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Pakistan’s ISI On Trial….In Chicago

As Pakistan’s corrupt military-feudal elite scramble to put out smoke after Osama bin Laden was caught and killed in an ISI safe house in Abbottabad and hire K Street lawyer-lobbyists like Mark Siegel at $ 75,000 a month, there are senior officials in Washington, inside and outside of the DoD, who doggedly championed Pakistan and defended the ISI behind closed doors.  These officials, as one DC correspondent in the know related to me, are now looking extremely foolish to their peers, even as they double-down and attempt to salvage a thoroughly discredited policy by spinning hard.

While attention is focused in Washington and Islamabad, Pakistan’s dreaded ISI is quietly going on trial. In Chicago.

An important post from Pundita:

U.S. government goes to lengths to shield Pakistan’s ISI at Rana trial in Chicago. Once again, keep your eye on the USG’s little cat feet.

This follows on my Tuesday post. The quotes I’ve pulled from ProPublica’s latest report on the upcoming trial of Tahawwur Hussain Rana will be upsetting to anyone who believes the U.S.-Pakistan relationship will change in significant fashion in light of the revelation that Osama bin Laden was quartered in a Pakistan garrison town.The ProPublica report presents clear evidence that all costs, including running roughshod over the American criminal justice system, the United States government will continue to cover for Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, as it’s done for decades. This is a point I emphasized in the Tuesday post so for anyone who thought I was being unduly pessimistic, read on. And be sure to read the rest of the report at the ProPublica site.Note from the report that the U.S. “intelligence community” still refuses to look at the Mumbai massacre in the context of the history of Pakistani military-sponsored terrorism and massacres going back decades. The community, at least according to the source ProPublica quotes, still insists that rogue officers, not the ISI institution, were responsible for the massacre in Mumbai.Before proceeding with the quotes I’ll note that ProPublica is an award-winning nonprofit American investigative journalism organization. It’s been keeping a close eye on Rana’s upcoming trial and other issues related to the 2008 massacre in Mumbai, India — to my knowledge the only U.S. media outlet that’s doing so despite the fact that six Americans were killed in the massacre. Here’s the link to earlier ProPublica reports on the issues.I’ve also included excerpts from a report posted at the Times of India news website that provide additional details about Rana and his trial.May 4, 2011, 5:11 p.m.

Pakistan’s Terror Ties at Center of Upcoming Chicago Trial
by Sebastian Rotella
It may be years, if ever, before the world learns whether Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) helped hide Osama bin Laden. But detailed allegations of ISI involvement in terrorism will soon be made public in a federal courtroom in Chicago, where prosecutors last week quietly charged a suspected ISI major with helping to plot the murders of six Americans in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.The indictment has explosive implications because Washington and Islamabad are struggling to preserve their fragile relationship. The ISI has long been suspected of secretly aiding terrorist groups while serving as a U.S. ally in the fight against terror. The discovery that bin Laden spent years in a fortress-like compound surrounded by military facilities in Abbottabad has heightened those suspicions and reinforced the accusations that the ISI was involved in the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.“It’s very, very troubling,” said Congressman Frank Wolf, R-Va., chairman of the House Appropriations sub-committee that oversees funding of the Justice Department. Wolf has closely followed the Mumbai case and wants an independent study group to review South Asia policy top-to-bottom.“Keep in mind that we’ve given billions of dollars to the Pakistani government,” he said. “In light of what’s taken place with bin Laden, the whole issue raises serious problems and questions.”?

Read the rest here.

Read Propublica’s Mumbai Terror Attacks series.

If you have not heard about the Mumbai terrorism trial in Chicago, being carried out by Federal uber-prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald who is also prosecuting the high-profile, politically sensitive, retrial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevic, it is no accident. In deference to State and the DoD, the Department of Justice is not exactly shouting about this terrorism case from the rooftops.

But somebody should.

There’s a lot of angst in this section of the blogosphere about the lack of strategy and the USG not looking at the larger picture. Well, the death of Bin Laden in the heartland of the military power structure that really rules Pakistan has been a wake up call that sent a normally somnambulent Congress into a state of anxiety. Good. Maybe if senators and congressmen hear from their constituents, they will less likely to be lulled to sleep again by Pakistan’s salaam alaikum‘ corner.

It is long past time for a deep, strategic, rethink of what ends America wants to accomplish in Central Asia and some hardheaded realism about who our friends really are.


Pundita responds –U.S. and Pakistani damage control on Rawalpindi’s involvement in terrorism ignores much history

Christine Fair, an associate professor and Pakistan expert at Georgetown University in Washington DC, said Pakistan’s “record of helping us with al Qaeda is indisputable.”

Indisputable, huh? How about if you and I take a trip down memory lane, Professor Fair? Let’s link arms and skip back along a path piled high on either side with bodies of American dead.

The U.S. government paid their counterpart in Pakistan $25 million for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. They paid $10 for another top al Qaeda operative, Abu Zubaydah.

Then Rawalpindi showed photographs of dead men with beards to the CIA, told them the corpses were al Qaeda operatives they’d killed, and got paid tens of millions of dollars in bounty. Some of those photographs cost the CIA one million dollars a pop.

I don’t think being skinned counts as receiving indisputable help, particularly when all signs point to top al Qaeda operatives such as KSM being ISI assets that the ISI sacrificed because they wanted the bounty money to keep themselves in business.

If you’d like to review the bounty program in detail, Professor Fair, you can read my November 2009 post, How the U.S. government built a perpetual-motion war machine in Afghanistan and sacrificed American values in the process

The upshot of the bounty program is that together the U.S. and Pakistan built a kind of perpetual motion machine:

At the end of every complex set of transactions between the CIA and the ISI, yet more enemy combatants materialize, to be rounded up or dispatched, leading to yet more enemy combatants to attack ISAF troops and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan, to be rounded up or dispatched, leading to — well, last night CNN reported that “Taliban” now control 80 percent of Afghanistan, even though only 7 percent of Afghanis support the Taliban.

The finding of Chicago-related terrorism plots on Osama bin Laden’s computer drives means that the trial takes on a new significance; Are Rana and Headley part of an operational cell designed to carry out attacks in the Windy City and not just a support team for Mumbai? 

Chicago TribuneTrial will probe alleged Chicago ties to Mumbai attack

While federal prosecutors link the alleged Mumbai plotters only to Lashkar, Headley has told investigators of a co-conspirator known only as “Major Iqbal,” who was working for Pakistan’s largest intelligence service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.

Further, Rana’s attorneys have also alleged in court documents that Rana believed Headley was working for ISI.

5 Responses to “Pakistan’s ISI On Trial….In Chicago”

  1. Cameron Schaefer Says:

    The Amazon single, "Pakistan and the Mumbai Attacks: The Untold Story" is a great primer, written by ProPublica contributer Sebastian Rotella.  About 30-odd pages, it goes into far more detail on the planning and execution, including possible (likely) ISI-involvement and backing, then anything else I’ve read or seen on the subject.  Highly recommend.

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi Cameron:
    I have the impression that the Amazon single is likely a mildly edited version of these two Propublica pieces:


    The Amazon version begins and ends with the same words as the first, and closes with the ending of the second, it seems to have been cleaned up a bit, and its price is no problem — but I’ve downloaded the articles too, because they’re far easier to quote from, since Amazon singles don’t allow cut-n-paste.

  3. Pundita Says:

    Cameron, Charles, thank you for the links, which I’ll include in my next post on the Rana trial.  I assume you’ve seen the 2009 HBO documentary, "Terror in Mumbai" but in case anyone reading this hasn’t, it is a ‘must’ see not only with regard to understanding the massacre in Mumbai but also the modern era in terrorism.  For those who know nothing about the documentary I warn it is extremely difficult viewing, even for those inured to battlefield footage, because it contains about 20 minutes of ‘real time’ cell phone conversations of a handler calmly guiding a team of terrorists through their murder rampage.  


    My great concern at this time is that the American public is so war weary that even without the government’s moves to downplay the Rana trial little media attention will be given it outside Chicago.   (I was glad to see from the Chicago Tribune link that Mark featured that at least in Chicago the trial is getting press attention.)

  4. Chicago Boyz » Blog Archive » “Trust, but verify” and Pakistan: I Says:

    […] claimed a couple days ago that “Osama bin Laden was caught and killed in an ISI safe house in Abbottabad” — […]

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