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Reporting from Washington -- A senior U.S. lawmaker said Thursday that unmanned CIA Predator aircraft operating in Pakistan are flown from an air base in that country, a revelation likely to embarrass the Pakistani government and complicate its counter-terrorism collaboration with the United States.
The disclosure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, marked the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patAt a hearing, Feinstein expressed surprise over Pakistani opposition to the campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes against Islamic extremist targets along Pakistan's northwestern border.
"As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base," she said.
The basing of the pilotless aircraft in Pakistan suggests a much deeper relationship with the United States on counter-terrorism matters than has been publicly acknowledged. Such an arrangement would be at odds with protests lodged by officials in Islamabad, the capital, and could inflame anti-American sentiment in the country.
The CIA declined to comment, but former U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, confirmed that Feinstein's account was accurate.