Black Ops and Blood Money
Posted By Matthew Teague On June 1, 2011 @ 12:53 pm In Cover Stories,Features
Hearing the American’s name whispered in his ear, the chief of police in Lahore, Pakistan, turns from his desk and nods toward a nondescript side door in his office. His desk sits surrounded by concentric rings of chairs, occupied by visitors hoping for a moment of Chief Aslam Tareen’s time. Lahore is a city of 10 million people, and justice demands constant attention. But before he’ll discuss the American — perhaps the most notorious American in Pakistan’s history — Tareen needs privacy. He leaves his desk and slips through the side door into a smaller, more secluded office. A bed is in the corner, along with a television, and an attendant brings a pair of slippers and sets them before the chief’s leather recliner. In Pakistan the truth is like a woman; it stays veiled in public, only fully revealing itself behind closed doors. And this particular subject is a treacherous one.
“Raymond Davis,” Tareen says, settling into his chair. “Spy.”
Davis operated in the darkest shadows of the war against terrorism. He worked for the CIA as an independent contractor, gathering information on the jihadist group behind some of the most cruel and spectacular attacks in recent years. The intelligence operation collapsed violently in January when two Pakistani men accosted Davis on a crowded street and he shot them both dead with a skill rarely seen outside spy novels. A botched attempt to rescue him in the -aftermath left a third man dead and Davis under arrest.
The episode inflamed the Pakistani people and set up a tricky showdown between two governments. It also pierced the cloak covering a clandestine world, exposing a realm of surveillance and countersurveillance, suspicion and political exploitation. For the United States, the consequences were profound: Pakistan is the CIA’s most important arena, a hiding spot for Al Qaeda and home of a dangerous, rising terrorist militia called Lashkar-e-Taiba. But Davis’s eventual release cost America much more than the money that was paid to compensate victims’ families: Backroom deals have forced the withdrawal of CIA operatives from the heartland of terrorism.
In the days after the incident, Police Chief Tareen announced to an outraged public that the American had murdered young Pakistani men “in cold blood.” But now, in his private chamber, Tareen can’t disguise a tone of professional admiration.
He had questioned Davis himself, but “from day one to day 14, he would not talk,” he says. Two weeks of silence. And then?
“He was in solitary,” Tareen says. “He said he wanted something to read.” They gave him magazines.
“He was very well trained,” says the chief. “Very calm.”
But what about the incident, I ask — the one that brought on the greatest intelligence crisis in America’s history with Pakistan? What about the shooting?
“The shooting was expert.”
Spying works like this: The CIA sets up an office within the American embassy in Paris, for instance, or Nairobi. An agency case officer works undercover as a passport-pushing, visa-stamping bureaucrat. Meanwhile, he or she runs agents — that is, finds and grooms local players to gather information for the case officer, who then sends it home for analysts to examine. These local agents are valuable because they have connections in a world where American officers don’t. They can look the part, speak the language, move freely, ask more questions.
The problem is that in a country like Pakistan — a fractured, duplicitous place that may be an ally or may be an enemy or both — the CIA can’t just set up shop in the embassy and let case officers work in the usual way. Places like Pakistan require a different sort of person altogether. A person like Raymond Davis.
Some particulars of the 36-year-old’s work remain cloaked in classification, but a search for answers in Pakistan and the U.S. — and eventually, a brief interview with Davis himself — give a good sense of who he is and what happened to him. He likely worked alongside the CIA’s Special Activities Division, the agency’s paramilitary wing. The SAD works in hostile environments — the ones where running agents is risky, if not impossible — gleaning intelligence through covert means. That can include anything from tapping wires to snatching suspects to influencing politicians through propaganda. Davis’s particular role focused on operational security. Whether it was a clandestine meeting between a case officer and a source or an eavesdropping or other black op, his job would be to work closely — but not too closely — with the case officer, in case the scene shifted in some perilous way. During a meeting in a hotel lobby, for instance, an operator like Davis would try to remain far enough away from the exchange to not draw attention, but near enough to watch for hostile movement. If someone were to attack, protocol calls for two essential actions: Shoot any attackers until they’re down for good, and clear out immediately, along with any other Americans and agents.
In Pakistan, Davis’s near-translucent official cover was as a “technical consultant” to the American consul general. But in reality he and his CIA team sought to do something difficult and dangerous: to surveil and report on the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Like so many extremist groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba, or LeT, first sprouted in the fertile soil of Afghanistan in the 1980s, planted and tended by the CIA and its Pakistani counterpart, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. The two spy agencies fought together against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan’s mountains, and in the course of that fight, the Pakistani government quietly created a group of militant Islamists, radical jihadists fine-tuned to battle godless Communism. They called the group Lashkar-e-Taiba. The Army of the Pure.
Eventually, the Soviet Union crumbled and the spies of America and Pakistan parted ways, but Lashkar-e-Taiba carried on. The Pakistani government refocused on the highlands of Kashmir, where it wielded LeT as a low-profile proxy military against the nation’s old nemesis, India. With time Lashkar distinguished itself even among terrorist groups for the ruthlessness of its attacks; in 1998, LeT members killed 23 Kashmiri villagers in their homes, including four children, shooting a one-year-old 18 times.
Lashkar first caught the West’s full attention in November 2008, when 10 LeT operatives arrived on India’s coastline in rubber speedboats. They injected themselves periodically with a mix of cocaine and LSD calibrated to keep them energized and awake for what lay ahead: a three-day, nonstop stream of gunfire and explosions that shook Mumbai. The young men had trained for the operation months in advance in an LeT camp and had been supported, in part at least, by Pakistani authorities. They attacked, shot, blew up, burned, tortured, and finally killed almost 200 people of 10 nationalities.
At first Pakistan’s government denied any involvement by its citizens. But faced with a mass of evidence — phone calls, e-mails, the confession of the lone surviving attacker — Pakistan relented and made a few half-hearted arrests of low-level terrorist associates. Otherwise, LeT remained untouched and largely unknown. It hardly went underground, though; to this day, it maintains a massive headquarters in the Lahori suburbs with almost 200 acres that includes a mosque, a madrassa, and a farm.
In the days after the Mumbai bombings, investigators from the U.S. and India sprinted along the electronic trail left by the bombers and found LeT’s list of potential targets. Mumbai was one of more than 300, not just in India but scattered throughout the Western world. Authorities never released the target list, but arrests in Denmark and Spain appeared to be linked. The investigation illustrated how far apart the ideologies of America’s and Pakistan’s security services had drifted. Former allies against the Soviets had become something murkier. And now Lashkar-e-Taiba, it turned out, had global ambitions.
Raymond Davis first arrived in Pakistan, authorities believe, within a month of the Mumbai bombings. But his career had started far away, geographically and figuratively, from the intrigues and illusions of Central Asian spooks.
In the hills of southwest Virginia, the state cinches up like a topographical coin purse, with West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina all drawing close. In the center stands a lump of rock called Stone Mountain, in which a small white-water river has cut a big stone gap. Where the river surges out of the gap, there’s a town: Big Stone Gap.
It’s a nice old town, built with long-vanished coal-mining money. On the road up and out of town, there’s a smaller place yet, called Strawberry Patch, which is a collection of farms on the mountainside, high enough that on most days the sheep disappear into the clouds. And higher yet there is what locals call Wampler Holler, a curving valley that features two homesteads. On one side is the relatively grand home of Mr. Wampler himself. On the other, there’s a bare spot where, years ago, a small clapboard house once stood. That’s where Raymond Allen Davis came of age.
David Wampler, a retired farmer, has spent his entire life in the hollow and says there’s little to do but hunt and shoot. “It’s what young people do. Heck, I reckon my daughter can outshoot most any man.”
Davis was the son of a bricklayer and a cook, and the family was poor. Raymond, like his older brother and sister, inherited broad shoulders and a bearish, shuffling gait. “They didn’t have much,” says Brian Collins, a childhood friend from Strawberry Patch. “God, was he nice, though.”
In school Davis dominated his weight class as a wrestler and played both offense and defense in football, as a guard and defensive tackle. He steadily grew thicker and stronger than his classmates, even while he developed a reputation for humble deference. Shawn Eldridge works for the Big Stone Gap fire department now, but in high school he weighed just 119 pounds. To this day, he remembers how Davis stood up to bullies on his behalf.
Davis’s own hardship at home kept him humble, friends say. Every year at school, for instance, the football coach would hand each player a sack containing a few T-shirts and sweatpants, to wear at practice through the season. “That largely made up Raymond’s wardrobe. He just didn’t have much else to wear,” Collins, his old friend, remembers. “But he never complained about it. He just kept his head down and kept working hard.”
Davis’s future, it seemed at the time, was in bricklaying. He made a small stir, locally, when he won a national bricklaying competition. “He wanted to follow his father in the mason work,” Collins says. He looks at his feet and fidgets with a piece of gravel. “Guess things don’t always work out.” Midway through high school, Raymond’s father died. All these years later, Collins remembers the blow his young friend sustained. “Hard, hard,” he says. “But Raymond was quiet. He kept his feelings to himself.”
Typical Raymond, he says. Always so calm.
I ask if he felt surprised to find out his friend from Wampler Holler, outside Strawberry Patch, outside Big Stone Gap, had gone on to work undercover for the CIA on the other side of the world.
“No,” he says.
Davis joined the Army after high school, did basic training in Georgia, then served six months in Macedonia with a United Nations peacekeeping force. Eventually, he joined the Army’s Special Forces, or Green Berets, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Special Forces work in teams of a dozen or so elite soldiers, prepared to fight anywhere in the world on short notice. Davis was his team’s weapons specialist.
After 10 years in the Army, Davis formed his own company, Hyperion Protective Services, which offered “risk and loss management” services and through which he worked as a private-security contractor. For a short time he did jobs for the CIA through the now-infamous Blackwater Worldwide, but after abuses by the company surfaced in Iraq, Davis left it to contract directly with the CIA in Pakistan, making $200,000 per year.
He worked in some of the most difficult terrain in the world, stationed in Peshawar, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, where the countryside is largely controlled by various factions of the Taliban. Between his arrival in late 2008 and his eventual arrest, he traveled back to the United States — he had married and moved to Colorado by then — nine times.
Davis’s latest assignment found him stationed in Lahore, a city near the eastern border with India that’s often called the “heart of Pakistan.” It’s much different than the high country on the Afghan border and treacherous for any American working around the edges of the terrorism scene. There’s a rough east-west divide among Pakistan’s extremist groups: Western groups are often factions of the Taliban and to a large extent composed of foreign fighters hiding in the mountainous country on the Afghan border. For years the ISI — Pakistan’s security service — has tolerated the CIA’s unmanned Predator drone strikes on western extremists because those outfits are uncontrollable and, thus, less useful to Pakistani state interests. To the east, though, extremist outfits tend to be more closely tied — or even fostered by — the Pakistani state and the ISI. Outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba.
According to Pakistani authorities, Davis made his most recent return to Lahore on January 20. He flew into Allama Iqbal International Airport and went directly to the Scotch Corner neighborhood, to a safe house used by the U.S. consulate. Later that day, five more American civilians showed up at the same address.
The next day Davis made his way to the U.S. consulate, driving away in a black Land Cruiser. A few days later, on January 24, he returned and switched to a white, late-model Honda Civic. In the course of the week, he met with locals, switched safe houses, and exchanged about $300 for Pakistani rupees at a bank. He was likely preparing for a job — a meeting, a drop, a wiretap — with his team.
On January 27, Davis loaded his car with equipment — a ski mask, a GPS unit, a Glock handgun, ammunition, first aid supplies, a small telescope — and set to work. He carried a camera full of photographs he had taken of sensitive sites, including shots of several military installations on the Indian border, and a mobile phone that contained contacts for apparent sources within terrorist groups from across Pakistan.
About 2:15 that afternoon, he drove alone along a busy street, Jail Road, in a rough part of the city. Maybe he was running an operation; maybe he was simply getting to know the neighborhood. But at some point he realized he was being shadowed by two men on a black Honda motorcycle. Both young and both armed with pistols.
It’s impossible to know who employed Faizan Haider and Faheem Shamshad or what motivated them. The options were limited, though: religion, nationalism, money.
They lived near each other on the outskirts of Lahore, beyond the warren of streets and alleys, in a poor but placid cluster of houses surrounded by fields of green hay. They were both in their 20s, and both had a vague work history, as described by family and neighbors, that included selling mobile phones and vending fruit.
“They did nothing wrong,” says Ijaz Ahmed, Haider’s cousin. Ahmed is a weaver who lives in his shop and likes to sip tea while he thinks. “Never in trouble.”
What brought them alongside Raymond Davis’s car on January 27? Ahmed shrugs.
Were they robbers? “No, no, no.”
Later, Pakistani authorities would declare that Shamshad and Haider were employed in some capacity by the ISI. Then, in unison, those same authorities changed their story to describe the two men not as agents of any sort but as “youths” and “innocent boys.” But other than claiming they were “never in trouble,” no one seems able to say what exactly Shamshad and Haider did do for a living. So their purpose remains unclear. They could have been robbers. They could have been hired muscle for LeT. Or they could have been spies.
Ahmed takes another sip of tea and gives a beneficent smile. “They were illiterate,” he says. “How could they be ISI?”
Davis didn’t have time to ponder their motives. The intersection of Jail and Ferozepur roads was packed with cars, bicycles, rickshaws, and pedestrians; the motorcycle pulled around his car and stopped just ahead of it. Shamshad, on the back of the bike, turned. He raised his pistol. He cocked it.
There is a switch inside the minds of men who work as Special Forces soldiers. It toggles between the perception of another person as “friend” or “enemy.” In one setting, it inspires a fierce and even noble protectiveness. But the moment the switch is flipped to “enemy,” vision narrows and everything but the target fades away.
Shamshad’s gun cocked, and Davis’s switch flipped.
In an instant he raised his own pistol, a semiautomatic Glock, and fired a series of five rounds straight through his windshield. The bullets punched neat holes through it, leaving only a sprinkling of green glass cubes and trapezoids on Davis’s dashboard.
He shot Shamshad in the stomach, behind his right ear, in the back, in the left arm, and in the left thigh. Shamshad fell onto the motorcycle and dropped his weapon. Haider ran toward the intersection and made it about 50 feet to a brick-and-grass island in the road. Davis opened his door, stepped from his car, and shot him five times, including twice in the back, as Haider ran. It was an unbelievable feat of marksmanship.
Anwar Khan, the manager of a restaurant on the intersection, was washing his hands in the men’s room when he heard the first shots. They sounded strange. Muffled. “I thought it was a customer firing,” he says. He ran into the restaurant as more shots barked from the street. These sounded sharper. Khan watched, amazed, as Davis walked back to his car, retrieved a camera, and then walked to each of the bodies. He photographed them with the calm of a scholar documenting some historical artifact. No hurry. No tremor.
“He was so confident,” Khan says, shaking his head.
As a crowd formed, Davis radioed his team for backup. He waited for them in his car, but the crowd became a mob and smashed out his rear window, raining glass onto the backseat. Davis couldn’t wait any longer. He dropped the car into gear, cranked the steering wheel, and somehow maneuvered away from the crowd and the intersection.
Khan, the restaurateur, stood astonished as the white Honda revved, leaping and gunning its way through dense traffic. “It did not feel real,” he says. “It was like an American movie.”
He was still standing at his restaurant’s window a few minutes later when he heard the approach of a second hard-revving vehicle. A Land Cruiser charged into view, just a few feet in front of the restaurant, which meant it was on the wrong side of the road. And behind it came a wave of people on foot, running and shouting. Only later would he find out why.
A few minutes earlier and about a quarter mile down Jail Road, Zahid Chaudhry, a car salesman, had stepped outside his small dealership and noticed the Land Cruiser. Traffic was backed up, heading toward the big intersection to his right. The Land Cruiser, stuck in the unmoving mass, lurched sideways and climbed over the foot-tall cement traffic divider. The driver — a foreigner, he could see — then turned upstream against oncoming traffic, swerving and surging toward the intersection.
“Look at him!” Chaudhry told a colleague. “He must have killed someone.”
Then, as though to prove him right, the Land Cruiser smashed head-on into a motorcycle. In a sliver of a moment, its rider, a young man named Ibad-ur Rehman, hit head-first into the hood of the Land Cruiser, buckling it.
The Land Cruiser stopped, as everyone on the street watched. Its driver backed up but couldn’t dislodge the bike or its rider. They were both stuck to the grill. So, facing a sickening dilemma, the driver decided to continue forward, racing once more toward the intersection. After a hundred yards or so, Rehman and his motorcycle came loose, and when bystanders ran to his side, they found him dead. They turned — a hundred or more people now — and ran after the Land Cruiser, calling for police and memorizing its license plate number, which turned out to be counterfeit.
When the vehicle arrived at the intersection where Davis had fled minutes earlier, it stopped a moment as the driver and a passenger scanned the scene for Davis. A man approached the Land Cruiser and pulled open the driver’s door. The driver, according to people who witnessed it, swung up a weapon — some said a compact assault rifle of some sort, others said a large pistol — and pressed its muzzle to the man’s head. The man backed away, and the Land Cruiser tore ahead, swinging right at the intersection and toward the American consulate.
Along the way, police said, the vehicle’s occupants jettisoned a bizarre sort of litter: bullets, batteries, a pair of gloves, a baton, and a scrap of cloth bearing an American flag.
The Land Cruiser disappeared behind the walls of the consulate, and the two men inside were spirited back to the U.S. before Pakistani authorities could get their hands on them.
Davis fared worse. Peering around the cluster of bullet holes obscuring his view, he wove through more than a mile of heavy traffic, crunching broken glass and shell casings as he worked the pedals. He was, according to Police Chief Tareen, “a very good driver,” with keen evasive skills. But along the way, he overturned a rickshaw and knocked into a motorcyclist. In minutes the whole city seemed to converge on him; a traffic warden saw the chaos and, along with a gathering crowd on the street, blocked his escape. Police showed up before the crowd could tear Davis apart and took him to a nearby station and into a room for questioning. Someone — Davis or an arresting officer — turned on a camera and recorded part of his interrogation, which leaked to local media. In the video, the police question Davis while he shows them a series of identification cards on a lanyard around his neck. Davis remains outwardly calm, but there’s an undercurrent of desperation:
Davis: I need to tell the embassy where I’m at.
Police, examining Davis’s ID: You’re from America?
Police: You belong to American embassy?
Davis: Yes, but my passport —
Davis: — at the site, I showed the police officer. It’s somewhere. It’s lost.
The room erupts in Urdu, and there’s another round of examination of the laminated cards around his neck.
Police: You are now working at the consul general? In Lahore?
Police: As a…?
Davis: I just work as a consultant there.
Then a senior officer walks in, and the whole discussion restarts with a renewed interest in Davis’s ID cards.
The haphazard interrogation started Davis’s sojourn in the Pakistani legal system. He was taken to a courtroom — a small cement room with fluorescent lights — where a judge handed him over to a prison called Kot Lakhpat. It’s a vast brick monolith outside the city, run by a warden named Malik Mushtaq. He sat in his office recently, looking swollen and sullen, a uniformed toad.
“I will not talk about Raymond Davis,” he says, toying with his oversize watch. Then he carries on talking about Raymond Davis. “We kept him in a place for terrorists.”
They placed him in a cell alone so that he couldn’t harm another prisoner and set video cameras to record him around the clock.
Then again, they thought, maybe it was Davis who was in the most danger. Thousands of people had taken to the streets of Lahore calling for his head, and also in Karachi, Islamabad, Hyderabad, and elsewhere. They printed posters of Davis wearing a noose and hung banners that demanded police turn him over to the public for execution. They hung him in effigy, burned him in effigy, and sometimes simultaneously hung and burned his effigy. The outrage only escalated when Shamshad’s widow, Shumaila, swallowed insecticides in protest. As she lay dying at the hospital, a television camera — there is nothing more lurid than Pakistani television news — zoomed in on her young face as she declared her reasoning shortly before her death: “The killer is being treated as a guest at the police station. I need justice and blood for the blood of my husband.”
Religious extremists seized the moment, preaching sermons about Davis’s role in a magnificent American-Indo-Zionist conspiracy. A conspiracy, they said, to steal Pakistan’s nuclear warheads and sneak them to Al Qaeda, then await the inevitable mushroom cloud. All this, they pronounced without irony, would be a pretext for the Americans to invade Pakistan.
Perhaps worse, the Pakistani public had long ago grown tired of the CIA drone strikes in the tribal areas to the west. The strikes had decimated villages there. Increasingly, the newspapers had covered their front pages with photos of the destruction. That wasn’t lost on the CIA; after a steady rate of three to four strikes per week, the drone attacks suddenly stopped as soon as Raymond Davis disappeared into the corridors of Kot Lakhpat. The CIA knew that Davis had come to embody the agency’s presence in the country and didn’t want to provoke the public any further.
So Davis’s jailers emptied a section of the prison and put him in it, where even his fellow prisoners could not reach him.
But what about the prison staff? On several occasions in the past, guards had killed prisoners at Kot Lakhpat. Now any man who murdered the American in his cell would be a civic and religious hero. So administrators took away the weapons of guards in Davis’s section as a precaution.
The CIA, of course, was also a concern. Who could be more eager than the agency to see Davis fall forever silent? Jailers worried the CIA might try to poison him in some stealthy way, so they prevented any personal contact with anyone who might potentially be a CIA officer. When U.S. officials arrived to see Davis, prison staff put up a special pane of glass to separate them. They formed a committee to oversee preparation of his meals.
Then again, committees can be infiltrated. So dogs tasted the American’s food first, to make sure.
When two men on a motorcycle — whether spies or robbers — accosted Raymond Davis on a Thursday afternoon, the encounter set in motion all of Pakistan’s many factions, all angling to use him as a lever for power or money or prestige. The ISI wanted to keep Davis as a bargaining chip with their U.S. counterparts. Religious extremists wanted the spectacle of an execution. The government’s opposition parties wanted to parade Davis as evidence of President Asif Ali Zardari’s acquiescence to CIA meddling. And the government itself needed to shuffle Davis back to his homeland without causing a popular uprising like the ones in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere. No government official wanted to make that decision.
At first American authorities asserted that Davis was a diplomat and enjoyed immunity under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. President Obama himself cited the convention in an address, calling Davis “our diplomat.” But the notion of Davis, who was clearly a spy, skipping away because of diplomatic niceties only further inflamed Pakistani anger. Back in Virginia, Davis’s sister, Michelle, watched the news unfold on television, and it looked bad. The Internet looked worse. “This is my little brother,” she told me. “I just had to turn it off and stop watching. I prayed instead.”
Negotiators from both sides faced what seemed to be an impossible set of requirements. They needed a solution that would simultaneously allow Davis to go free, preserve a sense of sovereignty for Pakistan, rescue politicians from any painful decisions, and undercut the mullahs’ ability to whip up anger in the streets. Little light shone through a forest of frightening potential outcomes. Then Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. and an Islamic legal expert, offered U.S. politicians an idea so brilliantly counterintuitive that it just might solve all their problems at once: Invoke shari’a, he said. He suggested that the Americans appeal to Islamic law, which provides an opportunity for the accused to pay diyah, or blood money, to the families of his victims, who can in turn forgive the transgression in court.
Meanwhile, privately — in phone calls and in a meeting at a luxury hotel in Oman — the top soldiers and spies of each country hammered out a deal of their own. The CIA wanted its man back in America. The Pakistani military wanted him gone too. In fact, the Pakistanis wanted all CIA contractors back on American soil and for the CIA to sharply draw down its personnel and plans in Pakistan altogether. Pakistan said the CIA can simply route any future human intelligence gathering through the ISI, instead of acting on its own. The question, of course, is how much the CIA can trust the ISI. In the days following Davis’s arrest — and the confiscation of his mobile phone — Pakistani newspapers ran reports of militant groups rounding up and assassinating several locals for “cooperating with the CIA.”
On March 16 representatives from both countries, along with a judge and 18 relatives of Shamshad and Haider, as well as those of Rehman, met at Kot Lakhpat prison. The families told the judge that they had accepted diyah — about three quarters of a million dollars per family —and they forgave Davis. The judge fined him $235 for carrying an unregistered firearm, and called the case closed. Davis left the prison and went directly to the airport, where a jet waited to wing him to an American air base in Afghanistan, then on to the U.S.
“I’m just relieved,” his wife, Rebecca, told me over the phone from their home in Colorado. “I just kept telling myself it was like any other assignment and that he’d come home again. And he did.”
Initially family members felt that Davis wouldn’t want to talk to the media about the episode. Rebecca herself hadn’t asked him questions, because “he wants to put it behind him.” But eventually, after some time at home, Davis agreed to address a few critical points by phone, the first time he’d talked to the press.
A former CIA case officer had told me that the whole operation in Lahore fell apart — from a tactical perspective — when Davis failed to leave immediately after shooting the two men. If he had, everything that followed might have been averted. So I asked Davis why he spent so much time at the scene photographing, radioing, waiting, instead of fleeing right away into the embrace of the American consulate. The truth, Davis told me, had less to do with John le Carré than John Q. Public.
“Traffic,” Davis said. “I just couldn’t move. Traffic was packed into the intersection, and it took me forever to find my way out.”
The other question central to the affair: Who were the men Davis shot? Were they robbers? Spies? Something between? “I don’t know who they were,” he told me. “I just don’t know.”
The Pakistani press, police, and public based their case for murder largely on the claim that Davis shot Haider as he tried to run away. Why had Davis done that?
“It didn’t happen that…” he started. He sighed. “It didn’t happen how they portrayed it. I want so badly to talk about this in detail.”
But he can’t, for now. During negotiations for his release, the U.S. Department of Justice vowed to the Pakistanis that it would open its own examination of the shooting. “Let’s wait until the investigation finishes,” Davis told me.
There is evidence in Haider’s autopsy report, though, that Haider wasn’t merely running away. It shows one shot entering his chest. Another grazed him on the front thigh.
As he waits for the results of the investigations, Davis has other concerns. “I just hope I can find work.”
Back in pakistan, the balance of influence between American spies and their targets — particularly the quasi-official Lashkar-e-Taiba — shifts every moment now further toward the terrorists.
According to the New York Times, the U.S. agreed to the demands of the ISI, packing up more than 330 CIA and Special Operations personnel in order to win back Davis. There’s no way to know what percentage of CIA staff that includes, but it does involve all contractors as well as case officers whose missions were unclear to the Pakistani government. It’s a crippling blow and leaves the agency dependent on intelligence gathered from drones and satellites. One former CIA case officer told me the entire Davis debacle — the posturing by the government, the outrage of the leading clerics, all of it — was simply a bit of opportunistic stagecraft by the ISI. “It was a pretext to shut down the CIA,” he said. The Pakistanis had grown weary of the drone attacks and now had a bit of leverage against the Americans.
And what did the terrorists make of the whole fiasco? Through an intermediary, I contacted Yahya Mujahid, one of the most vocal leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba. He agreed to leave the group’s sprawling suburban acreage to meet at a Pakistani-owned hotel in the city.
He spoke with grand confidence about LeT’s charity through a front organization called Jamaat-ud-Dawa. It is building hospitals, schools, providing relief for Pakistani victims of last year’s horrific floods. It runs an enormous fleet of ambulances, he said. It develops programs for the country’s illiterate, often-jobless young men —young men like Shamshad and Haider.
All those efforts make the group palatable to a public that isn’t being adequately served by its government. I spoke with one middle-aged, middle-class Lahori who said he wouldn’t mind if the radical Islamists took over Pakistan if they could just stop the criminals.
Mujahid, the LeT man, held up dismissive hands when I asked about the American maneuvers to spring Davis from prison. “This is shari’a,” he said. One man’s release seemed trifling to him, unimportant compared with what it had cost the Americans. After all, he said, there was a new matter to protest that night. A new outrage to preach: A very important American figure in the state of Florida, he said, had burned a copy of the Koran.
In Pakistan, anger, like the sun, rises every day and fills the public square. And two days after Davis’s release, following six weeks of silence in the sky, the Predator drone strikes began again.
This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Men’s Journal.
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