Feb. 23, 2011
Arrest of CIA Agent Sheds Light on American Covert War in Pakistan, Straining U.S.-Pakistani Relations
U.S. officials have admitted an American detained in Pakistan for the murder of two men was a CIA agent and a former employee of the private security firm Blackwater, now called Xe Services. Up until Monday, the Obama administration had insisted Raymond Davis was a diplomat who had acted in self-defense. The arrest of Davis has soured relations between the United States and Pakistan and revealed a web of covert U.S. operations inside the country, part of a secret war run by the C.I.A. The Guardian of London first reported Davis’s CIA link on Sunday and noted that many U.S. news outlets knew about his connection to the CIA but did not report on it at the request of U.S. officials. We speak with Declan Walsh, the Pakistan correspondent for The Guardian, who first broke the story. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the New York Times, AP, Washington Post, going along with the Obama administration, who told them not to reveal that he was CIA, that he was Blackwater, yet The Guardian in Britain decided to blow the cover.
DECLAN WALSH: Well, I mean, I can’t speak for those other media organizations other than what we reported in our own story, which was that we became aware, before we published, that other news organizations in the U.S. had the same information we had and had decided to withhold it. And what I can say is that we engaged in discussions with the American government, with U.S. government officials, before publication, and they made the same case to us that we shouldn’t publish.
And this case basically ran along two lines. Part of it was they said that this would greatly complicate their efforts to get Davis out. We felt that this was something that—this was an argument that didn’t particularly apply to us, that, whether it made it harder or easier, our job was—our priorities lay elsewhere. But the second and potentially more serious argument they made was that Davis’s life would be endangered if his employment status at the CIA was revealed, and specifically that his life would be endangered at the jail where he’s currently being held. It’s called Kot Lakhpat, in Lahore.
We looked at those arguments very seriously. We interviewed a number of people. We tried to find out as much as we could about conditions at the jail. But ultimately we decided that we didn’t necessarily—we didn’t buy that argument, effectively, because we felt that, for a start, most Pakistanis actually at that point were already working under the assumption that Raymond Davis was a CIA official. I mean, there were stories in all of the papers here referring to Davis as a CIA official. The day that we published our story, there was a front-page piece in one of the English papers saying Raymond Davis is linked to the CIA. And at that point, Pakistani intelligence officials, Pakistani officials with both the intelligence service and with the government, were telling us that he was CIA. So, really, this was, you know, a very thinly disguised secret, if you like, in Pakistan at that point.
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