By Hamid Waheed
The rapid growth of information and computer age has added new dimensions to spy warfare and now media is part and parcel of such operations. Open source intelligence (OS int) and outsourcing are the buzz words of today’s covert war. In this environment the two top world class intelligence agencies were provided an opportunity to work very closely in last four decades. The American Crime News Report in 2011 rated ISI, CIA and MI6 as first, second and third in the world. The decade of 1980s saw CIA and ISI unite to defeat Soviet Union and the post 9/11 decade is again witnessing the close interaction. Whereas the 1980s success of this partnership is an example for the historians the post 9/11 CIA and ISI relationship is full of distrust and suspicion for each other.
The American Intelligence agency is the pioneer for collecting, producing, and promoting open source intelligence through Department of National Intelligence’s Open Source Center (OSC) established in November 2005 in response to recommendations by the Robb-Silberman Commission. The OSC Director Douglas Naquin believes it is incumbent to work across organizations — inside and outside government — to make the most effective use of available expertise and capability. On the outsourcing technique guards from Blackwater, perhaps is the most famous example of private security contractors. During the Bush administration, private contractors were involved with interrogating prisoners and sometimes subjecting them to torture, the same continued during Obama administration.
Even now 25 percent of this country’s intelligence work force is made up of private contractors along with 70 percent of the CIA budget (81 billion as of 2010) feeding the outer sources. The starting point for outsourcing was that the U.S. military had long been unhappy about the quality of CIA intelligence in Afghanistan. The frustration surfaced publicly in January 2010 in a report by the top military intelligence officer in Kabul, Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who said that: “Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy. With new concepts of “information operations” or “force protection,” the Americans launched intelligence activities that otherwise might require a presidential finding and notification of Congress if they were conducted by the CIA. Therefore by using contractors who operate “outside the wire” in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the military got information that was sometimes better than what the CIA was offering. In one such operation the outsourced intelligence operation described a Stratcom civilian named Michael D. Furlong began funding former journalists to provide “ground truth,” with a planned budget of $22 million.
The new CIA and ISI relationship is now confronted with this changed working relation as CIA gets more focused to loose arrangements with contractors and Open Source intelligence. This working gives priority to quick tactical gains without considering rules, morals and values inbuilt in America’s own constitution and international laws. These groups are also found actively involved in making drug money. In fact there have been reporting that through these contractors, even the American Generals had their share.
The US funding to Media was officially declared in Kerry Lugar Law way back but now we have reports of two Pakistani journalists filing reports home from Washington are quietly drawing their salaries from US State Department funding through a nonprofit intermediary, highlighting the sophisticated nature of America’s efforts to shape its image abroad. The discloses that their reporters are paid by the nonprofit America Abroad Media (AAM) is now available on their websites after inquiries by other media. If an American journalist working as a foreign correspondent in Pakistan was paid in a similar manner, would it be morally or professionally acceptable for the ethical community, news organization or audience is a question?
The fog of information operations brought Dr Fai’s case in limelight as first example of counter operation after his arrest on charges of illegal funding through Pakistan’s spy agency. Council on Foreign Relations Pakistan expert Daniel Markey says, what is significant about it (Dr. Fai’s arrest) most is the timing. This comes on the heels of the arrest of the Pakistani doctor who assisted the US operation in Abbottabad [targeting Osama bin Laden] and worked directly with the CIA in a variety of ways.
The similarities here are striking, and the fact that it comes in the midst of a crisis in the broader US-Pakistan relationship will undoubtedly lead to questions in Pakistan as to whether this arrest and this case are being brought intentionally at this time to send a message to Islamabad. This is an individual who had some influence here in Washington, but by most accounts was not a significant threat. He was not a spy in the strict sense of the word. He said it could be useful-if only because the United States continues to try to gain the release of the Pakistani doctor who helped with the bin Laden mission. In such tense environment even someone like Adm. Mullen said during his visit to India that “It’s fairly well known that the ISI has a longstanding relationship with the Haqqani network….Haqqani is supporting, funding, training fighters that are killing Americans and killing coalition partners. And I have a sacred obligation to do all I can to make sure that doesn’t happen….. at the core that I think is the most difficult part of the relationship. I’m also concerned about LeT, which is growing. It’s not just the threat to India anymore; it’s also out in the West. Defenders of the ISI say that it is their job to maintain contacts with groups like that as part of their intelligence gathering methods. One spokesman told that the ISI has infiltrators in the terror groups just like the FBI has people undercover in the Mafia. The Report of Aug 2011 by “The Bureau of Investigative Journalism,” claims that after every four days there is one US drone strike. US drone attacks killed 775 civilians including 168 children.
The Obama administration has labeled this report based on allegations and blame that one of its sources is Pakistani spy Mirza Shahzad Akbar. Chris Wood Bureau of Investigative Journalism explained all allegations during his interview saying that we suspect far more civilians have died. Mr. Akbar is being smeared as a possible agent of Pakistani intelligence. I think that’s unfortunate. A retired Admiral Dennis Blair, President Barack Obama’s former director of national intelligence, declared that America’s drone campaign “is eroding our influence and damaging our ability to work with Pakistan.” Likewise on 26th June the American Embassy in Pakistan arranged a “gay, lesbians and transgender pride celebration ceremony,” with the acting ambassador announcing that the US Embassy is here to support them against all cultural and religious tenets of the nation as a whole. If Washington had wanted to convey contempt of Pakistan and deeply insult the majority of its citizens, this was one of the most effective ways of doing it.
But why and who benefited from this get-to-gather? The events indicate Pakistan struggled to sustain military and intelligence cooperation at times by even taking responsibility of CIA drone attacks in Pakistan to reduce public anger against US and to the other end CIA is found creating opportunities to hit reputation of Pakistan’s security and intelligence institutions. A counterterrorism Strategy for the ‘Next Wave’ by the Heritage Foundation Counterterrorism Task Force, published in August has a separate heading ‘The US Must Win the War Online’ and we need to address this form of perception war.
Osama bin Laden’s death, may be a serious jolt that hit Pak-US relationship but change in functioning of CIA from professional organization to an outsourced group of people having no obligation to rules of engagement is more of a basic cause which needs to be understood and addressed. The media has been given a lion share with visible inflow of funding now but this move has put values and ethics of profession at stake.