The Washington Post reports that the Pakistani intelligence service has outed a CIA station chief in response to the US raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden. Their report avoids naming the CIA’s man, who will presumably be heading home quickly after leading the effort in the last six months on the OBL operation — which he had to do after Pakistan outed the previous station chief:
The public outing of the CIA station chief here threatened on Monday to deepen the rift between the United States and Pakistan, with U.S. officials saying they believed the disclosure had been made deliberately by Pakistan’s main spy agency.
If true, the leak would be a sign that Pakistan’s powerful security establishment, far fromfeeling chastened by the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison city last week, is seeking to demonstrate its leverage over Washington and retaliate for the unilateral U.S. operation.
Less than six months ago, the identity of the previous CIA station chief in Islamabad was also disclosed in an act that U.S. officials blamed on their counterparts in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI.
The new station chief, who runs one of the largest U.S. intelligence-gathering operations in the world, played an instrumental role in overseeing efforts to confirm bin Laden’s location before last week’s raid.
This reminds me of the Cold War, when the US and USSR would retaliate for espionage by expelling well-known operatives after an arrest. In this case, that’s a disturbing comparison, because Pakistan is a putative ally, not antagonist. The next man to draw this assignment better not sign any long-term leases in Islamabad.
Still, this is the kind of petty retaliation that speaks more to Pakistani impotence than rage. They can’t afford to go full rogue on the US, not with Islamists looking for any good opening to seize control. The best they can do is to tweak the US to express their humiliation and try to be seen as only incompletely impotent.
I’d guess that the CIA figured that they would have to change station chiefs after the end of this operation, and that it would be an excellent trade. They would be correct.
Update: The CIA so far refuses to play along:
The US has said it will not withdraw the CIA station chief in Pakistan, despite his name being leaked to local media last week.
But officials quoted by US media said the name published in Pakistani news outlets was spelt incorrectly. …
Asad Munir, a former intelligence chief with responsibility for Pakistan’s tribal areas, where a number of militants find sanctuary, said the release of the name would not necessarily put the official at risk.
“Normally people in intelligence have cover names. Only if there is a photograph to identify him could it put his life in danger,” Mr Munir told AP.
Interesting. Will the Pakistanis settle for that, or will they attempt to up the ante with a photograph?