Headley was US spy?

Headley was US mole in Lashkar-i-Taiba

By Anwar Iqbal

In this December 9, 2009 file courtroom drawing shows David Coleman Headley, left, pleads not guilty before US District Judge Harry Leinenweber in Chicago to charges that accuse him of conspiring in the deadly 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai and of planning to launch an armed assault on a Danish newspaper. — Photo by AP

WASHINGTON: US federal officials have acknowledged that David Coleman Headley, who confessed to his involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks, was a mole of American intelligence agencies in Lashkar-i-Taiba and other terrorist outfits.

In court papers submitted by the FBI, US federal authorities have said that they hoped to reach top al-Qaeda leaders through him but Headley went rogue and slipped out of their hands.

Headley is a US citizen who had a Pakistani father and an American mother.

Evidence from the court papers, reported by prominent US media outlets like The Washington Post, showed that he became an informant for the US Drug Enforcement Agency in the late 1990s after he was arrested on heroin charges. His American wife told investigators that he started training with the Lashkar in early 2002 as part of a secret mission for the US government.

Headley’s American handlers had hoped that once he made inroads into the terrorist network, they would be able to get access to the top al-Qaeda leaders inside Pakistan.

But one official told the media that the Lashkar gradually succeeded in brainwashing Headley who then started leaking out only selective information to the US.

In the past two days, The New York Times and ProPublica, an independent, non-profit news outfit have carried out investigative news reports about Headley’s contacts with FBI.

A federal official said Headley’s work as an informant appeared to have lasted until some time between 2003 and 2005. Another federal official said Headley was a DEA informant in “the early 2000s”.

Headley was well-known both to Pakistani and American security officials long before his arrest as a terrorist. After arrests in 1988 and 1997 on drug-trafficking charges, Headley became such a valued DEA informant that the drug agency sent him back and forth between Pakistan and the US.

A senior anti-terrorism official told Washington Post that last year, Kashmiri worked with Headley on a plot against a Danish newspaper that had angered Muslims by publishing offensive sketches. To advance the plot, Kashmiri put Headley in touch with al-Qaeda operatives in Britain.

British intelligence detected the meetings between the operatives, who were under surveillance, and Headley, who surfaced as a figure known as “David the American”, the senior official said. That led to his arrest by the FBI last October.

AP adds: The New York Times has reported that Headley’s second wife, a Moroccan, provided information at the American Embassy in Islamabad in 2007 that he was involved in a terrorist group that was actively plotting attacks in India.

It said the second wife, Faiza Outalha, met twice with an assistant regional security officer and an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer at the embassy.
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