The Obama administration is pushing back on an accusation it revealed the identity of the Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA track down Usama bin Laden.
A senior administration official told Fox News on Thursday that Pakistan exposed Dr. Shakil Afridi, who was taken into custody shortly after U.S. forces killed bin Laden. Afridi was sentenced Wednesday to 33 years in prison.
“If you go back to the first stories about the doctor’s alleged affiliation with the U.S., it was clear Pakistani authorities leaked it to the press,” the official said.
Another senior U.S. official said "the Pakistanis found Dr. Afridi on their own.”
The official said the administration made no attempt to disclose the doctor’s name or his association with the May 2011 raid of bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound. “That defies logic,” the official said. “Identities of human sources are sacrosanct in the intelligence community.”
Afridi ran a vaccination program for the CIA to collect DNA and verify bin Laden's presence at the compound.
The officials' comments follow GOP Rep. Peter King’s assertion after Afridi’s sentencing that administration officials talked about the doctor and his DNA sampling.
"This has been handled very poorly right from the time of the raid," said King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "They put him out there."
King, R-N.Y., made clear he didn't know the exact details about what, if anything, the administration may have done to get Afridi out of Pakistan or otherwise protect him.
But administration officials have said they were pressing Afridi's case with Islamabad. One senior U.S. official said there were efforts to protect him both before and after his arrest, though the official did not offer an explanation as to why that effort was not successful.
John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said King’s assertion that the administration somehow disclosed his identity has “the ring of truth,” considering the administration’s “willingness to disclose … excessive details about the very sensitive and covert operation.”
The first reference to Afridi appears to be in a July 2011 story in the Guardian newspaper.
Afridi’s operation outraged Pakistani officials, who portrayed it as an act of treachery by a supposed ally.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the administration thinks Pakistan’s treatment of Afridi is “unjust and unwarranted."
She also said the administration is talking to Pakistan officials about the situation, saying discussions are occurring about a range of important issues, with the doctor’s treatment among them.
Dr. Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in prison for conspiring against the state.
Another senior U.S. official, with knowledge of counter-terrorism operations against Al Qaeda in Pakistan, said the doctor was never asked to spy on Pakistan.
"He was asked only to help locate Al Qaeda terrorists, who threaten Pakistan and the U.S.," the official said. "He helped save Pakistani and American lives. His activities were not treasonous, they were heroic and patriotic."
Fox News' Wendell Goler and Justin Fishel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.