Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency is ready to split with the CIA because of frustration over what it calls heavy-handed pressure and its anger over what it believes is a covert US operation involving hundreds of contract spies, according to an internal document obtained by reporters and interviews with US and Pakistani officials.
Such a move could seriously damage the USwar effort in Afghanistan, limit a program targeting al-Qaeda insurgents along the Pakistan frontier, and restrict Washington’s access to information in the nuclear-armed country.
According to a statement drafted by the ISI, supported by interviews with officials, an already fragile relationship between the two agencies collapsed following the shooting death of two Pakistanis by Raymond Davis, a US contracted spy who is in jail in Pakistan facing possible multiple murder charges.
“Post-incident conduct of the CIA has virtually put the partnership into question,” said a media statement prepared by the ISI but never released.
The statement accused the CIA of using pressure tactics to free Davis.
“It is hard to predict if the relationship will ever reach the level at which it was prior to the Davis episode,” the statement said. “The onus of not stalling this relationship between the two agencies now squarely lies on the CIA.”
The ISI fears there are hundreds of CIA contracted spies operating in Pakistan without the knowledge of either the Pakistan government or the intelligence agency, a senior Pakistani intelligence official told reporters in an interview. He spoke only on condition he not be identified on grounds that exposure would compromise his security.
Pakistan intelligence had no idea who Davis was or what he was doing when he was arrested, the official said, adding that there are concerns about “how many more Raymond Davises are out there.”
Davis was arrested on Jan. 27 in Lahore after shooting two Pakistanis. A third Pakistani was killed by a US consulate vehicle coming to assist him. Pakistan demanded the driver be handed over, but a reporter has learned the two US employees in the car now are in the US.
Davis has pleaded self-defense, but the Lahore police upon completing their investigation said they would seek murder charges.
The ISI official told reporters that Davis had contacts in the tribal regions and knew both the men he shot. He said the ISI is investigating the possibility that the encounter on the streets of Lahore stemmed from a meeting or from threats to Davis.
US officials deny Davis had prior contact with the men before the incident, and CIA spokesman George Little said any problems between the two agencies will be sorted out.
“The CIA works closely with our Pakistani counterparts on a wide range of security challenges, including our common fight against al-Qaeda and its terrorist allies,” he said. “The agency’s ties to ISI have been strong over the years, and when there are issues to sort out, we work through them. That’s the sign of a healthy partnership.”
The CIA repeatedly has tried to penetrate the ISI and learn more about Pakistan’s nuclear program. The ISI has mounted its own operations to gather intelligence on the CIA’s counterterrorism activities.
The ISI is now scouring thousands of visas issued to US employees in Pakistan. The ISI official said Davis’ visa application contains bogus references and telephone numbers. He said thousands of -visas were issued to US embassy employees over the past five months following a government directive to the Pakistan Embassy in Washington to issue visas without the usual vetting by the Interior Ministry and the ISI. The same directive was issued to the Pakistan embassies in Britain and the United Arab Emirates, he said.