Pakistani Media Reportedly Outs CIA Station Chief
The U.S. is investigating why Pakistani media broadcast the name of a man they said is the CIA’s Islamabad station chief and if it was an attempt to out the agent following the killing of Usama bin Laden.
The raid by U.S. Navy SEALs that resulted in the Al Qaeda leader’s death put further strain on the already tender relationship between the two countries. Pakistan has adamantly denied that it had any knowledge that bin Laden was hiding for years in a military city not far from its capital.
The alleged name of the Islamabad station chief -- one of the CIA’s most significant and sensitive assignments -- was first broadcast Friday by ARY, a private Pakistani television channel, The Wall Street Journal reported. The channel was covering a meeting between the station chief and the director of the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s spy agency.
While the Associated Press learned that the name reported was incorrect, ARY’s Islamabad bureau chief told The Journal that not broadcasting the name would have hurt the story’s credibility.
There are currently no plans to withdraw the chief from assignment, and neither the CIA nor Pakistan’s spy agency would respond to the newspaper for comment.
Asad Munir, a former intelligence chief with responsibility for the tribal zone, told the AP very few people know the name of the CIA station chief in Islamabad. But he said that releasing it would not necessarily jeopardize the station chief's safety.
"Normally people in intelligence have cover names," Munir said. "My name was known to everybody. Only if there is a photograph to identify him could it put his life in danger."
If the Pakistani government was behind the attempt to publicize the name it would be the second outing of its kind in the past six months.
In December, the CIA pulled its then-Islamabad chief out of Pakistan amid death threats after his name emerged publicly.
In that case, Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence denied it was behind the unmasking, and warned such allegations could damage its fragile counterterrorism alliance with the U.S.
Now, a week after the U.S. raid, Ambassador Husain Haqqani said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” that Pakistan was "offended" by the "violation of our sovereignty,” but that “heads will roll” if an investigation reveals any “complicity” regarding sheltering bin Laden within the government.
"Pakistan wants to put to rest any, any misgivings the world has about our role," Haqqani said, but also added that the U.S. needed to convince Pakistan that it was really an ally.
Survivors of the raid, including children, are in Pakistani custody. The U.S. says it wants access to bin Laden's three widows and any intelligence material its commandos left behind at the Al Qaeda leader's compound.
Meanwhile, in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” President Obama said both countries are going to have to investigate how bin Laden was able to operate in relative security in northern Pakistan.
"We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan. But we don't know who or what that support network was. We don't know whether there might have been some people inside of government -- people outside of government. And that's something that we have to investigate. More importantly, that's something the Pakistani government has to investigate," Obama said. "But these are questions we're not going to be able to answer three or four days after the event. It's going to take some time for us to be able to exploit the intelligence we were able to gather on site."
National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, pressing Pakistan, also said Sunday that the U.S. wants access to all information gathered by the Pakistanis at the compound and urged the country to follow through on the investigation.
"It is important ... for the Pakistanis to investigate what happened here. We don't have evidence at this point that the political, military and intelligence leadership of Pakistan knew about the bin Laden operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan. But that issue is front and center in Pakistan right now. It does need to be investigated," Donilon told "Fox News Sunday."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.