WASHINGTON — An American jailed in Pakistan for the fatal shooting of two armed men was working secretly for the CIA and scouting a neighborhood when he was arrested, a disclosure likely to further frustrate U.S. government efforts to free the man and strain relations between two countries partnered in a fragile alliance in the war on terror.
Raymond Allen Davis, 36, was working as a CIA security contractor for the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, according to former and current U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk publicly about the incident.
Mr. Davis, a former Special Forces soldier who left the military in 2003, shot the men in what he described as an attempted armed robbery in the eastern city of Lahore as they approached him on a motorcycle. A third Pakistani, a bystander, died when a car rushing to help Mr. Davis struck him. Mr. Davis reportedly was carrying a Glock handgun, a pocket telescope and papers with different identifications.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration insisted anew Monday that Mr. Davis had diplomatic immunity and must be set free.
In a hastily arranged conference call with reporters shortly after details of Mr. Davis‘ employment were reported, senior State Department officials repeated the administration’s stance that he is an accredited member of the technical and administrative staff of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. They said the Pakistani government had been informed of his status in January 2010 and that Pakistan is violating its international obligations by continuing to hold him.
The officials would not comment on Mr. Davis‘ employment but said it was irrelevant to the case because Pakistan had not rejected his status. The officials spoke only on grounds of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The revelation that Mr. Davis was an employee of the CIA comes amid a tumultuous dispute over whether he is immune from criminal prosecution under international rules enacted to protect diplomats overseas. New protests in Pakistan erupted after the Guardian newspaper in London decided to publish details about Mr. Davis‘ relationship with the CIA.
The United States repeatedly has asserted that Mr. Davis had diplomatic immunity and should have been released immediately. The State Department claims Mr. Davis was “entitled to full criminal immunity in accordance with the Vienna Convention” and was a member of the “technical and administrative staff” at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.
The Associated Press learned of Mr. Davis‘ working for the CIA last month, immediately after the shootings, but withheld publication of the information because it could endanger his life while he was jailed overseas, with at least some protesters there calling for his execution as a spy.
The AP had intended to report Mr. Davis‘ CIA employment after he was out of harm’s way, but the story was broken Sunday by the Guardian. The CIA asked the AP and several other U.S. media outlets to hold their stories as the United States tried to improve Mr. Davis‘ security situation.
A U.S. official said Mr. Davis is being held at a jail on the outskirts of Lahore, where there are serious doubts about whether the Pakistanis truly can protect him. The official said the Pakistanis have expressed similar concerns to the United States.
A senior Pakistani intelligence official said the government had taken measures to ensure Mr. Davis‘ safety by stepping up security at the facility, removing certain inmates from the prison and sending a contingent of well-trained paramilitaries known as the Rangers.
The State Department said the Pakistani government was informed that Mr. Davis was a diplomat and entitled to immunity when he was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. “We notified the Pakistani government when he arrived in Islamabad,” department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
Mr. Davis identified himself as a diplomat to police when he was arrested and “has repeatedly requested immunity” to no avail, Mr. Crowley said. The U.S. Embassy said he has a diplomatic passport and a visa valid through June 2012. It also said in a recent statement the United States had notified the Pakistani government of Mr. Davis‘ assignment more than a year ago. However, the senior Pakistani intelligence official said that Mr. Davis‘ visa application contained bogus U.S. contact information.
Since Pakistani authorities took the ex-Special Forces soldier into custody Jan. 27, U.S. officials said, the situation slowly has escalated into a crisis, threatening the CIA‘s ability to wage a dangerous war against al Qaeda and militants. Some members of Congress have threatened to cut off the billions in funding to Pakistan if Mr. Davis isn’t released.