CIA helped India, Pakistan to share 26/11 intelligence: report

February 16th, 2009 - 5:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington/New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) The US’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) played a key role in Pakistan’s admission that its citizens were involved in the Mumbai terror attacks by “orchestrating back-channel intelligence exchanges” between India and Pakistan, a report in The Washington Post claimed Monday.

“In the aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, the CIA orchestrated back-channel intelligence exchanges between India and Pakistan, allowing the two former enemies to quietly share highly sensitive evidence while the Americans served as neutral arbiters,” US and foreign government sources familiar with the arrangement told the daily.

“The exchanges, which began days after the deadly assault in late November, gradually helped the two sides overcome mutual suspicions and paved the way for Islamabad’s announcement last week acknowledging that some of the planning for the attack had occurred on Pakistani soil,” The Post said in a front-page article.

“Officials from both countries said the unparalleled cooperation was a factor in Pakistan’s decision to bring criminal charges against nine Pakistanis accused of involvement in the attack,” the daily said.

The intelligence, the daily said, went well beyond the public revelations about the 10 Mumbai terrorists, and included sophisticated communications intercepts and an array of physical evidence detailing how the gunmen and their supporters planned and executed their three-day killing spree in the Indian port city.

Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies separately shared their findings with the CIA, which relayed the details while also vetting the intelligence and filling in blanks with gleanings from its networks, the sources told the US daily. The arrangement is ongoing, and it is unknown whether it will continue after the Mumbai case is settled, it said.

“India shared evidence bilaterally, but that’s not what clinched it,” said a senior Pakistani official familiar with the exchanges. “It was the details, shared between intelligence agencies, with the CIA serving mainly as a bridge.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also participated in the vetting process, he said.

“Everyone on the American side went into this with their eyes open, aware of the history, the complexities, the tensions. But at least the two countries are talking, not shooting,” a US official said, according to the daily.

Ten weeks after the Nov 26 Mumbai attacks that killed 173 people, including six Americans, Pakistan Thursday admitted that part of the Mumbai conspiracy was hatched and executed by its nationals from its territory. The admission, the first time Islamabad has acknowledged any link with a terror attack in India, came soon after US special envoy Richard Holbrooke held talks with Pakistani leaders.

The admission, according to the US daily, appeared to signal a thawing of tensions on the Indian subcontinent after weeks of rhetorical warfare.

Holbrooke is currently in India to hold talks with Indian officials after a week-long visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In New Delhi, Indian officials were circumspect and did not react to the report.

The Post article came as a revelation as attention had mostly focused on the FBI’s role in aiding the probe of the Mumbai attacks.

A three-member team of the Mumbai police went to the US last week with GPS equipment and satellite phones used by the Mumbai attackers.

Technical experts of FBI will help India to recover any phone number or location details deleted by the attackers.

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