A Spy Unsettles US-India Ties

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News that the
United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had reached
a plea bargain with David Coleman Headley, who played a key role
in the planning of the terrorist strike in Mumbai in November 2008
in which 166 people were killed, has caused an uproar in India.

The deal enables
the US government to hold back from formally producing any evidence
against Headley in a court of law that might have included details
of his links with US intelligence or oblige any cross-examination
of Headley by the prosecution.

Nor can the
families of the 166 victims be represented by a lawyer to question
Headley during his trial commencing in Chicago. Headley’s links
with the US intelligence will now remain classified information
and the Pakistani nationals involved in the Mumbai attacks will
get away scot-free. Furthermore, the FBI will not allow Headley’s
extradition to India and will restrict access so that Indian agencies
cannot interrogate him regarding his links with US and Pakistani
intelligence.

In return for
pleading guilty to the charges against him Headley will get lighter
punishment than the death sentence that was probably most likely.

Headley’s arrest
in Chicago last October initially seemed a breakthrough in throwing
light on the operations and activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT),
the Pakistan-based terrorist organization, in India. But instead
the Obama administration’s frantic efforts to cover up the details
of the case have been taken to their logical conclusion.

The plea bargain
raises explosive questions. The LeT began planning the attack on
Mumbai sometime around September 2006. According to the plea bargain,
Headley paid five visits to India on reconnaissance missions between
2006 and the November 2008 strike, each time returning to the US
via Pakistan where he met "with various co-conspirators, including
but not limited to members of LeT".

The plea bargain
simply refers to the Pakistani handlers of Headley as A, B, C and
D. But who are they? We will never know.

The LeT’s close
links with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are legion
and it is inconceivable that such a massive operation – with huge
international ramifications and the potential to trigger war with
India – could have been undertaken without the knowledge of the
ISI, headed by General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, the present army chief,
from October 2004 until October 2007.

The plea bargain
says chillingly that after Headley’s fifth visit to India, "Lashkar
[LeT] Member A advised defendant [Headley] of a number of details
concerning the planned attacks, including that a team of attackers
was being trained in a variety of combat skills, the team would
be traveling to Mumbai by sea and using the landing site recommended
by the defendant, the team would be fighting to the death and would
not attempt to escape following the attacks."

Yet, the operative
part of the plea bargain not only rules out Headley’s extradition
to India but does not show that Headley gave any kind of formal
commitment to the FBI to subject himself to interrogation by the
Indians. He has merely agreed to give testimony in any foreign judicial
proceeding that is held in US territory.

In essence,
the Americans are saying that they will tell the Indians what Headley
is saying and there is no need to interrogate him face-to-face.
This is diametrically opposite to the US’s approach to the Lockerbie
trial after a bombed Pan Am flight crashed into the Scottish town
of Lockerbie in 1988. Altogether 270 died. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed
al-Megrahi, a Libyan, was convicted of involvement in the bombing.

Again, the
plea bargain confirms that Headley had a criminal record in the
US from 1989 as a conspirator to import heroin and spent a total
of six years in prison as a result of four convictions. He was later
recruited as an agent by US drug-enforcement authorities, who after
the 9/11 attacks in the US coordinated closely with the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA).

How much
did the CIA know?

The plea bargain
details that while working as an American agent Headley attended
at least five “training courses” conducted by the LeT
in Pakistan, including sessions in the use of weapons and grenades,
close-combat tactics and counter-surveillance techniques, from February
2002 until December 2003.

Read
the rest of the article

March
24, 2010

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