December 15, 2009

India's suspicion about US caginess over Headley deepens

Vishwa Mohan, TNN 16 December 2009, 02:54am IST


NEW DELHI: India's suspicion that US was not coming clean on David Coleman Headley, the US-based Lashkar jehadi who facilitated 26/11 by

providing Ajmal Kasab and others with precise information about their targets, has deepened.

The growing disquiet in the government here which believes that Headley was a US agent who went rogue was expressed by a senior government official. "It is very strange that the US did not inform us of Headley's visit to India in March this year when he, by their own account, had been under their surveillance since at least September 2008," the official said, pointing out that India would have arrested the terrorist had it known about his identity.

"We suspect that the reluctance is because Headley was a double agent and the Americans may not like him to be exposed to India agencies," the official said.

He also echoed the suspicion that Headley may be negotiating a deal with the US for a lighter sentence in exchange for more information about jehadis, including his co-accused Tahawwur Hussain Rana.

The growing belief here that Headley was an agent who went rogue, as first reported by TOI on November 27, stems from his history as an agent of the US's Drug Enforcement Agency. As already established, the US-based Lashkar jehadi was arrested for drug trafficking in 1997. He got away with a light sentence after he squealed on drug traffickers.

The collaboration, investigation by US media suggests, deepened in the following years and Headley was allowed to go to Pakistan soon after 9/11 terror attacks on the US. In his new role, he is suspected to have worked for the CIA which has huge covert operations going on in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In any case, DEA and CIA agents working in Af-Pak region routinely segue into each other's roles to fight terrorism fuelled by proceeds of opium smuggling.

Because of his Pakistani origin, Headley successfully infiltrated the jehadi groups, particularly Lashkar-e-Toiba, and kept briefing the Americans on the jehadi outfit's plans, including the one to attack Mumbai in September last year.

But the loyalties of Headley, who was raised as a Muslim, started tipping towards jehadi outfits and the Americans did not realise this till they were caught unawares by 26/11.

Headley, who has visceral hatred for India, as disclosed by his former wife to Philadelphia Inquirer, had obviously kept the plot from his American handlers.

The Inquirer, in its report, highlighted this fact. Quoting Headley's ex-wife, the report said, "Infidels. He (Headley) would use words like that when he would see an Indian person in the street, he used to spit, spit in the street to make a point".

The surveillance on him confirmed the "defection" to the jehadi camp, bringing out his plan to attack the Danish newspaper and Jewish targets as well as links with dreaded terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri who hates India and the US with equal intensity.

But while Headley has been arrested, Americans may be loath to allow Indians direct access to him and not just for the fear of uncomfortable details of their previous collaboration. The jehadi, who was earlier known as Daood Salim Gilani, has been very forthcoming and his testimony may be crucial for the conviction of Rana who has become a bigger target for the US because of suspicion that he may have used his immigration firm to bring in Pakistanis of suspect credentials into the US on forged travel documents.

The FBI affidavit against Rana makes it clear that the two have fallen out with Rana claiming that he was duped by Headley. Rana has been keeping mum while Headley has been cooerating with the interogators, FBI sources have confirmed to US media.

Headley, who moved extensively in Pakistan and Afghanistan and can be a reservoir of information for the US counter-terrorism effort, is also suspected to have made it plain to Americans that his cooperation was contingent upon his being kept off limits for Indians.

There is an appreciation of the compulsion of US agencies. The fact that it was FBI which tipped off about Lashkar's plans and was crucial to the breakthrough in the 26/11 probe is also widely acknowledged.

But there is growing frustration with the delay in accessing information about and from Headley. In fact, the official's criticism came on a day when FBI's fresh chargesheet against Headley's co-accused Rana listed details that the American agency had initially not shared with their Indian counterparts. The document filed by the FBI in a Chicago court seeking Rana's continued detention mentioned Gujarat's Somnath temple and Bollywood stars among targets identified by Lashkar.

FBI's chargesheet against Headley was silent about these targets. "Why are they sharing things in bits and pieces on a matter that is so crucial for us", said another official familiar with the details of the cooperation with the American investigating agency.

The matter has even acquired political dimension with CPM, known for its anti-US stand, pouncing upon it. The matter was raised by Brinda Karat in Rajya Sabha.

Headley's dealings with US agencies dates to 1988, almost 10 years before his arrest in New York, when he caught in Frankfurt for smuggling drugs. He was handed over to DEA. Even then, he got off with a lighter sentence by testifying against his partners.
Referring to those arrests, Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday reported, "It quickly became clear to federal law enforcement officials in New York that Headley knew a great deal about heroin trade between US and Pakstan and was wiling to cooperate. Headley went to work for DEA, making heroin cases against at least three Pakistani men".

Indian investigators, meanwhile, found that Headley during his multiple visits to India had spent a lot of money running into lakhs of rupees through credit cards issued by American banks and in fake Indian currency, believed to have been brought from Pakistan.

"It is found during the probe that in most of the instances where Headley had paid cash amount, a few currency notes in the entire payment would be fake which he had procured during his trips to Pakistan", said an official.

Indian investigators are now trying to find out who had paid his credit card bills in the American banks.

1 comment:

Manoj Sharma said...

ou have very nice and informative blog. I know about Rajasthan, is so sweet place of northern part of India. You can take more knowledge about India please look following sites: online travel services | Jet Charter