Pakistani doctor who helped CIA find bin Laden will stay in jail, says Islamabad

Dr Shakil Afridi

A Pakistani doctor who helped the United States find al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in 2011 will remain in prison, despite calls by Washington to have him released, according to a government official in Islamabad. Dr Shakil Afridi was arrested in 2011, soon after bin Laden was killed during a Central Intelligence Agency operation in a residential compound in the city of Abbottabad, located 70 miles north of the Pakistani capital. In the weeks following the CIA raid, it emerged that a team of local doctors and nurses had helped the American agency in its efforts to confirm bin Laden’s presence in the compound. The team of nearly 20 healthcare workers participated in a fake vaccination scheme carried out in Abbottabad, whose true purpose was to collect DNA samples from residents of the compound where the CIA believed bin Laden was hiding.

In February 2012, the then CIA Director, Leon Panetta, publicly admitted that the vaccination scheme had been funded by the CIA. By that time, Pakistani authorities had fired 17 healthcare workers who had participated in the CIA scheme and arrested its head, Dr. Afridi. Prior to his arrest, Dr. Afridi was employed as a surgeon by the government of the Khyber Agency, a Federally Administrated Tribal Area along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. Bizarrely, Dr. Afridi was arrested for having alleged links with an Islamist group that operates in the region, known as Lashkar-e-Islam. In 2012, he was given a 33-year sentence for having links with terrorist groups. When his conviction was quashed in 2013, the doctor was ordered to remain in prison, and faced new charges, this time for alleged medical malpractice, which, according to the prosecution, resulted in the death of one of his patients.

Many American officials believe that the real reason for Dr. Afridi’s arrest is his collaboration with the CIA. In May of last year, Donald Trump said that, if elected US president, he would make Pakistan free Dr. Afridi, saying characteristically that he could achieve that “within two minutes”. But his comments prompted a strong response from Islamabad. On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Minister for Law and Justice, Zahid Hamid, reiterated that Dr. Afridi would not be freed just because Washington wishes it. Speaking in response to a question from a member of the Pakistani Parliament’s upper house, Hamid said that Dr. Afridi “worked against [Pakistani] law and our national interest” and would face a trial, as planned, despite Trump’s pre-election pledge. There was no comment yesterday from the US president-elect’s team.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 19 January 2017 | Permalink

Hersh: Pakistanis gave CIA permission to kill bin Laden

Osama bin LadenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Journalist Seymour Hersh has cited senior American intelligence officials in claiming that the killing of Osama bin Laden was a joint operation between the United States and Pakistan. In a lengthy article published over the weekend in The London Review of Books, the veteran investigative reporter suggests that Pakistan had kept the al-Qaeda founder in prison for several years in the city of Abbottabad. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate —known commonly as ISI— had planned to turn bin Laden over to the US in its own time, in a quid-pro-quo move. But the Pakistanis’ plan had to be scrapped when bin Laden’s hideout was betrayed to the Central Intelligence Agency by a former ISI officer, says Hersh. His assertion agrees with previous accounts of the US raid against bin Laden, offered by security expert R.J. Hillhouse in 2011, and earlier this year by Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani, who led the ISI from 1990 to 1992.

The unnamed sources behind Hersh’s claims are an American “retired senior intelligence official” who was privy to early intelligence concerning bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Hersh also cites “information from inside Pakistan”, as well as two other sources from America, who have been “longtime consultants to the [US] Special Operations Command”.

The initial tip about bin Laden’s whereabouts came to the CIA in the form of a ‘walk-in’ —a term used to denote someone who voluntarily contacts an intelligence outpost, usually by simply walking into an embassy or consulate and asking to speak to the intelligence officer on duty. Hersh says the walk-in was a former high official in the ISI, who told the Agency’s Islamabad station that he could lead them to the al-Qaeda founder’s location. The retired official was successfully polygraphed and was eventually able to claim the $25 million reward offered by the US Department of State for bin Laden’s head. He and his family are now living in the Washington, DC, area, says Hersh.

The walk-in told the CIA that the compound in Abbottabad where bin Laden was living was “not an armed enclave”, as Langley had initially assumed. Instead it was a prison and was under the complete control of the ISI. The latter had managed to capture bin Laden in the Hindu Kush Mountains in 2006, by paying off some of the local tribesmen who were sheltering him. Hersh also reiterates information previously reported by intelNews, namely that the government of Saudi Arabia had entered into an agreement with Islamabad to finance the construction and maintenance of bin Laden’s prison-compound in Abbottabad.

According to Hersh, the US government eventually informed Pakistan that it had uncovered and was incessantly monitoring bin Laden’s location. Along with threats, Washington offered the ISI commanders, who were in charge of bin Laden’s security, “under-the-table personal incentives” to agree to stand aside during a US raid on the compound. Under the final agreement, struck at the end of January 2011, the Americans promised to send in a small force that would kill bin Laden, thus sparing Islamabad and Riyadh the embarrassment of the al-Qaeda founder speaking out about his previously close relations with both governments. The Pakistanis even provided the CIA with accurate architectural diagrams of the compound. Accordingly, when the US forces went into Abbottabad in May of that year, “they knew where the target was —third floor, second door on the right”, says the retired US intelligence official quoted by Hersh.

The veteran journalist adds that the American planners of the operation knew well that bin Laden had been held in virtual isolation from the outside world for years, and that he was not “running a command center for al-Qaeda operations” from Abbottabad, as the White House later claimed. Consequently, the stories about “garbage bags full of computers and storage devices” that the US Navy SEALs brought back from the compound were false. Some of the SEALs took with them some books and papers found in bin Laden’s bedroom. But most of the material that was eventually acquired by the CIA was voluntarily provided to the Americans by the Pakistanis, who took control of the compound immediately after the SEALs left and eventually razed it.

News you may have missed #684

Boris KarpichkovBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Pakistan sacks health workers who helped CIA locate bin Laden. Seventeen local health workers have been fired in Abbottabad for their part in a CIA scheme to try to confirm the presence of Osama bin Laden in the northern Pakistani town. The low-ranking health department employees were punished for helping Dr Shakil Afridi, who was assigned by the CIA to set up a fake vaccination scheme in Abbottabad, ahead of the US military operation that found and killed the al-Qaida leader there.
►►Estonia arrests couple for spying for Russia. Estonian prosecutors said Aleksei Dressen, who works for Estonia’s security police, and his wife, Viktoria Dressen, were arrested at Tallinn airport as she was boarding a flight to Moscow on February 22. Aleksei Dressen allegedly went to the airport to give his wife a folder that contained classified information. Meanwhile, in neighboring Lithuania, the government has released the names of 238 citizens who were reservists for the KGB during the Cold War.
►►KGB defector talks to British newspaper. Since fleeing to Britain in the late 1990s Boris Karpichkov has preferred to keep a low profile —unlike another, better-known Moscow agent who fled to London, one Alexander Litvinenko. He says he ran audacious disinformation operations against the CIA and broke into and planted bugs in the British embassy in Riga. But in 1995 he grew unhappy with the increasingly corrupt FSB (the KGB’s successor), which, he says, failed to pay him. He spent several months in a Moscow prison before slipping into Britain on one of the false passports he was given as a KGB officer. He hasn’t been back to Russia since.

News you may have missed #680

General Ziauddin KhawajaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Did Pakistani ex-leader know bin Laden’s hideout? General Ziauddin Khawaja, who was head of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) from 1997 to 1999, claims Pakistan’s former President, Pervez Musharraf, knew bin Laden was in Abbottabad.
►►Sweden expels Rwanda diplomat for spying. Sweden has expelled a Rwandan diplomat for allegedly spying on Rwandan exiles there, according to the Associated Press. The diplomat, Evode Mudaheranwa, was sent back to Rwanda last week, according to a sources close to the Swedish government. Mudaheranwa was the Rwandan embassy’s second-highest-ranking official. The Swedish action comes as amid charges that Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s government sends agents overseas to silence critics.
►►Mossad continues to use foreign passports. Agents of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency are still using foreign passports to conduct undercover operations in other countries, according to a report in The Sunday Times of London. The paper says that new evidence shows that foreign nationals residing in Israel are willingly allowing the Mossad to use their passports. The Times interviewed several Israelis who revealed details of how they were approached by intelligence officials about the possibility of volunteering their passports for the Mossad.

Saudis paid Pakistan to shelter bin Laden, claims security expert

R.J. Hillhouse

R.J. Hillhouse

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An American academic and security expert with deep links in the intelligence community claims that, at the time of his killing by US Special Forces, Osama bin Laden was living under house arrest, following a secret arrangement between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Former professor and Fulbright Fellow R.J. Hillhouse has cited “sources in the intelligence community” in alleging that the CIA discovered bin Laden’s whereabouts through a Pakistani intelligence officer. The officer, who was privy to the alleged deal between the Saudis and the Pakistanis, appeared as ‘a walk-in’, a term meaning someone who voluntarily contacts an intelligence outpost, usually by simply walking into an embassy or consulate and asking to speak to the intelligence officer on duty. According to Hillhouse, the ‘walk-in’ provided CIA officers with detailed information as to the al-Qaeda leader’s whereabouts, in exchange for US citizenship for him and his family and the $25 million reward offered by the US Department of State for bin Laden’s head. According to Hillhouse’s story, which was picked up yesterday by The Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald, the Pakistani informant also told the Americans that elements in the government of Saudi Arabia had entered into a complex monetary agreement with senior members of Pakistan’s main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). Under the arrangement, the ISI was paid to keep bin Laden under house arrest in Abbottabad —a military community in Pakistan, selected precisely in order to keep bin Laden under constant and close supervision. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #542

Sir John Chilcot

Sir John Chilcot

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Ex-spy says MI6 cut corners to back Blair’s Iraq war case. Britain’s ongoing Iraq Inquiry headed by Sir John Chilcot, heard last week from a former spy, identified in documents only as “SIS2”. The witness said that MI6 was “probably too eager to please” the government and was guilty of “flying a bit too close to the sun”. He was referring to the intelligence support provided by MI6 in support of the case for entering the Iraq War, made by the Labour government of Prime Minister Tony blair in 2003. He also told the committee that “the pressure to generate results, I fear, did lead to the cutting of corners”. ►►Medical group criticizes CIA’s vaccination scheme. A whimiscal tone prevails in most articles on the recent revelation that the CIA tried to collect DNA evidence on Osama bin Laden by running a phony vaccination program in Abbottabad, Pakistan. But medical groups engaged in organizing vaccination schemes are not amused. French-based international medical aid charity Médecins Sans Frontières has lashed out at the CIA because, it said, by using a medical cover for its assassination scheme, the Agency endangered those who conduct life-saving immunization work around the world. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #537 (bin Laden edition)

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Ex-CIA chief speaks on al-Qaida after Osama. The killing of Osama bin Laden will force al-Qaeda to limit its ambitions and scope of its operations, according to former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden. General Hayden’s comments on numerous issues tend to make the news almost every other week. In his latest interview, with The Associated Press, Hayden expressed the opinion that al-Qaeda’s “future attacks are going to be more numerous but less complex, less well organized, less likely to succeed, and less lethal if they do succeed”. ►►CIA organized fake vaccination drive to get bin Laden family DNA. Speaking of Osama bin Laden, British newspaper The Guardian reported earlier this week that the CIA tried to collect DNA evidence on the late al-Qaeda founder by running a phony vaccination program in Abbottabad, the quiet Pakistani town where bin Laden was believed to be hiding along with his family. But Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who administered the vaccination program, failed to get access to bin Laden’s family DNA, even though he managed to enter the family’s compound, said the paper. It is worth noting that, as soon as Pakistani authorities learned of the fake vaccination program, they arrested Dr Afridi for collaborating with a foreign intelligence agency. ►►CIA moves to protect key analyst in bin Laden raid. Bin Laden may be dead, but it seems that he still haunts the CIA. The Agency had to move one of its senior analysts undercover this week, after he was identified in a photograph that was published by US media, following the Obama administrator’s celebratory announcement of the al-Qaeda leader’s assassination. The photo showed President Obama and other national security officials gathered in the White House situation room on the night of the bin Laden raid. Most media outlets have been referring to the analyst by his middle name, John.