DE PERE, Wis. – GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan suggested at a town hall meeting Wednesday that the Obama administration leaked the name of Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who aided the Central Intelligence Agency in tracking down Osama bin Laden.
Pakistani authorities discovered Afridi’s involvement with the CIA after an internal government probe, according to multiple reports. Afridi has since been arrested and sentenced to 33 years in jail.
Ryan’s remark follows recent comments by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and others suggesting that the White House was behind the disclosure of Afridi’s name.
“There is a doctor that is rotting in a Pakistani jail right now, Dr. Shakil Afridi, I think his name is,” a woman at Wednesday’s event asked Ryan. “It breaks my heart to think this guy risked his life for us, and he’s rotting in a jail right now. This is wrong. What can you do?”
“If this is the doctor that was doing DNA samples for testing to try and find DNA strands from the bin Laden family to help us, you know, nail down that Osama bin Laden was in Abbottabad in this compound — let me be careful in my words but be really clear,” Ryan responded. “These leaks on national security coming from the White House undermine the men and women who put risks on their lives for us. This is not helpful. I suppose it could have served some short-term political gain, could have … told some nice story.”
He continued: “But let’s ask this question: If you’re a doctor in Pakistan and the American government asks you to help in the future and you see that, what do you think you’re going to do? How are we going to get people to help us in the war on terror if this is how we treat our allies in the war on terror?”
Asked about the remark, Ryan spokesman Michael Steel said that Ryan was speaking more broadly about alleged White House leaks and not the Afridi case in particular.
A former senior congressional aide with knowledge of U.S. talks with Pakistani officials regarding the bin Laden raid disputed Ryan’s account. The aide noted that Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, head of the Pakistani military, and Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the former chief of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, revealed in late May 2011 that they had discovered Afridi’s role in aiding the CIA.
“This was their own discovery after conducting an independent inquiry following the raid,” said the former aide, who spoke anonymously in order to discuss the details of the meeting. “The ISI (the Pakistani intelligence agency) had just arrested Afridi. Contrary to leaking the doctor’s name, the administration pushed very hard for his release and received a cold shoulder from Kayani and the other Pakistani military and civilian leaders.”