March 17, 2011
US Pays Blood Money to Free CIA Contractor
Raymond Davis Walks
By DAVE LINDORFF
Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor indicted for the murder of two young Pakistani motorcyclists, whom he gunned down in the back in broad daylight through his car windshield in a busy section of Lahore, Pakistan, has been freed, after the payment of $2.34 million in "blood money," called diyya, to relatives of the two slain men.
The surprise "deal," which Pakistani news reports are saying appears to have been forced on the relatives of the two men, who up to March 15 had insisted they wanted no blood money, but only justice, was announced in a court session March 16 in Lahore, at which the prosecution's case of murder was to have been presented.
Both the US Ambassador, who expressed regret for the killings and gratitude to the victims' families for their "generosity" in asking for the pardon, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denied that they had paid any blood money for a deal, but that did not mean the CIA didn't put up the cash. The New York Times (which withheld for two weeks at the behest of the White House information it had that Davis was a CIA contractor, even as it reported the official US lie that he was a "diplomat") is reporting that a "new" counsel" representing the families of Davis's victims, Raja Irshad, is saying the blood money was paid by the Pakistani government, but it, and the Wall Street Journal, are both also reporting that the US is reimbursing Pakistan. A more likely ultimate source of the funds is the CIA, which operates with a "black budget," free of outside scrutiny.
The integrity of this "deal" is in question, though, with Pakistani media reporting that the two families suspiciously "went missing" several days before the hearing, with some having been seen taken away by unidentified men. They were delivered, also by unidentified men, to the court the day of the hearing, where each was asked by the judge if they pardoned Davis, and if they had received the blood money required under the country's Sharia Law. Each reportedly applied affirmatively to both questions.
The 19 have subsequently vanished, leading to charges in Pakistan that they were compelled to accept a deal, and have subsequently left the country, fearing retaliation from groups that were demanding that Davis face trial for murder.
Lawyers for the families, who disclosed the size of the payment, say they too were held captive before the trial. "I and my associate were kept in forced detention for hours," said the attorney for the family of one of the slain men, Faizan Haider.
A cousin of Haider, Aijaz Ahmed, was quoted in the Christian Science Monitor as saying eight members of his immediate family had gone missing since news of the deal.
The Express Tribune, an English-language daily in Pakistan partly owned by the International Herald Tribune,reports that lawyers for the two families claim both families' members were "forcibly taken to Kot Lahkpat Jail by unidentified men and made to sign papers pardoning Davis."
It appears that the "deal" with the families was brokered by the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan's intelligence service. The Associated Press reports that an unidentified ISI official says CIA Director Leon Panetta met in a long session with ISI Chief Gen. Schuja Pasha, and that Pasha told the Panetta the ISI would agree to a deal freeing Davis and would help broker a blood money payment if the Agency agreed to "identify all the Raymond Davises working in Pakistan behind our backs." Panetta is said to have agreed to the deal "in principal," though the New York Times on March 17 reports that "US officials insisted Wednesday the CIA made no pledges to scale back operations in Pakistan or to give the Pakistani intelligence agency a roster of US spies operating in the country -- assertions that Pakistani officials disputed."
There had been tremendous pressure brought on President Asif Ali Zardari by the US, with visits by Senate Foreign Relations Chair John Kerry, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, all of whom threatened the struggling Pakistani government with a cut-off of US aid if Davis was not released and was tried for murder. At the same time, public sentiment across Pakistan in this case has been running high, with one poll suggesting 99 percent of the public wanted Davis tried for murder and if found guilty, executed.
Most US reports on Davis being sprung claimed he had been acquitted. This is incorrect. He was pardoned by the victims' families (blood money was also paid to the family of the18-year-old wife of one of the two men, who had later committed suicide, saying she did not believe her husband would ever receive justice), which led the Punjab district judge to lift the murder charges. But Davis was still fined on a charge of carrying an illegal handgun, and was sentenced to time served on that conviction.
There were angry protests in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad following the court's ruling lifting the indictment against Davis. Police clashed with demonstrators outside the US Consulate in Lahore.
Left unanswered is what "all the Raymond Davises" in Pakistan, and Raymond Davis himself, were actually doing. Davis reportedly left the country immediately.
What is not in doubt is that Raymond Davis was not "our diplomat" in Pakistan, as President Obama falsely proclaimed at a press conference on Feb. 15, when he demanded that Pakistan grant him immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Immunity of 1961. Nor is there any doubt about what was found in his car at the time of the shooting incident: masks, makeup, night-vision equipment, several semi-automatic pistols with large-capacity clips, over a hundred killer bullets for both a Glock and Beretta pistol and also an M-16, multiple cell phones, a cell-phone locator, a special GPS with removable chips, wire cutters, batteries and a camera, on the memory card of which police investigators found photos of Pakistani military installations, as well as mosques, madrassas and even a Montessori School. Police say they found over 27 calls on his cell phones to key people in both the Pakistani Taliban and a terror organization called Laskhar-e-Taiba, which has been linked to both the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and to the kidnap/murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Pakistani papers, including the Express Tribune, have suggested that Davis, a 10-year Army Special Forces veteran, and a former employee of Blackwater/Xe, appears to have been involved in orchestrating terrorism, not just monitoring it.
As I initially reported in Counterpunch on Feb. 7, Davis, when arrested, was found to be carrying a photo ID describing him as a Department of Defense contractor. He also had cards on him identifying him as an employee of a US company called Hyperion Protective Consultants LLC, which I discovered had as its address a vacant storefront in Orlando which had not been occupied for several years.
Without any trial, what the CIA has been up to in Pakistan, a country that has been suffering a rash of terror bombings in the last few years, can only be a subject for speculation. But one thing is clear--whatever it was, it is not going to be doing it going forward.
Press reports say that at least 30 "Raymond Davis"-type US contractors have fled the country since his arrest, and the arrest of a second contractor associated with a murky private mercenary service called Catalyst Services, LLC, an American named Aaron DeHaven (he was picked up and charged with overstaying a visa).
DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, collectively-owned, journalist-run, reader-supported online alternative newspaper.