Feinstein comment on U.S. drones likely to embarrass Pakistan
The Predator planes that launch missile strikes against militants are based in Pakistan, the senator says. That suggests a much deeper relationship with the U.S. than Islamabad would like to admit.
Reporting from Washington -- A senior U.S. lawmaker said Thursday that unmanned CIA Predator aircraft operating in Pakistan are flown from an air base in that country, a revelation likely to embarrass the Pakistani government and complicate its counter-terrorism collaboration with the United States.
The disclosure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, marked the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off and land.
At a hearing, Feinstein expressed surprise over Pakistani opposition to the campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes against Islamic extremist targets along Pakistan's northwestern border.
"As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base," she said.
The basing of the pilotless aircraft in Pakistan suggests a much deeper relationship with the United States on counter-terrorism matters than has been publicly acknowledged. Such an arrangement would be at odds with protests lodged by officials in Islamabad, the capital, and could inflame anti-American sentiment in the country.
The CIA declined to comment, but former U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, confirmed that Feinstein's account was accurate.
Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University, said Feinstein's comments put Pakistan's government on the spot.
"If accurate, what this says is that Pakistani involvement, or at least acquiescence, has been much more extensive than has previously been known," he said. "It puts the Pakistani government in a far more difficult position [in terms of] its credibility with its own people. Unfortunately it also has the potential to threaten Pakistani-American relations."
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So here it is: Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee demonstrating how being intelligent isn't a requirement for the position she holds.
Or maybe she's hot for Bin Laden and she's trying to help him. Who knows?