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The Lid Is Off: Killer’s CIA Link And Media’s Subservience Exposed

By B.R.P. Bhaskar

23 February, 2011

The US liberal establishment often speaks sneeringly of media in other countries being close to the government or toeing the government line. But often it does the same. As in other countries, the government generally secures the media’s obedience by invoking national interest of one kind or another.

The US media’s suppression of information about the CIA connection of Raymond Davis, who shot and killed two Pakistanis, Faizan Haider, aged 20, and Mohammed Faheem, aged 22, on a Lahore street on January 26, for several days is the latest instance of compliance with official directives. Davis has been in Pakistani custody since the shooting.

Initially, Davis told the Pakistani police that the men were thieves, had brandished a weapon at him at traffic lights and were killed when he fired in self-defence. The US administration said he was a diplomat and demanded that he be released as he had diplomatic immunity.

Four weeks after the killings, the media in either country probably has still not told the whole story, but enough material has surfaced to indicate that the killings were a result of the cloak-and-dagger operations being conducted by the US and Pakistani intelligence agencies against each other. Davis was working for an agency to which the CIA has outsourced some intelligence work and Faizan and Faheem were tailing him for the ISI.

If Pakistani reports are correct, Davis may have also been dealing with the Taliban behind Islamabad’s back.

The Guardian, in reporting developments in the case in Lahore, said on February 1: “The court is attempting to establish Davis’s role at the embassy, with unconfirmed reports in US and Pakistan media describing him as with a private security firm or the CIA.”

Pakistani authorities told the media that at the time of arrest Davis had in his possession a sophisticated camera; a military-style medical kit, and a telescope. The CIA told the media that it had traced records which show that Faizan had a criminal record.

Within days of the killings, Pakistani newspapers started carrying reports which challenged Davis’s version and threw light on the CIA’s operations in the country. The News kept up a steady flow of information on the subject.

Sabir Shah of The News, citing a report of the US channel ABC News said on February 1 that Davis was running a Florida-based security company named Hyperion Protective Consultants, which works for the CIA. He added, “The Huffington Post, a popular American news website with over one million comments posted on it each month, has noted that this firm (Hyperion Protective Consultants) was sounding like a classic CIA cut-out.”

On February 4, another reporter, Ansar Abbasi wrote that “following some unbelievable concessions offered to the Americans by Islamabad after 9/11, Pakistan is today home to one of the biggest networks of CIA and FBI outside the US”.

The following day, elaborating the point, Najam Sethi, well-known editor and anchor, said the Davis case “raised nagging questions about the nature of the US role in Pakistan, about the integrity of powerful sections of the media and intelligentsia, and about the political opportunism of the ruling PPP and PMLN governments in Islamabad and Lahore respectively”. He added, “Ominously, the strategic US-Pak relationship is fraying with unforeseen consequences for both.”

He went on: “The US has stationed dozens of armed intelligence agents in Pakistan. These belong to the CIA – which is a part of the US state – or Blackwater-type private security or intelligence companies specifically contracted to the State Department or to the Pentagon. These men and women have been granted visas by the Government of Pakistan (GoP) on the basis of a protocol signed during General Pervez Musharraf’s time after 9/11. Many, though not all, carry diplomatic passports with “official” or “official business” visas granted by the GoP following formal requests by one or another US agency or department. Some are attached to the US Embassy in Islamabad, others to the Consulates. Some have formal diplomatic (status) cards issued by the Foreign Office, others don’t, which makes their diplomatic status vague despite their possession of diplomatic passports.”

On February 11, Ansar Abbasi reported that after the Punjab Police’s remarkable investigations proved that Davis was a cold blooded murderer, the Joint Investigation Team constituted by the provincial government was scrutinizing the case to confirm “the growing suspicion whether the killer is a spy or belongs to an assassin’s body like Blackwater”.

A post which appeared the same day in a blog with possible links to elements in the Pakistan army alluded to Davis’s CIA link with supporting video evidence.

Last Saturday the Guardian clearly identified Davis as a CIA agent who was on assignment at the time of the killings.

The cover having blown off, major US media outlets like the Associated Press, the New York Times and the Washington Post reported for the first time that Davis is a CIA employee.

In a Washington-datelined despatch under the combined byline of four writers, the New York Times said: “The American arrested in Pakistan after shooting two men at a crowded traffic stop was part of a covert CIA-led team of operatives conducting surveillance on militant groups deep inside the country, according to American government officials.”

The paper revealed that it had earlier withheld information about Davis’s CIA link at the instance of the administration and that it had now been released from the obligation to do so. It said, “The New York Times had agreed to temporarily withhold information about Mr. Davis’s ties to the agency at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk. Several foreign news organizations have disclosed some aspects of Mr. Davis’s work with the CIA, and on Monday, American officials lifted their request to withhold publication.”

The disclosure prompted a media observer to ask: “When the NYT openly acknowledges that it withholds news at the request of government, a valid question arises about the role of the International Herald Tribune, which is owned by it and publishes an edition in India. Is it an independent, trustworthy medium or one that takes instructions from the government?”

Incidentally, the IHT entered India in 2004 in a clandestine manner reminiscent of a CIA operation. Two weeks after the paper started rolling out of the Deccan Chronicle‘s press in Hyderabad, the Voice of America reported, “For decades, India banned foreign ownership of domestic publications. But the publishers of the Paris-based International Herald Tribune took advantage of the fact that there is no law barring foreign newspapers from being printed in the country.” The imprint line of the Indian edition identified M. J. Akbar as the Editor.

The Indian authorities, caught off guard, asked it to stop publication. The Indian editors refused, saying they were breaking no law. There was talk of enacting legislation to require foreign newspapers to get permission before they start printing locally. Seven years later, there is no sign of the contemplated legislation.

Watergate, My Lai and the Pentagon Papers notwithstanding, the US media has a long record of falling in line with official wishes in the national interest. It can draw comfort from the fact that in the Davis case the administration relieved it of the burden of national interest in just a few weeks.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had to labour for two years to bring the Watergate investigation to a happy conclusion. Seymour Hersh brought to light the My Lai massacre more than one and a half years after it occurred. The New York Times took two and half years to get hold of the Pentagon Papers and publish them.

All this pales into insignificance when we remember that the US mainstream media went along with successive administrations unquestioningly as they pretended for 22 long years that a small group under its protective cover in the island of Formosa was the government of China.

*Sources in the US and Pakistan contributed to this report.

BRP Bhaskar is a senior journalist who served Indian journalism in various capacities. He now edits the media watch website www.countermedia.in. He can be reached at brpbhaskar@gmail.com




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