By MATTHEW COLE
U.S. officials believe that Raymond A. Davis, the CIA contractor in Pakistani custody for shooting two men, is in serious danger - even from the guards at the prison where he is now being held.
Davis was working for the CIA as an independent contractor in Lahore when the shooting incident occurred on Jan. 27, according to two senior U.S. intelligence officials. He has been at the center of a tug-of-war between U.S. and Pakistani officials ever since.
The Pakistani government is under significant public pressure to prosecute Davis. The incident has set off massive anti-American protests and calls for Davis to be executed for the murders.
"Our first fear is that the sentiment of the street in Pakistan is, 'Let's take him and hang him,'" said a current senior U.S. official.
According to the official, administration officials fear that the Pakistani government lacks sufficient control over Pakistani municipal police, who have Davis in custody.
A second U.S. official told ABC News that even Pakistani officials are concerned for Davis' safety in the Lahore prison where he now awaits his next court date on Feb. 25. According to the official, the jail holds 4,000 inmates, many of whom are militants, and as many as three prisoners have been "murdered by guards." Davis is currently being held in a separate part of the jail for his safety, and his guards have had their guns taken away. His food is being tasted first by dogs to make sure it isn't poisoned.
According to a current senior U.S. official and a senior intelligence consultant who worked with Davis, the 36-year-old American is a former Blackwater contractor who was posted to Lahore as part of the CIA's Global Response Staff, or GRS, a unit of security and bodyguards assigned to war zones and troubled countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Members of the GRS most often accompany CIA case officers, who meet with clandestine sources.
Davis and a group of fellow security officers lived in a safehouse in Lahore. The CIA keeps safehouses for security personnel in an effort to limit the ability for militants to track their movements, the intelligence contractor said.
ABC News was asked by the U.S. government to withhold publication of Davis's affiliation with the CIA, citing fears that disclosure would jeopardize his safety. After several foreign media organizations published parts of his background, the U.S. government rescinded its request to ABC News to embargo the information.
On Jan. 27, Davis left the safehouse and conducted an "area familiarization route," according to the senior U.S. official. He drove through various Lahore neighborhoods for several hours. It was during his route, two U.S. officials say, that Davis stopped at an A.T.M. and possibly drew the attention of two Pakistani men on a motorcycle.
Davis has told the police in Lahore that the two men were attempting to rob him when he fired several rounds from his Glock handgun, hitting them both. The police report says that Davis claimed one of the men had a gun cocked at him. Davis fired multiple rounds from inside his car, killing one man in the street, while the second died later from his injuries.
Davis then called for help from several other CIA security officers who shared his Lahore safehouse, according to a U.S. official and the intelligence consultant. As they arrived near the intersection, they accidentally hit a Pakistani motorcyclist. The motorcyclist later died of his injuries. Davis' colleagues were unable to get to Davis before the police arrested him. They left the scene and returned to their safehouse.
Within hours, they had destroyed all government documents at the safehouse, abandoned it, and retreated to the U.S. consulate for safety. Both have since returned to the U.S., according to a senior U.S. official briefed on the case.
U.S. officials have been in a standoff with the Pakistani government over Davis's detention since his arrest. Pakistani officials have denied that his diplomatic passport protects him from the country's judicial system. They say the legal system will soon determine if he should stand trial for murder or other crimes, or release him.
The U.S. asserts that Davis has diplomatic immunity and is protected under the Vienna Convention, which recognizes diplomatic immunity.
Last week President Obama called Davis "our diplomat" and urged the Pakistani government to release the CIA operative.
"We've got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future, and that is, if our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country's local prosecution," Obama said in a press conference last week.
"We expect Pakistan, that's a signatory and recognizes Mr. Davis as a diplomat, to abide by the same convention."
Since Davis was detained, the Obama administration has summoned the Pakistani ambassador to the White House to demand Davis's release, while Secretary of State Clinton and the U.S. ambassador to Pakistani and asked senior Pakistani military, intelligence and other government officials to respect Davis's diplomatic immunity. But the U.S. has refused to elaborate publicly on Davis' position in Pakistan except to say he was a "technical advisor" for the consulate in Lahore and to refer to him as a "diplomat" in public statements.
"We are playing a game of chicken," said a senior Pakistani official, who would only speak if given anonymity. "It is not yet clear who will blink first."
According to a senior U.S. official, Davis first arrived in Pakistan in December 2008, and was posted at various times in Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar. Until last August, Davis was stationed in Pakistan as an employee of the company once known as Blackwater, now called Xe Services, and contracted to the CIA.
According to a former Blackwater executive, the CIA terminated the company's GRS contract in Pakistan, accusing the security company of failing to provide adequate services. The agency then moved to hire all the former Xe/Blackwater security personnel directly as independent contractors.
As a GRS officer, Davis made $780 per day working as a security guard for the agency's clandestine case officers. One official described his job as always being "a few tables away" from a case officer meeting with a clandestine source, and providing security escorts around the country. By 2010, he'd been moved to Peshawar.
In recent years the Pakistani media has asserted that Blackwater was responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in the restive western areas of the country -- attacks attributed by the Pakistani and American governments to the Taliban, al Qaeda and other militant Islamic groups.
According to the intelligence consultant, Blackwater personnel have worked for the CIA in Pakistan since at least 2004, most as security guards, but some as paramilitary operatives working to target militants in the country's tribal regions.
The Pakistani men Davis shot on Jan. 27 were carrying pistols and stolen cell phones, according to the Lahore police. Pakistani government officials have told ABC News that the two were working for that country's intelligence agency, Inter-Service Intelligence, and were also conducting surveillance. But the police report records interviews with two witnesses who say that they had been robbed earlier by the two men Davis shot, and American officials deny that the two men worked for the ISI.
"We have no information to suggest Davis was being followed by the ISI," one current U.S. official said.
Lee Ferran and Nick Schifrin contributed to his report.