Pakistan Arrests CIA Informants Tied To Bin Laden

Pakistanis who fed information to the CIA in advance of the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound have been arrested by Pakistan's intelligence agency. While people have been taken into custody, there are differing reports about who they are.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Let's go next to Pakistan, where we've learned that Pakistanis who fed information to the CIA in advance of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden have been arrested. Pakistan's intelligence agency picked them up. The Pakistani army confirms a number of people were taken into custody, but there are differing reports about who those people are.

NPR's Julie McCarthy is covering the story from Islamabad.

Hi, Julie.

JULIE MCCARTHY: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what do you know about who was taken into custody and why?

MCCARTHY: Well, you know, the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency, is leaving the talking to the Pakistani army. And a spokesman for the army says that five or six people were detained immediately after the U.S. raid on bin Laden's compound. This story first broke on The New York Times website late last night and they reported that a Pakistan army major was among the people who had been informants for the Americans leading up to the raid and had been arrested.

The report said he copied the license plates of cars visiting bin Laden's compound in the weeks before the raid. The dateline for that story is Washington, D.C., and it quoted unnamed U.S. sources.

Now, here in Islamabad there is confirmation that alleged informants were detained, but the Army spokesman said no army major was involved and that story is, quote, "baseless."

INSKEEP: So one essential fact is acknowledged by everybody, that some people were detained after the bin Laden raid, but there seemed to be competing narratives about what that means as well as competing details.

MCCARTHY: Exactly. You've got one version coming out of Washington and another one coming out of Islamabad. Again, another indication perhaps of how each one is seeking to portray this post-Osama bin Laden reality, and the divergence in the way each side wants to portray that reality. Here on the ground in Pakistan there is a deep clamor against the Americans over the bin Laden compound raid, no warning given in advance to the Pakistanis. There's also growing clamor over the drone attacks.

But by the same token, they're angered at their own army, who they feel let the country down by allowing the Americans to swoop in and take bin Laden undetected. So the Pakistani army is trying to repair its image. And having an army major secretly assisting the Americans certainly wouldn't help, and that's part of the story that they are denying.

INSKEEP: So as you try to track these competing narratives, is there a sense of why some people were detained in Pakistan for passing information to the United States?

MCCARTHY: Very interesting question. First of all, the army says a number of these people have been, quote, "cleared and released," and that other remain in custody. The owner of the CIA safe house that was set up in Abbottabad to do surveillance on the bin Laden compound is reported to be among those arrested. But when asked what's their crime, the army sidesteps that questions and says, well, they really aren't criminals. They've been detained as part of an ongoing investigation by the Pakistani authorities into what happened in Abbottabad, who participated in the raid, who all was involved.

There is an effort here, Steve, to portray this as sort of normal operating procedures, as part and parcel of what any country would do in Pakistan - she was investigating what happened. I think from the United States perspective, this would not be considered normal operating procedure and the CIA director is said to have raised the arrest of these CIA informants when he was here this weekend.

INSKEEP: How does this fit in with another piece of news from recent days, Julie McCarthy, the news that the United States tried to share information with Pakistan about the location of some militant bomb-making facilities and the militants were tipped off before they could be raided?

MCCARTHY: Well, I think we're witnessing here, Steve, is mounting revelations that demonstrate a sort of crumbling relationship. This is one more example, I think, of the ever-deepening quagmire that the U.S.-Pakistan relations are in. Still, the United States is very keen to get it back on track. There's been a stream of U.S. officials who have come and continue to come to try to repair the damage.

But they are also fighting a rear guard in Congress that wants answers on Pakistan's performance in working with the U.S. and is seeking to limit U.S. aid to Pakistan. So even as the stakes are high, the relations are becoming more fraught.

INSKEEP: Julie, thanks very much.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Julie McCarthy is in Islamabad.

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