As reported in the New York Times:
A terrorist attack in Mumbai, India made world news
in November, 2008. Two inflatable boats landed in the Indian port city and opened fire with assault rifles and grenades, killing 163 before they were stopped.
A man was taken into custody in Chicago last October in connection with the attacks. Friends and associates said that violence was not in his nature, and his lawyer pled not guilty in December. Last week, the Times reported in a bare-bones article
that he had changed his plea in response to a plea-bargain agreement, and would be cooperating with an FBI investigation.
In another article
were hints that there might be more to the story: Headley is the American son of a Pakistani diplomat, and had no trouble obtaining visas to India, Pakistan and the US. In the 1990's, he had been charged with importing drugs, and in a plea bargain agreement, he became an informant in Pakistan for the US Drug Enforcement Agency. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2009 and released.
More details and the background that could make sense of the events appeared in a NYTimes blog by Robert Mackey
, but not in print.Headley was born to an American mother, but was named originally Daood Sayed Gilani. Mackey quotes friends of Headley who suspected he worked for the CIA, and he embeds an Indian TV report
in which Indians who knew Headley talked about him as a double agent.
"The fact that Mr. Headley -- who is an American citizen but had attended a military high school in Pakistan and speaks Urdu -- had indeed previously worked undercover for the United States government, and has now been spared the harshest possible sentence in return for his cooperation with American authorities, has led many Indians to conclude that he may have been working as a double agent for American intelligence even as he helped prepare the Mumbai attacks."
As reported in the Asia Times:
M K Bhadrakuma is a former diplomat who has a had a long history representing India in Moscow, Berlin, Seoul, Islamabad and many other capitals. He writes
in a seething, understated editorial about American arrogance in negotiating the plea bargain, and hints at obstruction of justice.
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...
No doubt, the US administration is behaving very strangely. It has something extremely explosive to hide from the Indians and what better way to do that than by placing Headley in safe custody and not risk exposing him to Indian intelligence? The speculation gaining respectability in Delhi is that Washington knew in advance about the Mumbai attack and deliberately chose not to pass on details to Delhi...
The Mumbai terror attack left deep scars in the Indian public psyche. For the first time in recent years, the Indian public has closed ranks with prevalent opinion in Pakistan that sees the US as a diabolic, self-centered power, which double-crosses its partners, friends and allies in single-minded pursuit of its interests.
Bhadrakuma stops short of accusing our CIA of planning the Mumbai terror attacks, but he states bluntly his reasons for suspecting that the CIA knew about the attacks in advance, and chose not to share this knowledge with allies in India.
Clearly, the Obama administration was apprehensive that Headley might spill the beans if the Indians got hold of him and the trail could then lead to his links with the CIA, the LeT and the Pakistani military. And where would that leave the US?
Indian culture may be difficult for Americans to appreciate, but this much should not be hard to understand: The Indian people want to know who hit them, and Washington is creating the impression that we don't want them to know.
To the Asian eye, the private plea bargain in this case and the secrecy of our military tribunals
are of a piece. Whether or not American agents were complicit in the terror attack on Mumbai, we have created suspicion that we care less about justice than about protecting the corrupt and lawless operation of our own CIA.
Since the Patriot Act of 2001, Democrats and Republicans have agreed that crimes involving terrorism must be prosecuted in secret, outside the public view, beyond accountability, and exempt from Constitutional guarantees of fairness. But this policy is profoundly inimical to our democratic foundations and to our history as a free people. It is rapidly undermining any claim we might have had to being a "beacon of liberty" for the world of developing nations.
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