Friday, September 29, 2006

Newsnight and the ISI leak

Yesterday I said that I wasn’t impressed with Newsnight’s analysis of the leaked policy paper on Pakistan’s security service ISI. I feel obliged to point out that the programme gave the subject another go last night, and its diplomatic editor Mark Urban has penned an article offering a little more background about the leak:
In June, a small delegation from Britain's Defence Academy travelled around Pakistan, meeting academics, military officers and politicians. Their discussions about how the country might emerge from its current time of troubles naturally touched on many sensitive areas.

When they got back to their offices at Shrivenham in Wiltshire one of the team, an officer on attachment to the academy who had previously served in a sensitive post liaising with the Americans on counter-terrorist matters, set down the team's findings…

Many Pakistani commentators have long suggested that the ISI has been used to maintain the system of military rule by exporting Islamic militancy to Kashmir and Afghanistan.

"Indirectly", the British officer agrees, "Pakistan (through the ISI) has been supporting terrorism and extremism." He suggests that the Americans are fed up with this state of affairs and may withdraw their funding in order to chase Gen Musharraf from office.

Statements of this kind ultimately proved too tempting for someone with access to the Defence Academy's work to resist.

The officer's notes were not classified and were held on a common computer server, allowing many staff open access.

One official at the Ministry of Defence suggested that one reader decided to leak the contents in order to embarrass the Pakistani leader.


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