A new book on the CIA’s secret war in Pakistan, written by New York Times correspondent Mark Mazzetti, has revealed details about a hushed-up ‘blood money’ deal to free incarcerated CIA contractor Raymond Davis from a Lahore prison, and about how the violent events surrounding his detention ruptured ties between U.S. and Pakistani intelligence organisations.
In The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth, Mr. Mazzetti also sheds light on the gradual shift in CIA’s operations from traditional espionage activities to targeted killings, especially under the Obama administration’s secretive drone programme in the tribal belt along the Durand Line.
Going by Mr. Mazzetti’s account, however, l’affair Davis had echoes far beyond this remote mountainous region. Rather than any of the usual al-Qaeda suspects on the CIA kill list, it was the Lashkar-e-Taiba group, held responsible for the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, that Mr. Davis and his crack team of CIA contractors were said to be tracking in Lahore.
Bringing to light unprecedented details of the deadly gun battle that ensued after two armed men on motorcycles attacked Mr. Davis on the streets of that city, Mr. Mazzetti recounts that the former employee of controversial private security firm Blackwater shot both men dead, firing multiple rounds of bullets into each of them.
Apart from the broad anti-Americanism that this episode unsurprisingly fuelled across Pakistan, it set in motion a series of “screaming matches” between the erstwhile U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, and the CIA Station Chief. According to the book “the CIA didn’t want to own up to [Mr. Davis’ role because] Davis had been spying on a militant group with extensive ties to the ISI and... top CIA officials worried that appealing for mercy from the ISI might doom Davis”.
However, the CIA’s rejection of Mr. Munter’s suggestion was compounded by an explicit denial of Mr. Davis’ association with the agency by erstwhile CIA Director Leon Panetta. When the crisis reached boiling point after the wife of a victim of the Davis incident killed herself in protest, the Obama administration directed Mr. Munter to approach ISI head Ahmad Shuja Pasha and admit to Mr. Davis’ employment.
At that point, Mr. Mazzetti said, “Pasha was fuming that Leon Panetta had lied to him, and he was going to make the Americans squirm by letting Davis sit in jail while he considered — on his own timetable — the best way to resolve the situation.”
Ultimately, the U.S. coughed up $2.34 million, for the victim families to offer Mr. Davis “forgiveness" .