US tells Pakistan to name agents who aided bin Laden

As the U.S. asked questions, Osama bin Laden's killing was protested in Abbottabad. Photo Warrick Page for The New York Times

Helene Cooper and Ismail Khan
The New York Times

Pakistani officials say the Obama administration has demanded the identities of some of their top intelligence operatives as the United States tries to determine whether any of them had contact with Osama bin Laden or his agents in the years before the raid that led to his death early Monday morning in Pakistan.

The officials provided new details of a tense discussion between Pakistani officials and an American envoy who traveled to Pakistan on Monday, as well as the growing suspicion among United States intelligence and diplomatic officials that someone in Pakistan’s secret intelligence agency knew of Bin Laden’s location, and helped shield him.

Obama administration officials have stopped short of accusing the Pakistani government — either privately or publicly — of complicity in the hiding of Bin Laden in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. One senior administration official privately acknowledged that the administration sees its relationship with Pakistan as too crucial to risk a wholesale break, even if it turned out that past or present Pakistani intelligence officials did know about Bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Still, this official and others expressed deep frustration with Pakistani military and intelligence officials for their refusal over the years to identify members of the agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, who were believed to have close ties to Bin Laden. In particular, American officials have demanded information on what is known as the ISI’s S directorate, which has worked closely with militants since the days of the fight against the Soviet army in Afghanistan…

…Art Keller, a former officer of the Central Intelligence Agency who worked on the hunt for Bin Laden from a compound in the Waziristan region of Pakistan in 2006, said the Qaeda founder’s choice of the garrison town of Abbottabad as a refuge in 2005 raised serious questions. Bin Laden certainly knew of the concentration of military institutions, officers and retirees in the town — including some from the ISI’s S directorate, Mr. Keller said. And because the military has also been a target of militant attacks in recent years, the town has a higher level of security awareness, checkpoints and street surveillance than others.

If Bin Laden wanted to relocate in a populated area of Pakistan to avoid missiles fired from American drones, Mr. Keller said, he had many choices. So Mr. Keller questioned why Bin Laden would live in Abbottabad, unless he had some assurance of protection or patronage from military or intelligence officers. “At best, it was willful blindness on the part of the ISI,” Mr. Keller said. “Willful blindness is a survival mechanism in Pakistan.”…

Read the complete article at MSNBC.

Update:  The Column Everyone is Reading About Pakistan [High Noon in Pakistan], at Business Insider.

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