Tuesday, June 8
Reported Indian government leak: 26/11 conspirator David Coleman Headley singing like a bird to Indian interrogators. If so are his warbles selective?
The crystal ball is in the repair shop again. And given that my Ouija board is fixated these days on channeling the ghost of an alcoholic Prussian general whose opinions on world events frankly don't have much application beyond the year 1867, I've been reduced to checking B Raman's Strategic Analysis blog every four minutes; this in the effort to scrounge a hint about how the interrogation of Headley has been going.
The Indian press has shared my impatience; yesterday reporters descended on Robert Blake, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, demanding a clue.
"I mean, these are very sensitive matters, that we wanted to make sure that Headley would be willing to talk, and so a number of things had to be worked out," he said, waving a Taser in the direction of the press gaggle as he nervously eyed the nearest exit.
I have interpreted Raman's silence about the course of the interrogation as a hopeful sign, even as rumors flew in India that Headley had taken the Fifth. A completely uncooperative Headley would be read by Indians as another sign that their government had gotten nothing of substance from its part in last week's strategic dialogue with Obama's administration. So it seems that Manmohan Singh's administration leaked a few details of the interrogation. Unless today's Indian Express is blowing smoke Headley has been a fountain of information:
Lashkar-e-Toiba [LeT] operative and 26/11 attack-accused David Coleman Headley has told his Indian interrogators about his handlers, including terror suspects Sajjid Mir, Syed Abdur Rehman Syed, intelligence agents Major Iqbal and Major Sameer Ali.I note there's nothing in the details that hint whether Headley gave an answer to the question that Indian intelligence is keen on asking; namely, whether he was employed by the CIA as a double agent while he was working as double agent for the DEA on a plea-bargain agreement.
He has also talked about the involvement of Mohammed Illyas Kashmiri in planning the Mumbai attacks and the larger Lashkar aim to target India.
Top government sources said Headley has given National Investigation Agency (NIA) interrogators, led by 1985-batch Kerala cadre IG-rank officer Lokanath Behera, considerable insight into Lashkar operations in India and the specific planning of the Mumbai attacks.
Headley shared details after he was assured that his revelations would not be used against him. “Contrary to reports, Headley has been cooperating with Indian investigators and is coming out with detailed insights into the terror network in Pakistan,” said a senior official.
Sources said Headley was questioned in the presence of FBI agents and his lawyers by three NIA investigators and a lawyer on June 1 and 2 in Chicago. After setting the ground rules, the Indian team was left alone from June 3. The team has got considerable information from Headley about his visits to India during 2006-2009 and his surveillance of targets, including those attacked during 26/11 and the Chabad houses.
The Indian team plans to complete his questioning on June 9 and return to New Delhi after briefing Indian Ambassador to US Meera Shanker. Sources said Headley has been questioned about the roles of LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Yusuf Muzammil and other operational commanders.
An affirmative reply could indicate the CIA withheld vital information from their Indian counterpart about Headley's movements in India, including his visits to locations that were targets during the 26/11 attack.
The CIA has denied they ever employed Headley; Indian intelligence is glad to hear it, but then wonders why the U.S. government sewed up Headley in such a way that he couldn't be extradited to India to stand trial for the Mumbai massacre.
Pardon my cynicism but I doubt Headley would be at liberty to talk about his work for the DEA or any other U.S. agency if such occurred. It could be that one of the "many things to be worked out" before the U.S. Department of Justice would allow Indian investigators to speak with him was an agreement that the question was off limits.
If Americans should think that removing the question from the table is in the best interests of the USA -- not if it's helping Pakistan's military cover up ISI involvement in the 26/11 attack on Mumbai.
Obama's administration is so fixed on making their confused strategy in Afghanistan work they've yet to confront that placating Pakistan's intelligence agency is counterproductive. On that thought, perhaps I should consult Ouija because even a dead Prussian general could tell me how smart it is to throw jelly beans at a tiger.