On Friday, the Washington Post reported that US officials are concerned after fresh evidence points to a leak in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the nation’s premier spy agency. According to a senior Pakistani military official who spoke with the Post, there is concern that someone within the agency may have tipped off militants about an upcoming operation.
“There is a suspicion that perhaps there was a tip-off,” the official said. “It’s being looked into by our people, and certainly anybody involved will be taken to task.”
This report has caused some to question whether Pakistan is a trustworthy ally in the fight against terrorism, or if the nation’s security services are playing a double-game against the US. While the possibility of a leak within the ISI is troubling, it is important to keep a sense of perspective when evaluating these reports and to refrain from tarring all of Pakistan’s security services with a broad brush.
As the rise of WikiLeaks has amply demonstrated, even the world’s most professional military can find itself infiltrated by an individual who takes it upon himself to reveal official secrets. Despite strict security clearance protocols, Pfc. Bradley Manning was allegedly able to leak over 90,000 secret military and diplomatic reports to the anti-secrecy website. And Manning is not the first American to leak classified information. In an ironic situation last month, a secret CIA memo warning agents about leaks…was leaked.
Clearly, there is a gulf of difference between leaking internal memos about protocol and tipping off enemy combatants about coming raids. But the US – as all nations have – has also had its share of double-agents. Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, and Col. George Trofimoff all provided high-level intelligence to the KGB or the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). Each of these men betrayed their country by passing secrets to the nation’s enemies. Each of them acted as a rogue double-agent, acting outside of and in opposition to official policy.
CIA director Panetta has traveled to Pakistan to meet with his counterparts there possibly to discuss, among other things, concerns about the possibility of a mole within the ISI. As reported by the Washington Post, Pakistani officials are taking the possibility seriously and working to identify any mole within their services. Having struggled with the problem of double-agents and intelligence leaks in the past, the US can provide important technical assistance to the Pakistani agencies to help ensure that operational security is maintained at all times. This will help ensure the success of future counter-terrorist operations. Casting unwarranted dispersion on a key ally will not.