REPORTING FROM ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- The whistle-blowing website Wikileaks has published an international affairs think tank email that alleges mid-ranking Pakistani intelligence and military officials were aware of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan -- a charge that officials in Islamabad have consistently denied.
The email was one of many that the private think tank Stratfor says were stolen from its computer files by hackers in December. Wikileaks posted some of the emails on its website this week. The authenticity of the material published is unverified, and Stratfor issued a statement warning that some of the emails “may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies.”
Bin Laden was killed May 2 by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs during a nighttime raid on his secret compound in the military city of Abbottabad, a two-hour drive from the capital, Islamabad. Afterward, leaders in Washington also urged Pakistani officials to unearth what support network within the country allowed Bin Laden to operate from a compound in a city with a heavy military presence, and whether that network involved members of the country’s intelligence community.
Pakistani officials have always insisted that no one in the government, military or intelligence community was aware that Bin Laden was in the country. The email, written by a senior Stratfor analyst and sent to a colleague, stated that “mid to senior level ISI and [Pakistani military] with one retired [Pakistani military] general ... had knowledge of the OBL arrangements and safe house.” ISI stands for the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, Pakistan’s premier spy agency.
The writer of the email stated he did not know the names or ranks of any of the officers who may have known Bin Laden’s whereabouts. After Wikileaks published the email, Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told a Pakistani newspaper, the Express-Tribune, that the allegations were baseless.
“It’s rubbish and tantamount to kite flying -- much further from the truth,” Abbas said.
The hacking activist group Anonymous claimed responsibility for hacking into Stratfor’s computers and stealing vast numbers of emails as well as identity information of the think tank’s subscribers. In a letter posted on Stratfor’s website, founder and CEO George Friedman called Wikileaks’ publication of the emails “a deplorable, unfortunate -- and illegal -- breach of privacy. ... Like all private emails, they were written casually, with no expectation that anyone other than the sender and recipient would ever see them.”
Founded by Australian Internet activist Julian Assange, Wikileaks has published reams of secret documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as thousands of confidential diplomatic cables from the U.S. State Department.
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Photo: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at a news conference in London. WikiLeaks has started to release emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, including one that suggests Pakistani officials knew of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. Kerim Okten / European Pressphoto Agency