The Re-Scoop that Pakistan Showed China Our Stealth Chopper

On May 10, ABC news reported Pakistanis saying both they and the Chinese wanted to take a look at the stealth helicopter used in the Osama bin Laden raid. That story quoted a US official saying he would be “shocked” if the Pakistanis had not already, by May 10, shown it to the Chinese.

Pakistani officials said today they’re interested in studying the remains of the U.S.’s secret stealth-modified helicopter abandoned during the Navy SEAL raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound, and suggested the Chinese are as well.

The U.S. has already asked the Pakistanis for the helicopter wreckage back, but one Pakistani official told ABC News the Chinese were also “very interested” in seeing the remains. Another official said, “We might let them [the Chinese] take a look.”

A U.S. official said he did not know if the Pakistanis had offered a peek to the Chinese, but said he would be “shocked” if the Chinese hadn’t already been given access to the damaged aircraft.

At that point, the Pakistanis had already had the tailpiece for 10 days. It took a John Kerry trip several days later and another week of delay before the Pakistanis returned the helicopter pieces.

So why, following the FT scoop (re-scoop?) confirming that the Pakistanis had shown the helicopters to the Chinese, are folks acting so surprised?

The US now has information that Pakistan, particularly the ISI, gave access to the Chinese military to the downed helicopter in Abbottabad,” said one person in intelligence circles, referring to the Pakistani spy agency. The Chinese engineers were allowed to survey the wreckage and take photographs of it, as well as take samples of the special “stealth” skin that allowed the American team to enter Pakistan undetected by radar, he said.

And note that the NYT’s CIA reporter tries to inject doubt where the FT scoop has little (though ultimately, Mazzetti does quote one person who is “certain” Pakistan shared the helicopter).

American spy agencies have concluded that it is likely that Chinese engineers — at the invitation of Pakistani intelligence operatives — took detailed photographs of the severed tail of the Black Hawk helicopter equipped with classified technology designed to elude radar, the officials said.

[snip]

American officials cautioned that they did not yet have definitive proof that the Chinese were allowed to visit to Abbottabad. They said that Pakistani officials had denied that they showed the advanced helicopter technology to other foreign governments. One military official said Sunday that Pakistani officials had been directly confronted about the American intelligence.

One person with knowledge of the intelligence assessments said that the American case was based mostly on intercepted conversations in which Pakistani officials discussed inviting the Chinese to the crash site. He characterized intelligence officials as being “certain” that Chinese engineers were able to photograph the helicopter and even walk away with samples of the wreckage. [my emphasis]

Are we really supposed to believe it took the NSA 3 months to translate intercepts of top Paksitani officials “inviting” the Chinese to see the helicopter?

Really?

At issue may be efforts to force General Ashfaq Kayani to deny showing the Chinese the helicopter (from the FT).

“We had explicitly asked the Pakistanis in the immediate aftermath of the raid not to let anyone have access to the damaged remains of the helicopter,” said the person close to the CIA.

Senior US officials confronted General Ashfaq Kayani, head of the Pakistan military, about this but he flatly denied it, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting. A senior Pakistani official also denied it to the FT. China declined to comment, as did the White House and CIA.

Or perhaps the 3 month delay in reporting on something that was widely believed to have happened may have to do with the CIA’s desire to allow the fiction that this did not occur to continue.

In any case, the whole scoop seems, at best, the effort of someone trying to force the Administration to admit that Kayani is not dealing in good faith. At worst, it’s another case of discovering gambling going on in the casino.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

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 the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, 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 and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

15 replies
  1. prostratedragon says:

    Whew, thanks!

    Having harried myself into a couple of outright hallucinations recently, I was getting quite worried, though I hadn’t tried to track it down yet.

  2. chetnolian says:

    The very idea that anyone from the USA having (however good their motives) violated Pakistani airspace, then lost the machine, would have dreamed they could have any right whatsoever to demand the Pakistanis not do anything they damn well liked with it bothers me. If they’d said they begged, it might have been ok.

    Oh and by the way I think the NYT reporter has it exactly wrong. The picture suggests simple curves have been replaced by complex straight edges, just as you’d expect of a stealth design, not vice versa.

  3. scribe says:

    Concur with @2.

    Anone remember back in the 70s when some Soviet defector pilot zoomed off with his MiG-25 (then the hottest thing going in the Soviet AF) and landed in Japan? The Soviets wanted their plane back and, it was, of course, still theirs.

    We and the Japanese sent it back.

    In due course (Several months – these things take time).

    In crates. (Can’t really ship it as deck cargo – it might get damaged or washed overboard.)

    Thoroughly disassembled. (Too big to fit in a cargo plane.)

    After intensive study. (Had to check for hitchiking insect pests, you know.)

    We should expect the Pakistanis and Chinese to do us no better with our superchopper.

  4. Jim White says:

    I’m thinking they had to re-run the story so that the new CIA Chief of Station in Pakistan could be brought up to speed…

  5. MadDog says:

    I find it dizzingly amazing that the US government still can play the naive knave.

    Yes, I’m shocked. Just shocked that there is gambling in the casino.

  6. William Ockham says:

    I think the most straightforward explanation is that 3-4 months is the length of time it takes for the intelligence community to agree on the blindingly obvious. Now, if you wanted them to make stuff up, that could happen overnight.

  7. mudflap says:

    “Or perhaps the 3 month delay in reporting on something that was widely believed to have happened may have to do with the CIA’s desire to allow the fiction that this did not occur to continue.”
    I think they’re just really busy not saying anything because the more that IS said, the more likely a growing number of people will come to realize that crashing a 50 million dollar aircraft because you tried to shoe-horn it into a little back yard, thus compromising its classified design and injuring a crew of your most elite assassins all for the purpose of popping an old man who was clearly an intelligence ASSET, is not really all that romantic of a story; it’s just a microcosm of the whole trillion dollar debacle.

    At some point that realization has to surface, even for a population as clueless as America.

  8. emptywheel says:

    @scribe: LOL.

    But we’re … we’re … we’re America! Doesn’t that qualify us for better treatment than we give others?

  9. politicsnall says:

    There is a reason for this naive knave act. When people or governments try to be over-smart, and work on hidden agendas that inherently unfair, it just does’nt work out in thir favor. This is one of those cases. You cant expect to raise a snake and expect its venom to be sweet for you. No mattar how smart you are, snakes are snakes, and its gonna bite you sooner or later.

  10. mudflap says:

    One has to wonder how the movie

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0811/61025.html

    will “end.” I can think of a few final scenes:

    most probable: a body bag tossed into the sea
    most honest: the operations room adjourning with expressions of “wow, I guess we really haven’t advanced that much in the last 20 thousand years” on the faces of everyone except the Brigadier general.
    most cynical: taliban shoot down of another helicopter three months later
    most realistic: A group of Chinese engineers reconstructing the helicopter
    most sickening: a film of the mission being released a month before the 2012 election

  11. John says:

    why in this God’s green earth are we sending money to a stone age bunch of half wits that are behind all the killing of u.s. forcese.
    all we are doing is giving them what ever they want just so we can kiss there ass.
    No more get a back bone NUKE them.

  12. Asim says:

    @prostratedragon:
    Had US taken Pak govt in confidence before this operation. US would be in a better position now. US must realize the sanctity of other countries and dont try to become Russia.

  13. Mary says:

    @4 – lol

    One reason that the story might be getting second round play might have to do with the US hostage/kidnap victim recently taken in Pakistan.

    There may need to be some building the right kind of rhetoric to play into a building agenda.

  14. orionatl says:

    if the pakistani military were cooperating with the u.s.’s bin ladin rapping as recently alleged,

    why would the u.s. have even needed a stealth helio? or two?

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