Senators Question Alliance with Pakistan Over Arrests

Pakistan's latest move could hurt U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan.

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2011— -- The American sailors who buried Osama bin Laden at sea came home today and were greeted as heroes.

Not so for the half-dozen-or-so Pakistanis vital to the mission, whose reward was detention by the Pakistan's top spy agency.

In Congress today, there was palpable outrage at a putative ally that receives more than $2 billion a year in U.S. aid.

"How long do we support governments that lie to us? When do we say, 'Enough is enough'?" Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates today at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. "They arrested people who helped us get him."

Gates prompted laughter with his response.

"First of all, I would say, based on 27 years in CIA and four-and-a-half years in this job, most governments lie to each other," he said. "That's the way business gets done."

Humor aside, the implications of the arrests could be serious, according to former U.S. counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke.

"If the U.S. doesn't have local Pakistani informants, then it's going to be very, very difficult for the United States to stage operations inside Pakistan," Clarke said. "And that's exactly what the Pakistani government wants, for it to be very difficult for the Americans to be able to do this again."

Informants are crucial to U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. It is informants on the ground, usually locals, who provide tips on an enemy target.

While information can come by tapping in to cell phone calls and texts, informants can help track and back up what technical monitoring provides.

Informants can provide eyes on the ground if a drone strike is called in or a secret raid is conducted to make certain the human target is inside and innocents are not.

"With only satellites 200 miles in space, with only intercepts of phone calls, you really don't have the kind of granularity you need if you are going to put American boots on the ground," Clarke said.

The U.S. certainly has leverage over Pakistan. It provides about $2 billion a year in military aid.

But even so, this drama not over.

The U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, told the Senate hearing that although the relationship with Pakistan is complicated, not dealing with the Pakistanis would likely mean the U.S. would be out of the picture in Pakistan -- where the Afghan Taliban regrouped after 9/11 -- for another five to 10 years.

He added that the U.S. is in the midst of building a relationship with Pakistan, which was "badly broken" in the '80s and '90s.

Mullen said that "some of the criticism is more than warranted" when it comes to the relationship with Pakistan.

"Nobody's worked that harder than me, very frankly, with the leadership -- and it's a conscious decision, I think, that we have to make," he said. "If we walk away from it, it's my view it'll be a much more dangerous place a decade from now, and we'll be back."

ABC News' Kristina Wong and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.