Sunday 25 September 2016

CIA men face drone strike charge

Published 07/04/2015 | 18:46

Demonstrators in Islamabad rally to condemn US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas (AP/file)
Demonstrators in Islamabad rally to condemn US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas (AP/file)

A Pakistani judge has ordered criminal charges be filed against a former top CIA lawyer who oversaw its drone programme and a former station chief in Islamabad over a 2009 strike that killed two people.

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Former general counsel John A Rizzo and ex-station chief Jonathan Bank must face charges including murder, conspiracy, waging war against Pakistan and terrorism, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court ruled.

The two men could not be immediately reached for comment. The CIA declined to immediately comment.

Mr Bank fled Pakistan in 2010 after his cover was blown when a Pakistani man named Kareem Khan initially threatened to sue the CIA and others for 500 million dollars over the deaths of his 18-year-old son, Zaenullah Khan, and his brother, Asif Iqbal, in a purported December 31, 2009, strike on the North Waziristan tribal region.

Media reported at the time that three people were killed in a missile attack that day in Mir Ali in North Waziristan. Pakistani intelligence officials said then that the men were militants, but offered no proof.

As the outrage over the lawsuit grew, protesters in Islamabad began carrying placards bearing Mr Bank's name as listed in the lawsuit, urging him to leave the country. The CIA didn't move Mr Bank, who had previously served in Baghdad, until he began receiving death threats.

The station chief's outing spurred questions at the time of whether Pakistan's spy service might have leaked the information, something the Pakistanis denied.

The disclosure didn't prevent Mr Bank from landing another sensitive job: He became chief of the Iran operations division at CIA headquarters at Langley. He later was removed from that post after CIA officials concluded he created a hostile work environment in the division. He has since been detailed to the Pentagon's intelligence arm.

Mr Rizzo was the CIA's acting general counsel overseeing its drone programme. He later left the agency and wrote a book about his experiences at the agency.

The CIA's drone strike program killed Pakistani Taliban fighters and other militants hiding in its tribal regions, but caused major anger across Pakistan over civilian casualties from the strikes.

Any legal action stands no chance of success unless US officials cooperate with the court, something highly unlikely given the secretive nature of the missile strike programme.

Press Association

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