CIA pulls top spy out of Pakistan as cover is blown

The CIA has pulled its most senior spy out of Pakistan when his cover was blown after being named in a lawsuit that accused him of killing civilians in missile strikes.

The Islamabad station chief was hastily withdrawn on safety grounds after a series of death threats were made against him. The name of the reputed agent appeared on a series of placards during anti-American protests against the drone strikes and appeared in Pakistan media.

The spy's removal came as three American missile strikes killed 54 alleged militants inside Pakistan, close to the Afghan border. Pakistani officials claimed that the dead included commanders of a Taliban-allied group who were holding a meeting.

The attacks took place in the Khyber tribal region, which has been rarely struck by American missiles over the last three years. The strikes could indicate a possible expansion of the CIA-led covert campaign of drone strikes inside Pakistani territory.

The Obama administration has intensified missile attacks in northwest Pakistan since taking office and they often happen several times a week.

The US is desperate to weaken insurgent networks that US officials say are behind much of the violence against US troops just across the frontier in Afghanistan. There have been more than 100 drone strikes this year, more than double the number from 2009.

The Islamabad station chief, one of the CIA's most sensitive positions, runs the drone programme and works closely with the Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI. The lawyer bringing the case – which also named the CIA's director, Leon Panetta, and the Defence Secretary, Robert Gates – said he got the agent's name from local journalists. A Pakistani intelligence officer told the Associated Press agency that the ISI had no clue how the name had leaked. However, there were reports last night that the agent had been wrongly identified by the Pakistani lawsuit.

"Our station chiefs routinely encounter major risk as they work to keep America safe, and they've been targeted by terrorists in the past," the CIA spokesman George Little said. "They are courageous in the face of danger, and their security is obviously a top priority for the CIA, especially when there's an imminent threat."

Agents have previously been withdrawn when their cover was blown, including in 1999, when an Israeli newspaper revealed the identity of the station chief in Tel Aviv. Another station chief was named in 2001 in Argentina.

The threats that were made against the station chief in Pakistan in the wake of his name being revealed were "of such a serious nature that it would be imprudent not to act," one senior US official said on condition of anonymity.

Washington is especially keen to the perils that its operatives face in Pakistan, not least because memories that still linger of the kidnapping and subsequent killing there by al-Qa'ida of the Wall Street Journal Asia bureau chief there, Daniel Pearl, in 2002.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticised the use of drone attacks, saying that they have led to many innocent civilian deaths.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Recruitment Genius: Factory Operatives

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer ba...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003