Top US spy in Pakistan flees after lawsuit reveals identity

By David Edwards
Friday, December 17, 2010 13:43 EDT
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Update: Pakistani military intelligence suspected of revealing CIA station chief’s identify

Following the revelation on Friday of the abrupt departure of CIA station chief Jonathan Banks from Pakistan, the New York Times is reporting that “some American officials [are] convinced that the officer’s cover was deliberately blown by Pakistan’s military intelligence agency.”

According to the Times, “The officials said there is strong suspicion that operatives of Pakistan’s powerful spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, had a hand in revealing the C.I.A. officer’s identity — possibly in retaliation for a civil lawsuit filed in Brooklyn last month implicating the I.S.I. chief in the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008. The American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, did not immediately provide details to support their suspicions.”

The top American spy in Pakistan was pulled from the country Thursday after a lawsuit revealed his name and accused him of murdering civilians in missile strikes.

Jonathan Banks was named as the CIA station chief in a lawsuit by Karim Khan, a journalist from North Waziristan.

Khan claimed that Banks was responsible for using a drone strike to kill his brother and son in December 2009.

Pakistani intelligence officials said at the time that four militants were killed in the US missile strike in the Mir Ali area.

“We need justice. We are innocent people,” Khan said in November.

Lawyer Mirza Shehzad Akbar said that legal notices had been sent to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, CIA director Leon Panetta and the CIA station chief in Islamabad through the US embassy in Pakistan.

“We have asked them to stop drone attacks in Pakistan and to pay my client 500 million US dollars’ compensation,” he said.

Kahn has called for Banks to receive the death penalty. “He should be arrested and executed in this country,” he insisted.

Banks was called home Thursday as the CIA cited “security concerns” and said he had received threats on his life.

Akbar told The New York Times that security was not the reason for Banks’ quick exit.

“Obviously, his name had come out in the open and maybe he feared police action or an action by the Supreme Court,” he said.

While most legal experts expect the case to fail, it has renewed concerns over the US role in Pakistan. Drone strikes have more than doubled to 100 in the past year.

According to the New America Foundation, an estimated 1,290 to 1,985 people have died in drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. Of those, about three-quarters have been “described as militants.”

A diplomatic cable released by secrets website WikiLeaks revealed that the US military had covered up the killing of dozens of civilians in 2009.

– with earlier reporting by Daniel Tencer and AFP

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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