back on that one a little bit because so many corporations don’t sell to ordinary consumers, they sell to other companies or to governments, and so many corporations have such an entrenched reward system where if one person doesn’t perform by exploiting the earth they’ll simply get replaced with somebody else who does.
Perkins: I’ve recently been speaking at a number of corporate conferences. I hear time after time after time that many of them want to leave a green legacy. They’ve got children, they’ve got grandchildren, they understand we can’t go on like this.
The big corporations are destroying it, but the big corporations are just run by people, and they’re vulnerable to us.
So what they say is, “Go out there, start consumer movements. What I want is to receive a hundred thousand emails from my customers saying, ‘Hey, I love your product but I’m not going to buy it anymore until you pay your workers a fair wage in Indonesia, or wherever, or clean up the environment, or do something.’ And then I can take that to my board of directors and my big stockholders, to the people who really control whether I get hired or fired.”
van Gelder: Those campaigns, as you know, have been going on for decades now, and sometimes they result in small changes around the edge. But there’s enormous resistance from corporate executives because of the profits to be made in continuing the system as is.
Perkins: I think we’ve seen tremendous changes, though. Just in the last few years, we’ve seen organic foods become very big. Twenty years ago they couldn’t make a go of it. We’ve seen women having bigger positions in corporations, and minorities, and we need to get better at this.
We’ve seen the labeling of many foods. GMOs aren’t included yet, but nutrition and calories and so forth are. And what we really need to do is convince corporations that they’ve got to have a new goal.
We’ve got to let corporations know what their job is: It’s to serve a public interest, and make a decent rate of return for investors. We need investors, but beyond that, every corporation should serve a public interest, should serve the earth, should serve future generations.
van Gelder: I want to ask you about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and other trade deals. Is there any way that we can beat these things back so they don’t continue supercharging the corporate sphere at the expense of local democracies?
Perkins: They’re devastating; they give sovereignty to corporations over governments. It’s ridiculous.
We’ve got to let corporations know what their job is: It’s to serve a public interest, and make a decent rate of return for investors.
We’re seeing terrible desperation from people in Central America trying to get away from a system that’s broken, primarily because our trade agreements and our policies toward Latin America have broken them. And we’re seeing, of course, those similar things in the Middle East and in Africa, these waves of immigrants that are swarming into Europe from the Middle East. These terrible problems that have been created because of the greed of big corporations.
I was just in Central America and what we talk about in the U.S. as being an immigration problem is really a trade agreement problem.
They’re not allowed to impose tariffs under the trade agreements—NAFTA and CAFTA—but the U.S. is allowed to subsidize its farmers. Those governments can’t afford to subsidize their farmers. So our farmers can undercut theirs, and that’s destroyed the economies, and a number of other things, and that’s why we’ve got immigration problems.
van Gelder: Can you talk about the violence that people are fleeing in Central America, and how that links back to the role the U.S. has had there?
Perkins: Three or four years ago the CIA orchestrated a coup against the democratically elected president of Honduras, President Zelaya, because he stood up to Dole and Chiquita and some other big, global, basically U.S.-based corporations.
He wasn’t assassinated but he was overthrown in a coup and sent to another country.
He wanted to raise the minimum wage to a reasonable level, and he wanted some land reform that would make sure that his own people were able to make money off their own land, rather than having big international corporations do it.
The big corporations couldn’t stand for this. He wasn’t assassinated but he was overthrown in a coup and sent to another country, and replaced by a terribly brutal dictator, and today Honduras is one of the most violent, homicidal countries in the hemisphere.
It’s frightening what we’ve done. And when that happens to a president, it sends a message to every other president throughout the hemisphere, and in fact throughout the world: Don’t mess with us. Don’t mess with the big corporations. Either cooperate and get rich in the process, and have all your friends and family get rich in the process, or go get overthrown or assassinated. It’s a very strong message.
van Gelder: Tell me about your time spent in Ecuador with indigenous people. I’m wondering if you could talk about how that experience has changed you?
Perkins: Many years ago when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Amazon with the Shuar indigenous people there, I was dying. I got very ill, and my life was saved in one night by a shaman. I’d come out of business school this is 1968, ‘69, and I had no idea what a shaman was, but it changed my life by helping me understand that what was killing me was a mindset—what they would call the dream.
I spent many years studying all this, and working with many different indigenous groups, and what I saw was the power of the mindset.
The shamans teach us—the indigenous people teach us—once you change the mindset, then it’s pretty easy to have the objective reality change around it. So, instead of the kind of economy we have now, a death economy, if we can change the mindset we can very quickly move into a life economy.
van Gelder: So what are the mechanisms by which a change in consciousness actually shifts things on the ground?
Perkins: Well, in my opinion the biggest catalyst that needs to go forward to change this is we’ve got to change the corporations. We’ve got to move from that goal that was stated by Milton Friedman in the 1970s, that the only responsibility of corporations is to maximize profits regardless of social and environmental costs.
We change the big corporations by telling them we’re not going to buy from you anymore unless you change your goal. No longer should your goal be to maximize profits regardless of social and environmental costs. Make a decent rate of return for your investors, but serve us, we the people, or we’re not buying from you.
van Gelder: You quote Tom Paine in your book: “If there must be trouble let it be in my day that my child may have peace.” Why did you decide to use that quote?
Perkins: Well, I think Tom Paine was brilliant in that statement. He understood how that would impact people. And he wrote that statement in December 1776.
Washington had lost just about every battle he ever fought; he wasn’t getting any support from the Continental Congress; they weren’t giving his men guns or ammunition or even blankets and shoes, and he was bogged down at Valley Forge. Paine realizes that he’s got to somehow write something that will rally people, and there’s nothing that rallies people more than to think about their children
That to me is where we’re at right now. I’ve got a daughter and I’ve got an 8-year-old grandson. Bring on the trouble for me, OK, but let’s create a world they’re going to want to live in. And let’s understand that my 8-year-old grandson cannot have an environmentally sustainable and regenerative, socially just, fulfilling world unless every child on the planet has that.
And this is new. It used to be all we had to worry about was our local community, maybe our country. But we didn’t have to worry about the world. But what we know now is that we can’t have peace anywhere in the world, we can’t have peace in the U.S., unless everybody has peace.
Sarah van Gelder wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Sarah is co-founder and editor at large of YES! Follow her on Twitter @sarahvangelder.
 

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HISTORY’S FOOLS: HOW A SINGLE, RED NECK, CORN PONE COWBOY, HELPED TURN A FRIENDLY NATION AGAINST THE UNITED STATES

 

Raymond Davis was arrogant and acted invincible. He had a god-complex. No one could touch him. Pakistan a puny nation would be turned into rubble by US B-52 Bombers, he assumed. His chutzpah lead to his undoing. Nowadays, this spy is no longer a contractor in US Service. He flits from job to job. He has had run in with the US Law Enforcement authorities. He is a citizen from hell for any nation.

Photo illustration from photographs by Arif Ali/AFP, via Newscom (left) and Douglas County sheriff’s office (right).
By 
April 9, 2013 163 Comments
Tariq Saeed/Reuters

Raymond Davis, who was employed by the C.I.A. as a contractor, was escorted out of court after facing a judge in Lahore, January 28, 2011.

Pakistani rage at the United States — in particular at the drone attacks in the tribal areas — found focus with the Raymond Davis affair.Ilyas J. Dean/PAK/Newscom

 

K.M. Chaudary/Associated Press

An armored car carrying Raymond Davis leaves a courthouse in Lahore, Pakistan.

 

The burly American was escorted by Pakistani policemen into a crowded interrogation room. Amid a clatter of ringing mobile phones and cross talk among the cops speaking a mishmash of Urdu, Punjabi and English, the investigator tried to decipher the facts of the case.

“America, you from America?”

“Yes.”

“You’re from America, and you belong to the American Embassy?”

“Yes,” the American voice said loudly above the chatter. “My passport — at the site I showed the police officer. . . . It’s somewhere. It’s lost.”

On the jumpy video footage of the interrogation, he reached beneath his checkered flannel shirt and produced a jumble of identification badges hanging around his neck. “This is an old badge. This is Islamabad.” He showed the badge to the man across the desk and then flipped to a more recent one proving his employment in the American Consulate in Lahore.

“You are working at the consulate general in Lahore?” the policeman asked.

“Yes.”

“As a . . . ?”

“I, I just work as a consultant there.”

“Consultant?” The man behind the desk paused for a moment and then shot a question in Urdu to another policeman. “And what’s the name?”

“Raymond Davis,” the officer responded.

“Raymond Davis,” the American confirmed. “Can I sit down?”

“Please do. Give you water?” the officer asked.

“Do you have a bottle? A bottle of water?” Davis asked.

Another officer in the room laughed. “You want water?” he asked. “No money, no water.”

Another policeman walked into the room and asked for an update. “Is he understanding everything? And he just killed two men?”

Hours earlier, Davis had been navigating dense traffic in Lahore, his thick frame wedged into the driver’s seat of a white Honda Civic. A city once ruled by Mughals, Sikhs and the British, Lahore is Pakistan’s cultural and intellectual capital, and for nearly a decade it had been on the fringes of America’s secret war in Pakistan. But the map of Islamic militancy inside Pakistan had been redrawn in recent years, and factions that once had little contact with one another had cemented new alliances in response to the C.I.A.’s drone campaign in the western mountains. Groups that had focused most of their energies dreaming up bloody attacks against India were now aligning themselves closer to Al Qaeda and other organizations with a thirst for global jihad. Some of these groups had deep roots in Lahore, which was why Davis and a C.I.A. team set up operations from a safe house in the city.

But now Davis was sitting in a Lahore police station, having shot two young men who approached his car on a black motorcycle, their guns drawn, at an intersection congested with cars, bicycles and rickshaws. Davis took his semiautomatic Glock pistol and shot through the windshield, shattering the glass and hitting one of the men numerous times. As the other man fled, Davis got out of his car and shot several rounds into his back.

He radioed the American Consulate for help, and within minutes a Toyota Land Cruiser was in sight, careering in the wrong direction down a one-way street. But the S.U.V. struck and killed a young Pakistani motorcyclist and then drove away. An assortment of bizarre paraphernalia was found, including a black mask, approximately 100 bullets and a piece of cloth bearing an American flag. The camera inside Davis’s car contained photos of Pakistani military installations, taken surreptitiously.

More than two years later, the Raymond Davis episode has been largely forgotten in the United States. It was immediately overshadowed by the dramatic raid months later that killed Osama bin Laden — consigned to a footnote in the doleful narrative of America’s relationship with Pakistan. But dozens of interviews conducted over several months, with government officials and intelligence officers in Pakistan and in the United States, tell a different story: that the real unraveling of the relationship was set off by the flurry of bullets Davis unleashed on the afternoon of Jan. 27, 2011, and exacerbated by a series of misguided decisions in the days and weeks that followed. In Pakistan, it is the Davis affair, more than the Bin Laden raid, that is still discussed in the country’s crowded bazaars and corridors of power.

Davis was taken to Kot Lakhpat prison, on the industrial fringes of Lahore, a jail with a reputation for inmates dying under murky circumstances. He was separated from the rest of the prisoners and held in a section of the decaying facility where the guards didn’t carry weapons, a concession for his safety that American officials managed to extract from the prison staff. The United States Consulate in Lahore had negotiated another safeguard: A small team of dogs was tasting Davis’s food, checking that it had not been laced with poison.

For many senior Pakistani spies, the man sitting in the jail cell represented solid proof of their suspicions that the C.I.A. had sent a vast secret army to Pakistan, men who sowed chaos and violence as part of the covert American war in the country. For the C.I.A., the eventual disclosure of Davis’s role with the agency shed an unflattering light on a post–Sept. 11 reality: that the C.I.A. had farmed out some of its most sensitive jobs to outside contractors — many of them with neither the experience nor the temperament to work in the war zones of the Islamic world.

The third child of a bricklayer and a cook, Davis grew up in a small clapboard house outside Big Stone Gap, a town of nearly 6,000 people in Virginia coal country. He became a football and wrestling star at the local high school, and after graduating in 1993, Davis enlisted in the Army and did a tour in Macedonia in 1994 as a United Nations peacekeeper. When his five-year hitch in the infantry was up, he re-enlisted, this time in the Army’s Third Special Forces Group based at Fort Bragg, N.C. He left the Army in 2003 and, like hundreds of other retired Navy SEALs and Green Berets, was hired by the private security firm Blackwater and soon found himself in Iraq working security for the C.I.A.

Little is known about his work for Blackwater, but by 2006, Davis had left the firm and, together with his wife, founded a security company in Las Vegas. Soon he was hired by the C.I.A. as a private contractor, what the agency calls a “Green Badge,” for the color of the identification cards that contractors show to enter C.I.A. headquarters at Langley. Like Davis, many of the contractors were hired to fill out the C.I.A.’s Global Response Staff — bodyguards who traveled to war zones to protect case officers, assess the security of potential meeting spots, even make initial contact with sources to ensure that case officers wouldn’t be walking into an ambush. Officers from the C.I.A.’s security branch came under withering fire on the roof of the agency’s base in Benghazi, Libya, last September. The demands of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had so stretched the C.I.A.’s own cadre of security officers that the agency was forced to pay inflated sums to private contractors to do the security jobs. When Davis first deployed with the C.I.A. to Pakistan in 2008, he worked from the agency’s base in Peshawar, earning upward of $200,000 a year.

By mid-February 2011, with Davis still sitting in prison, anti-American passions were fully inflamed, and daily street protests and newspaper editorials demanded that the government not cave to Washington’s demands for Davis’s release but instead sentence him to death. The evidence at the time indicated that the men Davis killed had carried out a string of petty thefts that day, but there was an added problem: the third man killed by the unmarked American S.U.V. fleeing the scene. Making matters even worse for Davis was the fact that he was imprisoned in Lahore, where the family of Nawaz Sharif dominated the political culture. The former leader of the country made no secret about his intentions to once again run Pakistan, making him the chief antagonist to President Asif Ali Zardari and his political machine in Islamabad, a four-hour drive away. As the American Embassy in Islamabad leaned on Zardari’s government to get Davis released from jail, the diplomats soon realized that Zardari had little influence over the police officers and judges in the city of the president’s bitter rival.

But the most significant factor ensuring that Davis would languish in jail was that the Obama administration had yet to tell Pakistan’s government what the Pakistanis already suspected, and what Raymond Davis’s marksmanship made clear: He wasn’t just another paper-shuffling American diplomat. Davis’s work in Pakistan was much darker, and it involved probing an exposed nerve in the already-hypersensitive relationship between the C.I.A. and Pakistan’s military intelligence service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or I.S.I.

Ever since the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (the Army of the Pure) dispatched teams of assassins to lay siege to luxury hotels and other sites in Mumbai, India, in November 2008, killing and wounding more than 500 people over four days of mayhem, C.I.A. analysts had been warning that the group was seeking to raise its global profile by carrying out spectacular attacks beyond South Asia. This spurred the agency to assign more of its expanding army of operatives in Pakistan toward gathering intelligence about Lashkar’s operations — a decision that put the interests of the C.I.A. and the I.S.I. in direct conflict. It was one thing for American spies to be lurking around the tribal areas, hunting for Al Qaeda figures; it was quite another to go into Pakistani cities on espionage missions against a group that the I.S.I. considered a valuable proxy force in its continuing battle with India.

The I.S.I. had nurtured the group for years as a useful asset against India, and Lashkar’s sprawling headquarters outside Lahore housed a radical madrassa, a market, a hospital, even a fish farm. The group’s charismatic leader, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, had been put under house arrest at various times, but in 2009 the Lahore High Court quashed all terrorism charges against him and set him free. A stocky man with a wild beard, Saeed preached out in the open on many Fridays, flanked by bodyguards and delivering sermons to throngs of his followers about the imperialism of the United States, India and Israel. Even after the U.S. offered a $10 million reward for evidence linking Saeed to the Mumbai attacks, he continued to move freely in public, burnishing his legend as a Pakistani version of Robin Hood.

By the time Raymond Davis moved into a safe house with a handful of other C.I.A. officers and contractors in late 2010, the bulk of the agency’s officers in Lahore were focused on investigating the growth of Lashkar. To get more of its spies into Pakistan, the C.I.A. had exploited the arcane rules in place for approving visas for Americans. The State Department, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon all had separate channels to request visas for their personnel, and all of them led to the desk of Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s pro-American ambassador in WashingtonHaqqani had orders from Islamabad to be lenient in approving the visas, because many of the Americans coming to Pakistan were — at least officially — going to be administering millions of dollars in foreign-aid money. By the time of the Lahore killings, in early 2011, so many Americans were operating inside Pakistan under both legitimate and false identities that even the U.S. Embassy didn’t have accurate records of their identities and whereabouts.

The American Embassy in Islamabad is essentially a fortress within a fortress, a pile of buildings enclosed by walls topped with razor wire and surveillance cameras and then encircled by an outer ring of walls that separates a leafy area, called the Diplomatic Enclave, from the rest of the city. Inside the embassy, the work of diplomats and spies is kept largely separate, with the C.I.A. station occupying a warren of offices in its own wing, accessed only through doors with coded locks.

After Davis was picked up by the Lahore police, the embassy became a house divided by more than mere geography. Just days before the shootings, the C.I.A. sent a new station chief to Islamabad. Old-school and stubborn, the new chief did not come to Pakistan to be friendly with the I.S.I. Instead, he wanted to recruit more Pakistani agents to work for the C.I.A. under the I.S.I.’s nose, expand electronic surveillance of I.S.I. offices and share little information with Pakistani intelligence officers.

That hard-nosed attitude inevitably put him at odds with the American ambassador in Islamabad, Cameron Munter. A bookish career diplomat with a Ph.D. in history, Munter had ascended the ranks of the State Department’s bureaucracy and accepted several postings in Iraq before ultimately taking over the American mission in Islamabad, in late 2010. The job was considered one of the State Department’s most important and difficult assignments, and Munter had the burden of following Anne W. Patterson, an aggressive diplomat who, in the three years before Munter arrived, cultivated close ties to officials in the Bush and Obama administrations and won praise from the C.I.A. for her unflinching support for drone strikes in the tribal areas.

Munter saw some value to the drone program but was skeptical about the long-term benefits. Arriving in Islamabad at a time when relations between the United States and Pakistan were quickly deteriorating, Munter wondered whether the pace of the drone war might be undercutting relations with an important ally for the quick fix of killing midlevel terrorists. He would learn soon enough that his views about the drone program ultimately mattered little. In the Obama administration, when it came to questions about war and peace in Pakistan, it waswhat the C.I.A. believed that really counted.

With Davis sitting in prison, Munter argued that it was essential to go immediately to the head of the I.S.I. at the time, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, to cut a deal. The U.S. would admit that Davis was working for the C.I.A., and Davis would quietly be spirited out of the country, never to return again. But the C.I.A. objected. Davis had been spying on a militant group with extensive ties to the I.S.I., and the C.I.A. didn’t want to own up to it. Top C.I.A. officials worried that appealing for mercy from the I.S.I. might doom Davis. He could be killed in prison before the Obama administration could pressure Islamabad to release him on the grounds that he was a foreign diplomat with immunity from local laws — even those prohibiting murder. On the day of Davis’s arrest, the C.I.A. station chief told Munter that a decision had been made to stonewall the Pakistanis. Don’t cut a deal, he warned, adding, Pakistan is the enemy.

The strategy meant that American officials, from top to bottom, had to dissemble both in public and in private about what exactly Davis had been doing in the country. On Feb. 15, more than two weeks after the shootings, President Obama offered his first comments about the Davis affair. The matter was simple, Obama said in a news conference: Davis, “our diplomat in Pakistan,” should be immediately released under the “very simple principle” of diplomatic immunity. “If our diplomats are in another country,” said the president, “then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution.”

Calling Davis a “diplomat” was, technically, accurate. He had been admitted into Pakistan on a diplomatic passport. But there was a dispute about whether his work in the Lahore Consulate, as opposed to the American Embassy in Islamabad, gave him full diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. And after the shootings in Lahore, the Pakistanis were not exactly receptive to debating the finer points of international law. As they saw it, Davis was an American spy who had not been declared to the I.S.I. and whom C.I.A. officials still would not admit they controlled. General Pasha, the I.S.I. chief, spoke privately by phone and in person with Leon Panetta, then the director of the C.I.A., to get more information about the matter. He suspected that Davis was a C.I.A. employee and suggested to Panetta that the two spy agencies handle the matter quietly. Meeting with Panetta, he posed a direct question.

Was Davis working for the C.I.A.? Pasha asked. No, he’s not one of ours, Panetta replied. Panetta went on to say that the matter was out of his hands, and that the issue was being handled inside State Department channels. Pasha was furious, and he decided to leave Davis’s fate in the hands of the judges in Lahore. The United States had just lost its chance, he told others, to quickly end the dispute.

That the C.I.A. director would be overseeing a large clandestine network of American spies in Pakistan and then lie to the I.S.I. director about the extent of America’s secret war in the country showed just how much the relationship had unraveled since the days in 2002, when the I.S.I. teamed with the C.I.A. in Peshawar to hunt for Osama bin Laden in western Pakistan. Where had it gone so wrong?

While the spy agencies had had a fraught relationship since the beginning of the Afghan war, the first major breach came in July 2008, when C.I.A. officers in Islamabad paid a visit to Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani Army chief, to tell him that President Bush had signed off on a set of secret orders authorizing a new strategy in the drone wars. No longer would the C.I.A. give Pakistan advance warning before launching missiles from Predator or Reaper drones in the tribal areas. From that point on, the C.I.A. officers told Kayani, the C.I.A.’s killing campaign in Pakistan would be a unilateral war.

The decision had been made in Washington after months of wrenching debate about the growth of militancy in Pakistan’s tribal areas; a highly classified C.I.A. internal memo, dated May 1, 2007, concluded that Al Qaeda was at its most dangerous since 2001 because of the base of operations that militants had established in the tribal areas. That assessment became the cornerstone of a yearlong discussion about the Pakistan problem. Some experts in the State Department warned that expanding the C.I.A. war in Pakistan would further stoke anti-American anger on the streets and could push the country into chaos. But officials inside the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center argued for escalating the drone campaign without the I.S.I.’s blessing. Since the first C.I.A. drone strike in Pakistan in 2004, only a small number of militants on the C.I.A.’s list of “high-value targets” had been killed by drone strikes, and other potential strikes were scuttled at the last minute because of delays in getting Pakistani approval, or because the targets seemed to have been tipped off and had fled.

So, in July 2008, when the C.I.A.’s director, Michael Hayden, and his deputy, Stephen Kappes, came to the White House to present the agency’s plan to wage a unilateral war in the mountains of Pakistan, it wasn’t a hard sell to a frustrated president. That began the relentless, years-long drone assault on the tribal areas that President Obama continued when he took office. And as the C.I.A.’s relationship with the I.S.I. soured, Langley sent station chiefs out to Islamabad who spent far less time and energy building up good will with Pakistani spies than their predecessors had. From 2008 on, the agency cycled a succession of seasoned case officers through Islamabad, and each left Pakistan more embittered than the last. One of them had to leave the country in haste when his identity was revealed in the Pakistani press. The C.I.A. suspected the leak came from the I.S.I.

Even many of the operations that at first seemed likely to signal a new era of cooperation between the C.I.A. and the I.S.I. ended in recriminations and finger-pointing. In January 2010, a clandestine team of C.I.A. officers and American special-operations troops working in Karachi traced a cellphone to a house in Baldia Town, a slum in the western part of the sprawling city. The C.I.A. did not conduct unilateral operations inside large Pakistani cities, so the Americans notified the I.S.I. about the intelligence. Pakistani troops and policemen launched a surprise raid on the house.

Although the C.I.A. didn’t know in advance, hiding inside the house was Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a man considered to be the Afghan Taliban’s military commander and the second in command to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban. Only after suspects in the house were arrested and questioned did the C.I.A. learn that Baradar was among the detainees. The I.S.I. took him to a detention facility in an industrial section of Islamabad and refused the C.I.A. access to him. “At that point, things got really complicated,” one former C.I.A. officer said.

Was the entire episode a setup? Rumors had circulated inside Pakistan that Baradar wanted to cut a deal with the Americans and bring the Taliban to the negotiating table in Afghanistan. Had the I.S.I. somehow engineered the entire arrest, feeding intelligence to the C.I.A. so that Baradar could be taken off the street and the nascent peace talks spoiled? Had the I.S.I. played the C.I.A.? Months later, senior C.I.A. officials at Langley still couldn’t answer those questions. Today, more than three years later, Mullah Baradar remains in Pakistani custody.

As Davis languished in the jail cell in Lahore, the C.I.A. was pursuing its most promising lead about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden since 2001, when he escaped from Tora Bora, in Afghanistan, and fled across the border into Pakistan. A small group of officers inside the agency’s Counterterrorism Center had become convinced that Bin Laden was hiding in a large compound in Abbottabad, a quiet hamlet north of Islamabad. For months, Panetta had been pushing clandestine officers to find a shred of hard proof that Bin Laden was hiding in the compound. The intelligence-gathering operating in Abbottabad had become the highest priority for the C.I.A. in Pakistan.

It was therefore more than a bit inconvenient that one of its undercover officers was sitting in a jail in Lahore facing a double murder charge. Pakistan’s Islamist parties organized street protests and threatened violent riots if Raymond Davis was not tried and hanged for his crimes. American diplomats in Lahore regularly visited Davis, but the Obama administration continued to stonewall Pakistan’s government about the nature of Davis’s work in the country.

And then the episode claimed another victim. On Feb. 6, the grieving widow of one of Davis’s victims swallowed a lethal amount of rat poison and was rushed to the hospital in Faisalabad, where doctors pumped her stomach. The woman, Shumaila Faheem, was certain that the United States and Pakistan would quietly broker a deal to release her husband’s killer from prison, a view she expressed to her doctors from her hospital bed. “They are already treating my husband’s murderer like a V.I.P. in police custody, and I am sure they will let him go because of international pressure,” she said. She died shortly afterward and instantly became a martyr for anti-American groups inside Pakistan.

The furor over the Davis incident was quickly escalating, threatening to shut down most C.I.A. operations in the country and derail the intelligence-gathering operation in Abbottabad. But the C.I.A. stood firm and sent top officials to Islamabad, who told Ambassador Munter to stick to the strategy.

By then, though, Munter had decided that the C.I.A.’s strategy wasn’t working, and eventually even high-level officials in the agency began to realize that stonewalling the Pakistanis was only causing the I.S.I. to dig in. After discussions among White House, State Department and C.I.A. officials in Washington, Munter approached General Pasha, the I.S.I. chief, and came clean. Davis was with the C.I.A., he said, and the United States needed to get him out of the country as quickly as possible. Pasha was fuming that Leon Panetta had lied to him, and he was going to make the Americans squirm by letting Davis sit in jail while he considered — on his own timetable — the best way to resolve the situation.

Back in Washington, Ambassador Haqqani was summoned to C.I.A. headquarters on Feb. 21 and taken into Panetta’s spacious office overlooking the agency’s campus in Langley, Va. Sitting around a large conference table, Panetta asked Haqqani for his help securing Davis’s release.

“If you’re going to send a Jason Bourne character to Pakistan, he should have the skills of a Jason Bourne to get away,” Haqqani shot back, according to one person who attended the meeting.

More than a week later, General Pasha came back to Ambassador Munter to discuss a new strategy. It was a solution based on an ancient tradition that would allow the matter to be settled outside the unpredictable court system. The issue had already been discussed among a number of Pakistani and American officials, including Ambassador Haqqani in Washington. The reckoning for Davis’s actions would come in the form of “blood money,” or diyat, a custom under Shariah law that compensates the families of victims for their dead relatives. The matter would be handled quietly, and Davis would be released from jail.

Pasha ordered I.S.I. operatives in Lahore to meet the families of the three men killed during the January episode and negotiate a settlement. Some of the relatives initially resisted, but the I.S.I. negotiators were not about to let the talks collapse. After weeks of discussions, the parties agreed on a total of 200 million Pakistani rupees, approximately $2.34 million, to offer “forgiveness” to the jailed C.I.A. officer.

Only a small group of Obama administration officials knew of the talks, and as they dragged on, Lahore’s high court was preparing to rule on whether Davis would be granted diplomatic immunity, a decision the C.I.A. expected to go against the United States and worried might set a precedent for future cases in Pakistan.

Davis remained in the dark about all of this. When he arrived for his court appearance on March 16, he was fully expecting to hear that the trial would proceed and that the judge would issue a new court date. He was escorted into the courtroom, his wrists cuffed in front of him, and locked inside an iron cage near the judge’s bench. According to one person’s account, General Pasha sat in the back of the courtroom, his cellphone out. He began sending out a stream of nervous text messages to Ambassador Munter, updating him about the court proceedings. Pasha was one of the most powerful men in Pakistan, and yet the I.S.I. had little control over the mercurial courts in Lahore, and he wasn’t entirely sure that things would proceed according to plan.

The first part of the hearing went as everyone expected. The judge, saying that the case would go ahead, noted that his ruling on diplomatic immunity would come in a matter of days. Pakistani reporters frantically began filing their stories about how this seemed a blow to the American case, and that it appeared that Davis would not be released from jail anytime soon. But then the judge ordered the courtroom cleared, and General Pasha’s secret plan unfolded.

Through a side entrance, 18 relatives of the victims walked into the room, and the judge announced that the civil court had switched to a Shariah court. Each of the family members approached Davis, some of them with tears in their eyes or sobbing outright, and announced that he or she forgave him. Pasha sent another text message to Munter: The matter was settled. Davis was a free man. In a Lahore courtroom, the laws of God had trumped the laws of man.

The drama played out entirely in Urdu, and throughout the proceeding, a baffled Davis sat silently inside the cage. He was even more stunned when I.S.I. operatives whisked him out of the courthouse through a back entrance and pushed him into a waiting car that sped to the Lahore airport.

The move had been choreographed to get Davis out of the country as quickly as possible. American officials, including Munter, were waiting for Davis at the airport, and some began to worry. Davis had, after all, already shot dead two men he believed were threatening him. If he thought he was being taken away to be killed, he might try to make an escape, even try to kill the I.S.I. operatives inside the car. When the car arrived at the airport and pulled up to the plane ready to take Davis out of Pakistan, the C.I.A. operative was in a daze. It appeared to the Americans waiting for him that Davis realized only then that he was safe.

The Davis affair led Langley to order dozens of covert officers out of Pakistan in the hope of lowering the temperature in the C.I.A. – I.S.I. relationship. Ambassador Munter issued a public statement shortly after the bizarre court proceeding, saying he was “grateful for the generosity” of the families and expressing regret for the entire incident and the “suffering it caused.”

But the secret deal only fueled the anger in Pakistan, and anti-American protests flared in major cities, including Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. Demonstrators set tires ablaze, clashed with Pakistani riot police and brandished placards with slogans like “I Am Raymond Davis, Give Me a Break, I Am Just a C.I.A. Hit Man.”

The entire episode — and bin Laden’s killing in Abbottabad later that spring — extinguished any lingering productive relations between the United States and Pakistan. Leon Panetta’s relationship with General Pasha, the I.S.I. chief, was poisoned, and the already small number of Obama officials pushing for better relations between Washington and Islamabad dwindled even further. Munter was reporting daily back to Washington about the negative impact of the armed-drone campaign and about how the C.I.A. seemed to be conducting a war in a vacuum, oblivious to the ramifications that the drone strikes were having on American relations with Pakistan’s government.

The C.I.A. had approval from the White House to carry out missile strikes in Pakistan even when the agency’s targeters weren’t certain about exactly whom they were killing. Under the rules of so-called “signature strikes,” decisions about whether to fire missiles from drones could be made based on patterns of activity deemed suspicious. For instance, if a group of young “military-age males” were observed moving in and out of a suspected militant training camp and were thought to be carrying weapons, they could be considered legitimate targets. American officials admit it is nearly impossible to judge a person’s age from thousands of feet in the air, and in Pakistan’s tribal areas, adolescent boys are often among militant fighters. Using such broad definitions to determine who was a “combatant” and therefore a legitimate target allowed Obama administration officials at one point to claim that the escalation of drone strikes in Pakistan had not killed any civilians for a year. It was something of a trick of logic: in an area of known militant activity, all military-age males could be considered enemy fighters. Therefore, anyone who was killed in a drone strike there was categorized as a combatant.

The perils of this approach were laid bare on March 17, 2011, the day after Davis was released from prison and spirited out of the country. C.I.A. drones attacked a tribal council meeting in the village of Datta Khel, in North Waziristan, killing dozens of men. Ambassador Munter and some at the Pentagon thought the timing of the strike was disastrous, and some American officials suspected that the massive strike was the C.I.A. venting its anger about the Davis episode. More important, however, many American officials believed that the strike was botched, and that dozens of people died who shouldn’t have.

Other American officials came to the C.I.A.’s defense, saying that the tribal gathering was in fact a meeting of senior militants and therefore a legitimate target. But the drone strike unleashed a furious response in Pakistan, and street protests in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar forced the temporary closure of American consulates in those cities.

Munter said he believed that the C.I.A. was being reckless and that his position as ambassador was becoming untenable. His relationship with the C.I.A. station chief in Islamabad, already strained because of their disagreements over the handling of the Davis case, deteriorated even further when Munter demanded that the C.I.A. give him the chance to call off specific missile strikes. During one screaming match between the two men, Munter tried to make sure the station chief knew who was in charge, only to be reminded of who really held the power in Pakistan.

“You’re not the ambassador!” Munter shouted.

“You’re right, and I don’t want to be the ambassador,” the station chief replied.

This turf battle spread to Washington, and a month after Bin Laden was killed, President Obama’s top advisers were arguing in a National Security Council meeting over who really was in charge in Pakistan. At the June 2011 meeting, Munter, who participated via secure video link, began making his case that he should have veto power over specific drone strikes.

Panetta cut Munter off, telling him that the C.I.A. had the authority to do what it wanted in Pakistan. It didn’t need to get the ambassador’s approval for anything.

“I don’t work for you,” Panetta told Munter, according to several people at the meeting.

But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to Munter’s defense. She turned to Panetta and told him that he was wrong to assume he could steamroll the ambassador and launch strikes against his approval.

“No, Hillary,” Panetta said, “it’s you who are flat wrong.”

There was a stunned silence, and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon tried to regain control of the meeting. In the weeks that followed, Donilon brokered a compromise of sorts: Munter would be allowed to object to specific drone strikes, but the C.I.A. could still press its case to the White House and get approval for strikes even over the ambassador’s objections. Obama’s C.I.A. had, in essence, won yet again.

As for Raymond Davis, he tried to settle back into his life in the United States after being flown out of Pakistan. He found work as a firearms instructor, but in the end he couldn’t stay out of trouble. On Oct. 1, 2011, just seven months after his abrupt departure from Pakistan, Davis was eyeing a parking spot in front of a bagel shop in Highlands Ranch, Colo., a suburb of Denver. So was Jeffrey Maes, a 50-year-old minister who was driving with his wife and two young daughters. When Maes beat Davis to the spot, Davis shouted profanities through his open window. Then he jumped out of his car and confronted Maes, telling the minister that he had been waiting for the parking spot.

According to an affidavit given by Maes, he told Davis to “relax and quit being stupid.”

Davis struck Maes in the face, knocking him to the pavement. Maes said in court that when he stood up from the fall, Davis continued to hit him. The minister’s wife, later recalling the episode, said she had never in her life seen a man so full of rage. Just last month, after protracted legal proceedings, Davis pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to two years of probation. A judge ordered him to pay restitution and attend anger-management classes.

On the streets and in the markets of Pakistan, Raymond Davis remains the boogeyman, an American killer lurking in the subconscious of a deeply insecure nation. On a steamy summer night last summer, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed — the head of Lashkar-e-Taiba and the reason Davis and his team were sent to Lahore in the first place — stood on the back of a flatbed truck and spoke to thousands of cheering supporters less than a mile from Pakistan’s Parliament building in Islamabad. A $10 million American bounty still hung over Saeed’s head, part of a broader squeeze on Lashkar-e-Taiba’s finances. But there he was, out in the open and whipping the crowd into a fury with a pledge to “rid Pakistan of American slavery.” The rally was the culmination of a march from Lahore to Islamabad that Saeed ordered to protest American involvement in the country. The night before the march reached the capital, six Pakistani troops were killed by gunmen riding motorcycles not far from where the marchers were spending the night, leading to speculation that Saeed had ordered the attack.

But Saeed insisted that night that he was not to blame for the deaths. The killers were foreigners, he told the crowd, a group of assassins with a secret agenda to destabilize Pakistan and steal its nuclear arsenal. With a dramatic flourish, he said he knew exactly who had killed the men.

“It was the Americans!” he shouted to loud approvals. “It was Blackwater!” The cheers grew even louder. He saved the biggest applause line for last: “It was another Raymond Davis!”

 

This article is adapted from “The Way of the Knife: The C.I.A., a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth,” published by the Penguin Press.

Mark Mazzetti is a national-security correspondent for The Times. He shared a 2009 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Editor: Joel Lovell

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