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Leaky Leon Does More Damage

Even in his official photos Panetta can’t keep his lips closed.

Marcy pointed out even before it aired that Defense Secretary (and former CIA Director) Leon Panetta’s televised confirmation that Dr. Shakeel Afridi worked for the CIA in the effort to find and kill Osama bin Laden was a breech of security. Since then, both Marcy and I have documented the damage resulting from this disclosure, which includes Afridi being jailed instead of quietly slipping out of Pakistan and a UN doctor being shot while hundreds of thousands of Pakistani children have been denied vaccines. In further damage from Panetta’s improper disclosure, Pakistan is now in the process of expelling the aid group Save the Children over concerns that they may have a CIA tie through a link with Afridi.

But that is not the only time Panetta has disclosed secret information that he should have kept quiet. In this post where I was discussing what looked like signs of increasing cooperation between the US and Pakistan, I included video from an AP interview of Panetta. The segment I chose to post turns out to be very significant. Here is my description of the video clip and its significance:

The absence of drone strikes continued and then on August 13 Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was interviewed by Lolita Baldor and Robert Burns of AP. As seen in the video excerpt above, Panetta said that he expected Pakistan to launch military operations soon against Taliban militants in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. As Bill Roggio noted at Long War Journal, this was a shocking development. After opening with “This is absolutely stunning”, Roggio went on to list his reasoning for why the announcement didn’t make much sense.

Panetta’s claim that Pakistan was about to launch military action in the FATA stunned those who watch the area closely. By publicly announcing such an unexpected action before it started, Panetta put Pakistan into an untenable position. Today’s Express Tribune details the damage arising from Panetta’s disclosure:

Pakistan has quietly conveyed to the United States to not make any public statement on its planned operation against militants in the restive North Waziristan Agency bordering Afghanistan.

The advice stems from the fact that any remarks by American officials may complicate the Pakistani authorities’ plan to create the ‘necessary environment’ for the Waziristan offensive, a senior government official said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official told The Express Tribune that the military does not want to be seen as aligned with the US on the issue of launching a fresh operation in the rugged tribal belt because of growing anti-American sentiments in the country.

Pakistan protested directly to the US about Panetta’s leak:

Islamabad voiced concerns when US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta disclosed last month that the Pakistani military was planning to start an operation against militants in North Waziristan.

/snip/

“It was inappropriate for Panetta to make that statement. There was no need for that … it really complicated the situation,” a military official commented.

Why does Leaky Leon still hold a security clearance? The Haqqani network, operating now with virtual impunity from Pakistan’s FATA, is seen as one of the largest barriers to a stable Afghanistan. By delaying Pakistan’s action against them, Panetta has made himself directly responsible for additional harm to NATO troops and innocent Afghan civilians who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Did Fox News Really Interview Dr. Shakeel Afridi From Peshawar Central Jail?

In a remarkable development, Fox News published a story Monday based on an interview Dominic Di-Natale says he conducted with Dr. Shakeel Afridi, the doctor who aided the CIA’s search for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. As I had described back in June, Afridi now is in the central jail in Peshawar, but local authorities there have been asking the federal government to find a safer place for Afridi to be imprisoned, because it is feared that militants will attack Afridi to exact revenge for the aid he provided in the bin Laden mission.

Prior to his trial earlier this year, it is believed that Afridi was detained by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. In the Fox story, Afridi is quoted as saying that the ISI is merely manipulating the US to obtain funding for Pakistan:

Pakistan’s powerful spy agency regards America as its “worst enemy,” and the government’s claims that it is cooperating with the US are a sham to extract billions of dollars in American aid, according to the CIA informant jailed for his role in hunting down Usama bin Laden.

/snip/

“They said ‘The Americans are our worst enemies, worse than the Indians,’” Afridi, who spoke from inside Peshawar Central Jail, said as he recalled the brutal interrogation and torture he suffered after he was initially detained.

Pakistan, and especially the ISI, vigorously denies that the interview could have taken place:

The ISI rubbished as ‘fiction’ on Tuesday a reported interview by a US TV channel of jailed Dr Shakeel Afridi, allegedly involved in tracing Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

“There is no evidence to suggest that Fox News correspondent had interviewed Dr Afridi,” a senior security official said after preliminary investigations.

“It is all concocted and baseless,” he said as he laughed off the claims made in the interview. “It’s amusing how well he (as reported in the interview) learnt about ISI operations from the cell in which he was kept blindfolded for eight months, as claimed by him,” he added.

The jail in which he has been lodged has ‘jammers’ that block cellphone signals, another official said.

At yesterday’s press briefing at the State Department, Victoria Nuland said that the authenticity of the interview has not yet been determined:

QUESTION:Staying on Pakistan, I wondered if State Department’s had a chance to review a supposed interview that Dr. Afridi has given to Fox News and whether you think it’s credible.

MS. NULAND: Well, frankly, we can’t at this point verify the authenticity of the interview. Read more

More Damage from Panetta’s Vaccine Ruse: UN Doctor on Polio Vaccine Drive Shot; Hundreds of Thousands Denied Polio Vaccine

As one of only three countries in the world where polio is still endemic, Pakistan launched a three day vaccination drive yesterday with a target of vaccinating the 318,000 children in North and South Waziristan who have not received their vaccinations. Across all of Pakistan, the goal is to vaccinate 34 million children under the age of five. The drive is being held despite a push by the Taliban to prevent vaccinations in tribal areas. The Taliban’s ban on vaccinations is aimed at stopping US drone strikes in the tribal areas and is in response to the vaccination ruse by the CIA.  Dr. Shakeel Afridi pretended to be doling out hepatitis vaccines in a failed attempt to retrieve DNA samples for the CIA from the bin Laden compound when it was under surveillance prior to the attack that killed Osama bin Laden. Today, a UN doctor and his driver were wounded when a shooter opened fire on them in Karachi. The doctor was reported to be working on the vaccine program.

Dawn reported yesterday that a jirga was convened today in the tribal areas to try to find a solution to the Taliban’s vaccine ban. That article gives good background information on the ban:

Although a nationwide anti-polio campaign was launched on Monday, the authorities were yet to convince the Taliban shura on the importance of getting children of North and South Waziristan vaccinated against the debilitating disease.

/snip/

Commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who leads the powerful Taliban Shura, had banned the anti-polio drive in North Waziristan on June 16 and said that children would not take polio drops unless the government stopped drone strikes in the area.

He was followed by Commander Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan and other militant commanders in FRs D.I. Khan and Kohat.

In South Waziristan, the ban is much stricter because it prohibits vaccination against all eight childhood diseases, including polio.

“We have asked health workers to be careful and don’t put their lives at risk,” the official said, adding that they were waiting for the government’s response.

However, the Taliban ban is not the only barrier to vaccines:

He [the official quoted above] said the military operation in Orakzai and Khyber agencies was one of the factors which deprived children of the much needed vaccines.

Just the two tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan account for a large number of unvaccinated children: Read more

Lamar Smith’s Futile Leak Investigation

Lamar Smtih has come up with a list of 7 national security personnel he wants to question in his own leak investigation. (h/t Kevin Gosztola)

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, told President Obama Thursday he’d like to interview seven current and former administration officials who may know something about a spate of national security leaks.

[snip]

The administration officials include National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, Director for Counterterrorism Audrey Tomason and National Security Advisor to the Vice President Antony Blinken.

Of course the effort is sure to be futile–if Smith’s goal is to figure out who leaked to the media (though it’ll serve its purpose of creating a political shitstorm just fine)–for two reasons.

First, only Clapper serves in a role that Congress has an unquestioned authority to subpoena (and even there, I can see the Intelligence Committees getting snippy about their turf–it’s their job to provide impotent oversight over intelligence, not the Judiciary Committees).

As for members of the National Security Council (Tom Donilon, John Brennan, Denis McDonough, Audrey Tomason, and Antony Blinken) and figures, like Bill Daley, who aren’t congressionally approved? That’s a bit dicier. (Which is part of the reason it’s so dangerous to have our drone targeting done in NSC where it eludes easy congressional oversight.)

A pity Republicans made such a stink over the HJC subpoenaing Karl Rove and David Addington and backed Bush’s efforts to prevent Condi Rice from testifying, huh?

The other problem is that Smith’s list, by design, won’t reveal who leaked the stories he’s investigating. He says he wants to investigate 7 leaks.

Smith said the committee intends to focus on seven national security leaks to the media. They include information about the Iran-targeted Stuxnet and Flame virus attacks, the administration’s targeted killings of terrorism suspects and the raid which killed Usama bin Laden.

Smith wants to know how details about the operations of SEAL Team Six, which executed the bin Laden raid in Pakistan, wound up in the hands of film producers making a film for the president’s re-election. Also on the docket is the identity of the doctor who performed DNA tests which helped lead the U.S. to bin Laden’s hideout.

But his list doesn’t include everyone who is a likely or even certain leaker.

Take StuxNet and Flame. Not only has Smith forgotten about the programmers (alleged to be Israeli) who let StuxNet into the wild in the first place–once that happened, everything else was confirmation of things David Sanger and security researchers were able to come up with on their own–but he doesn’t ask to speak to the Israeli spooks demanding more credit for the virus.

Read more

Vaccination and Leak Wars

In spite of the fact that the Administration’s cooperation with Hollywood on an Osama bin Laden flick is included among the leaks Republicans want investigated, there has been no discussion about how the CIA’s use of a vaccination program as cover got reported in the press.

Now that a Pakistani Taliban leader, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, has frozen polio vaccinations for 161,000 children, maybe we ought to look more closely at that leak, which (along with the terrible judgment to use it as CIA cover in the first place) is officially putting thousands of children–and the effort to completely eradicate polio generally–at risk.

The Leak War

As I noted last year, the vaccination cover was not among the things Administration officials discussed for Eric Schmidle’s propagandistic account of the OBL raid; for that, he relied–alone among all details on the raid–on the Guardian’s report on the vaccination cover. And while the Guardian is generally credited with breaking the story–at least in the English and American press–the story appeared a month and a half after the doctor in question, Shakeel Afridi, was arrested three weeks after the raid. A version of the Guardian story, with additional reporting from Jonathan Landay, appeared the same day in McClatchy.

The ISI learned of Afridi’s role in their own investigation of the OBL raid.

Pakistani intelligence became aware of the doctor’s activities during the investigation into the US raid in which Bin Laden was killed on the top floor of the Abbottabad house.

A source quoted by the Guardian–a Pakistani official–described how irregular the doctor’s actions were, which may have tipped them off.

“The whole thing was totally irregular,” said one Pakistani official. “Bilal Town is a well-to-do area. Why would you choose that place to give free vaccines? And what is the official surgeon of Khyber doing working in Abbottabad?”

Subsequent reports make it clear Afridi told his colleagues enough–that he had business in Abbottabad–that might have roused suspicion.

His medical colleagues at Jamrud Hospital in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber tribal agency suspected he was having an extramarital affair. When they asked Dr. Shakeel Afridi, the hospital’s chief surgeon, why he was absent so often last spring, he replied curtly that he had “business” to attend to in Abbottabad. The mystery only grew when one doctor accused Afridi of having taken a half-dozen World Health Organization cooler boxes without authorization. The containers are for keeping vaccines fresh during inoculation campaigns, and yet no immunization drives were underway in Abbottabad—or the Khyber agency either, for that matter.

In addition, the nurse who went into OBL’s compound, Mukhtar Bibi, would have realized after the fact what she had been involved in–though she did not speak with the Guardian.

A nurse known as Bakhto, whose full name is Mukhtar Bibi, managed to gain entry to the Bin Laden compound to administer the vaccines. According to several sources, the doctor, who waited outside, told her to take in a handbag that was fitted with an electronic device. It is not clear what the device was, or whether she left it behind. It is also not known whether the CIA managed to obtain any Bin Laden DNA, although one source suggested the operation did not succeed.

Mukhtar Bibi, who was unaware of the real purpose of the vaccination campaign, would not comment on the programme.

In other words, Afridi’s colleagues and Abbottabad locals would have known enough to be suspicious, and the ISI presumably learned of these suspicions and arrested and interrogated the doctor (they learned the name of his CIA handler, for example).

The Guardian cites the following sources: Pakistani and US officials and residents of Abbottabad.

The US sources seem to have been trying to pressure the Pakistanis for investigating how CIA found OBL rather than how OBL managed to hide for so long.

American officials are concerned that Pakistan is more focused on finding out how the CIA tracked down bin Laden than on determining how he managed to remain undetected for as long as five years in Abbottabad, a military garrison town where the nation’s premier military academy is less than a mile from the bin Laden compound. So far, no one is known to have been arrested for helping to hide bin Laden.

None of that reveals who first went to the press with this story, though it seems like it arose in response to or conjunction with US efforts to put more pressure on Pakistan. Perhaps the US sources revealed that the Pakistanis still held one of the people who had helped find OBL, and the Pakistanis responded by revealing what he had been doing? Or perhaps the Pakistais responded to US pressure by revealing what the doctor had been doing, and the US downplayed the efficacy of it, noting (for example) that they had not succeeded in obtaining OBL’s DNA.

Read more

Pakistan Still Searching for Long-Term Imprisonment Site for Afridi

After a “trial” that was strangely held in Bara, in the Khyber Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, Dr. Shakeel Afridi is now being held in the central jail in Peshawar in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Despite the fact that most were under the belief that Afridi was being tried on treason charges for his cooperation with the CIA in developing intelligence that lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden, we learned after the trial that he had in fact been convicted of aiding the Lashkar-e-Islam terrorist group. The actions for which he was convicted do appear to have taken place with the Khyber Agency, providing at least a justification for the trial’s venue.

As Time reported, there is concern for Afridi’s safety in the Peshawar jail:

Meanwhile, there is concern about Afridi’s safety. In a phone interview with TIME, Mohammand of the lawyers forum explains that Afridi is being kept in complete isolation and has yet to speak to anyone — including his legal counsel or family. “We actually have no idea where he is. He could be in jail; he could be in a foreign country; he could be anywhere.”

It is most likely, however, that Afridi is being held in Peshawar’s central jail. “We have requested the federal government to move Dr. Shakeel Afridi from Peshawar to another jail. We fear he could be attacked,” Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister for the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, told journalists on May 30. The Peshawar jail has more than 250 prisoners incarcerated on terror charges. According to Hussain, these “diehard militants” could attack Afridi.

Shaukat Qadir, a retired brigadier and columnist who has been provided unrivaled access to the Army’s Abbottabad files, agrees that the government would be unable to secure Afridi for very long: “There are enough al-Qaeda sympathizers in Pakistan that he will never be safe here.”

We learn today from the Express Tribune that Pakistan’s federal government has asked the Punjab provincial government to house Afridi in their Adiala jail but they have refused:

The Punjab government has refused to accommodate Dr Shakil Afridi at the Adiala Jail saying the province already has its fair share of law and order problems.

The federal government had requested Punjab’s provincial administration to house Dr Shakil Afridi, said to be responsible for divulging information on Osama Bin Laden’s whereabouts to the US. However, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said on Sunday that Punjab has turned down the request.

The article goes on to related further detail on the request to move Afridi out of Peshawar’s jail:

“Keeping Dr Afridi at the central prison in Peshawar is risky keeping in view the recent attack on Banu Jail. We cannot keep him here and that is why we wrote a letter to the interior ministry to shift Dr Afridi to Adiala Jail as soon as possible,” official sources earlier told The Express Tribune.

Recall that the attack on the jail in Banu was in April, when over 100 militants attacked the jail, with nearly 400 prisoners being freed, although the attackers seemed most interested in freeing a high-profile militant who was being held for an assassination attempt against former president Pervez Musharraf. Note from this article about some of the Banu prisoners returning to jail voluntarily and some being recaptured that the photo shows us that jails in Pakistan are quite different from those here in the US. If Afridi is housed with prisoners loyal to al Qaeda, he could indeed be subject to attack.

It will be very interesting to see how Pakistan’s federal government responds to the refusal from the Punjab government and what their next step will be in seeking a place in which Afridi can serve his sentence.

Armed US Diplomats Detained at Peshawar Toll Booth: What Was Mission?

Google map showing Malakand University (missing "A" label at top right), Chamkani Police Station (B) and Bara (C). Driving time from Malakand University to Chamkani Police Station is given as about two and a half hours, while it is only a half hour to Bara from the police station.

The Raymond Davis incident in Lahore, Pakistan raised the issue of people moving within Pakistan under US diplomatic cover while heavily armed. Davis, who in fact worked for the CIA, had a number of weapons in his possession (see here for photos) when he was arrested for killing two men. A third man was killed by a consular vehicle rushing to the scene of the shooting. That issue arose again yesterday, when two vehicles transporting US “diplomats” were stopped at a toll plaza outside Peshawar and multiple weapons were seized:

Four US diplomats and their three Pakistani employees were arrested and shifted to the nearby Chamkani police station.

An FIR was registered against the three Pakistanis under Section 13 of the Arms Ordinance, while the US diplomats were released after hours-long negotiations between SP Shafeeullah Khan and US Consul General in Peshawar Marie Richard.

The police intercepted two bullet-proof vehicles of the US consulate on the motorway in Peshawar and found four pistols, four SMG rifles and several ammunition magazines in their possession, Chamkani police station’s SHO Haji Inayatullah told The Express Tribune.

/snip/

Inayatullah identified the four diplomats as Vincent Capodicci, Timothy Daniel, Leon Carter and Daryal Lee Groom. The arrested Pakistanis were security in-charge Manzoor and drivers Ihsan Khan and Asif Khan.

The Chamkani Police Station is on the eastern outskirts of Peshawar. It is very hard to understand the stated destination the diplomats had visited. From Dawn:

Police said the Americans were taken into custody along with their vehicles during examination on a Motorway checkpost when they were on their way to Peshawar from Malakand University.

Malakand University is quite small and moderately isolated. It is hard to understand why diplomats would be visiting there. The “nearby” Chamkani Police Station where the diplomats were taken from the toll plaza area is on the most direct route back into Peshawar from Malakand University, which is to the north and east.

Dawn and the Express Tribune differ on both the number of and names of the diplomats detained. The list of four names above is from the Express Tribune, while Dawn claims only two were detained, “Daniel and Levan”. The “Levan” name does not appear in the Express Tribune list of names, which does include “Timothy Daniel”. Taken together then, the two articles implicate anywhere between two and five Americans being in the vehicles.

If we assume that the University is just a cover location, then what was the real purpose of the trip? Two possibilities come to mind in light of recent events. Read more

Day of Surprises in Afridi Case: Conviction Not Related to CIA Help; Ignatius Chastises CIA

There are many developments today surrounding Pakistan’s sentencing of Dr. Shakeel Afridi to 33 years in prison, including two that are quite unexpected. According to documents released today to multiple news agencies, it turns out that Afridi’s conviction is not on the treason charges relating to his work with the CIA in finding Osama bin Laden that many thought were the basis of the charges against him. Instead, the documents indicate that Afridi was convicted for aiding the outlawed group Lashkar-e-Islam, which is said to be in open conflict with Pakistan. Equally unexpected is today’s column by CIA spokesman reporter columnist David Ignatius in the Washington Post where he chastises the CIA for using Afridi in a vaccination ruse, citing the resultant danger to public health as vaccination programs come more generally under suspicion in the areas where they are needed most urgently.

Reuters gives us the basics on the documents released today by the court:

A Pakistani doctor who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden was imprisoned for aiding militants and not for links to the CIA, as Pakistani officials had said, according to a court document released on Wednesday.

Last week, a court in the Khyber tribal region near the Afghan border sentenced Shakil Afridi to 33 years in jail. Pakistani officials told Western and domestic media the decision was based on treason charges for aiding the CIA in its hunt for the al Qaeda chief.

But in the latest twist in the case, the judgment document made available to the media on Wednesday, states Afridi was jailed because of his close ties to the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, which amount to waging war against the state.

Dawn fills in more details:

The order said intelligence reports had indicated that the accused had close links with the defunct LI and “his love for Mangal Bagh, Amir of Lashkar-i-Islam, and his association with him was an open secret”.

Referring to the report submitted by the JIT, it said the accused had paid Rs2 million to LI when he was serving at the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital Dogra, Bara, Khyber tribal region.

The court also accused Mr Afridi of providing medical assistance to militant commanders like Said Noor Malikdinkhel, Hazrat Sepah, Wahid Shaloberkhel and others at the hospital which he headed.

It also referred to statements by some people that militant commanders used to visit the hospital and hold private meetings with the accused. “These meetings were usually of longer duration and most often those meetings were followed by attacks by militants on security forces’ checkposts and other places at night,” the order read.

It said LI’s design to wage war against the state of Pakistan was a reality known to all and that those attacks were planned in the office of the accused. Being a public servant, the involvement of the accused in subversive activities and his role in facilitating the waging of war and attacks on security forces made him liable to be proceeded against, it added.

There is one more point that stands out in the Dawn article: Read more

Beatings Drone Strikes Will Continue Until Morale Improves'>Brennan to Pakistan: The Beatings Drone Strikes Will Continue Until Morale Improves

There was yet another US drone strike in Pakistan today. According to Bill Roggio at Long War Journal, today’s strike is the fourth strike in six days. After the first strike in this series, I posed the question of whether that strike was more politically based than strategically based, as the strike came just two days (Roggio has it as one day after the summit, but there are large time zone differences; the summit ended on Monday in Chicago and the first strike was early Wednesday local time in Pakistan) after US-Pakistan negotiations on reopening NATO supply routes through Pakistan broke down at the NATO summit in Chicago and on the very day that Dr. Shakeel Afridi was sentenced for treason because he helped the CIA to gather intelligence that aided the US raid to kill Osama bin Laden.

There is now ample evidence to believe that politics are indeed behind the recent strikes and, as Marcy and I have been noting on Twitter, they likely will continue on a virtually daily basis to make the political points that the US is stressing. Recall that after the first strike in the series, I quoted a Guardian article that also came to the conclusion the strike was politically motivated:

The attack came as Washington runs out of patience with Islamabad’s refusal to reopen supply routes for Nato troops in Afghanistan.

US drone strikes have complicated negotiations over the routes, which Pakistan closed six months ago in retaliation for US air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border. Pakistan’s parliament demanded the strikes stop after the attack, but the US refused.

In today’s report, Roggio provides a quote with direct evidence that the strikes now are tied politically to the impasse over reopening the supply routes (although it seems likely that Dana Rohrabacher isn’t the only one advocating the use of a “stick” on Pakistan over the Afridi sentencing, too):

A US intelligence official involved in the drone program in the country told The Long War Journal that the strikes would continue now that Pakistan has refused to reopen NATO’s supply lines for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

“There certainly hasn’t been a shortage of targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas,” the official said. “Unfortunately the politics of getting the GLOC into Afghanistan has trumped the targeting of bad guys in Pakistan’s tribal areas,” the official said, referring to the Ground Lines of Communication.

But hold on just a minute here. Note the misdirection in this quote. Despite the claim that the US is “targeting bad guys” with these strikes, Roggio reports elsewhere in this article that no high value target has been reported as killed in today’s attack. In fact, he reports that there have been 17 US drone strikes in Pakistan this year, but only two high value targets have been killed in them.

Where have we heard someone recently trying to make the false claim that “signature strikes” are targeted rather than based simply on patterns of activity? Why that would be in John Brennan’s April 30 drone speech, which Marcy has cleanly dissected as a failed attempt to direct attention away from the war crimes committed regularly in signature strikes.

Roggio’s anonymous source says basically that the strikes will continue until the political situation improves. Despite the source’s claim that the strikes target “bad guys” the evidence instead shows that these are signature strikes that at best target mid-level or even lower level militants who happen to be in areas “known to harbor insurgents”. Given how closely this misdirection about targeting mirrors Brennan’s speech (and the fact that Brennan himself now controls signature strikes) it seems likely that the strikes themselves are Brennan’s way of telling Pakistan that the beatings will continue until morale improves.

Panetta: We Do Not Share Anything Inappropriate with Anybody … Except Our Assets’ Identities

When Leon Panetta confirmed that Shakeel Afridi was working with the CIA when he used a vaccination program to collect intelligence on Osama bin Laden, he likely made it much harder for Pakistan to release the doctor, or even give him a light sentence. Had the Pakistanis gone easy on Afridi after that confirmation, it would have amounted to the government admitting it had ceded the government’s sovereignty to the war on terror.

While I’m sure he had authorization to confirm the ties, there are a whole bunch of reasons it was stupid to do so (including the delegitimization of public health programs).

Panetta’s own role in increasing the likelihood Afridi would face harsh punishment from Pakistan didn’t prevent him from complaining about Afridi’s fate on ABC’s Sunday show, however, claiming he just couldn’t understand why a country would punish one of its citizens working as a spy for an ally.

“It is so difficult to understand and it’s so disturbing that they would sentence this doctor to 33 years for helping in the search for the most notorious terrorist in our times,” Panetta told me in a “This Week” interview.

“This doctor was not working against Pakistan. He was working against al Qaeda,” Panetta added. “And I hope that ultimately Pakistan understands that, because what they have done here … does not help in the effort to try to reestablish a relationship between the United States and Pakistan.”

I sort of wish Jake Tapper had asked Panetta if he’s ever heard of Jonathan Pollard, who we’ve imprisoned, thus far, for 25 years, for spying for an ally. Even more, I’m, um, disappointed that Tapper didn’t ask Panetta WTF he confirmed Afridi’s work for the US, particularly since Tapper himself commented on Panetta’s earlier comments this morning.

Panetta in January was first US official to on-the-record confirm the doctor’s help

More curious still, when Tapper asked Panetta why the Administration shared so much information with Hollywood about the Osama bin Laden raid–and Panetta claimed the Administration “do[es] not share anything inappropriate with anybody”–Tapper didn’t ask the obvious follow-up. Read more