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Afridi’s Trial: Similar to Gitmo Military Commissions? Bonus: Rohrabacher Goes Bold

Abbottabad district, red, is within Kyhber Pakhtunkhwa Province, green, which is next to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, blue, where the town of Bara is in Khyber Agency. (Wikimedia Commons)

Fallout continues from yesterday’s sentencing of Dr. Shakeel Afridi, the doctor who helped the CIA to identify Osama bin Laden prior to the US raid that killed him. Marcy commented yesterday on the poor outcome from Leon Panetta disclosing Afridi’s cooperation with the CIA and I noted how the sentencing may have been one motivation behind the potential political impetus for yesterday’s drone strike in Pakistan (which has been followed up by yet another drone strike today).

I will get to the obligatory statement of outrage from Dana Rohrabacher in a bit, but first there is a very interesting article in Dawn that has a few details from Afridi’s trial. Although Afridi’s cooperation with the CIA occurred in Abbottabad, which is in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (formerly referred to as North West Frontier Province), Afridi was tried in the town of Bara, which is in the Khyber Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The map on the left shows the FATA in blue, most of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in green and the Abbottabad district in red.

In the Dawn quotations below, “Khyber” refers to Kyber Agency within FATA and not Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as far as I can tell.

Dawn describes where the trial took place and the convictions that were handed down:

Officials said Afridi had been tried at the office of assistant political agent (APA) in Bara. He was sentenced on the charges of conspiring “to wage war against Pakistan or depriving it of its sovereignty”, “concealing existence of a plan to wage war against Pakistan” and “condemnation of the creation of the state and advocacy of abolition of its sovereignty”.

“The trial conducted under the Frontier Crimes Regulation continued for one year during which Dr Afridi was denied the right to engage a lawyer,” said Rahat Gul, an administrative official at the Khyber House.

Dawn then moved on to citing criticism about where the trial took place:

Critics have said he should not have been tried under tribal law for an alleged crime that took place outside tribal jurisdiction, in the town of Abbottabad where he ran a fake vaccination programme designed to collect bin Laden family DNA.

A senior official in Khyber, Nasir Khan, defended Afridi’s trial.

“We have powers to try a resident of FATA (the federally administered tribal areas) under the FCR enforced in tribal areas,” he told AFP.

Hmmm. Venue-shopping. That would never happen in the US, especially when the chosen venue is seriously lacking in due process.

And the trial had to be secret so that Afridi would not be attacked: Read more

Flaunting Shakeel Afridi’s CIA Ties Appears Not to Have Worked All that Well


When Leon Panetta went on 60 Minutes and confirmed Pakistani doctor Dr. Shakeel Afridi was working for the US when he faked vaccinations in Abbottbad to collect information from Osama bin Laden’s compound, I noted the hypocrisy of his public confirmation of the CIA role, but assumed the Administration had approved the confirmation.

Meanwhile, tomorrow the above clip will be shown on 60 Minutes, showing Panetta confirming that the Pakistani doctor who conducted fake vaccinations in Abbottabad, Pakistan in order to get a glimpse into Osama bin Laden’s compound was, in fact, working for the CIA.

Panetta also acknowledged that Shikal Afridi, the Pakistani doctor conducting health tests in the village in an effort to collect DNA and verify bin Laden’s presence, was in fact working for the U.S. Afridi was arrested and charged with treason by the government of Pakistan. “I’m very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual…who in fact helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regards to this operation,” says Panetta. “He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan…Pakistan and the United States have a common cause here against terrorism…and for them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think is a real mistake on their part,” he tells Pelley.

Not only does this presumably put more pressure on Pakistan to convict Afridi of treason (he remains in custody), but it exacerbates the problem of having used a vaccination campaign as cover in the first place, confirming on the record that similar campaigns in poor countries might be no more than a CIA front.

I presume someone in the White House gave Panetta permission to go blab this on 60 Minutes; I assume he’s in no more legal jeopardy than Dick Cheney was when he insta-declassified Valerie Plame’s identity.

I suppose that last line–“I just think [arresting Afridi] is a real mistake on their part”–was intended as an implicit threat.

But Panetta’s move–going on TV to suggest that Pakistan was wrong to prosecute one of its citizens working as a spy for the US–risked making it harder for Pakistani authorities to release Afridi by publicizing the ties (in the analogous situation with Ray Davis, the Administration demanded the US press hold all stories confirming Davis’ ties).

Moreover, between the time the Pakistanis arrested Afridi and the time Panetta made these statements, the US arrested Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai for serving as an unregistered foreign agent, then convicted him in December on conspiracy and IRS charges. Yes, he was allowed to plead to lesser charges; yes, he was ultimately sentenced to only 2 years. But Fai’s prosecution made it clear we insist on sovereignty even in matters of political influence, much less spying a mile or so from a key military academy.

In any case, it didn’t work. As Jim has already noted, today Pakistan sentenced Afridi to a whopping 33 years in prison for treason.

Funny how other nations don’t like being told our covert operations should take precedence over their sovereignty.

Update: In a joint statement, Carl Levin and John McCain have suggested Pakistan may lose funding over this:

It is shocking and outrageous that Dr. Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who assisted the United States in the search for Osama bin Laden, has been sentenced to 33 years in prison for the crime of treason. What Dr. Afridi did is the furthest thing from treason. It was a courageous, heroic, and patriotic act, which helped to locate the most wanted terrorist in the world – a mass murderer who had the blood of many innocent Pakistanis on his hands.

Dr. Afridi’s actions were completely consistent with the multiple, legally-binding resolutions passed over many years by the United Nations Security Council, which required member-states to assist in bringing Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network to justice. Dr. Afridi set an example that we wish others in Pakistan had followed long ago. He should be praised and rewarded for his actions, not punished and slandered.

We call upon the Pakistani government to pardon and release Dr. Afridi immediately. At a time when the United States and Pakistan need more than ever to work constructively together, Dr. Afridi’s continuing imprisonment and treatment as a criminal will only do further harm to U.S.-Pakistani relations, including diminishing Congress’s willingness to provide financial assistance to Pakistan. [my emphasis]

 

Rorhrabacher’s Attempt to Defund Pakistan Falls 335-84

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) worked himself into quite a bit of anger yesterday defending his amendment to the NDAA which was intended to cut off funding for Pakistan. He gave a remarkable performance, railing against practices by the Pakistani government which he avidly endorses when carried out by the US.

He railed against Pakistan providing haven for Osama bin Laden even though Rohrabacher actually took up arms and fought alongside the mujahideen, which included bin Laden, back in the mid-80’s when they were fighting the Soviets. He blasted Pakistan for supporting terrorists like the Haqqani network at the same time that he is agitating for the delisting of the MeK as a terrorist group. He decried the arrest and detention without charges of Dr. Shakeel Afridi, who carried out the polio vaccine ruse on behalf of the CIA at the bin Laden compound, and yet he has for years been at the forefront of advocating in favor of the prison at Guantanamo, where many remain held indefinitely without charge.

Here is how Rohrabacher described his amendment in a press release:

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has introduced H.R. 5734, the “Pakistan Terrorism Accountability Act of 2012.” The legislation would require the Department of Defense to list all Americans killed by terrorist groups operating with impunity inside Pakistan and Afghanistan and supported by elements of the Pakistani government. For each person killed, $50 million would be subtracted from U.S. foreign assistance to Pakistan, a requested $2.2 billion, and given to the victim’s family.

“For too long America has funded the Pakistani government, giving it free money, while elements of the ISI and Pakistan’s military operate radical Islamic groups that are actively murdering Americans,” said Rohrabacher. “Americans will not accept this.” 

“Pakistan has for decades leveraged radical terrorist groups to carry out attacks in India and Afghanistan,” continued Rohrabacher. “Pakistan helped to create the Taliban and Pakistan’s intelligence service hid Osama Bin Laden from the U.S. for years. Today, one of the most dangerous and sophisticated groups killing American troops in Afghanistan is the Haqqani Network, which is closely operated by the Pakistani government.” 

I suppose it’s too much to hope for that someone who operates on the fringes of American politics might realize that the Pakistani government is not a monolith that always acts with all of its participants working together for the same outcome. Rather than supporting those within Pakistan who will advance US interests, Rohrabacher wants to punish all of Pakistan because of those who work against US interests.

Rohrabacher’s attempt at lead pipe diplomacy has failed miserably, going down by a vote of 335 to 84.  Here is how Pakistan Today described the outcome:

Dashing Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s drastic designs, the US Congress on Thursday turned down the bill proposing curbs on American aid to Pakistan.

/snip/

The House of representative rejected the bill as 335 votes were cast against the bill while 84 in favour. Pakistan ambassador to US, Sherry Rehman played an active role against the bill.

At least he did a better job pronouncing Balochistan

Pakistan Asks for Update On Raymond Davis Investigation; OBL Immunization Doctor Accused of Treason

On Tuesday, noting the felony charge Raymond Davis faces in Colorado over a parking lot fight, I asked what happened to the investigation the US promised regarding Davis killing two Pakistanis in Lahore earlier this year.  It turns out I’m not alone in asking that question. Karen DeYoung at the Washington Post reports that Pakistan has made a formal request for an update on the investigation.  In other Pakistan news breaking this afternoon, we learn that a commission in Pakistan has urged filing of conspiracy and high treason charges against the doctor who assisted the CIA by setting up a fake immunization program in order to gain access to the suspected compound where Osama bin Laden was hiding.

It turns out that Pakistan asked about the Davis investigation a day before I did.  From DeYoung’s post:

In an Oct. 3 diplomatic note to Justice and the State Department, Ambassador Husain Haqqani referenced “the ongoing investigation” and asked that “the latest status in the matter may kindly be conveyed to the Embassy.” Haqqani said no reply had yet been received.

Asked the same question, Justice spokesperson Laura Sweeney declined to comment on the department’s behalf.

DeYoung also provides further background on the initial steps taken in the US to start the Davis investigation:

In a May 26 letter to Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Mary Ellen Warlow, director of the Criminal Division of Justice’s international affairs office, said that the department was “currently investigating” the Lahore shooting and requested that Pakistan “take steps to preserve all evidence relating to these events” and set up a liaison officer at the embassy to handle the matter.

That, Pakistan says, is the last it heard.

Note that this letter to Pakistan came over two months after Davis was released in mid-March.  If that letter was the last Pakistan heard about the investigation, it seems safe to assume that no US investigators have been to Pakistan to examine the evidence Pakistan was instructed to preserve or to interview witnesses.  Also, it remains unclear whether the investigation into Davis’ actions also is to include investigation into the vehicle which struck and killed a pedestrian after it was dispatched from the consulate in Lahore to rescue Davis.

Voice of America brings us the news on the recommendation of treason charges against the Pakistani doctor:

A Pakistani commission said Thursday that the government should file conspiracy and high treason charges against Shakeel Afridi.

Afridi is accused of running a fake vaccination campaign to help U.S. intelligence obtain DNA samples of bin Laden and his family.

/snip/

The Pakistani government set up the commission to investigate how U.S. forces managed to track down bin Laden and carry out the operation without Pakistan’s prior knowledge.

The article goes on to inform us that this same commission also interviewed Ahmad Shuja Pasha, who heads Pakistan’s  main intelligence organization, the ISI.  In addition, the commission interviewed bin Laden’s wives and children.  The commission is headed by a Supreme Court judge, but it is not clear how binding its recommendations will be.