The CIA has withdrawn its top officer stationed in Pakistan after learning of a specific threat against his life, U.S. officials said on Friday.
The Associated Press reported that the CIA station chief's name had appeared in a lawsuit filed in Pakistan which accused the American official of complicity in CIA drone operations which killed civilians.
The station chief had served in Pakistan for several years. He had remained on assignment there beyond the normal tour of duty for a station chief, intelligence sources said, and was expected to receive a new assignment in the relatively near future.
There was no formal CIA statement on the case.
Current and former U.S. national security officials said there was strong suspicion in Washington that the name of the CIA official had been deliberately leaked to Pakistani media or lawyers by elements of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).
"It is highly unlikely that the chief of station would have been identified by name without at least tacit approval from ISI," said a senior congressional aide who has worked on issues related to Pakistan.
"This should be interpreted as a message from the Pakistani intelligence service that they are still in control of intelligence-gathering in their country,"
Some American officials said they believe ISI elements may have leaked the identity of the CIA officer in retaliation for the filing of a private civil lawsuit in Brooklyn, N.Y. federal court against ISI and Lashkar-e-Taiba, by the family of a Hasidic Jewish couple who were killed during a 2008 attack on hotels and other targets in Mumbai that India claims Lashkar-e-Taiba was responsible.