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March 2, 2011

Davis Arrest Throws US Undercover Campaign in Pakistan into Disarray

Dave Lindorff (from This Can't Be Happening)

The ongoing case of Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor facing murder
charges in Lahore for the execution-style slaying of two apparent agents of
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, is apparently leading to a
roll-back of America’s espionage and Special Operations activities in

A few days ago, Pakistan’s Interior Department, which is reportedly
conducting a careful review of the hundreds of private US contractors who
flooded into Pakistan over the last two years, many with “diplomatic
passports,” and many others, like Davis, linked to shady “security” firms,
arrested an American security contractor named Aaron DeHaven, a Virginia
native who claims to work for a company called Catalyst Services LLC.

The Catalyst Services LLC website describes the company, with offices in
Afghanistan, Dubai, the US and Pakistan, as having experience in “logistics,
operations, security and finance,” and as having a staff led by “individuals
who have been involved in some of the most significant events of the last 20
years,” including “the break-up of the Soviet Union, the US effort in Somalia,
and the Global War on Terror.”

DeHaven is being held on a 14-day remand, charged with overstaying his
visa and with living in an unauthorized area.

Meanwhile, the English-language Express Tribune in Pakistan reports that
according to ISI sources, 30 “suspected US operatives” in Pakistan have
“suspended” their operations in the country, while 12 have fled the country.

The paper quotes the Pakistan Foreign Office as saying that 851 Americans
claiming diplomatic immunity are currently in Pakistan, 297 of whom are “not
working in any diplomatic capacity.” The paper says that the country’s
Interior Department claims that 414 of the total are “non-diplomats.” The
majority of these American operatives, the paper says, are located in
Islamabad (where the US is building a huge fortress-like embassy
reminiscent of the one in Baghdad), with the others in Karachi, Lahore and
Peshawar. Most are suspected of being involved in covert missions that
report to the US Joint Special Operations Command, with many suspected of
being active-duty Special Forces personnel from the Army’s Delta Force.
(The website of the JSOC says its responsibility is “synchronizing
Department of Defense plans against global terrorist networks and, as
directed, conducting global operations.”)
Aaron DeHaven, a US "security" contractor arrested and held by
Pakistani authoritiesAaron DeHaven, a US "security" contractor arrested and
held by Pakistani authorities

As I reported earlier, both Pakistani and Indian news organizations are
claiming, based upon intelligence sources, that Davis was involved in not
just intelligence work, but in orchestrating terrorist activity by both the
Pakistani Taliban and the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has
been linked to both the assassination of Benezir Bhutto and the capture and
beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Multiple calls to
members of both groups were found by police on some of the cell phones
found on Davis and in his car when he was arrested in Lahore.

It is unclear how far the blow-up in Pakistan over the exposure of America’s
role in stirring up unrest in that country will go. Clearly, the ISI and the
Pakistani military have long had their own complicated relationship with the
Pakistani Taliban, and much of the current anger in both the ISI and the
military has to do with the US being found to be working behind their backs,
including in its contact with those groups.

But things have been complicated too by mounting public outrage over
Davis’s brazen slaughter of the two Pakistanis, who reportedly were tailing
him because of concerns about the nature of his activities, and who
reportedly were both shot in the back. This public outrage has been further
stoked by both a subsequent suicide by the 18-year-old bride of one of the
victims, and by the death of an innocent bystander mowed down by a second
vehicle carrying several more US contractors which sped to Davis in
response to his call for assistance following the shooting. That vehicle, after
running down the bystander, raced to sanctuary at the US Consulate. The
men in the car, never identified by the consulate, were spirited out of the
country by the US so they could avoid arrest.

(Pause here, dear reader, for a moment and just reflect on what the US
public reaction would be if a Pakistani intelligence "contractor" working out
of a Pakistani consulate in, say, Los Angeles, killed two young motorcyclists,
and a car full of other Pakistani contractors, racing to his aid, drove the
wrong way down a crowded street, ran over and killed an innocent
bystander, raced back onto consulate grounds, and then the men in that
vehicle, sought by police, were spirited out of the country by Pakistani
officials. Hold that thought.)

Further complicating matters for the US, the province of Punjab, of which
Lahore is the capital, is run by the opposition party, headed by former
Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif, who still has presidential
aspirations, has no incentive at all to make things easy for the country’s
ruling party by letting Davis go. Indeed, with public opinion running almost
100% in favor of trying Davis for murder, Sharif can only gain by insisting that
the court system have the final say.

Pakistan’s central government, led by President Asif Ali Zardari, clearly wants
to put the Davis incident behind it by having him declared to have diplomatic
immunity. Foreign Office sources allege that Zardari pressured the Foreign
Office in early February to backdate a letter identifying Davis as being a
“member of staff” of the US Embassy in Islamabad, which would have
afforded him such immunity from prosecution. But the country’s foreign
minister at that time, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, reportedly refused, saying,
"On the basis of the official record and the advice given to me by the
technocrats and experts of the Foreign Office, I could not certify him
(Raymond Davis) as a diplomat. The kind of by blanket immunity Washington
is pressing for Davis, is not endorsed by the official record of the Foreign

Qureshi has subsequently been ousted and replaced by Zardari.

The reality is that the US, as required, on Jan. 25, submitted to the Foreign
Office its annual list of those employees of the US Embassy whom it
classified as “diplomats” warranting diplomatic immunity. That list had 48
names on it, and it did not include the name Raymond Davis. Only a day after
Davis’s Jan. 27 shooting of the two Pakistani motorcyclists, on Jan. 28, did
the US submit a “revised” list, to which Davis’s name had been appended.

The US initially said Davis was an employee of the Lahore Consulate, and
Davis himself told arresting police officers that he was a contractor working
out of the Lahore Consulate, a role that would not afford him any diplomatic
immunity, as consular workers, under the 1963 Vienna Convention on
Consular Relations only receive immunity for their “official duties,” and in
any case lose even that limited immunity in the case of “grave crimes.” (You
can hear Davis make that statement himself in a cellphone video that is
available at the bottom of the ThisCantBeHappening! home page.)

His current legal problems, and the public demand that he be tried (and then
hanged) for the killings, has definitely led to a reduction in US undercover
operations in Pakistan, and to a pullback of at least some of the Special
Forces personnel secretly operating there. It will take considerable finesse
for the US and the Zardari government to put the the relationship back
together--if the Pakistani military and the ISI even want to restore it--finesse
that the US has not been very good at displaying.

So far, in fact, the US response to Davis’s arrest has been a bullying one: to
bluntly and publicly threaten Pakistan with a loss of foreign and military aid--a
threat that seems empty given the American need for Pakistani assistance in
supplying its military in Afghanistan, and its need for at least covert
permission to continue sending Predator and Reaper drones across the
border to attack Taliban suspects in the tribal border areas. US bluster, and
some clumsy efforts to forge records that would purport to show Davis had
diplomatic immunity--all widely exposed in the Pakistani media--have only
served to further stoke public outrage.

Meanwhile, local authorities in Lahore at the prison where Davis is being
held, are so worried that the US may try to have him killed to prevent him
from spilling the beans about his activities--for example explaining why the
camera he was carrying held photographs of Pakistani military installations
as well as of mosques, madrassas and other schools--that they have
reportedly posted special guards (unarmed as an added precaution) around
his cell, and have been monitoring his food. Davis was reportedly even
denied a box of chocolates sent by the US Consulate in Lahore, for fear it
might have been laced with poison.