Loose talk by senior members of the Obama administration may have condemned Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who assisted America’s hunt for Osama bin Laden, to 33-year term in prison on trumped-up charges.
According to Fox News, an official 357-page report by the Pakistani government that examined the security failures that allowed the U.S. to evade that country’s defenses in the raid on May 2, 2011 concluded that Dr. Afridi was implicated by a “statement by the U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who was the CIA Director when May 2 happened, confirming the role of Dr. Afridi in making the U.S. assassination mission a success.”
Panetta had been speaking to CBS News’ 60 Minutes in January 2012. He said: “This was an individual who, in fact, helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regards to this operation, and he was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan.” The Pakistani report has not yet been officially released to the public.
The Obama administration was criticized in 2011 after leaking key operational details of the bin Laden raid, particularly the identity of U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6, which carried out the operation. Several weeks later, several members of that team were targeted and killed by the Taliban. Family members have been harshly critical of the Obama administration, arguing that its “criminal” leaks put SEAL Team 6 at greater risk.
In contrast to the Obama administration’s pursuit of other national security leaks, and the media outlets to which the leaks were made, there has not been any apparent attempt to hold its own leakers accountable.
Meanwhil, Dr. Afridi remains in prison, awaiting the resumption of his appeals process in June, after an initial trial through a tribal court system put in place by the British colonial authorities a century ago, in which Dr. Afridi was denied access to a lawyer and could not see the evidence against him or testify in his own defense.
The Pakistani report recommends that Dr. Afridi be granted a retrial–something that his advocates in the U.S., notably Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), have been urging with a view to winning his eventual release.