September 02, 2011
Some News On Matthew Craig Barrett
Back in June I asked Who And What is Matthew Craig Barrett? Barrett, a young American globetrotter with a Pakistani wife and two children, had then been arrested in Islamabad and was accused as being a spy.
That was after the Raymond Davis case in which a CIA contractor had killed to people in Peshawar and after the Bin Laden raid in Abbottabad. U.S.-Pakistani relations at that time where in a deep hole.
There was nothing at all in the "western" media about Barrett's arrest. For a case that made quite some press in Pakistan this seemed unusual to me. As I wrote:
From his age, agility and "having visited 60 countries" Barrett could well be a military or CIA spook. Marriage to a Pakistani woman would be a nice background for a long-term agent. But Barrett could of course also be just a normal innocent man. But why then would the U.S. media be quiet about him?
Now, three month later, the British Guardian picks the story up: 'Now Pakistan and America have some problems. So they're taking it out on me'
Tensions between Pakistan and the US often made life tricky for Matthew Barrett, a young man from Alabama living in Islamabad, but when he was arrested in May, things went from bad to worse, as he has revealed in a letter smuggled from his jail cell.
There is not much factual new in it about the arrest but there is a a bit on his private background gained in interviews with his family and friends.
Matthew Craig Barrett is still in jail and the U.S. embassy seems to have no interest to get him out. Like me the Guardian's Declan Walsh leaves it open if he is a spy or just an adventures and impatient young man.
Given that so far the U.S. has shown absolutely no interest at all to get Barrett released I now assume that he is indeed a private citizen with no unofficial official role in one of the many U.S. agencies.
BTW - the last comment, quite angry, in the older thread is now confirmed to have come from Barrett's father in law, Abdur Rahman Khan, who the Guardian describes as:
a fiery human rights lawyer who has embraced his son-in-law. Having survived the 2005 earthquake when a house collapsed on his head, he is not a man to mince his words. Over an iftar dinner to mark the breaking of the Ramadan fast, he rails against Pakistan's military establishment, which he calls a "fascist, feudal, Nazi network". If his son-in-law comes to harm in prison, he warns, he will take tribal-style revenge. "I am a Pakhtun. I cannot be afraid," he declares.
Matthew Barrett's wife Binoche - the Guardian piece has a picture of her and the children - contacted me today by email and pointed to the Guardian story. She wrote:
Without any real proof your website did a lot of propaganda in endangering the life of an innocent person in a fascist and lawless state like Pakistan. Its 3 months me his wife and two minor kids are denied to see him. He was tortured in Judicial custody by criminal minded police. his own embassy remained silence to all the atrocities done to a poor US citizen.
I don't think my piece was propaganda. It was solely assembled from accounts in the Pakistani English language media and I was clearly ambiguous about Barrett's role. I picked up on the case because I was curious that no one else in the "west" showed any interest in it.
Anyway. I hope that Matthew Barrett will soon be freed and can live a happy life with his wife and his children. He might even learn from this drama. "Kicking one man in the behind and mocking his captors," as the Guardian describes him doing, is, even when well deserved, not a helpful behavior when interacting with any authority anywhere in this world.
Posted by b on September 2, 2011 at 01:42 AM | Permalink
It is an incredibly unfortunate story. Both the Guardian and this site have done a good job in covering it to the wider world. I do not think Matthew Barrett is a spy but the sad fact is that if you are a young American living in Pakistan questions will be asked. The US must have hundreds of spies in the country either acting as "spotters" for the drone attacks or monitoring people. That leads to suspicion falling on all Americans in the country, especially one that is independantly wealthy from an inheritance and that is caught around a restricted military area.
I also do not see why he would leave Pakistan via the Baloch province of Pakistan, through Iran and into Kurdish Turkey that seems like an extremely dangerous route for an American to take. Wouldn't it have been easier to travel over to Mumbai in India and then fly to Europe? Or go up through China?
As for practical suggestions I'm wondering if Médecins Sans Frontières has helped Binoche at all since she works for them. They would have connections in Pakistan but also with the French government and the Red Crescent that could be helpful. Also in my experience the only thing that will pressure the US Government to act would be increased news coverage. Maybe Binoche and her family should try contacting other newspapers like the New York Times, LA Times and the Washington Post. An increase in coverage of a detained American in Pakistan will put pressure on the US Government to respond and it is a story that every journalist would love since it is so interesting.
Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Sep 2, 2011 11:07:13 AM | 1
Why did he turn on the dirt road for Fateh Jang? If without purpose then surely it ranks among the most stupid things anyone could do and he had been in enough trouble with Pakistani authorities to know no good would come of this reckless act. In reading the Guardian piece there seems to be a streak of self destruction in the young man. All very sad.
Posted by: Khalid Shah | Sep 2, 2011 11:55:16 AM | 2
Mr. Barrett was probably guilty only of being reckless and a bit arrogant. If so, my heart goes out to him and to his family. Also to the two young American prisoners in Iran who were apparently just off-track hikers.
Of course, if some young Muslim men were found near the US border, Uncle Sam would claim the legal and moral right to disappear, torture, and extra-judicially execute them. We wouldn’t know their names.
It’s the Labor Day Holiday weekend in the US. Let’s reflect on the virtue of treating others as we would like to be treated. Don’t study war!
Posted by: Watson | Sep 2, 2011 5:58:13 PM | 3
Also to the two young American prisoners in Iran who were apparently just off-track hikers.
Good patriotic claptrap.
Those guys in Iran are journalists by profession. To suggest they didn't know what they were doing is absurd. Going hiking along the Kurdish-Iranian border is about the most dangerous place anywhere. They knew what they were doing and had a reason, only we don't know what it was.
Posted by: alexno | Sep 8, 2011 3:58:15 AM | 5
I grew up with Matt in Alabama. We used to ride bikes together in our neighborhood and go swimming together, and his older brother used to drive my sister to school every morning when she and Matt were Freshmen. Matt had a hard childhood and a large inheritance and was able to travel the world. He is a great guy, and I can assure you he is not a spy. He did get into a little trouble here and there, but he is an incredibly bright guy, and he certainly doesn't deserve to be detained in Pakistan or maligned by the press. I hate to know that my childhood friend is sitting in some Pakistani jail cell, separated from his wife and children, and that no one is trying to help him. So much for America defending her citizens, huh?
Posted by: CamIam | Sep 13, 2011 10:10:10 PM | 6