Pakistani security guards stand alert outside the U.S. consulate in Lahore… (ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty Images )
The $52.6 billion U.S. intelligence arsenal is aimed mainly at unambiguous adversaries, including al-Qaeda, North Korea and Iran. But top-secret budget documents reveal an equally intense focus on one purported ally: Pakistan.
No other nation draws as much scrutiny across so many categories of national security concern.
A 178-page summary of the U.S. intelligence community’s “black budget” shows that the United States has ramped up its surveillance of Pakistan’s nuclear arms, cites previously undisclosed concerns about biological and chemical sites there, and details efforts to assess the loyalties of counterterrorism sources recruited by the CIA.
Pakistan appears at the top of charts listing critical U.S. intelligence gaps. It is named as a target of newly formed analytic cells. And fears about the security of its nuclear program are so pervasive that a budget section on containing the spread of illicit weapons divides the world into two categories: Pakistan and everybody else.
The disclosures — based on documents provided to The Washington Post by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden — expose broad new levels of U.S.distrust in an already unsteady security partnership with Pakistan, a politically unstable country that faces rising Islamist militancy. They also reveal a more expansive effort to gather intelligence on Pakistan than U.S. officials have disclosed.
The United States has delivered nearly $26 billion in aid to Pakistan over the past 12 years, aimed at stabilizing the country and ensuring its cooperation in counterterrorism efforts. But with Osama bin Laden dead and al-Qaeda degraded, U.S. spy agencies appear to be shifting their attention to dangers that have emerged beyond the patch of Pakistani territory patrolled by CIA drones.
“If the Americans are expanding their surveillance capabilities, it can only mean one thing,” said Husain Haqqani, who until 2011 served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States. “The mistrust now exceeds the trust.”
Beyond the budget files, other classified documents provided to The Post expose fresh allegations of systemic human rights abuses in Pakistan. U.S. spy agencies reported that high-ranking Pakistani military and intelligence officials had been aware of — and possibly ordered — an extensive campaign of extrajudicial killings targeting militants and other adversaries.
Public disclosure of those reports, based on communications intercepts from 2010 to 2012 and other intelligence, could have forced the Obama administration to sever aid to the Pakistani armed forces because of a U.S. law that prohibits military assistance to human rights abusers. But the documents indicate that administration officials decided not to press the issue, in order to preserve an already frayed relationship with the Pakistanis.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council said the United States is “committed to a long-term partnership with Pakistan, and we remain fully engaged in building a relationship that is based on mutual interests and mutual respect.”
“We have an ongoing strategic dialogue that addresses in a realistic fashion many of the key issues between us, from border management to counterterrorism, from nuclear security to promoting trade and investment,” said the spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden. “The United States and Pakistan share a strategic interest in combating the challenging security issues in Pakistan, and we continue to work closely with Pakistan’s professional and dedicated security forces to do so.”
The Post agreed to withhold some details from the budget documents after consultations with U.S. officials, who expressed concern about jeopardizing ongoing operations and sources.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
Critical ‘intelligence gaps’
Stark assessments of Pakistan contained in the budget files seem at odds with the signals that U.S. officials have conveyed in public, partly to avoid fanning Pakistani suspicions that the United States is laying contingency plans to swoop in and seize control of the country’s nuclear complex.
When Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. was asked during congressional testimony last year whether Pakistan had appropriate safeguards for its nuclear program, he replied, “I’m reasonably confident they do.” Facing a similar question this year, Clapper declined to discuss the matter in open session.
But the classified budget overview he signed and submitted for fiscal 2013 warned that “knowledge of the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and associated material encompassed one of the most critical set of . . . intelligence gaps.” Those blind spots were especially worrisome, the document said, “given the political instability, terrorist threat and expanding inventory [of nuclear weapons] in that country.”