Tag Archives: Wikileaks

A Sense of Perspective on Intelligence Leaks

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.

Pakistan's People Should Decide Their Own Future

Pakistan elections

According to information contained in diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, several countries have been working behind the scenes to influence the direction of Pakistan by undermining the democratic government. While the nature of international diplomacy involves influence and persuasion, these nations have been carrying out covert programs intended to destabilize and, in one case, determine the government of Pakistan. The US must support the right of the Pakistani people to choose their own government, and use its international influence to convince other nations to do the same.

According to the leaked diplomatic cables, Pakistan’s then Director General of Military Operations, Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, presented evidence to members of Pakistan’s parliament that he had evidence Russia, India and the United Arab Emirates were directly involved providing support to Baloch separatist groups. Other cables reveal that these three countries are not the only ones attempting to interfere with Paksitan’s sovereignty.

Perhaps the most disturbing example is a cable that reveals that Saudi Arabia has attempted not only to influence the Pakistani government, but to overthrow it, the Saudi ambassador to the US, Adel al-Jubeir, saying in 2007 that “We in Saudi Arabia are not observers in Pakistan, we are participants.”

According to Guardian reporter Declan Walsh, the Saudi’s prime motivator appears to be ethnic and sectarian bias.

The anti-Zardari bias appears to have a sectarian tinge. Pakistan’s ambassador to Riyadh, Umar Khan Alisherzai, says the Saudis, who are Sunni, distrust Zardari, a Shia. Last year the United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, told Hillary Clinton that Saudi suspicions of Zardari’s Shia background were “creating Saudi concern of a Shia triangle in the region between Iran, the Maliki government in Iraq, and Pakistan under Zardari”.

Whatever the excuse, neither the Saudis nor anyone else but the Pakistanis themselves have a right to determine their government. This, of course, includes the United States ourselves. As a far more cooperative relationship between the US and Pakistan than is often thought.

Pakistani columnist Cyril Almeida writes that once you move beyond the rhetoric and “the myth of American influence in Pakistan,” the real issue is that Pakistan’s democratic government is new and fragile.

Various power centres with differing interests competing for power, some centres more powerful than others, but none so powerful as to always dictate the course of history — that, more than a great puppet master at home or abroad choreographing the dance of chaos, is what best describes power politics in Pakistan.

This is where the US can play an important role in protecting Pakistani sovereignty. The United States should use its influence to stop India, Russia, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and any other nation that attempts to influence Pakistan’s internal affairs. Pakistan is a sovereign, democratic nation and the people of Pakistan must be allowed to decide their own future without undue influence from foreign interests.

What the Pakistani government needs is not influence from the outside, it needs space to work and grow on its own. By using our influence in the global community to help provide that space, the US can help ensure the people of Pakistan are masters of their own fate. In the long run, doing so will protect not only Pakistan’s security, but our own.

Simon Tisdall Mischaracterizes US-Pakistan Relations

Simon TisdallSimon Tisdall is an intelligent journalist, so I was a bit surprised to read his analysis of the diplomatic cables made public by Wikileaks — an analysis that involves a rather simplistic misunderstanding of US-Pakistan relations for such a sophisticated observer.

According to Tisdall, US policy towards Pakistan is reminiscent of Imperial Britain during the Raj. Simon Tisdall should know better. Where the British exploited ethnic differences to maintain control over the population, the US has championed minority rights and supported democratic reforms. Where the British siphoned capital out of South Asia, the US has been investing heavily in the region. Most tellingly, the Obama administration has been vocally supportive of the democratically elected government – an obvious about-face from previous policies of supporting military dictatorships and a preference for a false sense of stability over democratic rule.

Continue reading

What Wikileaks Teaches About Misinformation & Rogue Elements

The ongoing media hype about classified documents being published on the website Wikileaks.org may prove to be the exact outcome the leaker intended. According to intelligence company Stratfor, “all of what has been released so far has been not-so-sensitive material rated secret or below.” What is being discussed is not revelatory information, but the act of the leak.

In the case of the WikiLeaks, what is revealed also is not far from what most people believed, although they provide enormous detail. Nor is it that far from what government and military officials are saying about the war. No one is saying the war is going well, though some say that given time it might go better.

The data dump posted by Wikileaks includes 92,000 pages of documents, but does it contain a selection of documents sufficient to provide a comprehensive view of the reality on the ground? According to The New York Times, the answer is no.

Much of the information — raw intelligence and threat assessments gathered from the field in Afghanistan— cannot be verified and likely comes from sources aligned with Afghan intelligence, which considers Pakistan an enemy, and paid informants. Some describe plots for attacks that do not appear to have taken place.

This would put this material in the same category as that which was used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq – raw intelligence documents that purported to prove that Saddam Hussein was actively pursuing a weapons of mass destruction program.

In previous Administrations, such data had been made available to under-secretaries only after it was analyzed, usually in the specially secured offices of INR. The whole point of the intelligence system in place, according to Thielmann, was “to prevent raw intelligence from getting to people who would be misled.” Bolton, however, wanted his aides to receive and assign intelligence analyses and assessments using the raw data. In essence, the under-secretary would be running his own intelligence operation, without any guidance or support. “He surrounded himself with a hand-chosen group of loyalists, and found a way to get C.I.A. information directly,” Thielmann said.

Following news reports such as the one cited above, this practice – selectively choosing raw intelligence that supports a predetermined policy position or strategy – was widely condemned by the very people who now accept without a moment’s critical thought the documents that have been posted on Wikileaks.

These documents do not provide any new or enlightening information. Moreover, the fact that the collection of leaked documents is composed of selective raw intelligence suggests that even the information that is contained therein is untrustworthy.

Assertions that the leak was orchestrated by the Pentagon, a conspiracy that was bound to surface, doesn’t hold much water. The episode has been embarrassing for the Pentagon and the White House alike, and does nothing to serve official US policy in the region.

But it’s not unheard of for an individual official or group of officials to contravene official policy in pursuit of counter goals. Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers are, of course, the obvious example. But more recent claims by Bradley Manning, a military intelligence analyst who bragged to another computer hacker that he had stolen over 260,000 classified documents and sent them to Wikileaks, suggest that technology combined with the fact that over 850,000 Americans have Top Secret security clearances has made such acts even more likely.

Similarly, it is no secret that individuals in Pakistan like former ISI chief Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul continue to support jihadi terrorist groups. These pro-jihadi elements also continue to aggressively attack the democratically-elected government in Pakistan in hopes of replacing it with a regime that is sympathetic to the Taliban.

Despite the volume of documents leaked, they represent only a small and relatively uninformative peek into what the US knows about terrorist groups in South Asia. Because the information is classified to protect the lives of Americans and Pakistanis in harms way, the American and Pakistani governments are not at liberty to merely release the rest of the information to set the record straight.

But they shouldn’t have to. As an obvious media stunt intended to embarrass both the American and Pakistani governments, this episode serves only to help anti-democratic jihadi groups. Ironically, however, by acting outside his official duties and contravening official government policy to leak these documents, the perpetrator actually demonstrates that rogue elements within the ISI are not following official Pakistani government policy when they offer any support to jihadi groups.