Mon February 21, 2011

American Official Jailed In Pakistan Worked For CIA

An American arrested in Pakistan after fatally shooting two men on a crowded Lahore street was a contractor working for the CIA, according to a U.S. official familiar with the investigation.

The case of Raymond Davis has exacerbated U.S.-Pakistan relations, and as reports mount of connections to the CIA, it is likely to trigger a fierce anti-American backlash.

Davis, a former Special Forces soldier who left the military in 2003, shot the men in what he described as an attempted armed robbery in the eastern city of Lahore as they approached him on a motorcycle. A third Pakistani, a bystander, died when a car rushing to help Davis struck him. Davis was reportedly carrying a Glock handgun, a pocket telescope and papers with different identifications.

The U.S. is deeply concerned about Davis' physical well-being. A U.S. official says Davis is being held at a jail on the outskirts of Lahore. The CIA would not comment on the case. However, a U.S. official said there are serious doubts about whether the Pakistanis can protect Davis. He said dogs were being used to taste or smell his food "to make sure it doesn't contain poison."

A senior Pakistani intelligence official said the government had taken measures to ensure the safety of Davis, stepping up security at the facility, removing certain inmates from the prison and sending a contingent of well-trained paramilitaries known as the Rangers.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration insisted anew Monday that Davis had diplomatic immunity and must be set free.

In a hastily arranged conference call with reporters shortly after details of Davis' employment were reported, senior State Department officials repeated the administration's stance that he is an accredited member of the technical and administrative staff of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. They said the Pakistani government had been informed of his status in January 2010 and that Pakistan is violating its international obligations by continuing to hold him.

The revelation that Davis was an employee of the CIA comes amid a tumultuous dispute over whether he is immune from criminal prosecution under international rules enacted to protect diplomats overseas. New protests in Pakistan erupted after The Guardian newspaper in London decided to publish details about Davis' relationship with the CIA.

The U.S. had repeatedly asserted that Davis had diplomatic immunity and should have been released immediately. The State Department claimed Davis was "entitled to full criminal immunity in accordance with the Vienna Convention'' and was a member of the "technical and administrative staff'' at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

The State Department said the Pakistani government was informed that Davis was a diplomat and entitled to immunity when he was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. "We notified the Pakistani government when he arrived in Islamabad,'' department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

Davis told police he was a "consultant" working for the U.S. when he was arrested. He "has repeatedly requested immunity'' to no avail, Crowley said. The U.S. Embassy said he has a diplomatic passport and a visa valid through June 2012. It also said in a recent statement the U.S. had notified the Pakistani government of Davis' assignment more than a year ago. However, the senior Pakistani intelligence official says that Davis' visa application contained bogus U.S. contact information.

Since Pakistani authorities took Davis into custody Jan. 27, U.S. officials said, the situation has slowly escalated into a crisis, threatening the CIA's ability to wage a dangerous war against al-Qaida and militants. Some members of Congress have threatened to cut off the billions in funding to Pakistan if Davis isn't released.

Davis was attached to the CIA's Global Response Staff, which provides security overseas to agency bases and stations, former and current U.S. officials told the AP. In that role, he was assigned to protect CIA personnel. One of their duties includes protecting case officers when they meet with sources.

A U.S. official told NPR that "Davis is a protective officer...someone who provides security to U.S. officials in Pakistan."

"Rumors to the contrary are simply wrong," he said, referring to reports that Davis was conducting surveillance on militant groups deep inside Pakistan.

With reporting from NPR's Julie McCarthy in Islamabad, Pakistan. This story also contains material from The Associated Press. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.