I thought the new administration was supposed to usher in an era of improved relations with the rest of the world. Actually the following revelation, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, is not from the administration, but it is from a Democrat Senator, Diane Feinstein (via Jim Hoft and Jawa):
A senior U.S. lawmaker said Thursday that unmanned CIA Predator aircraft operating in Pakistan are flown from an airbase inside that country, a revelation likely to embarrass the Pakistani government and complicate its counterterrorism collaboration with the United States.
The disclosure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, marked the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off and land.
At a hearing, Feinstein expressed surprise at Pakistani opposition to the ongoing campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes against Al Qaeda targets along Pakistan’s northwest border.
“As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base,” she said of the planes.
The basing of the pilotless aircraft in Pakistan suggests a much deeper relationship with the United States on counterterrorism matters than has been publicly acknowledged. Such an arrangement would be at odds with protests lodged by officials in Islamabad and could inflame anti-American sentiment in the country.A spokesman for Feinstein “said her comment was based solely on previous news reports that Predators were operated from bases near Islamabad.” But according to Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University,
“If accurate, what this says is that Pakistani involvement, or at least acquiescence, has been much more extensive than has previously been known. It puts the Pakistani government in a far more difficult position [in terms of] its credibility with its own people. Unfortunately it also has the potential to threaten Pakistani-American relations.”
I can’t tell from this report whether or not the information was previously reported, as Feinstein’s spokesman says, or if her statement is official confirmation of a relationship that was not previously officially disclosed. Either way it does not seem to fit with the new Obama strategy for foreign relations.
If this was something that should not have been disclosed by a US official, it would not be the first time Feinstein gave away too much information. Years ago I read the story about the hunt for the Night Stalker serial killer and still remember how angry investigators were when then Mayor of San Francisco Feinstein gave a press conference and revealed details not supposed to be released to the public, impeding the investigation.