- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2000

The Secret Service fears President Clinton's life would be in danger if he visits Pakistan next month because the nation's security service has been heavily infiltrated by anti-American militants, a senior U.S. official said yesterday.
The concern comes as the White House mulls whether Mr. Clinton should stop in Pakistan during a trip to India and Bangladesh.
U.S. officials also fear that information on procedures used to protect traveling presidents could be used by terrorists with a "global reach" to threaten the lives of future American leaders.
"The host government provides 95 percent of the protection for a president on a visit," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Only the last 5 percent is provided by our Secret Service people.
"It's where their security people interact with ours that they can learn about our methods, techniques and secrets," said the official.
"This would endanger the life of President Clinton in Pakistan and on other trips. It also threatens future U.S. presidents. These terrorists are transnationals and operate around the world."
Secret Service officials declined to comment.
The U.S. official detailed other security concerns, including the threat that Islamic extremists from Afghanistan, who move easily across the border with Pakistan, could attack any airport used by Mr. Clinton.
"They have experience with long-range shelling," said the official.
The official said that Pakistan's Inter Service Intelligence agency, known as the ISI, has been working for years with anti-American groups such as Harakat-ul Mujahideen, which is on the State Department list of terrorist groups.
The group is suspected of hijacking an India Airlines jet last December. One of its leaders was freed from an Indian prison in exchange for the release of the passengers and crew.
Pakistan's ISI also has dealt for years with reputed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, believed responsible for the 1996 bombing of U.S. army barracks in Saudi Arabia and the bombing two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.
Since the rule of military dictator Mohammed Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s, ISI increasingly has been infiltrated by Islamic zealots, say analysts and officials in Pakistan and Washington.
National security adviser Samuel R. Berger, terrorism adviser Dick Clark and other top officials are to meet today at the White House to consider whether Mr. Clinton should include Pakistan on his itinerary.
President Nixon's 1969 visit to Pakistan was the most recent one by an American president.
Mr. Clinton hopes a visit might help end the 50-year battle between India and Pakistan over Kashmir that threatens to evolve into a nuclear conflict. Both countries tested atom bombs in 1998.
Reasons given by those who oppose the visit go beyond security.
Pakistan is ruled by military chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf who overthrew a corrupt but elected civilian government last October.
Pakistan also is accused of sheltering terrorist groups and allowing militants to cross into India-held portions of Kashmir where they are fighting a guerrilla war, often targeting Hindu civilians and Muslims who disagree with their views.
Mr. Clinton will arrive in India March 19. The next day he will fly to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, for the first visit by a U.S. president to that nation of 130 million people.
The president hopes to highlight economic progress in South Asia, a region once derided as unable to feed itself.
Mr. Clinton is to visit some rural development projects of powerful nongovernmental organizations such as the Grameen Bank and Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, which have used novel techniques to inspire poor peasants to become entrepreneurs.
Mr. Clinton returns to New Delhi later on March 20 and to begin a formal state visit.
The visit to India comes as America's Indian immigrants have formed a powerful economic and political group.
Indian-Americans have the highest median income of all immigrant groups in the United States and they are becoming active politically.
Mr. Clinton recently said that one reason for a visit to South Asia was that many Americans now hail from that region.
The president also hopes to focus attention on the growing economic importance of India as it ends decades of stagnating quasi-socialism with market-based reforms.
The U.S. official said Mr. Clinton may drop some sanctions before his visit that were imposed on India for its acquisition of nuclear weapons.
After decades of dependence on Soviet arms, India now wants to buy U.S. weapons, mainly laser-guided bombs, radar-controlled gun batteries, submarine periscopes and other equipment, the official said.

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