The CIA Chief Who Presided Over The Bin Laden Raid Believes He Was Poisoned By Pakistan In Retaliation

In the years, months, weeks, days, and hours leading up to the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration gave no notice to the Pakistani government or their intelligence service about what they were plotting.

They weren’t given any heads up that U.S. helicopters were going to violate their airspace, land in one of their major cities, and off one of the world’s most wanted men. They kept the whole country in the dark.

With good reason. The concern was that if Pakistan were tipped off in any way, those sympathetic to bin Laden could find a way to inform him and whisk him away again.

Pakistan, after finding out about the U.S. government’s actions, was livid. Livid enough to retaliate against America, though?

The former CIA station chief in the country at the time believes so. He and others thinks the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence poisoned him for his part in the raid.

The Washington Post’s Greg Miller has the scoop:

Two months after Osama bin Laden was killed, the CIA’s top operative in Pakistan was pulled out of the country in an abrupt move vaguely attributed to health concerns and his strained relationship with Islamabad.

In reality, the CIA station chief was so violently ill that he was often doubled over in pain, current and former U.S. officials said. Trips out of the country for treatment proved futile. And the cause of his ailment was so mysterious, the officials said, that both he and the agency began to suspect that he had been poisoned.

Dammmmn. That’s some spy shit right there.

Mark Kelton retired after the incident and is now fine. He declined to discuss it with The Post, only to say that is wasn’t just his own personal suspicions.

Kelton, 59, declined multiple requests for an interview, but in a brief exchange by phone he said that the cause of his illness “was never clarified,” and added that he was not the first to suspect that he had been poisoned. “The gen­esis for the thoughts about that didn’t originate with me,” he said.

U.S. officials acknowledged that the CIA never obtained clear evidence that Kelton was poisoned or confronted Pakistan with that charge. Even so, current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that the ISI has been linked to numerous plots against journalists, diplomats and other perceived adversaries, and that the spy agency’s animosity toward Kelton was intense.

Officials said the ISI chief at the time, Ahmed Shuja Pasha, routinely refused to speak with Kelton or even utter his name, referring to the dour CIA station chief as “the cadaver.”

Kelton’s time in Pakistan was brief, just seven months long, but it was a very tumultuous experience, beginning with the arrest of a CIA hire and ending in bin Laden’s death. All along, the two countries’ already tenuous alliance was strained by repeated U.S. drone strikes.

Less than 48 hours after Kelton’s arrival in Islamabad, CIA contractor Raymond Davis was arrested after opening fire on two armed Pakistani men accused of trying to rob him. In Davis’s car, authorities found a conspicuous collection of spy gear, reportedly including a disguise kit, infrared flashlight and a camera.

The Post describes the event as Jason Bourne-esque. No joke.

Some in the U.S. Embassy argued that lying about Davis would only insult the Pakistanis, who might be persuaded to release him if the agency acknowledged the blunder. But Kelton and his superiors at headquarters were adamantly opposed.

“Don’t tell them anything,” Kelton told then-U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter, according to former officials familiar with the exchange. The stonewalling continued for weeks — with President Obama demanding the release of “our diplomat” — until Munter secured permission to deal with Pasha directly and admit Davis’s ties to the CIA.

Davis was released March 16 after a secret court proceeding in which the families of those killed were paid $2.4 million. The CIA’s drones, which had gone dormant during much of Davis’s captivity, roared back to life the next day, carrying out a strike that killed at least 40 people at a tribal council meeting in Datta Khel.

Pasha was livid, sending word to Munter that the strike amounted to a “kick in the teeth” after arranging the Davis deal. Pasha’s relationship with Kelton never recovered, and the two rarely spoke in the ensuing months.

Give the entire piece a read here. It’s wild.

[Via The Washington Post]