The Headley Riddle:

Rogue or Tip of an Iceberg?

The David Coleman Headley affair is getting murkier every minute. It was reported that the visa papers of Headley and his associate Tahawwur Rana were missing from the Indian consulate in Chicago. This occasioned on Thursday conflicting statements by Foreign Minister SM Krishna and his MOS Shashi Tharoor. Krishna was still seeking clarification. Tharoor claimed that Rana’s papers had been found and the search for Headley’s papers was on. The Indian consulate in Chicago reportedly claimed that the papers were never missed and the government had access to them. Earlier on Wednesday Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said: “I have sought a factual report from our consulate in Chicago in this regard (of the missing papers).” She expressed satisfaction with the cooperation being extended in the 26/11 investigation by US authorities. She refused to comment on reports that Headley could be a double agent working for US authorities. “I don’t want to comment on the double agent issue. It will not be professional on my part,” she said. What’s going on? 

To unravel the tortuous complexities of this case it would be necessary to recall briefly Headley’s background as well as the facts so far established. On the basis of these facts some deductions may be made that give rise to questions that scream for answers. David Coleman Headley was arrested on October 3, 2009 and charged with conspiring to commit terrorist attacks outside the United States. He was allegedly involved in a plot to attack the Danish newspaper in Denmark that had published cartoons of Prophet Mohammed in 2005. The court proceedings after Headley’s arrest brought out an almost daily dose of new disclosures. American, Indian and Pakistani government officials also gave out leaks that added to these revelations. On December 7 fresh federal charges were filed against Headley alleging that he was closely involved in the planning and execution of the 26/11 attack in Mumbai. According to leaks Headley reportedly had been recruited by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1997 after being apprehended for smuggling heroin into the United States from Pakistan . After 9/11 he reportedly worked for the FBI as a terrorism informant. After his arrest on Oct. 3, he is reportedly again cooperating with the U.S. government. 

Headley was born Daood Gilani in 1960 in America to a Pakistani father and American mother. His cousin is PRO to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Gilani. The cousins last met at a funeral in 2008. From court proceedings it emerges that Headley worked as a surveillance operative and operational planner for the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) and Harkat-ul-Jihad e-Islami (HUJI). The U.S. government has alleged that between 2006 and 2008 Headley made five extended trips to Mumbai in order to conduct surveillance for the Mumbai attacks. If as an FBI informant Headley was briefing the agency it would explain the specific warnings the U.S. provided to India about plans to attack Mumbai hotels in September 2008. After the warning the Indian government stepped up security measures at these hotels. Oddly enough, these security measures were ceased a little before the 26/11 attacks occurred. 

Headley’s surveillance activities were solo operations. According to the US security and intelligence outfit, Stratfor, solo surveillance is enormously risky. Yet Headley managed to make many video recordings and photographs in alien territory without being caught. According to Stratfor, “The only rational explanation for why Headley was not noticed while conducting his surveillance is that nobody was looking.” Or did nobody choose to look? If US intelligence agencies knew Headley was their informant and acting as their mole in LET, would they not ensure his protection? According to Indian security analyst B Raman, “Since Headley was a source of the DEA, the FBI, through the DEA, was aware of his visits to India .” Yet US authorities allowed Headley frequent visits to India without questioning even though after 9/11 security was extra vigilant about all such travel by dubious individuals. An Indian MHA official has been quoted by the media to state that the CIA concealed this fact "apparently to ensure Headley did not get exposed as a US secret agent". Subsequently a CIA spokesman has flatly stated that Headley was never a CIA agent. The easy and widely accepted explanation is that Headley was a DEA informer who became a rogue double agent. To avoid embarrassment US authorities are tight-lipped about the affair and loath to share information with their Indian counterparts. This explanation is over simple. Consider the following facts and connect the dots. 

Headley had close connections with terrorist outfits in Pakistan that were complicit with rogue elements of the Pakistan establishment. Headley was an agent and informer of a US agency which explains how he could operate so boldly and travel so frequently without being questioned. But Headley’s exposure came about only because of the FBI. The information about his complicity in 26/11 also came about only because of the FBI. The CIA has disowned Headley. Yet Headley undoubtedly received logistic support from some US agency that allowed him to operate with impunity. The FBI did not stop him. But the FBI did apprehend him. So which force in the US was protecting Headley? Indian authorities either lost or pretended to lose Headley’s visa papers. Indian security mysteriously lifted the security measures to protect Mumbai hotels despite FBI warnings about imminent terrorist attack on Mumbai hotels. Why? 

Headley may be a rogue double agent. That is the comforting theory. There is a much more uncomfortable possibility. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Headley could have received logistic support from rogue official sources in America , Pakistan and India . In other words he may be more than a rogue double agent. He could be serving a rogue fifth column that aids terrorism and has penetrated governments in America , India and Pakistan . This scribe has always believed that there is a transnational corporate nexus that has subverted American security and has become a global threat. Is it possible that under its shadow there has grown a parallel transnational nexus that promotes terrorism? Has this nexus become so powerful that the FBI clearly opposed to Headley and responsible for arresting him remained helpless to prevent him from planning and guiding the Mumbai terrorism? Is the embarrassment facing the US much bigger than the fact of Headley being a rogue double agent? This question cannot be lightly brushed aside. Today global terrorism has acquired the means of launching widespread and unrestricted warfare.


More by :  Dr. Rajinder Puri

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