American government officials now say that Raymond Davis, the American man arrested in Pakistan last month after shooting two men dead in Lahore, was part of a covert, C.I.A.-led team of operatives, according to The New York Times.
Working from a safe house in the eastern city of Lahore, the detained American contractor, Raymond A. Davis, a retired Special Forces soldier, carried out scouting and other reconnaissance missions for a Central Intelligence Agency task force of case officers and technical surveillance experts, the officials said.
But The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, reports that American officials say Davis “was not directly involved in spying operations,” and only provided security to officials with the CIA and other agencies.
“Rumors to the contrary are simply wrong,” an official said of claims that Davis was directly involved in intelligence gathering operations.
The Times reports that it had agreed to temporarily withhold information about Davis after a request by the Obama administration, which said disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk. That request was lifted Monday, after foreign news organizations reported about Davis’ work with the CIA. According to the Times, Davis has worked for years as a C.I.A. contractor, including time at Blackwater Worldwide, known now as Xe.
An anonymous senior Pakistani official, who the Times said has ties to Pakistan’s security service, said Pakistani spies were angry about the Davis incident because it was so public.
“We all know the spy-versus-spy games, we all know it works in the shadows,” the official said, “but you don’t get caught, and you don’t get caught committing murders.”
Despite a public plea from President Obama and pressure from other U.S. officials, Pakistani authorities have refused to release Davis. Americans have argued that the shooting was self-defense, and that Davis has diplomatic immunity. Officials originally said that Davis was a “member of the technical and administrative staff” of the embassy in Islamabad.
The Times reports that a Lahore police report published in English by The Daily Times over the weekend raises questions about the self-defense case, pointing out that the victims were shot in the back.
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Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com