Pakistani “Cooperation” on Faisal Shahzad

Mark Hosenball has a post elaborating on something reported elsewhere–that the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) is only marginally involved in Faisal Shahzad’s interrogation. Given a point I tried to make here–namely, that one of the first things that happened after Shahzad’s arrest and seemingly in conjunction with him waiving a number of his rights, Pakistan detained at least one of his friends and his father-in-law (and potentially his father)–I’m particularly interested in how Hosenball describes Pakistan’s “cooperation” on this case.

Two of the officials also said that the HIG is playing little to no role in the questioning of multiple presumed associates of Shahzad who were detained by authorities in Pakistan following the failed Times Square attack. The main reason that HIG personnel are not more involved in questioning potential witnesses and suspects picked up in Pakistan, the officials said, is because Pakistani authorities have declined to invite HIG personnel into their country to participate in the interrogations.

[snip]

Another of the officials said that in any case, given the fact that Shahzad began cooperating with U.S. authorities literally minutes after Homeland Security officers took him off a flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Dubai on May 3, the need for ultrasophisticated interrogation expertise, like the kind of expertise HIG is supposed to offer, is not necessarily warranted in Shahzad’s case. As for witnesses or suspects picked up in Pakistan in connection with the Shahzad investigation, the official said, Pakistani authorities are doing most of the questioning themselves, though both Pakistani and U.S. officials say that the two governments are generously sharing information with each other.

Now, Hosenball places HIG’s non-involvement in the Pakistani interrogations (if that’s what they are) in this case within the context of earlier Pakistani disinterest in inviting HIG to the country. But look at a few of these details:

May 3, just before midnight: Shahzad arrested

May 4: US Ambassador Anne Patterson asks for Pakistani cooperation in case

May 5: Shahzad’s friend and father-in-law detained; police guard father’s house

May 6: Shahzad’s father in protective custody

May 7: In interview taped for May 9 60 Minutes, Hillary Clinton warns of “severe consequences … [if] an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful”

May 9: FBI seeks access to Shahzad’s father, retired Air Vice Marshall Baharul Haq

The appearance from this timeline is that, at a time when public reports said Shahzad was claiming, implausibly, that he acted alone, Pakistan rounded up Shahzad’s family members and a friend (though they appear to have described the detention of Shahzad’s father differently from how they described the detention of Shahzad’s father-in-law). Pakistan appears to have done this in response to a request from Ambassador Patterson. So Pakistan was certainly cooperative with the US, to the extent that it detained family members with no clear ties to the attempted attack.

Which is why the FBI request to have direct access to Shahzad’s father is so interesting–and Clinton’s oblique threat about ties between Pakistan and attacks like this. The appearance–and again, this is just appearances–is that the US is intent on getting access one way or another to Baharul Haq, regardless of whether or not HIG gets that access.

Mind you, there are no conclusions to draw from all this. But it seems that the issue with Pakistan may not just be a dislike of HIG.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

33 replies
  1. BoxTurtle says:

    I think the USA-Pakistan relationship is a lot tenser in private than it is in public. The Pakistani are a proud people and they know darned well that their government has basically ceeded sovernity along the Eastern border to America. Because if the government hadn’t done so, BushCo would have taken it over anyway.

    This does not sit well with the Pakistani military, political parties, or citizens.

    Boxturtle (OTOH, I suspect key people are getting nice payoffs and we can count on their support)

      • BoxTurtle says:

        Agreed. Either the ISI is infiltrated with AQ supporters or they see AQ as a threat to their own position. Or both.

        You tell me which position you want me to support, and I can find reputable documentation to support it.

        Boxturtle (I think ISI’s position depends on who you ask)

        • bobschacht says:

          I think ISI’s position depends on who you ask.

          I think ISI plays its cards pretty close to its vest (or jalabiya, as the case may be). Anyone who says they know what the ISI’s strategy is, is probably wrong. I think they probably led Dick Cheney around by a nose ring.

          I hope Richard Holbrook is having better luck.

          Bob in AZ

    • Arbusto says:

      And whatever happened to the ISI pro Taliban tilt, or have they had a come to Jesus moment since the Mumbai hotel attacks in 2008 and subsequent CIA/Blackwater/drone attacks inside Pakistan? What? another regional cluster fuck by the USofA?

  2. MadDog says:

    …But it seems that the issue with Pakistan may not just be a dislike of HIG…

    A couple, perhaps contrary, thoughts sprang to mind:

    1. Perhaps HIG was the real source of the Patterson request to lean on Shahzad’s family and friends. Sounds like a pretty reliable intel leverage tactic to me.

    And/Or

    2. Perhaps HIG isn’t allowed to be involved in Pakistani “interrogations” as a US government policy decision because the US government knows, and wants, “enhanced interrogations” done that it itself no longer can undertake. And Hillary’s “warning” to the Pakistanis is meant as a “gloves off” order to them.

    But both thoughts would require our government to be populated by devious and nefarious untruth-tellers, and we know that could never be the case.

    Is a snark tag mandatory? *g*

      • emptywheel says:

        Good point. Also interesting coming as it does as the question of whether DOD will have to give up its illegal spy contracts for Pakistan at the end of the month.

        • MadDog says:

          I’m guessing the contract will somehow get renewed with the funding coming out of any one of a zillion other government funding sources.

          The Obama administration can’t have the unemployment rate going up, can they?

    • emptywheel says:

      ALso, I get the feeling taht Pakistan is treating Haq like they treated AQ Khan, and others. That is, he’s far too senior to rough around. Not least, because doing so might reveal something that ISI would rather not know–officially, at least.

      Better to sustain the ability to claim ignorance.

  3. MadDog says:

    OT – More on that new DOD interrogation videotaping policy that I mentioned yesterday from the WSJ’s Peter Spiegel And Siobhan Gorman:

    Pentagon to Tape Interrogations

    The Pentagon last week ordered the videotaping of all detainee interrogations conducted by military and defense personnel if the questioning is aimed at gathering “strategic intelligence” and is conducted on major U.S. military bases…

    …The memo, posted late last week on a Defense Department website and confirmed by U.S. officials, would apply to the military’s detention centers at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where the majority of al Qaeda detainees formerly held by the Central Intelligence Agency now reside…

    …The new policy contains detailed rules on handling and retaining the videotapes, and the policy must be approved both by the Pentagon and the head of the National Archives. That detail represents “an implicit critique of the CIA for destroying its own interrogation tapes,” said former CIA lawyer John Radsan.

    …”It would cover CIA personnel that participate in these interrogations” on military bases, said former acting CIA general counsel John Rizzo, who said he thought the policy was written in a fashion that is “workable” for CIA needs such as the appropriate classification of information.

    If the CIA sought to avoid the videotaping requirement, the agency would have to either transfer a detainee to a foreign government or re-establish its own detention facility, Mr. Radsan said…

    So are the Pakistanis videotaping or are they the means to avoid the policy?

    • BoxTurtle says:

      the means to avoid the policy

      I don’t think there’s any real question. Clinton used the same two faced diplomatic dodge on his rendering and it’s obvious ObamaLLP wishes to continue enhanced interrogation.

      Boxturtle (The ISI doesn’t have any barking moonbat liberals chasing them with FOIA requests, either)

    • bmaz says:

      No, our foreign “partners” probably will not be taping and indexing. The other point is the workaround on this is that only the “interrogation” will be taped, but not the “softening up” that precedes the interrogation. This is all a fine idea, and maybe a step in the right direction, but the devil is, as always, in the details and execution.

      • MadDog says:

        Well those foreign partners still might videotape since our intel folks want the whole take, but as BT points out in # 8, they don’t have to worry about FOIA, and probably not on Lit Holds either. *g*

      • MadDog says:

        The DoD memorandum (12 page PDF) page 2 states:

        …Subject to the waiver and suspension provisions in Attachment 2 of this DTM, an audio-video recording shall be made of each strategic intelligence interrogation of any person who is in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense or under detention in a DoD facility, conducted at a theater-level detention facility. This requirement applies only to strategic intelligence interrogations. Reference (a) specifically excludes from this requirement members of the Armed Forces engaged in direct combat operations and DoD personnel conducting tactical questioning…

        (My Bold)

        And then from the definitions on page 12:

        …theater-level detention facility. Any theater- or higher-level internment facility under the control of the Department of Defense, including the Detention Facility in Parwan, Afghanistan; the Taji Theater Internment Facility Reconciliation Center and the Remembrance Theater Internment Facility, Iraq; the DoD Detention Facility at the U.S. Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and any successor internment facilities…

  4. Garrett says:

    The International News, English language out of Pakistan, has got some detail on the family. Secular modernist liberal elite, well connected, with hunting grounds and parakeets.

    The fact that Baharul Haq can spout him some Rahman Baba would give us some insight into politics. The nationalism of the former defense attache to Afghanistan is probably not, strictly, Pakistani.

    When we march into a country, our first and most lasting effect is to destroy the secular modernist military and technocratic elite. Note to Hillary Clinton, if we end up marching into Pakistan, per her (empty?) veiled threat: Don’t do that.

  5. Mary says:

    Yep, I think Pakistan isn’t bringing in HIG is bc they want to control the narrative, and Obama and Clinton are fine with that bc they want a controlled narrative as well, one that will make things come out they way the *diplomats* decide they should come out.

    Pakistan has been shifting around with which parts of the TTP it is backing and who might be expendable – Pakistani courts have made intermittant *problems* for the politicians and could almost be guaranteed to make problems over a Pakistani citizen being turned over for interrogation to a torture crew from another country and arguments that HIG isn’t going to be a torture crew would fall a little flat.

    And Pakistan having Haq in custody makes it a bit harder for him to be the victim of a drone attack or rendition for that matter.

    The blah blah about not needing sophisticated interrogation and investigation because Shahzad is cooperating is incredible – hard to even read it as stenography and not have your jaw drop. So, as long as a guy is saying stuff, then we can just tralala that he’s telling the truth and we don’t need rigorous confirmations and review and sophisticated analysis?

    Wow – now I feel better. OTOH, if that’s the kind of analysis you get with HIG (hey, this guy is cooperating, so let’s let ESPN interview the witnesses in during half time at the soccer game bc a little something like a near-bombing in Times Square linked to a terrorist group that might possibly have tendrils within the highest levels of gov of an unstable nuclear power … well, it’s not like any of that is very important when you have a guy who tells you he’s cooperating.

    /s

    Or not.

  6. MadDog says:

    Pete Williams on MSNBC just reported breaking news that Faisal Shahzad will appear in court today for his arraignment.

    I guess he’s finally gonna get a lawyer.

      • MadDog says:

        One of the things that has crossed my mind is why all the recent captured “terrorists” have plead guilty. Najibullah Zazi is a good example.

        Why would he do something like that?

        Now it may be something as simple as that “family leverage” we’ve all tossed around (i.e. if you don’t, yo Mama is goin’ to prison too).

        But one of the tinfoil hat thoughts that crossed my mind is that the Feds offered all these folks a different kind of deal: turn and work for us and we’ll put you in a Club Fed-style environment with parole opportunities in your future.

        Bmaz, Mary, EOH can chime in as to whether these guilty pleas are as exceptional as I imagine.

  7. Mary says:

    OT – but sadly related

    How Obama Learned to Love The Bomb Drone
    aka Killing Is Easier Than Law

    Under a secret directive first issued by former President George W. Bush and continued by Barack Obama, the CIA has broadly expanded the “target set” for drone strikes. As a result, what is still officially classified as a covert campaign on Pakistan’s side of the border with Afghanistan has in many ways morphed into a parallel conventional war, several experts say.

    Killing wanted militants is simply “easier” than capturing them, said an official,

    emph added

    Gosh, how could that generate any blowback. Obama’s Cambodia Drones.

    Back in Washington, the technology is considered such a success that the U.S. military has been positioning Reaper drones at a base in the Horn of Africa.

    The aircraft can be used against militants in Yemen and Somalia, and even potentially against pirates who attack commercial ships traversing the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, officials said.

    Everyone has fallen in love with them,”

    emph added

    Yemen, Somalia – not to mention Canada.

    This is the really incredible part – apparently the BO admin thinks that killing people all around the world, whether they are the *right* people or not and with no consequences when they are not, they think that makes us look good. Seriously.

    By some accounts, the growing reliance on drone strikes is partly a result of the Obama administration’s bid to repair the damage to America’s image abroad

    Sure, bomb a few babies in a country where you have no business operating, “repair” your image.

    And the “repair” just can’t come fast enough for Obama:

    As the CIA program in Pakistan expands, the Pentagon’s own targeted killing programs, run by secretive Special Ops and intelligence units, have also been ramped up under Obama.

    “There is little to no pushback” from the White House,… though some insiders think the military isn’t updating the lists fast enough.

    The story also has Obama guys saying that the “information flow” from Baradar would have been greater, if only they could have a black site to take him for torture.

    BTW – that snark above about Canada? Forgive me, it was way off base.
    Mexico – that’s their next option./s-kindasorta

    A former U.S. intelligence official said there were discussions late in the Bush administration about the possibility of using armed drones to help Mexican fight narco-traffickers.

    The real creep show factor is when they talk about sitting around the cameras, zeroing in on their targets, but always with a lawyer by their side. God help us, that’s what passes for a lawyer to Obama.

    • bmaz says:

      Here is a good one for you. As I was driving back from court either last Thursday or Friday, there was an officer who had just left the Air Force who had up close and personal knowledge of the program. Wait for the kicker: The Air Force is now training more drone pilots than they are real pilots because demand is skyrocketing and the government is so enthralled with drone’s many uses in every theatre. More drone pilots than real pilots. Wow.

    • MadDog says:

      Nice catch Mary!

      A “curious bit” that struck me was this part:

      …The Obama White House chaffs at suggestions its policies could make it harder to capture wanted militants.

      “Any comment along the lines of ‘there is nowhere to put captured militants’ would be flat wrong. Over the past 16 months, the U.S. has worked closely with its counterterrorism partners in South Asia and around the world to capture, detain, and interrogate hundreds of militants and terrorists,” a senior U.S. official said…

      So just where were these “hundreds” sent to and “interrogated” in the past 16 months?

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