American who Sparked Diplomatic Crisis over Lahore Shooting was CIA Spy

• Raymond Davis employed by CIA 'beyond shadow of doubt'
• Former soldier charged with murder over deaths of two men
• Davis accused of shooting one man twice in the back as he fled

By Declan Walsh in Lahore and Ewen MacAskill in Washington

February 20, 2011 "
The Guardian" --  The American who shot dead two men on a Lahore street, triggering a diplomatic crisis between Pakistan and the United States, is a CIA agent who was on assignment at the time of the incident.

Raymond Davis has been the subject of widespread speculation since he opened fire with a semi-automatic Glock pistol on the two men who had pulled up alongside his car at a red light on 25 January.

Pakistani authorities charged him with murder, but the Obama administration has insisted he is an "administrative and technical official" attached to its Lahore consulate and is entitled to diplomatic immunity.

Based on interviews in the US and Pakistan, the Guardian can confirm that the 36-year-old former special forces soldier is employed by the CIA. "It's beyond a shadow of a doubt," said a senior Pakistani intelligence official.

The revelation may complicate American efforts to free Davis, who says he acted in self-defence when he opened fire on two men, both of whom were carrying guns.

Pakistani prosecutors, who say the men were petty criminals trying to rob him at gunpoint, accuse the spy of using excessive force, getting out of his car to shoot one of them twice in the back as he ran away. The man's body was discovered 30 feet from his motorbike.

"It went way beyond what we define as self-defence. It was not commensurate with the threat," a senior police official involved in the case told the Guardian.

The Pakistani government is aware of Davis's CIA status yet has kept quiet in the face of immense American pressure to free him under the Vienna convention. Last week President Barack Obama described Davis as "our diplomat" and dispatched his chief diplomatic troubleshooter, Senator John Kerry, to Islamabad. Kerry returned home empty-handed.

Many Pakistanis are outraged at the idea of an armed American rampaging through their second largest city; some analysts have warned of Egyptian-style protests if Davis is released. The government, fearful of a furious public backlash, says it needs until 14 March to decide whether Davis enjoys immunity.

Outrage has been heightened by the death of a third man who was crushed by an American vehicle as it rushed to Davis's aid. Pakistani officials believe the vehicle's occupants were also CIA because they came from the same suburban house where Davis lived and were heavily armed.

The US refused Pakistani demands to interrogate the two men and on Sunday a senior Pakistani intelligence official said they had left the country. "They have flown the coop, they are already in America," he said.

ABC News reported that the men had the same diplomatic visa as Davis. It is not unusual for US intelligence officers, like their counterparts round the world, to carry diplomatic passports.

The US has engaged in an edgy public relations offensive to free Davis, accusing Pakistan of illegally detaining him and riding roughshod over international treaties. Angry politicians have proposed slashing Islamabad's $1.5bn (about 900m) annual aid; the state department repeatedly describes him as "a member of the administrative and technical staff of the US embassy in Islamabad".

But Washington's case is hobbled by its resounding silence on Davis's background and role. Davis served in the US special forces for 10 years before leaving in 2003 to become a private security contractor. A senior Pakistani official said he believed Davis worked with Xe, the controversial firm formerly known as Blackwater, before joining the CIA.

Pakistani suspicions about Davis's role were stoked by the equipment police confiscated from his car after the shooting: an unlicensed pistol, a long-range radio, a GPS device, an infrared torch and a camera with pictures of buildings around Lahore.

"This is not the work of a diplomat. He was doing espionage and surveillance activities," said the Punjab law minister, Rana Sanaullah, adding that he had "confirmation" that Davis was a CIA employee.

A number of US media outlets later learned about Davis's CIA role but have kept it under wraps at the request of the Obama administration, which fears that disclosure could inflame opinion in Pakistan and possibly put Davis at risk.

A Colorado television station, 9NEWS, initially made a connection after speaking to Davis's wife, who lives outside Denver. She referred its inquiries to a number in Washington which turned out to be the CIA. The station subsequently removed the CIA reference from its website at the request of the US government.

Nicole Vap, an executive producer, said: "Because of the safety concerns, we decided to amend the story. But it remains accurate."

The episode has badly damaged relations between the CIA and the ISI, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency. Some reports, quoting Pakistani intelligence officials, have suggested that the men Davis killed, Faizan Haider, 21, and Muhammad Faheem, 19, were ISI agents with orders to shadow Davis because he crossed an unspecified "red line".

A senior police official, however, confirmed American claims that the men were petty thieves – investigators found stolen mobile phones on their bodies, as well as small amounts of foreign currency and illegal weapons – but did not rule out an intelligence link.

A senior ISI official denied the dead men worked for the spy agency but admitted the CIA relationship had been badly damaged. "Their tactics of using good cop, bad cop do not work. We are a sovereign country and if they want to work with us, they need to develop a trusting relationship on the basis of equality. Being arrogant and demanding is not the way to do it," he said.

Tensions between the spy agencies have grown in recent months. The CIA Islamabad station chief was forced to leave in December after being named in a civil lawsuit, and the ISI was angered when its chief, General Shuja Pasha, was named in a New York lawsuit related to the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Although the two spy services co-operate in the CIA's drone campaign along the Afghan border, there has not been a drone strike since 23 January – the longest lull since June 2009. Experts are unsure whether both events are linked.

With the next hearing scheduled for 14 March, Davis awaits his fate in Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore. Pakistani officials say they have taken exceptional measures to ensure his safety, including ringing the prison with paramilitary Punjab Rangers. The law minister, Sanaullah, said Davis was being kept in a "high security zone" and was receiving food from visitors from the US consulate.

Sanaullah said another 140 foreigners were in the same facility, many on drugs charges. Several press reports have speculated that the authorities worry the US could try to spring Davis in what one termed a "Hollywood-style sting".

"All measures for his security have been taken," said the ISI official. "He's as safe as can be."

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