Indian-US ties soured by suspicion Chicago terror operative was US double agent
Courts documents in the criminal case against the David Headley, who was arrested in Chicago in October for suspected involvement in the Mumbai terrorist siege, suggest the Chicagoan US citizen may have been a double agent for the al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Lashkar e-Taibe and US intelligence. This suspicion, also the subject of leaked media reports from US, Indian and Pakistani intelligence sources, is severely straining relations between New Delhi and Washington.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that New Delhi suspects the CIA knew in advance about the Mumbai attack, in which 177 people died and 500 were injured, and were aware of Headley’s links with its LeT perpetrators, al Qaeda’s operational arm in Pakistan, but omitted to forewarn Indian authorities for fear of touching off a military showdown between India and Pakistan.
Israel was not tipped off either although the Chabad Center of Mumbai, where six people were killed, was a special target
Rancor against Washington was registered in New Delhi where an official at the Indian Ministry of the Interior confirmed Wednesday, Dec. 16, said that his government “is looking into whether Headley worked as a double agent.” A former counter-terrorism officer in the Indian foreign intelligence service said: “The feeling in India is that the US has not been transparent.”
The atmosphere between the two countries is not helped by the FBI’s refusal to let Indian anti-terror officers question Headley, who is believed to have led a Chicago-based cell which set up Islamist terrorist operations world-wide.
debkafile‘s sources add: The court records show that the Chicago-based Headley was pressed into service by the US Drug Enforcement Agency in 1977 after he was caught smuggling heroin from Pakistan to America. They also show that he became an FBI informant after al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington. After that outrage, the FBI and CIA were directed to coordinate their counter-terror work. The Indians assume that the CIA must have been aware of the Chicagoan’s existence, and certainly picked up on his frequent trips to India with side trips to Pakistan to meet his Lashkar e-Taibe associates.
Whether he worked directly for the CIA will probably never be proven.
Indian security authorities are also asking who paid for Headley’s frequent trips to Europe and India on missions to locate targets for terrorist attack, gather intelligence and chart Lashkar e-Taibe routes to target. He would then carry the information and guidelines to the Pakistani LeT operations headquarters.
The Chicagoan was clearly a staff member of the group and participated in its planning conferences. Some Western intelligence sources believe he may have been pulling the strings from Pakistan during the three-day terrorist siege of Mumbai in November 2008.
Indian counter-terror sources believe that data which Headley may have leaked from his Pakistan conferences to his American controllers may have prompted a US warning to New Delhi in July 2008 that a large-scale terrorist operation was in store for Mumbai. When two months went by and nothing happened, the Indians relaxed and lowered their security alert level.
Headley stands accused of making five reconnaissance trips to India to set up the Mumbai attack in September 2006, February and September 2007, and April and July 2008.
On one or more of those trips he traveled disguised as a religious Jew, scouting the Chabad Center and other Jewish locations. Israel was never informed that Lashkar e-Taibe had set its sights on Jewish and Israel centers in India.