Pakistani Doctor Who Helped U.S. Find Bin Laden Is Reportedly Sentenced To 33 Years In Prison

The United States has long been criticized for disregarding the sovereign rights of Pakistan and other countries in launching drone attacks and military operations. Now, Pakistan has responded with a reported lengthy sentencing of the Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, who helped track down Osama Bin Laden as guilty of “high treason.”

The “trial” and sentencing of the doctor is a farce and injustice. He was tried under the Frontier Crimes Regulations, or FCR. It denied him access to counsel and basic due process. American officials however appear doubly hypocritical in criticizing the lack of due process when the Bush Administration stripped detainees of the same rights and the Obama Administration still holds people at Gitmo without true legal process (as well as claiming the right to kill U.S. citizens without any trial or formal charge).

These sentences are handed down by a Khyber government official in consultation with a “council of government elders.” Of course, that is basically the same process described by the Obama Administration for the death panel in targeting U.S. citizens for assassination — except that the Age Discrimination Act limits the use of age in selecting government officials.

Source: BBC

35 thoughts on “Pakistani Doctor Who Helped U.S. Find Bin Laden Is Reportedly Sentenced To 33 Years In Prison”

  1. Dredd

    There is good and bad in the world. Unfortunately, in a street fight, you have to fight as though you are in the ‘street’. One must choose which side he is on. I have chosen. I see that you have too, my belief: You are on the wrong side. Semper Fi.

  2. Saturday, May 26, 2012 07:53 AM EDT

    The Imperial Mind

    American rage at Pakistan over the punishment of a CIA-cooperating Pakistani doctor is quite revealing

    By Glenn Greenwald

    Americans of all types — Democrats and Republicans, even some Good Progressives — are just livid that a Pakistani tribal court (reportedly in consultation with Pakistani officials) has imposed a 33-year prison sentence on Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani physician who secretly worked with the CIA to find Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil. Their fury tracks the standard American media narrative: by punishing Dr. Afridi for the “crime” of helping the U.S. find bin Laden, Pakistan has revealed that it sympathizes with Al Qaeda and is hostile to the U.S. (NPR headline: “33 Years In Prison For Pakistani Doctor Who Aided Hunt For Bin Laden”; NYT headline: “Prison Term for Helping C.I.A. Find Bin Laden”). Except that’s a woefully incomplete narrative: incomplete to the point of being quite misleading.

    What Dr. Afridi actually did was concoct a pretextual vaccination program, whereby Pakistani children would be injected with a single Hepatitis B vaccine, with the hope of gaining access to the Abbottabad house where the CIA believed bin Laden was located. The plan was that, under the ruse of vaccinating the children in that province, he would obtain DNA samples that could confirm the presence in the suspected house of the bin Laden family. But the vaccine program he was administering was fake: as Wired‘s public health reporter Maryn McKenna detailed, “since only one of three doses was delivered, the vaccination was effectively useless.” An on-the-ground Guardian investigation documented that ”while the vaccine doses themselves were genuine, the medical professionals involved were not following procedures. In an area called Nawa Sher, they did not return a month after the first dose to provide the required second batch. Instead, according to local officials and residents, the team moved on.”

    That means that numerous Pakistani children who thought they were being vaccinated against Hepatitis B were in fact left exposed to the virus. Worse, international health workers have long faced serious problems in many parts of the world — including remote Muslim areas — in convincing people that the vaccines they want to give to their children are genuine rather than Western plots to harm them. These suspicions have prevented the eradication of polio and the containment of other preventable diseases in many areas, including in parts of Pakistan. This faux CIA vaccination program will, for obvious and entirely foreseeable reasons, significantly exacerbate that problem.

    As McKenna wrote this week, this fake CIA vaccination program was “a cynical attempt to hijack the credibility that public health workers have built up over decades with local populations” and thus “endangered the status of the fraught polio-eradication campaign, which over the past decade has been challenged in majority-Muslim areas in Africa and South Asia over beliefs that polio vaccination is actually a covert campaign to harm Muslim children.” She further notes that while this suspicion “seems fantastic” to oh-so-sophisticated Western ears — what kind of primitive people would harbor suspicions about Western vaccine programs? – there are actually “perfectly good reasons to distrust vaccination campaigns” from the West (in 1996, for instance, 11 children died in Nigeria when Pfizer, ostensibly to combat a meningitis outbreak, conducted drug trials — experiments — on Nigerian children that did not comport with binding safety standards in the U.S.).

    When this fake CIA vaccination program was revealed last year, Doctors Without Borders harshly denounced the CIA and Dr. Afridi for their “grave manipulation of the medical act” that will cause “vulnerable communities – anywhere – needing access to essential health services [to] understandably question the true motivation of medical workers and humanitarian aid.” The group’s President pointed out the obvious: “The potential consequence is that even basic healthcare, including vaccination, does not reach those who need it most.” That is now clearly happening, as the CIA program “is casting its shadow over campaigns to vaccinate Pakistanis against polio.” Gulrez Khan, a Peshawar-based anti-polio worker, recently said that tribesman in the area now consider public health workers to be CIA agents and are more reluctant than ever to accept vaccines and other treatments for their children.

    For the moment, leave to the side the question of whether knowingly administering ineffective vaccines to Pakistani children is a justified ruse to find bin Laden (just by the way, it didn’t work, as none of the health workers actually were able to access the bin Laden house, though CIA officials claim the program did help obtain other useful information). In light of all the righteous American outrage over this prison sentence, let’s consider what the U.S. Government would do if the situation were reversed: namely, if an American citizen secretly cooperated with a foreign intelligence service to conduct clandestine operations on U.S. soil, all without the knowledge or consent of the U.S. Government, and let’s further consider what would happen if the American citizen’s role in those operations involved administering a fake vaccine program to unwitting American children. Might any serious punishment ensue? Does anyone view that as anything more than an obvious rhetorical question?

    There are numerous examples that make the point. As’ad AbuKhalil poses this one: “Imagine if China were to hire an American physician who would innocently inject unsuspecting Americans with a chemical to obtain information for China. I am sure that his prison term would be even longer.” Or what if an American doctor of Iranian descent had done this on behalf of the Quds Force, in order to find a member of the designated Iranian Terror group MeK who was living in the United States (one who, say, has been working with Israel to help assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists and wound their wives, or one who was trained by the U.S.), after which Iranian agents invaded his American home, pumped bullets in his skull and shot a few others (his wife and a child) and then dumped his corpse into the Atlantic Ocean? Or take the case of Orlando Bosch, the CIA-backed anti-Cuban Terrorist long harbored by the U.S.; suppose a Cuban-American doctor sympathetic to Castro had injected American children as part of a fake vaccination program in order to help Cuba find and kill Bosch on U.S. soil; he’d be lucky to get 33 years in prison.

    In fact, the U.S. Government tries to impose the harshest possible sentences on Americans who do far less than Dr. Afridi did in Pakistan. The Obama administration charged former NSA official Thomas Drake with espionage and tried to imprison him for decades merely because he exposed serious waste, corruption and illegality in surveillance programs — without the slightest indication of any harm to national security. Right now, they’re charging Bradley Manning with “aiding the enemy” — Al Qaeda — and attempting to impose life imprisonment on the 23-year-old Army Private, merely because he leaked information to the world showing serious war crimes and other government deceit (something The New York Times does frequently) which nobody suggests was done in collaboration with or even with any intent to help Al Qaeda or any other foreign entity. Given all that, just imagine how harshly they’d try to punish an American who secretly collaborated with a foreign intelligence service — who created a fake vaccine program for American kids — to enable secret military action on U.S. soil without their knowledge.

    But of course none of these comparisons is equivalent. It’s all different when it’s done to America rather than by America. That’s the great prize for being the world’s imperial power: the rules you impose on others don’t bind you at all. I’m quite certain that none of the people voicing such intense rage over Pakistan’s punishment of Dr. Afridi would voice anything similar if the situation were reversed in any of the ways I’ve just outlined. Can you even imagine any of them saying something like: yes, this American doctor injected American kids with ruse vaccines in order to help the intelligence service of Iran/Pakistan/China/Cuba conduct clandestine operations on U.S. soil without the knowledge of the U.S. Government, but I think that’s justified and he shouldn’t be punished.

    If you read or watch any accounts of life in the Roman empire, what you will frequently witness is someone being severely punished for an act against a Roman citizen. That was the most severe crime and the one most harshly punished: one could do any manner of bad things to non-citizens, but not so much as raise a hand to a Roman citizen.

    Watch how often that formulation is used in our political discourse: he tried to kill Americans, people will emphasize when justifying all sorts of U.S. government actions. In other words, there are ordinary, pedestrian crimes (like this one, from today: “An American drone fired two missiles at a bakery in northwest Pakistan Saturday and killed four suspected militants, officials said, as the U.S. pushed on with its drone campaign despite Pakistani demands to stop. This was the third such strike in the country in less than a week”). But then there is the supreme crime: he tried to kill Americans! It’d be one thing if this outrage were honestly expressed as self-interest (we give massive aid to Pakistan so they should do our bidding), but instead, it is, as usual, couched in moral terms.

    That is the imperial mind at work. Its premises are often embraced implicitly rather than knowingly: American lives are inherently more valuable; foreign lives are expendable in pursuit of American interests; the U.S. has the inalienable right to take action in other countries that nobody is allowed to take in the U.S. (just imagine: “An Iranian drone fired two missiles at a bakery in the northwest U.S. Saturday and killed four suspected militants, Iranian officials said, as Iran pushed on with its drone campaign despite American demands to stop. This was the third such strike in the country in less than a week” or “Thirty five women and children were killed by a Yemeni cruise missile armed with cluster bombs which struck an alleged Marine training camp in Texas”).

    These self-venerating imperial prerogatives are the premises driving the vast bulk of American foreign policy and military discourse. It is certainly what’s driving the spectacle of so many people pretending that the punishment of Dr. Afridi is some sort of aberrational act which the U.S. and other Decent, Civilized Countries would never do.

    * * * * *

    Two related points:

    (1) NPR emphasizes what appear to be the genuine due process deficiencies in the punishment imposed on Dr. Afridi, though he certainly is receiving more due process than those informally and secretly accused of Treason by the U.S. Government and given the Anwar Awlaki treatment, or accused of Terrorism and targeted with a U.S. drone or locked for a decade or so in a cage without charges of any kind.

    (2) Zaid Jilani, formerly of Think Progress, asks a really good question about the Hollywood Election Year film depicting the bin Laden raid being produced by Sony Pictures with the help of the Obama administration: “Will the movie feature Pakistani kids tricked into getting fake vaccines? Probably not.” If the film does mention this, I’d bet it will be to marvel at and celebrate the James-Bond-like ingenuity of the CIA.

    (end of article, but Greenwald updates his articles from time to time, so check out the full article, via the above link, if interested…)

  3. A serious breach of medical ethics on the part of Shakil Afridi, IMO.

  4. Surely there must be some highly-trained well supplied tactical force at our disposal to brazenly defy international sovereignty and bust this guy out of prison right? I mean its not like we would keep those guys around just to liquidate targets that would not fit very well into the american system of justice right? Wouldnt those guys who risked their lives to kill bin laden be willing to risk them again to help someone who is imprisoned for revealing information that may have saved their lives? It seems kind of cowardly for everyone else involved to just sit on their hands…

    Oh, it seems this obama fellow isnt too keen on whistleblowers. oh well. good luck in pakistani jail.

  5. Strike that. Put another way by military historian Martin Van Creveld on November 18, 2004

    He who fights against the weak – and the rag-tag Iraqi militias are very weak indeed – and loses, loses. He who fights against the weak and wins also loses. To kill an opponent who is much weaker than yourself is unnecessary and therefore cruel; to let that opponent kill you is unnecessary and therefore foolish. As Vietnam and countless other cases prove, no armed force however rich, however powerful, however, advanced, and however well motivated is immune to this dilemma. The end result is always disintegration and defeat; if U.S troops in Iraq have not yet started fragging their officers, the suicide rate among them is already exceptionally high. That is why the present adventure will almost certainly end as the previous one did. Namely, with the last US troops fleeing the country while hanging on to their helicopters’ skids.

    Actually, the American misadventure in Iraq (sort of) came to an end — seven years later — not with the dreaded Saigon Embassy Rooftop Dance, but with the last American military forces waiting until dark and then making a midnight run for the border with Kuwait before anyone could notice. The enormous white-elephant US embassy in Baghdad does, however, still retain many US military personnel and armed mercenaries, so whether the American military can actually avoid a repeat of the Saigon Embassy Rooftop Dance in Iraq remains an open question. Not quite out of the woods (I mean desert) there yet.

    Ditto for Afghanistan; and with the disintegration of relations with Pakistan on schedule to completely isolate the remaining US and adjunct mercenary forces in Afghanistan, the Saigon Embassy Rooftop Dance would look like a dream come true compared to an attempted forced-march retreat through a hostile Khyber Pass. The British tried that once and Rudyard Kipling chronicled the result:

    When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plain
    And the women come out to cut up what remains
    Then roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
    And go to your gawd like a soldier.

    Pissing off the Pakistanis like this, what with them having their thumbs pressing tightly against our supply-line jugular would make no sense to any military leadership in history, except for the very “exceptional” American variety.

  6. The Viet Cong Taliban will surely give up now that Ho Chi Minh Osama bin Laden has died.

    Or will somebody else give up?

    From Saigon to Baghdad to Kabul to [fill in the next humiliating American military debacle]:.

    With their tails tucked proudly ‘tween their legs
    Advancing towards the exit march the dregs
    Of empire, whose retreat this question begs:
    No promised omelet, just the broken eggs?

  7. “Dr Afridi was tried for treason under a tribal justice system for running a fake vaccination programme to gather information for US intelligence.”

    All the earmarks of a CIA operation.


    4 May 2012 Last updated at 19:04 ET

    US cuts Pakistan aid over jailing of ‘Bin Laden doctor’
    Shakil Afridi

    “A US Senate panel has cut $33m (£21m) in aid to Pakistan in response to the jailing of a Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA find Osama Bin Laden.

    The Senate Appropriations Committee has said it will cut US aid by $1m for each year of Shakil Afridi’s sentence.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said his term was “unjust and unwarranted”.

    Dr Afridi was tried for treason under a tribal justice system for running a fake vaccination programme to gather information for US intelligence.”

  9. bettykath,

    I think you have the better of the argument, here. No country militarily invades and occupies another country simply to apprehend or kill an individual criminal. A small team of assassins could — and eventually did — do that. Any country that boasts of going to war over a single individual or petty gang of thugs immediately loses any claim to credibility, as did the United States shortly after it started beating the drums for war against first Afghanistan and then Iraq. Mexico has just as plausible — indeed a more plausible — reason to go to war against American cities to apprehend or kill the drug-dealing gangs that infest the United States in far greater numbers than al Qaeda could possibly muster. After all, American police forces cannot do the job, even after jailing more drug users than the rest of the world combined.

    The Bush administration had a well-known hard-on for Saddam Hussein in Iraq from the get-go but did not have a plausible excuse to go to war with that impoverished, sanctioned, and bombed-weekly-for-a-decade country. Finding their golden opportunity in the unarmed Saudi hijacker assaults of 9/11/2001, the Bush administration first seized on Afghanistan as the easiest way to get a war — any war — started. Once started somewhere and with key Democrats co-opted against later criticism, the extension of war to Iraq would follow inexorably, like Vietnam flowing into Cambodia or Afghanistan flowing into Pakistan — the old “sanctuary” gambit. Like an out-of-control forest fire, war spreads. Always. As Bush and Cheney proved again with Iraq, whether the UN agreed or not made no difference, since they had decided to go ahead with their war anyway — and the world knew it. From Democracy, Incorporated, by Seldon S. Wolin:

    The Superpower revealed in Iraq was quintessentially power without legitimacy, as was demonstrated by every claim that Saddam was linked to al Qaeda and that he possessed weapons of mass destruction.The shabby and unverifiable arguments, especially those before the UN, were unconvincing precisely because everyone was aware that Superpower had long since made up its mind. Superpower made no secret that its preparations for invasion were underway and that no amount of argument would persuade the American leaders to abandon or significantly postpone their plans.

    Again, the entire world knew that George W. Bush wanted a war with Iraq but that he would have to get a smaller war started somewhere else first, one that promised a quick, easy victory with little apparent national expense or risk of political accountability. Then, when Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld said that the war needed to shift to Iraq because “Afghanistan doesn’t have enough targets,” the well-laid grease on the slippery slope became only too nauseatingly apparent — but too late the realization. Deputy Dubya and Sheriff Dick didn’t want Bin Laden and said so frankly once they had their war wagon in motion. Having decided on the war they wanted, they brushed aside any negotiating feelers put out by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Had the Bush administration really wanted Bin Laden they could have made a deal for him. But we dirty fucking Hippy retard anti-war Vietnam Veterans knew what Bush and Cheney wanted — and what they would have. And so did the Taliban.

    No one can negotiate with someone who thinks he can just take what he wants anyway.

    1. I guess you forget what happened in Mexico when President Wilson sent the US Army into Mexico with the permission of the Mexican government. In fact, my grandfather was attached to that expedition trying to get Pancho VIlla. Had Afghanistan done that by claiming that they could not get hm, the Taliban would still be in power there. They instead decided to stand by their man, in the mistaken belief the US would and could do nothing since the US had to have Pakistani permission to use force.

  10. Arthur,

    No offers to turn him over? You just admitted that they did make an offer and you didn’t like their terms. Neither did the Decider, but he really didn’t want him. Decider needed a boogie man.

    The Guardian has a number of articles on the topic. Search on 2001. We do agree that this whole debacle was for the Caspian pipeline. bin Laden was a red herring to keep us distracted. The Taliban was looking for a fair trial. Bush’s response was that no trial was necessary because Bush knew bin Laden was guilty. End of discussion. So much for diplomacy. More fun to bomb innocent people.

    The book also reveals a portrait of U.S. policy toward the Taliban that differs sharply from the one usually held up for the American public but coincides with that of the Taliban’s unofficial emissary in the U.S., Laili Helms, the niece of the former CIA head (see “The Accidental Operative,” Voice, June 19, 2001). Helms described one incident after another in which, she claimed, the Taliban agreed to give up bin Laden to the U.S., only to be rebuffed by the State Department. On one occasion, she said, the Taliban agreed to give the U.S. coordinates for his campsite, leaving enough time so the Yanks could whack Al Qaeda’s leader with a missile before he moved. The proposal, she claims, was nixed. The State Department denied receiving any such offer.

    Helms also related an incident when Prince Turki, then the head of Saudi intelligence, flew to Kabul to negotiate bin Laden’s arrest. Turki, according to Helms’s account of the story, wanted bin Laden murdered on Afghan soil. If he were killed there, then the Saudi royal family needn’t face the embarrassment of airing their dirty linen in an open trial. The Taliban refused, and Turki returned home empty-handed.

    1. Sorry betty, I should have been more explicit and used the word no LEGITIMATE offer was ever made by the Taliban. Next time you run from the cops to avoid arrest, I am sure the judge and jury will agree with you that you were just jogging, not trying to avoid or resist arrest. You can also state that you were perfectly willing to be arrested as long as they did not put cuffs on you, that you would get to select your judge and jury, and that you could go home after the verdict of not guilty was given. I am sure that any reasonable person will agree that you did NOT resist arrest at all and simply wanted to ensure a fair trial.

      Then you offer the contradictory gen that the Taliban turned down the Saudis, a fellow Muslim, who wanted to kill Bin Laden in Afghanistan, yet would offer to let the infidel Americans that very chance. The US did not need co-ordinates for Bin Laden since the US had those anyway from spy satellites. Clinton did try and get Bin Laden after the Africa bombings, but missed by a few minutes.

      The irony is that if Bin Laden had been arrested, he would indeed have gotten a fair trial in US courts since the new laws that came with the war on terror had NOT been passed. I suggest you remember history accurately and in proper sequence. As for Helms, it is no surprise that she was active on behalf of the Taliban since the US right wingers had long standing ties to them from the anti-Soviet days and she has lots of reasons to shift blame to others for their stupidity in using Al Qeada and the Taliban.

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