Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 7, 2011

Pakistan: complicit or incompetent or byzantine or bungling?

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,International HLS,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on May 7, 2011

Watching Pakistan I have often been reminded of the anecdotes of Procopius regarding the late Roman-early Byzantine court of Justinian.  To share these impressions would, however, be even more pedantic than yesterday’s endorsement of Immanuel Kant.

I am glad that someone closer to Islamabad seems to see a similar pattern.   Following is an essay published earlier today by Irfan Husain in DAWN.  I have only excerpted a bit of the beginning.  The whole essay is worth your reading: A History of Bungling.


The space between an admission of gross incompetence or of complicity in a major crime is full of humiliation and pain.

This is the place Pakistan`s ISI finds itself in the wake of Osama bin Laden`s killing in Abbottabad.

The country`s premier intelligence agency is being accused by many of knowing where the Al Qaeda chief has been hiding for the last five years. His extended presence in Abbottabad, close to the country`s elite military academy, has raised troubling questions.

But when faced with a choice between official bungling and thuggery, I`d go for ineptitude every time. While looking at a crime, the first thing an investigator asks is: ` Cui bono ?`, or `Who benefits?”

In the case of Bin Laden`s long residence in Pakistan, the country`s security establishment clearly had nothing to gain by concealing his presence.

In the past, several major foreign Muslim terrorists have been captured in Pakistan with the ISI`s cooperation. The names of Aimal Kansi, Yusef Ramzi, Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh come to mind. Lesser figures have been fingered for drone strikes, deportation to Guantanamo Bay, or for interrogation by the Americans elsewhere.

It has long been Pakistan`s tacit policy that it would crack down on foreign fighters and terrorists, while maintaining an ambivalent attitude towards jihadi groups who might be of use in Afghanistan at a later date.

Bin Laden was clearly a distraction and an embarrassment. He was of no possible strategic value to Pakistan, now or later; 9/11 had made him a toxic liability, and he was too much of a hate figure around the world for the ISI to risk sheltering him. In addition, with a $25m reward on Bin Laden`s head, do we really think our spooks are so high-minded that they would resist the temptation to turn him in?

So me, I`d go for the bungling option rather than for any of the conspiracy theories doing the rounds in Washington and around the world…


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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 7, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

I was once witness to a trial of a FEMA contractor for criminal fraud. The Federal District Judge June Green ended the case dismissing all charges with a 75 page opinion blasting the DOJ lawyers as not knowing the difference between gross negligence and criminal behavior.
The legal definition of gross negligence if I remember correctly and probably do not is that the willful disregard of the consequences was so great as to border on criminal neglect. Although not technically criminal often gross neglience is simultaneously prosecuted for some criminal violation where mens rea and scienter are often contested. So at least the Pakistani’s were negligent perhaps even grossly negligent, and perhaps even criminal. But the US erected a standard after 9/11/01 that while some disgree with is reflected in US law. Those who support and assist terrorism and terrorists in acts against the US should be pursued. Therefore the US needs to follow through on that test with all deliberate speed and employ all assets to determine Pakistani complicity.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 8, 2011 @ 3:15 am

Wondering if the USA INTEL community will study how they missed UBL for so long and missed his active command role of AQ?

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 13, 2011 @ 1:59 am

It seems the foreign policy establishment in the USA is fracturing between the GET TOUGH with Pakistan crowd (the correct one IMO) and the try and maintain STATUS QUO ANTE marked by the death of UBL.

It has also been suggested to me by several people that the Administration is triumphantly announcing or leaking the value of the take from the UBL compound to avoid hard questions of legality. Ron Paul for example has announced the raid and killing violate International Law. WOW! IS the Tea Party favoring International Law. Will a Ron Paul Administration cause the USA to join the ICC?

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