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

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News you may have missed #610

Charles S. Faddis

Charles S. Faddis

►►Australian agency warns spy cells ‘lie in wait’. In its annual report, Australia’s intelligence service, the ASIO, warns that foreign powers may be recruiting sleeper agents in Australia to carry out sabotage in future conflicts. The report further notes that, despite the rise of cyberespionage, there has not been a marked reduction in the intensity of more traditional forms of espionage.
►►US frees convicted Cuban spy but debate rages on. Few topics illustrate the gulf in perception between the governments of Cuba and the United States like the case of the Cuban Five. The five Cuban agents were arrested in Florida in the 1990s and convicted on espionage charges. US federal prosecutors said the men were trying to spy on military installations. But Cuba’s government has long maintained the men were trying to monitor Miami-based exile groups that were planning attacks on the island nation.
►►Analysis: It’s time for the Pakistanis to pick a side. Former CIA operations officer Charles Faddis (pictured) argues that the US government needs to immediately designate Pakistan’s proxy army, the Haqqani network, as a terrorist organization. It has avoided taking that action for far too long and only because of crass political concerns, says Faddis, but the time has come to change course.

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 #0269

  • LeT planning paraglide attacks in India? Indian intelligence officials suspect that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks, is planning another audacious strike on the country, this time from the air, using suicide bombers flying paragliders. The group is thought to have purchased 50 paragliding kits from Europe for this purpose.
  • Trial of double agent begins in Spain. The trial has begun in Spain of Roberto Flórez García, a former employee of Spain’s National Intelligence Center (CNI), who was arrested in September for giving classified documents to Russian intelligence, via Petr Melnikov, political attaché at the Russian Embassy in Madrid.

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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

Book claims CIA turned blind eye on Pakistan’s post-9/11 terror links

Jean-Louis Bruguiere

J.L. Bruguiere

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A new book by France’s former leading investigating magistrate on counterterrorism affairs alleges that the CIA allowed the Pakistani army to train members of a notorious Islamist militant group, even after 9/11. In the book, entitled Ce que je n’ai pas pu dire (The Things I Would Not Utter), Jean-Louis Bruguiere says the US spy agency was aware that Pakistani army trainers worked with Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani group responsible for a series of sophisticated strikes in India, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The former magistrate bases his allegations on official testimony provided by Willy Brigitte, a French citizen from Guadeloupe, who was arrested in Australia in 2003, in connection with Lashkar-e-Taiba activities there. Soon after the US invasion of Afghanistan, Brigitte traveled to Pakistan aiming to join the Taliban insurgency, but was unable to cross the Pakistani-Afghan border. Read more of this post