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Raymond Davis: Intelligence Recruiter in Pakistan, Too?

10:09 am in Foreign Policy, Government, Pakistan by Jim White

Last Thursday, I presented evidence that builds a strong case that one of Raymond Davis’ functions when he is in the US is to recruit intelligence agents. On Tuesday, the Express Tribune in Pakistan presented evidence that suggests that Davis also worked as a recruiter of some sort within Pakistan, as well.

The Express Tribune quotes an official from the Punjab police on Davis’ ties to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP):

“The Lahore killings were a blessing in disguise for our security agencies who suspected that Davis was masterminding terrorist activities in Lahore and other parts of Punjab,” a senior official in the Punjab police claimed.

“His close ties with the TTP were revealed during the investigations,” he added. “Davis was instrumental in recruiting young people from Punjab for the Taliban to fuel the bloody insurgency.” Call records of the cellphones recovered from Davis have established his links with 33 Pakistanis, including 27 militants from the TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi sectarian outfit, sources said.

The Times of India picks up on this accusation, and spins it to suggest that Davis may have been double-crossing the US in an article with the suggestive headline “Did Davis double-cross US as recruitment point man for Taliban?”

American official Raymond Davis, arrested for double murder, had “close links” with Taliban and was “instrumental” in recruiting youths for it, the media here claimed on Tuesday, close on the heels of reports in the US that he was a CIA agent tracking movements of terror groups like LeT.

The “close ties” of 37-year-old Davis, arrested in Lahore on January 27 for killing two men he claimed were trying to rob him, with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan came out during investigations, ‘The Express Tribune’ reported quoting an unnamed senior official of Punjab Police. “Davis was instrumental in recruiting young people from Punjab for the Taliban to fuel the bloody insurgency (in Pakistan),” the official said.

I lean toward the explanation that the Express Tribune offers for Davis’ actions:

Davis was also said to be working on a plan to give credence to the American notion that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not safe. For this purpose, he was setting up a group of the Taliban which would do his bidding.

Isn’t it interesting that Davis’ “bull in the china shop” act has bungled so much in what may well be covert US activities in the general area of weapons of mass destruction? Could the inept way Davis has operated be more fallout from the grave damage done to the CIA’s WMD program when Dick Cheney “outed” Valerie Plame?

Although there have been some suggestions that Davis was in fact very high up in the CIA organization in Pakistan, and perhaps even acting Head of Station since the recent “outing” of the person in that post, I’d like to believe that Davis is a lower level functionary since he was so sloppy in how much incriminating material he had with him when the shooting incident went down. One argument in favor of this interpretation lies in the sheer number of “agents” the US has in Pakistan. From the Washington Post:

It is unclear how many of the U.S. mission’s personnel are private security contractors or intelligence agents, many of whom work alongside Pakistani agents on counterterrorism operations, including the CIA drone program. A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman declined to provide figures; according to data provided by the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, 3,555 U.S. diplomats, military officials and employees of “allied agencies” were issued visas in 2010, most of which were valid for three months.

Pakistani commentators and opposition parties have filled that vacuum of information in recent days with numbers of their own. In a recent newspaper column, Raoof Hasan, a media adviser to the chief minister of Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital, wrote of “scores of other Raymonds roaming the roads.” Last week, the chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, a religious party, told a gathering of tribal elders that there are “thousands of Raymond Davises.”

Whatever Davis’ true assignment in Pakistan might have been, it is clear that this incident has had and continues to have a profound influence on Pakistanis’ opinion of the US and on US-Pakistan diplomatic relations. How the case will be resolved remains to be seen, but former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi offered a very interesting take on the next steps during an appearance before the Rawalpindi District Bar:

“The whole nation is unified on the independence of the judiciary…free judiciary will help bring foreign investment,” said Qureshi. “Lawyers’ role in ending dictatorships and restoring democracy cannot be ignored,” he added.

Qureshi appreciated the role of Bar and Bench for the fight of restoring democracy in the country.

“Accountability is possible only by good governance and transparency…lawyers would have to continue their struggle for strengthening democratic institutions as they have done in the past,” said the former minister.

If Davis is to be released, it is certain that the release will be contingent upon the US promising to carry out its own criminal investigation of Davis killing the two Pakistani citizens. Does anyone believe that the US judicial system under Barack Obama and Eric Holder is independent enough for such an investigation to be credible?

US Presses China on Rule of Law Issue, Ignores Own Failures

5:47 am in Justice Department by Jim White

The concept of blind justice following the rule of law is now "quaint" in the US. (photo: Dave King on Flickr)

Demonstrating once again the damage inflicted on itself by its slide into lawlessness, the United States could only use an Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission to deliver a condemnation of China for not adhering to the rule of law in its handling of a jailed naturalized US citizen. Had the condemnation come from high level authorities at the State Department, the extra level of attention to the issue likely would have brought observations in the world press that the US doesn’t fare so well itself lately on the issue of the rule of law.

A Reuters article from Tuesday morning describes the US condemnation of China:

The United States pressed China again Tuesday to release a U.S. geologist jailed on charges of stealing state secrets, saying his case had not been handled transparently.

Xue Feng, who was born in China and later became a naturalized U.S. citizen, was detained late in 2007 after negotiating the sale of an oil industry database to his employer at the time, Colorado-based consultancy IHS Energy, now known as IHS Inc.

“Our sense has been that the case has not been handled with the kind of transparency that would befit a nation which tells us that the rule of law is paramount in all judicial processes,” said Robert Goldberg, U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission.

Oh, my. Does the US really want global attention to focus on whether “the rule of law is paramount in all judicial processes” in the US? Take, for example, what passes for “debate” on the issue of the proper venue for trying terrorism suspects currently held at Guantanamo. Here is how the Washington Post described the status of those discussions back in March:  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Note to John Durham: No Statute of Limitations on Murder

7:32 am in Torture by Jim White

Known torturer and evidence destroyer Jose Rodriguez. (CIA photo)

As bmaz has pointed out in language blunt enough that one presumes even the willfully obtuse Holder Justice Department might understand it, many of us are bearing witness to investigator John H. Durham intentionally allowing the statute of limitations to expire on Jose Rodriguez’s crime of destroying videotaped evidence of torture. Marcy Wheeler’s torture timeline links to the documentation that the tape destruction occurred on November 8, 2005. The five year statute of limitations on that charge will expire in just a few days. Further, my understanding of the timeline is that the last known waterboardings took place in March, 2003. Some aspects of the torture statutes carry an eight year statute of limitations, so that deadline for waterboarding prosecutions will expire in just a few months. However, with over a hundred deaths of prisoners during US interrogations, there are a number of potential murder charges that are not subject to a statute of limitations.

Just for review, here is a piece of the strongest evidence against Jose Rodriguez for him to charged with conspiracy to commit torture. He was head of the Counterterrorism Center (CTC) at the time that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded. From the CIA OIG report, as I first mentioned in this diary, we have the following passage, where it is clear that Rodriguez’s CTC assessments “were unsupported by credible intelligence” and resulted in the “application of EIT’s without justification”.  That means people were tortured without basis in credible intelligence, but were instead tortured, on Rodriguez’s order, based on his belief of “what the individual might or should know”.  At that time, March 2003, Bush wanted evidence of Saddam Hussein working with al Qaeda on the 9/11 attacks, so that is the best guess on what CTC thought that KSM “should know” and therefore should have divulged during the 183 waterboardings.

CTC torture responsibility

It is difficult to imagine why Durham and by extension, Eric Holder and Barack Obama, all believe that they will be able to wrap up this whitewash by saying that nothing can be done once the statutes of limitations have expired.

Lurking in the shadows behind the torture and obstruction of justice charges, we still have the ugly truth of over a hundred deaths of prisoners during interrogations.  There is no statute of limitations on murder, so there is no way to run out the clock on these charges.   How will David Margolis be able to downgrade these crimes, to follow onto his degrading the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility report, where he reduced offenses by John Yoo and Jay Bybee to mere “bad judgment” from the original professional misconduct charges in their drafting of the torture memos?

What Durham, Holder and Obama need to know is that there is a community of people who believe that our country should abide by the rules of civilization and that when torture occurs, those responsible for giving the orders need to be held accountable.  They should also know that the international community considers these crimes to be war crimes, and under that framework there are no statutes of limitations and no possibility for pardons or mitigating circumstances.  By actively suppressing the investigation of war crimes, are Durham, Holder and Obama making themselves accessories to them?

Movement on Dawn Johnsen’s Confirmation?

6:28 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Johnsen
Center for American Progress Photo

The blog Main Justice reports that Eric Holder told reporters on Tuesday that he expects Dawn Johnsen to be confirmed as head of the Office of Legal Counsel:

In a discussion with reporters at the Department of Justice, Holder said Johnsen had been in limbo for “far too long.”

“I expect that Dawn Johnsen will be confirmed,” Holder said. “Her nomination has been pending, from my own parochial interest, for far too long. I’d like to have her here on the fifth floor with me and running the Office of Legal Counsel.”

Given that much of Holder’s press conference was devoted to a dishonest attempt to use the Zazi prosecution as an excuse to extend many of the worst Patriot Act civil liberties abuses, the statement about Johnsen came as a pleasant surprise.

It also seems noteworthy that the AP story announcing the confirmation of Thomas Perez as the top civil rights official in DOJ mentioned that Johnsen’s nomination (and those of three other assistant attorneys general) remains pending. Johnsen’s name had been missing from the media since we heard in the middle of August that she would be returning to Indiana University to teach a course while awaiting confirmation.

The Washington Post reported that at this same press conference, Holder said that John Durham’s investigation of the CIA’s destruction of torture videotapes may be nearing completion. With Durham’s additional investigation into potential charges for torture, Holder will be under significant pressure once a video tape destruction announcement is made, especially if no charges are filed, as some are now predicting. Getting Johnsen, a strong advocate against torture, confirmed might be seen as a way to "placate" us "civil liberites extremists" who will be very upset if there are no charges filed in what seems a clear-cut obstruction of justice case in the videotape destruction.

It almost goes without saying that Johnsen’s confirmation is essential to restore the Office of Legal Counsel to the respected source of legal research and analysis that it was meant to be. Its transformation during the Bush administration into a generator of "get out of jail free" cards to torturers perverted its function. Instead of being the final executive branch word on what is and is not legal, it became a "job shop" to provide legal justifications for violating US and international law. Given Holder’s embrace of continued civil liberty abuses in his call for renewal of the worst parts of the Patriot Act, it is clear that the delay in Johnsen’s confirmation has caused lasting harm to legal policy in the executive branch.

The Main Justice story also has some analysis of the politics of getting Johnsen’s confirmation through a cloture vote. That section is worth a read, followed by a few telephone calls to the Senators who could make this happen. It appears that critical cloture votes could come from Specter and Pryor and that critical confirmation and/or cloture votes could come from Snowe and Collins. I’d throw Durbin into that mix as the one who could get things moving.

To the phones!

Update: Mike Stark tweeted that he was going to Capitol Hill and asked for questions. I emailed him and asked if he could ask key Senators about their stance on Dawn Johnsen’s approval and cloture vote. He just tweeted that McCain would not commit one way or another on her cloture. You can follow Mike’s Twitter feed here.