This US DEA agent was used by terrorists and intelligence agencies to mastermind Mumbai Attacks
Warnings by Headley’s wives go unheeded
In a highly sensitive security environment in the wake of 9/11, when even a whisper of words like terrorist, jihad, explosives, etc. in any corner of the world is picked by the electronic espionage network of NSA in the US and raises red flag for American security agencies, two of Headley’s wives failed to attract the attention of the FBI when they warned it about their husband’s involvement with terrorist organizations and his suspicious activities.
Quoting officials and sources close to the case, ProPublica writes that in August 2005, when Headley was arrested in New York for domestic violence his then wife, whose identity is withheld for security reasons, told federal agents in three interviews that Gilani was an active militant of Lashkar-e-Taiba for which he had been shopping for night-vision goggles and other equipment.
ProPublica reports that she also told agents that Headley had bragged of working as a paid US informant while he worked with the terrorists in Pakistan’s Wild West. Federal officials said later the FBI “looked into” the tip, but they declined to say what, if any, action was taken.
Faiza Outalha, Headley’s Moroccan ex-wife claimed having accompanied Headley thrice to Mumbai in 2007 and 2008 and staying with him in the Taj Mahal Hotel and Oberoi Trident, both of which came under attack in 2008. She said that in her two meetings with US embassy officials in Islamabad she informed them about her husband having friends among members of Lashkar-e-Taiba and that he was plotting a terror act in Mumbai. She claimed she even showed them photographs of the two hotels where they had stayed.
“I told them, he’s either a terrorist, or he’s working for you,” she recalled having told the American officials at the US embassy in Islamabad. “Indirectly, they told me to get lost,” she was quoted as saying.
“Despite those warnings by two of his three wives, Mr. Headley roamed far and wide on Lashkar’s [LeT] behalf between 2002 and 2009, receiving training in small arms and counter surveillance, scouting targets for attacks, and building a network of connections that extended from Chicago to Pakistan’s lawless northwestern frontier,” said New York Times.
There are several questions that continue to intrigue analysts. Was FBI aware of the David Headley’s activities? Was Headley acting as the go-between for DEA/CIA and rogue elements of Lashkar-e-Taiba? Is that why FBI stonewalled those who were trying to expose him?
Did the US fail to share information with the Indians?
News reports in October 2010 revealed that despite having received plenty of advance knowledge about David Headley’s terrorist associations and activities for several years, the U.S. intelligence agencies failed to prevent him from proceeding with his designs. This has caused the Indians to complain that the US kept them in the dark about the impending attack.
Mike Hammer, spokesman of the National Security Council, White House, responding to the investigative report by ProPublica told PTI : “The US ‘regularly provided threat information’ to Indian officials in 2008 before the attacks in Mumbai”.
ProPublica and the Daily Beast claim that US anti-terrorism officials had warned Indian counterparts at least thrice in 2008 about a possible attack on Mumbai. According to an anti-terrorism official with knowledge of the warnings, the first warning about LeT plans was given in early 2008. In May, U.S. officials warned that the attack should be expected in September and also identified potential targets such as the Taj Mahal hotel and nearby sites frequented by foreigners. Then came the warning in September.
No link has been established between Headley and these warnings, but based on the knowledge that DEA and CIA had close relationship with Headley, anti-terrorism officials conclude that the US got this information by monitoring Headley, either as an informant, an ex-informant or a suspect. It is doubtful if any other source could regularly give such precise information from within the ranks of LeT.
Why were these warnings not heeded by Indian intelligence agencies?
Despite the US claim about information sharing, the 3-day slaughter in Mumbai caught Indian security forces unprepared. This is quite intriguing.
There are several theories floating around. According to one, since the strike did not occur in September as per the warning, the Indian security forces lowered their guard.
Another theory comes from secular elements, particularly from within the ruling Congress party. According to them there are linkages between the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB), which they claim, is heavily infiltrated by RSS (a communal organization that opposes improvement of relations with Pakistan and targets Indian minorities) and the ‘Mumbai conspiracy’. They claim this had a twofold objective: one, to sabotage Indo-Pakistan relations and scuttle the ongoing dialogue by slapping the blame for the incident on Pakistan, and two, using this tragedy as a pretext unleash a wave of Muslim massacre in Maharashtra, as was done several times in the past. The threat warnings were therefore simply swept under the carpet.
Amaresh Misra, a historian and chief of the Anti-Communal Front of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), in his article “Headley Saga: Mumbai attack was a joint IB-CIA-Mossad- RSS project”, says “…basically Headley and the CIA cannot be de-linked. “
He writes: “The IB knew about Headley – this is proved by the fact that the SIM cards used by the ten 26/11 terrorists were purchased by an IB informer. Till date, the investigations into the 26/11 case, which the IB is handling, have been unable to state as to how the ten terrorists got hold of the SIM cards. “
He goes on to say: “It beats one’s imagination as to how the IB did not know about Headley and his movements. There can only be two scenarios: that the IB is totally incompetent–or that the IB is heavily infiltrated by RSS, CIA and Mossad: the agency knew about 26/11 and did nothing to stop it.”
Misra points out that the Headley saga also had links to Abhinav Bharat and pro-Hindutva terror groups which are widely believed to be behind the Pune blasts. This, according to him, was also corroborated by the Maharashtra state home secretary.
The mystery surrounding the assassination of police officer Hemant Karkare, who was close to unraveling the role of these terrorist groups in Samjhota Express and the Pune blasts, also appears to be part of this conspiracy and hence has remained unresolved.
The US keeps its mole under wraps
Meanwhile, the US authorities have refused to extradite Headley to India, citing plea bargain with him as the reason. They were initially reluctant to even allow India’s National Investigation Agency to interrogate Headley in the US. This gave rise to suspicions in India about the U.S. government’s motives in keeping Headley under wraps. Indian officials suspected that US agencies declined to share intelligence to avoid compromising other secret operations and to be able to deny any link with Headley.
“The feeling in India is that the US has not been transparent,” said B. Raman, a former counter-terrorism chief in the Indian foreign intelligence service, the RAW. “That Headley was an agent for the DEA is known. Whether he was being used by the CIA as well is a matter of speculation, but it is almost certain that the CIA was aware of him and his movements across the subcontinent.”
What about the truth?
With such a large numbers of players involved in varying degrees and with too many overlapping internal and external interests, the truth behind the Mumbai saga will perhaps never come out. If he chooses to speak the truth, perhaps David Headley will have the last word.