US embassy worker caught monitoring Pakistan naval site

Abdul Ghafoor's US embassy ID card

Ghafoor's ID card

Pakistani news outlets have reported the arrest last month of an employee at the US embassy in Islamabad who was reportedly caught monitoring Pakistan’s Naval Headquarters at Zafar Chowk, a site targeted by a suicide bomber on December 3. Leading Pakistani daily The Nation published the US embassy identity card of the man, Abdul Ghafoor, who was reportedly apprehended by Pakistani Naval Police and intelligence officers in the morning of November 18. Interestingly, Ghafoor, who was said to have been acting “suspiciously”, was found to be carrying a camera with him, and to be riding a motorcycle “with a number plate that was found to be fake when checked”. Several commentators have suggested that the case points to a routine surveillance operation, which warrants further investigation in light of the December 3 suicide bombing attack at the Naval Headquarters. Interestingly, notes The Nation, the civilian police charged Ghafoor with carrying fake license plates, and not, as Naval officials wished, under the much more serious 1923 Official Secrets Act for Spying. There are now questions as to who placed political pressure on the civilian prosecutors to steer clear of a diplomatic scandal involving the US embassy in Islamabad. Could it be that Pakistani authorities were anxious to avoid an imbroglio with the Americans just two days before CIA Director Leon Panetta’s visit to Pakistan, on November 20?

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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