The PJ Tatler

American diplomat held in Pakistan a CIA spy?

The Guardian has some pretty convincing evidence that Raymond Davis, the US diplomat held in Pakistan on murder charges, is a CIA operative.

Davis has been at the center of a huge blowup in US-Pakistan relations since January 27 when he shot two street thugs to death after being threatened with robbery — we think. Even at the time of the shooting, there were pieces to the Davis puzzle that just didn’t fit; ex-special forces, driving a rented car, carrying a gun, and this little nugget of information published in the initial reports about the incident in the Pakistani English language news portal Dawn:

A senior police officer told Dawn that Raymond David was among four people who were detained by security personnel near Lahores Sherpao Bridge on Dec 9, 2009, when they were trying to enter the Cantonment area in a vehicle with tinted glasses. They were armed with sophisticated weapons. The intervention of the US consulate led to their release, the officer recalled.

Now the Guardian has pieced together some information from the US and Pakistan that identifies Raymond Davis as an employee of the CIA:

Based on interviews in the US and Pakistan, the Guardian can confirm that the 36-year-old former special forces soldier is employed by the CIA. “It’s beyond a shadow of a doubt,” said a senior Pakistani intelligence official. The revelation may complicate American efforts to free Davis, who insists he was acting in self-defence against a pair of suspected robbers, who were both carrying guns.

I wouldn’t believe anything coming from a “Pakistani intelligence official” either. But there’s much more:

A number of US media outlets learned about Davis’s CIA role but have kept it under wraps at the request of the Obama administration. A Colorado television station, 9NEWS, made a connection after speaking to Davis’s wife. She referred its inquiries to a number in Washington which turned out to be the CIA. The station removed the CIA reference from its website at the request of the US government.

It is standard practice for every nation in the world to shield their intel agents by giving them diplomatic cover. If Pakistan is aware of Davis’s true identity – and the Guardian piece makes it clear that they are — you would think that it would be a simple matter of dropping the charges and expelling Davis from the country.

But the mess that the government of President Zardari has made of this incident threatens the stability of the country. The Pakistani media has blown this case far out of proportion — publishing hysterical rumors and ginning up anti-American sentiment. It has damaged our already tense relationship with Pakistani intelligence. And the constant drumbeat in the media has prominent politicians calling for Davis to be tried and executed for murder.

A March 14th court date will determine whether Davis receives immunity. If the government lets him go, they could very well have Egypt-style street protests on their hands. If they keep him for trial, they are likely to lose billions in US aid.

Not much of a choice, to be sure.