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Sep 13, 2011
Crucial Piece Re Our Slow-Motion Nightmare Just Hit The Wire
The Journalist and the Spies: The murder of a reporter who exposed Pakistan’s secrets Dexter Filkins has presented a piece which is just chock full of institutional imperative (from several angles). The circumstances surrounding Syed Shahzad's murder were so special that we kinda figured the history books would have to deal with it. Too frickin sensitive for any shorter time frame. We were overly optimistic. When narrative can be furthered, sensitivities go out the window. His work was sometimes inaccurate, but it held up often enough so that other journalists followed his leads. At other times, he seemed to spare the intelligence services from the most damning details in his notebooks. Ho ho ho. (Not really funny at all, just reminds us of several people.) Islamabad was full of conspiracy theories about the Abbottabad raid: ... [that] Kiyani and Pasha had secretly helped the Americans with the raid.
[J]ust after the Abbottabad raid, Shahzad published a report claiming that the Pakistani leadership had known that the Americans were planning a raid of some sort, and had even helped. What the Pakistanis didn’t know, Shahzad wrote, was that the person the Americans were looking for was bin Laden. Hadn't seen his story [which gets an important detail wrong], but can add some color. There were two separate raids. Two separate targets. Conducted within a fortnight or so of each other (UBL second). That's why we asserted immediately after UBL raid that we have done this before in PAK. PAK command knew all about the deepest incursions ahead of time. Not to mention that there were certain arrangements in place since around 2001 that PAK would assist in any UBL raid. And full deniability was to be enforced. Now shit gets serious (as if the previous was chopped liver) ... Shahzad’s journalism may not have been the sole reason that he was targeted. I.S.I. officials may have become convinced that Shahzad was working for a foreign intelligence agency. This could have elevated him in the eyes of the military from a troublesome reporter who deserved a beating to a foreign agent who needed to be killed. ...
There is no evidence that Shahzad was working for any foreign intelligence agency, but mere suspicion on this front could have imperilled him. “What is the final thing that earns Shahzad a red card—the final thing that tips him over from being a nuisance to an enemy?” a Western researcher in Islamabad said to me. “If someone concluded that he was a foreign agent, and that the stories he was putting out were part of a deliberate effort to defame the I.S.I. and undermine the I.S.I.’s carefully crafted information strategy—if anyone in the I.S.I. concluded that, then Saleem would be in grave danger.” ...
Given the brief time that passed between Shahzad’s death and Kashmiri’s, a question inevitably arose: Did the Americans find Kashmiri on their own? Or did they benefit from information obtained by the I.S.I. during its detention of Shahzad? If so, Shahzad’s death would be not just a terrible example of Pakistani state brutality; it would be a terrible example of the collateral damage sustained in America’s war on terror.
If the C.I.A. killed Kashmiri using information extracted from Shahzad, it would not be the first time that the agency had made use of a brutal interrogation. In 2002, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an Al Qaeda operative held by the Egyptian government, made statements, under torture, suggesting links between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden; this information was used to help justify the invasion of Iraq. ...
On May 27th, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Islamabad, and she presented to Pakistani leaders a list of high-value targets. According to ABC News, Kashmiri was on the list. That morning, Shahzad had published the article naming Kashmiri as the perpetrator of the attack on the Mehran base—broadcasting, once again, his connection to the militant leader. As if to make amends for this rather inflammatory suggestion, Filkins then forwards what is clearly institutional spin from the IC (ours this time):
As with nearly all drone strikes, the precise number and nature of the casualties were impossible to verify. The high-level American official told me that the “tribal elders” were actually insurgent leaders. But he offered another reason that the Pakistani officials were so inflamed: “It turns out there were some I.S.I. guys who were there with the insurgent leaders. We killed them, too.” (The I.S.I. denied that its agents were present.)
What were I.S.I. agents doing at a meeting of insurgent commanders? The American official said that he did not know. [That last bit cinched it as a community info product. LMAO] Lots of other interesting stuff in this long article, including a glimpse of a metanarrative involving the wider regional conflict. Our business has always been to poke at metanarratives, just (usually) not explicitly identifying who are the targets or even which metanarrative is in play.