Monday, November 16, 2009

ISI used CIA money to build new Islamabad headquarters

Daily Times

LAHORE: The CIA has funnelled hundreds of millions of dollars to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) since the 9/11 attacks, accounting for as much as one-third of the foreign spy agency’s annual budget – reported an American newspaper, citing current and former US officials.

The Los Angeles Times quoted officials as saying that the ISI had also “collected tens of millions of dollars through a classified CIA programme that pays for the capture or killing of wanted militants, a clandestine counterpart to the rewards publicly offered by the State Department”.

The officials said the payments have triggered intense debate within the US government, because of “long-standing suspicions that the ISI continues to help Taliban who undermine US efforts in Afghanistan and provide sanctuary to Al Qaeda members in Pakistan”.

But US officials have continued the funding because the ISI’s assistance is considered crucial: “almost every major terrorist plot this decade has originated in Pakistan’s tribal belt, where ISI informant networks are a primary source of intelligence”, said the newspaper.

The White House National Security Council has “this debate every year”, said a former high-ranking US intelligence official involved in the discussions. Despite deep misgivings about the ISI, the official said, “there was no other game in town”. The payments to Pakistan are authorised under a covert programme initially approved by former president George Bush and continued under President Barack Obama.

“The CIA payments are a hidden stream in a much broader financial flow... the US has given Pakistan more than $15 billion over the last eight years in military and civilian aid,” said the Los Angeles Times. “The ISI has used the covert CIA money for a variety of purposes, including the construction of a new headquarters in Islamabad... that project pleased CIA officials because it replaced a structure considered vulnerable to attack: it also eased fears that the US money would end up in the private bank accounts of ISI officials,” it said.

The newspaper said, “The scale of the payments shows the extent to which money has fuelled an espionage alliance that has been credited with damaging Al Qaeda but also plagued by distrusts.”

Given the size of overt military and civilian aid to Pakistan, CIA officials argue that their own disbursements – particularly the bounties for suspected terrorists – should be considered a bargain. “They gave us 600 to 700 people captured or dead,” said one former senior CIA official, who worked with the Pakistanis. “Getting these guys off the street was a good thing, and it was a big savings to [US] taxpayers.”

A US intelligence official said Pakistan had made “decisive contributions to counter-terrorism”. “They have people dying almost every day,” said the official. “Sure, their interests don’t always match up with ours. But things would be one hell of a lot worse if the government there was hostile to us.”

“The CIA also directs millions of dollars to other foreign spy services. But the magnitude of the payments to the ISI reflect Pakistan’s central role. The CIA depends on Pakistan’s cooperation to carry out missile strikes by drones that have killed dozens of suspected extremists in Pakistani border areas,” said the newspaper.

Outrage over Obama's Bow to Japanese Emperor

Critics of President Obama have something new to complain about -- his bow to the Emperor of Japan. Washington is abuzz with what some consider an innapropriate gesture.
When he was in Japan over the weekend as part of his Asian trip, Obama was greeted by Emperor Akihtito and his wife. While shaking hands, the President bowed down to the Emperor.