Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

CIA recalls its top Pakistan spy after his cover is blown in drone case

The CIA has pulled its top spy out of Pakistan after threats were made against his life, according to officials.

A Pakistani lawsuit has accused him by name of killing civilians in missile strikes.

The lawsuit blew the American spy's cover, leading to threats against him and forcing the US to call him home, the officials said, speaking on condition they were not named.

“Serious concerns” for the station chief’s safety led to the decision to bring him home, they said.

A spokeswoman for the spy agency, Jennifer Youngblood, declined to comment.

The Pakistani lawsuit also named CIA director Leon Panetta and Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

The Associated Press is not publishing the name of the station chief because he remains undercover and his name is classified.

CIA air strikes from unmanned aircraft have killed terrorist leaders but have led to accusations in Pakistan that the strikes have killed innocent people.

The US does not acknowledge the missile strikes, but there have been more than 100 such attacks this year — more than double the amount in 2009.

The CIA's work is unusually difficult in Pakistan, one of the US's most important counterterrorism allies.

The station chief in Islamabad operates as a secret general in the US war against terrorism. He runs the Predator drone programme targeting terrorists, handles some of the CIA's most urgent and sensitive tips, and collaborates closely with Pakistan's intelligence agency, one of the most important relationships in the spy world. Almost a year ago seven CIA officers and contractors were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan. Six other agency officers were wounded in the attack, one of the deadliest in CIA history.

It's rare for a CIA station chief to see his cover blown. In 1999, an Israeli newspaper revealed the identity of the station chief in Tel Aviv. In 2001, an Argentine newspaper printed a picture of the Buenos Aires station chief and details about him. In both instances, the station chiefs were recalled to the US.

Meanwhile, nearly 60 people have been killed in a series of attacks by US drones in the past 24 hours in Pakistan's Khyber tribal district, officials say.

At least 50 died in three unmanned strikes, a day after seven were killed in the same area.

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