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State: CIA or not, Davis still has immunity

As was widely reported today, it has been revealed that Raymond Davis, the American detained in Lahore for shooting two Pakistanis, worked as a contractor for the CIA. As I discussed in last week’s Explainer, the U.S. has been arguing that Davis enjoys diplomatic immunity as "administrative and technical staff" of the U.S. Consulate. In ...

Warrick Page/Getty Images
Warrick Page/Getty Images

As was widely reported today, it has been revealed that Raymond Davis, the American detained in Lahore for shooting two Pakistanis, worked as a contractor for the CIA. As I discussed in last week’s Explainer, the U.S. has been arguing that Davis enjoys diplomatic immunity as "administrative and technical staff" of the U.S. Consulate. In a briefing for reporters, a senior U.S. administration official said that Davis’s work with the CIA doesn’t change that:

QUESTION: If these reports [that] are emerging from the New York Times and Washington Post are true that he was a member of the CIA. Does diplomatic immunity become void then?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The only relevant question is: Was he notified as a member of the administrative and technical staff upon entry to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? And the answer to that question was yes. At that point, he acquired privileges and immunities.

When someone enters our country, if that person is notified as a member of the administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission that’s the end of the story on that side. Our options then become to either declare the person not acceptable and facilitate their departure or to work with them in their capacity as administrative and technical staff.

This certainly isn’t the first time an accused spy has taken advantage of diplomatic immunity. In 2007, for instance, a U.N. legal panel ruled that a Russian diplomat who had allegedly received secret information about German military helicopters from an Austrian source still enjoyed diplomatic immunity as a participant in a U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Russia declined to waive immunity for "Vladimir V," who German and Austrian investigators believed was working for the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service. 

But while the U.S. may still technically have international law on its side, the increasingly uncomfortable revelations surrounding the Davis case certainly won’t make life any easier for actual U.S. diplomats serving in Pakistan. 

 Twitter: @joshuakeating

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