Pakistan Tried to Trade CIA Contractor for 'Lady al Qaeda'

U.S. nixed deal to swap Raymond Davis for Aafia Siddiqui.

ByABC News
January 27, 2011, 8:04 PM

Feb. 28, 2011 — -- The government of Pakistan offered to trade a CIA contractor currently jailed in that country for a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected by U.S. intelligence to be an al Qaeda operative.

According to a senior American administration official and a Pakistani official involved in the negotiations to free CIA contractor Raymond Davis, the Pakistani government proposed trading Davis for Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT-educated Pakistani neuroscientist currently serving 86 years in federal prison for attempted murder.

The offer was immediately dismissed by the U.S. government. "The Pakistanis have raised it," the U.S. official said. "We are not going to pursue it."

The proposal is the latest in a series of efforts to break an impasse between Washington and Islamabad over Davis. The CIA contractor has been held by Pakistani authorities since late January for shooting and killing two men he says were following his car and tried to rob him.

Siddiqui was convicted of trying to shoot F.B.I. agents and military officers in an Afghanistan police station in 2008. Siddiqui had been arrested the day before after being found with a list of New York city landmarks and instructions on how to construct explosives.

In 2004, F.B.I. director Robert Mueller described Siddiqui as an "al Qaeda operative and facilitator." The F.B.I. had issued a global alert for Siddiqui and her first husband in 2003, for their suspected ties to al Qaeda. Siddiqui later remarried to an al Qaeda operative, who was the nephew of the 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Muhammed. The husband, Ammar al-Baluchi is currently being detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Siddiqui was never charged with any terrorism-related crimes, however. Shortly after the FBI alert, she and her children disappeared, only to surface in Afghanistan five years later. Siddiqui has claimed she was held in secret American prisons, including Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, during that time. American officials have consistently denied that she was ever in American custody.

U.S. and Pakistani officials told ABC News that early on, the White House threatened to close the three U.S. consulates and expel the Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. if Davis wasn't released. Pakistan's ambassador, Husain Haqqani, has denied that the White House made those threats.

The Associated Press reported last week that the Pakistani intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, has stopped speaking with the CIA over the Davis case and its perception that the Americans have been heavy-handed in their efforts to get Davis released. Citing a senior ISI official, the report described the relationship between the ISI and CIA as at the lowest point since 9/11. The U.S.-Pakistani relationship is considered crucial to ending the war in Afghanistan.

Siddiqui was never charged with any terrorism-related crimes, however. Shortly after the FBI alert, she and her children disappeared, only to surface in Afghanistan five years later. Siddiqui has claimed she was held in secret American prisons, including Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, during that time. American officials have consistently denied that she was ever in American custody.

U.S. and Pakistani officials told ABC News that early on, the White House threatened to close the three U.S. consulates and expel the Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. if Davis wasn't released. Pakistan's ambassador, Husain Haqqani, has denied that the White House made those threats.

The Associated Press reported last week that the Pakistani intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, has stopped speaking with the CIA over the Davis case and its perception that the Americans have been heavy-handed in their efforts to get Davis released. Citing a senior ISI official, the report described the relationship between the ISI and CIA as at the lowest point since 9/11. 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