The CIA allegedly negotiated with Pakistani intelligence to kill a Pakistan state enemy in exchange for the U.S. receiving access to the country’s airspace for the start of their controversial drone campaign.
New York Times national security correspondent Mark Mazzetti suggests in his new book that the CIA
agreed to a secret deal with Pakistan to execute a drone attack in June 2004 that killed Nek Muhammad, a Pashtun tribesman in Waziristan.
That operation served as an initiation test of sorts and allowed the CIA drone program.
Secret deal: A new book claims the CIA killed Nek Mohammad, pictured, in a 2004 drone attack as part of a deal with the Pakistanis to gain access to the country’s airspace for a drone campaign
In his book, The Way of the Knife: The C.I.A., a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth,’ Mr Mazzetti states that the American intelligence community was desperate to begin using drones in 2004 as it faced increased scrutiny over its use of torture in intelligence gathering.
An internal review conducted by CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson offered scathing criticism of the agency’s network of prisons where arrested insurgents were taken to be tortured and interrogated.
In the wake of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal in Iraq, the CIA wanted to shift the strategy from apprehending suspected terrorists to simply eliminating them with the use of drone strikes.
In an excerpt from Mazzetti’s book, published in the Sunday edition of the Times, he writes, ‘The ground had shifted, and counterterrorism officials began to rethink the strategy for the secret war.’
‘Armed drones, and targeted killings in general, offered a new direction. Killing by remote control was the antithesis of the dirty, intimate work of interrogation.’
The Pakistani military took credit for the 2004 attack on Nek Muhammad but it became widely reported that the causalities had actually been caused by a Predator drone operated by the U.S.
Muhammad was the hero of the tribes living in Waziristan, the mountainous lands who have protested the rule of Islamabad. He had led a band of militants to fight Pakistani troops and offered refuge to Al Qaeda operatives fleeing Afghanistan after the Americans invaded in October 2001.
Though in 2004, the Pakistani government offered a peace gesture to Muhammad, the public posturing did little to change circumstances and both sides continued in their conflict.
According to officials, the American government presented the Pakistanis with an offer, ‘If the C.I.A. killed Mr. Muhammad, would the ISI [Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence] allow regular armed drone flights over the tribal areas?’
In his book, the journalist quotes multiple agency insiders who voiced their strong opposition to the drone program, citing the dangers of ‘killing by remote control.’