Will former US government informant face terror charges in India?

David HeadleyBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A former United States government informant, who helped an Islamist militant group plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison. David Coleman Headley, a former US Drug Enforcement Administration informant, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2009 for helping to plot an attack by Islamist radicals on a Danish newspaper. It eventually became apparent that Headley had been a member of Pakistani militant group Lashkar e-Taiba and had also helped plan the 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai. The terrorist plot involved at least a dozen attacks on tourist and other civilian targets in India’s largest city, conducted by small cells of highly trained LeT members who had arrived from Pakistan by boat. The coordinated attacks, which began on November 26 and ended three days later, killed 164 and wounded over 300 people. According to the FBI, Headley, who was born to a Pakistani father and an American mother, took advantage of his Western manners and physique to travel to Mumbai posing as an American tourist, in order to help map out the LeT operation. On Thursday, a court in Chicago sentenced Headley to 35 years in prison. Prior to his sentencing, Headley had pleaded guilty to all 12 counts brought against him by US prosecutors and is said to be cooperating with authorities —which is reportedly why he was spared the death penalty. However, the question in the minds of many terrorism observers is, will Headley be extradited to India to face charges there for what is often referred to as ‘India’s 9/11’? The answer is not so simple. Read more of this post

Did US agencies fail to heed warnings of 2008 Mumbai attacks?

David Coleman Headley

David Headley

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
We have written before that the CIA alerted Indian authorities prior to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people, including six American citizens. The incident, which was perpetrated by Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, is routinely described as the most sophisticated and spectacular terrorist strike since 9/11.  But there are numerous questions about the complex relationship between the United States, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, which is widely believed to be protecting the terrorist group. Many of these questions center on David Coleman Headley, an American citizen, born in Washington, DC, who is currently in US custody, having confessed to helping plan the Mumbai attacks. According to Headley’s own court testimony, he worked for the ISI; moreover, despite early denials, the US government eventually admitted that Headley was a paid informant for the US Drug Enforcement Administration. There is, however, intense speculation in India and Pakistan that Headley, who is of Pakistani background, is in fact a CIA agent-gone-rogue, who used his CIA connections to pursue his militant plans undisturbed (something with the CIA flatly denies). Such rumors are reinforced by the US authorities’ puzzling refusal to allow Indian government investigators of the Mumbai attacks access to Headley. The curious relationship between US intelligence agencies and David Headley has been probed by several media outlets, including The New York Times, which in March of 2010 pointed out that Headley “moved effortlessly between the United States, Pakistan and India for nearly seven years, training at a militant camp in Pakistan on five occasions”. Now a new documentary by investigative group ProPublica, which aired on Tuesday as part of PBS’ Frontline television series, has unearthed new information that shows US government agencies failed to heed “repeated warnings over seven years”, which might have helped prevent the Mumbai attacks. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #444

News you may have missed #441

  • US officials admit terrorist suspect was DEA informant. US government officials have told The Washington Post what the world’s media has been saying for almost a year, namely that Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, who was arrested by the FBI in October for plotting an attack on a Danish newspaper, was working as a Drug Enforcement Administration informant while training with Islamist insurgents in Pakistan.
  • Ex-CIA officer decries Israeli policies. Philip Giraldi, a former counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer at the CIA, has said in an interview that Israel’s policies in Palestine “are manifestly evil”.
  • Bomber who killed seven at CIA base was not vetted. Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian al-Qaeda sympathiser who killed himself and seven CIA agents at a remote base in eastern Afghanistan in January had not been properly vetted, the CIA has said.

News you may have missed #329

  • Iran insists US hikers had intelligence links. Iran’s intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, has said that Americans Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal and Sarah Shourd, who were arrested on Iranian soil last July, “were in contact with intelligence services”. The evidence would “soon be made public”, he said.
  • Gerdes case shows difficulty of CIA jobs. The case of CIA employee Kerry Gerdes, who was recently convicted for falsifying interview reports while performing background checks on CIA employees and potential employees, reveals how difficult the job is for young CIA recruits, who expect it to be exciting or glamorous, according to seasoned investigators.
  • US still denying India access to Headley. There has been intense speculation in India and Pakistan that David Coleman Headley, a former US Drug Enforcement Administration informant, who was arrested by the FBI in October for plotting an attack on a Danish newspaper, is in fact a renegade CIA agent. Could this be why the US is denying India access to Headley?

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News you may have missed #319

  • CIA asks Gulf countries to monitor terrorist funding. The CIA has reportedly asked Arab/Persian Gulf countries “to tighten surveillance and look for any suspicious movement of funds” in regional banks.
  • Questions remain in Headley terrorism case. The New York Times has aired an update on the court case of Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, a former US Drug Enforcement Administration informant, who was arrested by the FBI in October for plotting an attack on a Danish newspaper. The paper points out that Headley “moved effortlessly between the United States, Pakistan and India for nearly seven years, training at a militant camp in Pakistan on five occasions”. There has been intense speculation in India and Pakistan that Headley is in fact a renegade CIA agent.

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Pune attack tests India-Pakistan intelligence collaboration

The German Bakery, Pune, India

The attack target

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
There is intense speculation about a possible breakdown in Indian-Pakistani intelligence relations, following last week’s bomb attack in the Indian city of Pune, which killed at least nine and seriously injured close to 60 people.  The attack, which presents operational similarities with the 2002 Bali bombing in Indonesia, targeted The German Bakery, a popular restaurant in the town, on a Saturday night. It is perhaps worth noting that the bomb, which was concealed in a backpack under a restaurant table, exploded almost next door to the Osho Meditation Resort, which US authorities say was scouted as a potential Lashkar e-Taiba (LeT) soft target by David Headley. The American-born Headley was arrested by the FBI in October for having links to LeT. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0287

  • India still trying to get access to Headley. Congratulations to The New York Times, for managing to publish a feature-length article about the constant requests by Indian intelligence officials to interrogate David C. Headley, currently held in a US prison, without probing why the US is refusing to facilitate these requests. The American-born Headley was arrested in October for having links to Islamic extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. There are rumors in India and Pakistan that Headley is in fact a renegade CIA informant.
  • Spanish double agent sentenced to 12 years. Roberto Flórez García, a former employee of Spain’s National Intelligence Center (CNI), was arrested in September for giving classified documents to Russian intelligence, via Petr Melnikov, political attaché at the Russian Embassy in Madrid. This was Spain’s first treason conviction since returning to democracy in 1978 after decades of military dictatorship.

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News you may have missed #0228

  • Irish nationalists planting honey traps on British troops? The Belfast Telegraph reports that British Army personnel have been “warned about the recruitment by dissidents of attractive females to identify soldiers at popular nightspots and lure them into ambushes” in Northern Ireland. This is highly unnecessary. Usually British troops in the North are easily identifiable by their haircuts, accents, even by their choice of beer!
  • Egyptian spy chief meets Israeli defense minister. Ehud Barak and Omar Suleiman, director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services, met in Jerusalem on Sunday. The meeting included a “private 30-minute session” between the two men (and the eavesdroppers on either side, presumably –ed.).
  • Terror suspect David Headley was ‘rogue US secret agent’. The London Times has woken up to the rumors circulating about David Headley, a full month after Indian media began reporting them, and nearly three weeks after intelNews alerted its readers. Nice of them to catch up.

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News you may have missed #0226

  • CIA tries to increase numbers of women leaders. CIA Director Leon Panetta is taking steps to increase the number of women at the Agency’s highest levels. The US is apparently “behind the curve when it comes to promoting women to the top ranks of intelligence services”.
  • CIA denies employing David Headley. CIA spokesperson Marie E. Harf said that “any suggestion that [David Coleman Headley] worked for the CIA is flat wrong”. The comment was in response to persistent rumors that Headley, who was arrested by the FBI in October, for plotting to attack a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, is in fact an undercover CIA agent gone wild.
  • Taiwan wants to swap jailed spies with China. The Taiwanese Ministry of Defense, which proposed the exchange, said the plan follows its policy of “do[ing] our best to take care of agents and their family members in accordance with the law and regulations”. There have been several espionage-related arrests involving the two bitter rivals in recent months.

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Is Pakistani-American insurgent a rogue CIA agent?

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Earlier this month US authorities said they wouldn’t let an Indian intelligence team question Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, who was arrested by the FBI in October for plotting an attack on a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. The Indians said they wanted to talk to Headley, born Daood Gillani, about his reported association with Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group responsible for several high-profile attacks inside India. But US officials blamed “bureaucratic” and “procedural” hurdles for denying Indian investigators access to Headley. Considering the close security ties between Washington and New Delhi, intelligence observers were surprised by the US move. Why did the FBI bar Indian intelligence from questioning Headley? Some Indian commentators suggest an intriguing theory: that Headley may be “an undercover agent whom the [US] authorities are shielding from the media and the hapless Indian investigators who were told to take a hike when they came to [Washington to] interview [him]”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0180

  • UK spy tip led to Zazi arrest in New York. British spies tipped off their American counterparts to what has been described as “the most serious terrorist plot foiled in the US since 9/11”, which led to the recent arrest of Najibullah Zazi in New York.
  • US prevents Indian spies’ access to jailed Islamist. US authorities won’t let an Indian intelligence team question American Muslim David Coleman Headley, who was arrested last month for traveling to Denmark in order to plot an attack on a newspaper targeted by Islamic extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, because it published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. Sources blamed “bureaucratic” and “procedural” hurdles. Hmmm…
  • Largest military deal in Israeli history taking shape. The largest defense deal in Israel’s history, the purchase of 25 F-35 stealth fighters, is advancing, as talks continue between Israel, the Pentagon, and Lockheed Martin.

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