Feb
21
2011

Our Man in Pakistan?

Yesterday the Guardian reported that Raymond Davis, the American held in Pakistan on charges of killing two men last month in Lahore, was working for the CIA. The Davis case has received sustained coverage in the U.S. media and is the subject of intense U.S lobbying. All the while U.S. officials referred to Davis as a "diplomat."

Today the New York Times has posted a story on its website catching up with the Guardian. The most notable revelation, though, comes when the Times admits that it knew Davis' status–but obeyed a government request to keep it quiet:

The New York Times had agreed to temporarily withhold information about Mr. Davis' ties to the agency at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk. Several foreign news organizations have disclosed some aspects of Mr. Davis' work with the CIA, and on Monday, American officials lifted their request to withhold publication.


So is the lesson here that if you're interested in what your government is doing, read a foreign newspaper?

UPDATE: Michael Calderone at Yahoo! News notes that several U.S. outlets– the Post, the New York Times and the Associated Press– knew about Davis' status. The Guardian was asked by U.S. officials to keep Davis' status under wraps, but decided not to:

Ian Katz, deputy editor of The Guardian, told The Cutline that "similar representations were made to the Guardian to those received by U.S. media." But unlike its U.S. counterparts, The Guardian went ahead with the story.

Katz noted that two senior Pakistan government sources officially confirmed that Davis was a CIA operative and explained in an email why it was relevant to report.

"We believe Davis'srole in Pakistanis unavoidably connected with both the legal case surrounding him and with the U.S. government's attempts to seek his release," Katz said. "And since Davis is already widely assumed in Pakistan to have links to U.S. intelligence, we did not accept that disclosing his CIA role would expose him to increased risk."

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.