Wary of Pakistan, US steps up surveillance
04 September, 2013
LAHORE: The $52.6 billion US intelligence arsenal is aimed mainly at unambiguous adversaries, including al Qaeda, North Korea and Iran. But top-secret budget documents reveal an equally intense focus on one purported ally: Pakistan, reports The Washington Post.
No other nation draws as much scrutiny across so many categories of national security concern. A 178-page summary of the US intelligence community's "black budget" shows that the United States has ramped up its surveillance of Pakistan's nuclear arms, cites previously undisclosed concerns about biological and chemical sites there, and details efforts to assess the loyalties of counterterrorism sources recruited by the CIA.
Pakistan appears at the top of charts listing critical US intelligence gaps. It is named as a target of newly formed analytic cells. And fears about the security of its nuclear programme are so pervasive that a budget section on containing the spread of illicit weapons divides the world into two categories: Pakistan and everybody else. The disclosures — based on documents provided to The Washington Post by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden — expose broad new levels of US distrust in an already unsteady security partnership with Pakistan. They also reveal a more expansive effort to gather intelligence on Pakistan than US officials have disclosed.
"If the Americans are expanding their surveillance capabilities, it can only mean one thing," said Husain Haqqani, who until 2011 served as Pakistan's ambassador to the United States. "The mistrust now exceeds the trust." Beyond the budget files, other classified documents provided to The Post expose fresh allegations of systemic human rights abuses in Pakistan. US spy agencies reported that high-ranking Pakistani military and intelligence officials had been aware of — and possibly ordered — an extensive campaign of extrajudicial killings targeting militants and other adversaries. Public disclosure of those reports, based on communications intercepts from 2010 to 2012 and other intelligence, could have forced the Obama administration to sever aid to the Pakistani armed forces because of a US law that prohibits military assistance to human rights abusers. But the documents indicate that administration officials decided not to press the issue, in order to preserve an already frayed relationship with the Pakistanis.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council said the United States is "committed to a long-term partnership with Pakistan, and we remain fully engaged in building a relationship that is based on mutual interests and mutual respect." "We have an ongoing strategic dialogue that addresses in a realistic fashion many of the key issues between us, from border management to counterterrorism, from nuclear security to promoting trade and investment," said the spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden. "The United States and Pakistan share a strategic interest in combating the challenging security issues in Pakistan, and we continue to work closely with Pakistan's professional and dedicated security forces to do so."
The Post agreed to withhold some details from the budget documents after consultations with US officials, who expressed concern about jeopardising ongoing operations and sources. A spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.