The Guardian reports that a lawsuit brought by a Pakistani journalist over wrongful deaths in drone strikes has forced the CIA station chief in Islamabad to flee the country. The official’s identity was discovered by the journalist, Karim Khan of North Waziristan from other journalists or possibly from disgruntled elements in the Pakistani military. It was alleged that the station chief had entered the country on a tourist visa and so had no diplomatic immunity.
The episode demonstrates the miseries of postmodern warfare, wherein President Obama is treating Pakistan the way Henry Kissinger treated Cambodia. If the US is going to conduct military operations in a country, it should be in the terms of a Status of Forces Agreement, and should be carried out by the Department of Defense. To have the CIA just lob missiles onto civilian villages in another country is wrong for all kinds of reasons. CIA operations are covert and US officials cannot even talk about them in public. There therefore can be no public debate or scrutiny of the policy. And, the whole operation breaks US law, since it is essentially a mass assassination campaign, not a war.
While the Pakistani courts might have been reluctant to pursue the case, public anger in Pakistan over the drone strikes runs high and Khan might have landed an activist judge. Activist judges, after all, played a major role both in overthrowing the US-backed military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and in curbing the powers that the executive had arrogated to itself. Could the US drone program be next in its sights?