Lawsuit over Drones in Pakistan forces CIA Station Chief to Flee

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?

Posted in Pakistan | 17 Responses | Print |

17 Responses

  1. It is odd that the enterprise that is “spreading democracy” has to have its leaders secretly sneak into and out of these countries in the dark of night.

  2. If not for Pakistan……This article is magnificently self-serving for the military-imperial complex. If only Pakistan would wage total war on whomever we finger in western Pakistan the Afghanistan war would be over in a heartbeat. Its hard to understand why Pakistan is hesitant to engage in a civil war for our benefit.

    Why can’t we at least throttle down the two way infiltration. If there is any gadget on earth that can detect every sort of movement on the ground, we have warehouses full. Why can’t we spend a few more billion to drastically reduce infiltration? Maybe because we don’t want to – then we’d have a hard time painting the “if only…” picture.

    The military-imperial complex has captured the headlines, and is slowly but surely trying to get the public to accept that Pakistan is our real enemy, and that country really does have WMD.

  3. JC!

    He´s welcome to Sweden Juan. We´d sell ím off justlike that. And we might as well sell us to the
    Pakistanis this time. Its a dEmokrazi too….

    the Swede

  4. While I usually agree with most of your positions, I take a different stance on your drone commentary. The American intelligence program of drone attacks to kill militants has provoked a debate on whether killing remotely amounts to assassination. The use of computer controlled missile attacks in areas that are not established war zones illustrate the current methodology of destroying terrorist targets. But they are also a method of striking at an enemy not wearing military uniforms but nevertheless engaged in a real war. when it is conducted outside the acknowledged war zone where fighting for control is not waged, as in Yemen and Waziristan, it is erroneously been called assassination. Rather this is a form of active warfare to fight militants that are waging asymmetrical war and where the host country, Pakistan here, secretly supports them.The use of a particular form of warfare such as drones is functional, ethical and often necessary to fight in a global war against terrorists with no borders and where you can’t have a status of forces agreement.

    • On your logic I guess Cuba has a perfect right to carry out drone strikes on Florida. And if a few perfectly innocent US citizens get killed – well sorry but unavoidable collateral damage.

    • Vince, just take your words to any lawyer friend or anyone who has had any respect for “law” and ask his/her opinion about your words. And when you find at least one out of 10 not agreeing with you, you “must” know that even if there is a murderer, they all deserve due process of law. One does not become barbarian in response to any barbaric act without evidence and the “process” esp. in a civilized society. My 2 cents pls. :)

    • Sez you, oh master of the talking points in favor of the Forever War. You start with the lie that there is a “global war on terror,” and follow up with the falsehood that the US military and I guess they are still called “neocons” push, that every square foot of the planet is just one more “area of responsibility” where any of our warlords can decree that some individual or little group of Wogs is by their decree “terrorist.”

      I really love your bald, insupportable assertion that drone/missile/”smart bomb “warfare” (undeclared, of course, except by fiat by the Generals and GS-15s in the “government”) is “functional, ethical and often necessary.” This is action and “policy” purely by technical capability, “We do this because we can do this,” nothing more. “Fascism” is an overworked term, but to the extent that it still means “power for the sake of power” and “killing for the sake of killing” and “we do what we want because you can’t stop us or have been suckered into believing that it’s the ‘right’ thing to do.”

      How many screw-ups, killing the wrong people for the wrong reasons without oversight or any of the checks and balances that ought to apply to “waging war” does it take to make an idiot’s dozen? How many times does a murder of this sort result from a desire to cover up some other misdeed by the Powers that Be, with the barest nod to “fear the terrorists?” How many “terror” plots have been forestalled by this kind of military action, as opposed to the plain old police work that seems to have been the only effective tool, at least when it’s not hamstrung and derailed like the 9/11 information that the ‘crats in DC declined to act upon?

      Ah, screw it. The kind of people who field and use these coward’s weapons, and the people who offer these apologias for murder, will not be deterred by anything. The Borg have landed, and humans offer more and more proof that we are a dead-end species, incapable of keeping ourselves alive.

    • Anything and everything that the United States has done to subvert international law and the sovereignty of other states will come back — in the same pointed and explosive form — to the United States. I doubt that few nations in this world will find that long-overdue blowback either surprising or lamentable.

    • RE:Vince Cannistraro

      one of the most disheartening comments I’ve read. I’m left tongue tied…where does one start? Will it do any good to point out that killing a bunch of people who are fighting us because um…we are killing them — just we surely would be fighting back like crazy if they were the stronger party rooting around the Texas-Mex border for “terrorists” who had wiped out entire villages with their robot planes — will that make any sense? I doubt, because the logic of raw power is incompatible with ethics and antithetical to even basic humanity.

      It is to quote, “wrong for all kinds of reasons”, for anybody – US included — to justify the slaughter of innocent people for any reason, let alone the ever evolving roster of explanations from Western capitals, as to why thousands are engaged in a deadly face off in the barren mountains of Asia, with neither side barely comprehending the other, nor why.

    • Just put “yourself” in “their” position… a foreign military force (foreign in origin, culture, religion, appearance, way of life) using overwhelming military power to occupy, bomb, kill, assassinate….. How would you react? Most of them do not like the Taliban but they dislike the foreign military much, much more. By putting yourself in tier shoes you should be able to see what we are doing is morally and legally wrong…. reprehensible, cowardly and criminal.

  5. His name has not been reported in the US media, but is all over South Asian websites. Jonathan Banks is probably just his pseudonym. See for his picture, not to be confused with the US actor of the same name.

  6. Absolutely ! The reason the US gave for recalling Pakistan Station chief Johnathan Banks was that his cover was blown. However I would imagine that a CIA Station chief in Pakistan would already have the maximum level security detail available.

    I suspect the US really recalled him due to the rebellious nature of the Pakistan judicial system and the fact that Washington might have bought the political system in Pakistan but they haven’t been able to control the independent Judiciary.

    Safest to get him out of the country before any charges are filed. Like Bush I doubt Banks will be visiting any countries with Universal Jurisdiction anytime soon.

  7. I think Obama needs to tell the truth about the real reason the US is at war in Pakistan (and Afghanistan). More and more Pakistani commentators see Pakistan – rather than Afghanistan – as the real target. Because of its strategic importance as a transit route for Iranian oil and natural gas destined for America’s chief economic rival(China). They point to the Chinese-built Gwadar Port in the tribal areas and all the super highways and other infrastructure China built to support port operations. They also point to declassified Pentagon documents regarding the US desire to see energy and mineral rich Balochistan secede from Pakistan and become a US client state. Just as energy and oil rich Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and other former Soviet republics because US client states. They also point to CIA support for Baloch separatists, who they have been training in bomb making and other terrorist activities. I blog about this at link to

  8. Just a point that we should all keep in mind, but usually don’t. In the US, intelligence agencies like the CIA usually combine two functions — collection of data on foreign countries and covert action. IMO, combining the two is rather bad idea. Data collection may be unpopular with those whose data is collected, but it rarely presents ethical problems unless blackmail or intimidation are involved. Mostly, it’s pretty mundane actually.

    Covert action makes for good books, movies and TV. But it is often ill-considered, morally/ethically questionable, and sometimes clearly illegal.

    IMO, we’d do ourselves an enormous favor, if we separated the two activities completely and used covert action only where it is clearly and unambiguously warranted.

  9. i totally agree with Juan’s assessment.

    interesting article here:
    link to

    especially where it says:

    “….Then there’s the question of whether the strikes are legal. Obama administration claims that the September 2001 congressional Authorization to Use Military Force in retaliation for 9/11 provides all the legal protection necessary for the strikes. Some lawyers and law professors, by contrast, think that the drones’ remote pilots could eventually get hauled before a war-crimes tribunal…”

    i consider all this to be war crimes. killing people without charges, arrest, trial and being found guilt of any actual crimes. and what does it mean when the newspapers all quote these as being “militants” like this somehow justifies these actions – it’s murder pure and simple.

    • “Obama administration claims that the September 2001 congressional Authorization to Use Military Force in retaliation for 9/11 provides all the legal protection necessary for the strikes.”

      In the U.S. that will probably prove more than sufficient, but as we see in cases like this the mere fact that the United States Congress gives it’s permission to behave a certain way doesn’t mean that the rest of the world feels obliged to abide by their decision.

      We’ve seen it for years now in regards to Israel. Officials cancelling trips abroad owing to fear of arrest and prosecution for actions sanctioned by the Israeli government at highest levels.

      I can’t remember ever seeing the principle applied to a superpower though, it does warm the heart.

  10. From The Miami Herald:
    “The lawsuit, which stands little chance of being won, is lodged against the CIA station chief in Islamabad, identified as Jonathan Banks; CIA Director Leon Panetta; and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. There’s speculation that the publicity has compromised the position of the CIA chief in Pakistan. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad refused to confirm that Banks was the right person.”

    “What CIA station chief? I can’t talk about employees,” embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez said.

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