So now we know – or think we know – just what it might have been that Raymond Davis and his fellow-spooks were up to. And it was nothing to do with diplomacy, at least not in the sense that it is normally understood. We also learn something about the freedom of the media in America because it was the media in the Land of the Free that quietly, and at the US government’s behest, kept knowledge of Davis’ linkage to the CIA from the American public and the rest of the world. However, the media in the rest of the world is under no such constraint and when the ‘The Guardian’ ran a story on Sunday that reported the link the cat was well and truly out of the bag. And what a cat! Far from being some lowly member of the ‘technical and administrative staff’ of the US diplomatic mission in Pakistan, it is now alleged that he was part of a covert CIA-led team that was engaged in the surveillance of militant groups, including the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP). Forensic examination of the equipment found in his possession is said to show that he was in phone contact with 33 Pakistanis, of whom 27 were from the TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Neither organisation is known for peaceful or law abiding activity.
The reasons for this? We may never know with certitude, but informed speculation suggests that, contrary to the protestations of American officials that their staff would never engage in espionage or covert operations in Pakistan, this was indeed what he was busy with. The Washington Post goes so far as to detail that he was operating out of a ‘safe house’ and at the time of the incident he was conducting “area familiarisation” – basic surveillance – in order to better acquaint himself with the area he was working in. There is also speculation that his contacts with the TTP and LeT were more than mere ‘surveillance’. If this is anywhere close to the truth then we are getting a glimpse of the very dark and very dirty side of American foreign policy as it is played out here. Protestations loudly made about diplomatic immunity suddenly appear fatuous and facile, and those making them duplicitous and utterly deceitful. Bluntly put, we have been lied to. Moreover, we have been lied to by some very senior figures in the American administration who sought to both cover their tracks and extricate their man before cat and bag parted company. Whatever the legal outcome, whether Davis is tried for murder or espionage – with the latter probably unlikely – the coinage of American diplomacy in Pakistan has been debased to the point at which it is virtually worthless. And if the Americans ever again complain about us being wary of issuing their ‘technical and administrative assistants’ with visas, they can, to use the vernacular, go take a running jump.