CIA Director Leon Panetta leaves the Capitol on Wednesday after briefing some lawmakers on intelligence matters. Pakistans intelligence operation has come under increased scrutiny after the death of Osama bin Laden, who had been living in the country.
Sen. Claire McCaskill said that while there is “a lot of hot air around here about how to get to the bottom of it,” Members need to be cautious given Pakistan’s strategic importance.
“We have to be really careful here. We have to go through Pakistan to supply our troops. We have to keep our eye on the ball here. They have nuclear capability. They are in a very dangerous part of the world,” the Missouri Democrat said.
“We have thousands of men and women at risk in Afghanistan right now. So I just think that we need to be very calm and deliberative about how we examine the whole situation with our relationship with Pakistan,” she added.
Pakistan was also taking steps to shore up its relations with the U.S. on Wednesday, tasking veteran lobbyist Mark Siegel with mending fences and rebutting claims that top officials knew bin Laden was in the country.
“I’m answering a lot of questions trying to disabuse people of speculation,” said Siegel, who heads a seven-member team at Locke Lord Strategies that works on the Pakistan portfolio.
Siegel, who reports to the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, acknowledged that recent events have increased tensions between the countries.
“Obviously there is a crisis of relations,” he said, noting that Ambassador Husain Haqqani has also been meeting with Members to reassure them.
He said the Pakistani government is conducting investigations regarding intelligence shortcomings to make sure such lapses don’t happen again.
Siegel would not say specifically whom he was meeting with on Capitol Hill but said it was with staffers and members of relevant committees.
Over the years, Siegel and his firm have been aggressive advocates for U.S. aid to Pakistan, meeting with and sending emails to staff and Members, according to Foreign Agents Registration Act filings with the Justice Department. He has met with Senate staff over the years. Between November 2009 and August 2010, the firm was paid $992,000 by the Pakistani government for its services, the filings show.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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