ISLAMABAD — A breach that sent the CIA's top spy in Pakistan out of the country with his cover blown is likely to cause friction between U.S. and Pakistani intelligence agents, who have worked closely, if not always with mutual trust, in the battle against insurgents along the volatile border with Afghanistan.
Experts say that although the harm the episode has done to the relationship isn't irreparable, it will breed mistrust between the two sides at precisely the time Washington is urging Islamabad to shoulder a bigger responsibility in the war on terrorism.
U.S. officials suspect Pakistan's intelligence community, which has long been plagued by divided allegiances, in the disclosure of the identity of the CIA station chief in Islamabad.
Pakistan's main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI, directorate, has denied any role in the breach.
The CIA agent's name was first made public by Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar and his client, Karim Khan, at a Nov. 29 news conference to announce their intent to sue the United States over the deaths of Khan's son and brother, and another man in an American drone missile strike Dec. 31, 2009, in the tribal region of North Waziristan.
Subsequently, the agent's name was widely disseminated in Pakistani newspapers and television newscasts. Akbar said he obtained the agent's name from two Pakistani journalists, whose identities he would not disclose. He did not know how the journalists learned of the agent's identity. However, the ISI maintains strong bonds with certain Pakistani journalists and commentators, and often uses them to influence coverage or spin their version of events.
U.S. suspicions immediately fell on the ISI. A possible motive may have been retaliation for a lawsuit filed in New York last month that named the ISI's chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, as a defendant and accused his agency of supporting the militants who carried out the attacks in Mumbai, India, in 2008 that killed about 170 people. The lawsuit was filed by relatives of two American victims of the attack.