Conflict & Justice

US reacts to "outing" of CIA chief


Pakistani youths play cricket near the final hideout of Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 9, 2011, where bin Laden was killed in a US Naval Commandos special operation. Pakistan said it was "absurd" to level accusations of complicity or incompetence over the discovery of Osama bin Laden in a garrison city and announced an official probe into the affair.


Asif Hassan

The CIA will not bring home its chief operative in Pakistan despite an apparent attempt by the Pakistani media to unmask his identity, U.S. officials said Monday.

The news comes after a private Pakistani television network and a newspaper reportedly tried to "out" the CIA station chief in Islamabad.

It is the second time in six months that Pakistani media have attempted to expose the agency's top spy in the South Asian nation, according to the LA Times. The  CIA Islamabad station chief is regarded as vital to the agency's drone missile campaign against militants in Pakistan's tribal areas along the Afghan border, it adds.

The identity used in the reports was apparently inaccurate.

U.S. officials suspect the Pakistani government in the attempted outing — possibly the Pakistani spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), which has had a tense relationship with the CIA in recent times.

Officials believe it was an attempt to divert attention from U.S. demands for explanations of how Osama bin Laden could have hidden for years so close to Pakistan's capital and a key military academy, Reuters reports. U.S. special forces killed bin Laden in Abbottabad a week ago.

The Obama administration has demanded access to ISI operatives to try to map out the Al Qaeda support network of bin Laden.

Two U.S. officials reportedly said that the real station chief would remain at his post. "The current CIA station chief is a true pro, someone who knows how to work well with foreign partners and is looking to strengthen cooperation with Pakistani intelligence," one of the U.S. officials said, Reuters reports.

In December, the man then serving as the CIA's station chief in Islamabad was forced to leave the country after his name appeared in local media accusing him over missile attacks in which civilians were killed.

Meanwhile, GlobalPost has reported that the Pakistani army had "full knowledge" of the U.S. Navy SEAL operation to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, but both U.S. and Pakistani officials have thus far denied it.

Islamabad has been hiding its involvement in the raid to avoid a public backlash, correspondent Aamir Latif reports.