Pakistan Arrests bin Laden Informants, Suggesting US Official Lied About ‘Deal’ With Bush

Pakistan has arrested informants who cooperated with the CIA in the bin Laden raid. What about the “secret deal” supposedly brokered by George W. Bush that gave us free reign for the attack? Surprise—it was probably a lie.

Pakistan Arrests bin Laden Informants, Suggesting US Official Lied About 'Deal' With Bush

Shortly after the molten excitement around the Osama bin Laden assassination began to cool, questions started popping up about the foreign policy implications of the raid. We’d conducted it unilaterally, without permission, and in such secrecy that Pakistan’s own military intelligence had no idea what had happened until bin Laden was somewhere over the country in a helicopter with SEAL Team 6, on his way to a burial at sea.

Pakistan immediately voiced their displeasure at the operation, but in all the jubilation, who had time to notice? Plus, for those really paying attention, a week after the assassination The Guardian landed an incredible scoop from a US official—speaking anonymously, of course: the US had brokered a “secret deal” with Pakistan during the Bush years for US forces to enter the country any time, unannounced, to kill bin Laden.

“Afterwards,” The Guardian reported, “Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion.” But it would all be a show to keep national sentiments cool. “The Pakistanis would put up a hue and cry, but they wouldn’t stop us,” the official famously said.

Pakistan’s President Musharraf immediately denied this report to Pakistani media, saying he had never agreed to such terms with the US.

Today the New York Times reports that Pakistan has arrested five Pakistani informants who cooperated with the CIA in orchestrating the raid. “Pakistan’s detention of five C.I.A. informants, including a Pakistani Army major who officials said copied the license plates of cars visiting Bin Laden’s compound…is the latest evidence of the fractured relationship between the United States and Pakistan.”

It’s also the latest evidence that The Guardian was sold a lie by a US Official. The genius of the story, of course, is that no matter how Pakistan “hues and cries,” including arresting and detaining Pakistanis who participated in the raid, the “secret deal” makes it seem to Americans like Pakistan’s protests are all part of the charade—that the US has no real ethical issues to worry about.

That story is now the subject of a legal complaint by the All Pakistan Muslim League, as the Guardian notes, who claim it’s patently untrue. Pakistan’s detention of CIA informants seems to fortify the argument.

And beyond legal complaints, the rift could signal a challenge in obtaining Pakistan’s cooperation with US interests in the region broadly. As the Times notes, “It comes at a time when the Obama administration is seeking Pakistan’s support in brokering an endgame in the war in neighboring Afghanistan.”

Obama has largely followed through on his stated desire to transform America’s image from unilateral bully to ally and partner. But it’s hard to imagine how making up a story about a “secret deal” with an enemy whose sovereign border norms you’ve just violated would do anything but alienate you further.

Whether this myth was the work of an Obama Administration official or one of Bush’s old guard, it’s got to make the way forward in Afghanistan more challenging for Obama.