The US-Pakistani "Don't ask-don't tell" accord on our use of Predators in the Pakistani tribal region ran into turbulence when Sen. Diane Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, implicitly confirmed what the WaPo had reported last March - US Predator drones are based in Pakistan. This admission complicates the public posturing of Pakistani officials trying to assuage their domestic audience (but we are still shooting). Here is the Telegraph:
Dianne Feinstein may have revealed an intimate military secret when she stated that American military drones used to bomb Pakistan's tribal areas operate out of a Pakistani air base.
Washington and Islamabad have never commented on where the deadly Predator drones take off and land, seemingly content with the general assumption that they are deployed from US bases in the Middle East or Central Asia.
But if Mrs Feinstein, who is chairman of the senate intelligence committee, is right, she may have made life even more difficult for Pakistan's government, which has to weigh its obligations to help the US fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda with hostile public opinion.
During a hearing on Friday for Dennis Blair, the new director of national intelligence, Mrs Feinstein noted apparent contradictions in Islamabad's expression of anger with the US missile.
"I don't know whether you'd care to comment on this but [I] also noticed that Mr Holbrooke in Pakistan ran into considerable concern about the use of the Predator strikes in the FATA area of Pakistan.
"And yet, as I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base," she said.
And a new media Pakistani paper gets a quote from a Georgetown expert:
Feinstein's defense is that, like Sarah Palin, she reads the papers. All of them. And listens to the radio:
Spokesmen for the longtime lawmaker insisted Feinstein wasn’t divulging any secrets she’s been briefed on as the top intelligence oversight official in Congress. They said she was simply referring to an article she read in the Washington Post last March, which cited “Predator strikes launched from bases near Islamabad and Jacobabad in Pakistan.”
“The first question was based on an NPR story. The second was based on the Washington Post story,” Feinstein spokesman Gil Duran told me late Thursday in response to an inquiry. “She did not cite the story in her question, but it ran on [Page] A1 and was the source of the question.”
Such modesty from the Intelligence Chair! But even if Americans are willing to believe that Ms. Feinstein is out of the loop on the actual basing of Predators, will the Pakistani man in the street believe it? Hmm I know how dumb I think we are, but how dumb do they think we are? Feinstein's question was indiscreet and makes life difficult for Pakistani officials and others, as the Attackerman notes:
As to the bit about "If a Republican had done this...", well, sure, progressives have a pretty low flash point. But I don't think of Feinstein as a particular darling of the loony left; if reaction has been muted (on both sides) it is because other news, such as the stimulus drama, has dominated the cycle.