The New York Times, citing unnamed Obama administration officials, has a big scoop today: Classified U.S. intelligence suggests that Pakistan's powerful spy agency, the ISI, ordered the killing of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad for his reporting on the influence of militants in Pakistan's military--an accusation that has taken root in the Pakistani news media as well. Shahzad, pictured above, disappeared from Islamabad on May 29 and was found dead in a canal outside of the city a day later, with 17 lacerated wounds, a ruptured liver, and two broken ribs.
The news is big, but so is the fact that U.S. officials shared it with the Times. To be sure, the Times notes that two officials had "reluctantly confirmed" the intelligence after the paper reached out to them about its existence. But the officials, who didn't use their names "because of the delicate nature of the information," still decided to disclose intelligence that, according to the Times, could "further aggravate the badly fractured relationship" between the U.S. and Pakistan in the aftermath of the Osama bin Laden raid, which "deeply embarrassed the Pakistani government, military and intelligence hierarchy." Obama administration officials plan on presenting the information they've gathered to the Pakistani government shortly. Pakistan, which has established a commission to investigate Shahzad's death, is having none of it. The country's information minister claimed the allegations in the Times piece were part of an "international conspiracy" to tarnish the reputation of the country's security forces, according to the Hindustan Times, though she added that "good relations" between the U.S. and Pakistan "are in the interest of both countries."
Several analysts, meanwhile, see the decision by U.S. officials to leak the story to the Times not as an international conspiracy but, as former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley put it, as "another salvo" in America's ongoing "intelligence war with Pakistan." The Guardian's Declan Walsh finds it "striking how U.S. interest" in the deaths of Pakistani journalists "coincides with its ISI row" after years of "silence" about ISI human rights "abuses." He notes that when Pakistani journalist Hayat Ullah Khan was abducted and killed in 2005 after reporting on a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan's tribal region, the U.S. "said little." What explains the change of heart? "Statecraft, I guess," Walsh writes.
U.S. officials aren't the only ones hitting Pakistan hard these days. As CBS News points out, The New York Times has published articles implicating Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies in acts of terrorism two days in a row. On Monday, the Times, citing a former militant commander, reported that the Pakistani military is still allied with militant groups including the Taliban and the Haqqani network "as part of a three-decade strategy of using proxies" India and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.