‘FBI knew of Mumbai attacks years in advance’ – Washington post

Mumbai terror attacks {NYtimes}

October 16th, 2010

A report published by the Washington Post{click to view} on Wednesday said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had been tipped off in 2005 about an American national, who masterminded attacks on the Indian financial hub three years later.

The man identified as David Coleman Headley underwent intensive training with banned militant groups in Pakistan, the report added.

Based on the report, Headley’s wife told FBI agents that her husband was in close contact with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group blamed by India for the deadly attacks on Mumbai.

The report also says Headley went to Mumbai five times to scout landmark locations and targets for the attack on the city.

David Headley
David Headley

After terrorist conspirator and “former” U.S. government agent David Coleman Headley received promises of leniency and extradition protection from American prosecutors for his role in the 2008 Mumbai massacre, speculation about his true masters was set ablaze as outrage erupted across India.

Headley — a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent and the son of a Pakistani diplomat — pled guilty to various criminal charges on March 18 in connection with his terrorist activities in India, Pakistan and Denmark. He is reportedly “cooperating” with investigators.

In exchange, the government vowed not to allow foreign authorities to question him or subject him to trial. Prosecutors also agreed not seek the death penalty, and he may not even serve a life sentence. Links to U.S. intelligence agencies will remain classified. And his guilty plea ensures that there will be no drawn-out trial that could publicly reveal any relationships with various intelligence agencies — most notably, the Central Intelligence Agency-linked Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence.

Related: CNN- Saudi say info they had and provided could have averted 911 and London July 2005


Headley admitted in the plea bargain that he helped plan the bloody massacre by conducting surveillance and selecting targets, gathering GPS coordinates for the terrorist team’s boat landing along the coast, and more. He was also helping to plan an attack on a Danish cartoonist. And while the Federal Bureau of Investigation was given almost 10 hours to question the only surviving attacker in India, a team of Indian investigators who traveled to the U.S. to interrogate Headley was turned away.

The plea deal and the lack of American cooperation immediately sparked fury and despair in India, as the U.S. is reportedly bound by treaty to surrender Headley to Indian authorities. It also fueled accusations in the media that Headley still may have been linked to the American or Pakistani governments in some capacity. He began his terrorist training around the time that he was working for the U.S. government. But the connections, however, remain shrouded in mystery. –source

The report comes months after the Pakistani interior ministry suggested that the Mumbai attack were planned outside Pakistan.

“An initial probe conducted by a three-member team set up by the Interior Ministry has concluded that the 26/11 attacks were planned outside Pakistan,” Pakistan’s Dawn News quoted unnamed sources as saying in 2009.

The British intelligence service, MI5, however, had earlier said that it had uncovered links between the terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks and UK nationals.

Related: NewsRescue-CIA Chief, deadly lies, confessions and all that shameful stuff since 911

“We have looked at individuals’ communications, where they have been and so on and found they have got connections with most countries including the UK…,” said MI5 Director General Jonathan Evans in early January 2009.

Pakistan has rejected the involvement of its government in the attacks, saying that “non-state actors” were involved in the incident.

Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors have soured since the incident. – PressTV

The Telegraph (India)-

Washington, Oct. 16: The Mumbai leg of President Barack Obama’s visit next month, already entangled in a web of intractable issues, has been further complicated by a revelation here that three years before the November 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, US officials knew that co-conspirator David Coleman Headley was undergoing training with the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which plotted the attack.

In September 2005, officers of no less than New York’s joint terrorism task force investigated a tip-off from Headley’s American wife, who showed them audio cassettes and described his emails and phone conversations with those in Pakistan who want to create mayhem in India.

The new details, product of an investigation by ProPublica, an independent non-governmental organisation which “focuses exclusively on truly important stories with moral force”, suggest that the repeated warnings from the US to India of an attack on Mumbai were prompted by what they knew and did not share with New Delhi at that stage about Headley.

It is unlikely that India would have given a visa to Headley for his repeated visits to Mumbai to scout Lashkar targets if his photographs had been shared with India to be put on an immigration blacklist.

“The warnings included details such as a threat to the iconic Taj Mahal hotel, which became a target,” the investigation by ProPublica said. It raised the question “whether a different response to the tip about Headley might have averted the Mumbai attacks”.

The American media is already being deluged during the weekend by the revelations, not because any tears are being shed here for Mumbai but because several US citizens were killed in the 2008 terror attacks in the city.

The expose is being viewed by the Obama administration to be damaging enough for their President’s coming visit. The US ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, took the unusual step of issuing a weekend statement that “we are looking into published reports about possible information related to David Headley that goes back before the Mumbai attacks and how such information may have been handled”.

Roemer’s pre-emptive statement to control potential damage before the revelations spread in India said: “When we have determined exactly what transpired, we will be in a position to speak to the specific claims made in the… media reports.”

The ambassador recalled: “We have also provided Indian authorities with access to Headley in US custody so that the Government of India could put questions directly to him.”

What Roemer did not address at this stage was whether the Indians were ever told about the critical role played by Headley’s wife in tracing her husband’s links with Lashkar or whether any access to her was provided to Indian investigators.

The fear here is that such information may reveal that the US did not do all that it could have done to prevent the attack on Mumbai.

It has been officially acknowledged here after Headley’s arrest that he was an informant for the US drug enforcement administration in the 1990s. It is believed that he later became a double agent.

Possibly because of fears that his intelligence connections with the US government would be exposed, Headley was not detained until almost a year after the attack on Mumbai. He was detained only after it became known to British intelligence that he was plotting similar attacks with al Qaida in Europe.

The latest Headley saga revealed by ProPublica begins on August 25, 2005, when the Lashkar conspirator’s wife demanded a divorce after learning that he had another wife and children in Pakistan.

“They argued… and she filed an assault complaint alleging that he ‘struck her several times in the face’,” according to new accounts.

“She phoned a tip line of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York, an FBI-led, multi-agency unit with hundreds of investigators. Her tip was assigned an FBI lead number under guidelines developed after the September 11 attacks.”

The New York police department confirmed that on August 31, 2005, Headley, still going by his original Pakistani name of Daood Gilani, was arrested on the wife’s complaint for alleged misdemeanour and assault, but was never prosecuted for reasons that can only be speculated on.

“Not long after the arrest, task force investigators met three times with his wife. In addition to a detailed account of his activity with Lashkar, she showed them audio cassettes and ideological material and described his emails and calls from Pakistan and to individuals whom she thought to be extremists,” the new revelations said.ProPublica was a recipient of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. It is led by Paul Steiger, the renowned former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, and its team includes credible top American investigative reporters.