FBI Agents Working Undercover With Security Forces in PakistanBy Paul Watson and Josh Meyer
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- Karachi, Pakistan
On the front lines of a shadow war against terror in Pakistan, FBI agents are working undercover with local security forces who have a long history of human rights abuses.
The joint effort is cloaked in secrecy. The U.S. and Pakistani governments won’t discuss exactly how many FBI agents are working in Pakistan, citing security concerns and the political fallout that President Pervez Musharraf could face.
Some Pakistani officials say privately that the number of FBI counterterrorism specialists in Pakistan is in the low hundreds. An FBI official, speaking in Washington on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that “between several dozen and a hundred” FBI agents are in Pakistan at any one time, working closely with local and federal police and intelligence officials.
Some human rights experts contend that any FBI or other Americans involved in the arrest share criminal responsibility if the detainees are tortured or mistreated later.
Pakistan, according to the FBI official and other U.S. law enforcement authorities, has become one of the most important -- and active -- beachheads in the bureau’s anti-terrorism effort. But it is also among the most sensitive given the country’s strong undercurrent of Islamic extremism and anti-Americanism.
The FBI’s precise activities are unclear. Officially, around a dozen agents are providing “technical assistance,” including sharing information on terrorist groups and training Pakistani police to track down and apprehend Islamic militants. Other agents are working with Pakistani police in old-fashioned “search and arrest” dragnets.
There have been some high-profile successes in the cooperative effort, including the capture of a top al-Qaida leader, Abu Zubeida, and some of his lieutenants in March at a fortified safe house in Faisalabad, and the identification of suspected “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla.
But there is mounting suspicion in Pakistan that U.S. investigators, believed to be from the FBI or CIA, are involved in the pursuit and arrest of people who have then disappeared, or quietly been deported, as Musharraf’s government tries to control Islamic extremists.
In interviews, relatives of terror suspects have described groups of two to four foreigners participating in Pakistani police raids, usually as silent observers who closely monitor searches.
FBI officials, as well as a senior Pakistani military officer involved in the anti-terrorism effort, confirmed that agents have gone on many such raids while dressed in local garb so as to not attract attention. Those agents, said one FBI official, are acting in an advisory capacity only.