The Conversion of Terror Suspect David Headley: Ask the DEA

The Chicago terror charges against David Headley, formerly Daood Gilani, and Tahawwur Hussain Rana are interesting for a number of reasons. They are particularly big news in India, where FISA surveillance information has authorities connecting them to the Nov. 2008 Mumbai attacks and to high level people in Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (Lashker e Taiba) and Harkat-ul Jihad Islamid.

What's getting some, but not enough news, is Headley's 1997 bust in New York for conspiracy to import heroin into the U.S. (The New York Times briefly refers to it here.)He was charged under his original name, Daood Saleem Gilani, along with a codefendant James Leslie Lewis. (Lewis was sentenced to 120 months, later reduced to 100 months.)

After Headley's arrest, he was ordered detained pending trial. But, he began cooperating with the DEA. The U.S. Attorney's office submitted some sealed documents (obviously cooperation letters) and got him out on bond. He was sentenced to only 15 months and when he got out from Ft. Dix, the DEA sent him to Pakistan to make some cases. [More...]

Then, the U.S. Attorney requested to terminate his supervised release a few years early. Here are the dates from the court docket, available on Pacer (his case is in the Eastern District of New York>).

  • 02/07/1997
    COMPLAINT as to Daood Saleem Gilani, James Leslie Lewis, filed.
  • 02/11/1997
    Permanent order of detention entered as to Gilani.
  • 03/07/1997
    INDICTMENT as to Daood Saleem Gilani count(s) 1, 2, 3, James Leslie Lewis count(s) 1, 2, 3.
  • 05/06/1997
    Daood Saleem Gilani pleads Guilty: count 1 . Setting Sentencing for 7/18/97 before Judge Carol B. Amon .
  • 08/20/1997
  • 09/02/1997
  • 09/11/1997
  • 10/30/1997
    Daood Saleem Gilani Bail Hearing. AUSA Michele Delong, deft present with counsel. Bail continued for another 90 days.
  • 12/04/1997
    PRB BOND entered by Daood Saleem Gilani in Amount $ 300,000. (Second bond, extension).
  • 02/27/1998
    Daood Saleem Gilani; Bail hearing. Sentencing adjourned until 9/25/98 @ 9:30am.
  • 03/04/1998
    SEALED LETTER dated 1/30/98 to be placed in vault per order of Judge Amon.
  • 03/12/1998
    SEALED LETTER to be placed in vault as per order of Judge Amon.
  • 05/28/1998
    Application granted to travel to Maryland
  • 09/14/1998
    Application granted to travel to Philadelphia
  • 09/25/1998
    Sentencing: Count 1, 15 months imprisonment, 5 years supervised release. Ordered to surrender on 10/9/98.
  • 10/02/1998
    sealed letter placed in vault
  • 10/07/1998
    Surrender date continued to 11/6/98
  • 12/15/1998
    Judgment Returned Executed as to Daood Saleem Gilani; on 11/6/98, Defendant delivered to FCI Fort Dix
    ORDER as to Daood Saleem Gilani, endorsed on letter dated 7/14/99 from Howard Leader to Judge Amon, requesting permission to travel to Pakistan from 8.10.99 through 9.15.99. Application granted. )
    (my emphasis)
  • 11/16/2001
    Daood Saleem Gilani. Joint application for termination of Supervised Release granted.
  • 12/27/2001
    ORDER as to Daood Saleem Gilani. It is ordered that the releasee be discharged from supervised release and that the proceedings in the case be terminated. Signed by Judge Carol B. Amon, on 12/18/01.

So, Headley/Gilani began serving a 15 month sentence on 11/6/98 (on the same charge for which his co-defendant got 100 months) and 9 months later, on 8/10/99, he was out and on his way to Pakistan.

And, while he was sentenced to 5 years supervised release, the U.S. Attorney's office moved to discharge him three years early, in December, 2001, to enable him to return to Pakistan.

I might also mention this wasn't his first heroin conviction. In 1988, he got popped in Frankfurt at the airport with 2 kilos of heroin. He worked his way to a light sentence in that case as well.

In 2006, Gilani, who was born in the U.S. and spent his childhood in Pakistan, changed his last name to that of his mother, becoming David Coleman Headley. He traveled all over, including trips to Denmark, India and Pakistan. According to the Government's October, 2009 Complaint, he traveled from the U.S. to Pakistan in August, 2008, flying back on December 7, 2008. The Mumbai attacks were on Nov. 26, 2008. According to news reports yesterday, on Nov. 25, 2008, the money transferers in Italy, at the request of people in Pakistan, wired money to Calphonex, a California phone company, to set up five VOIP accounts used by the Mumbai bombers.

The October Complaint (press release here, complaint available on PACER) alleges Headley and his codefendant Rana conspired with a member of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and with Ilyas Kashmiri, leader of the terrorist group Harkat-ul Jihad Islamid.

According to the Complaint, Headley told the FBI after his arrest he had worked with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba in the past and received training from the group. He also said he worked with Kashmiri to plan the Danish attack. Lashkar-e-Tayyiba has claimed credit for many attacks in India and the Complaint alleges Headley's contact there was a high-up member.

If the FBI wants to know how Gilani/Headley got connected with terrorists in Pakistan, now that expanded record-sharing is allowed between law enforcement agencies, perhaps they should ask the DEA just what they had him doing over there in 1999, and for how long?

As the press release states, a criminal complaint contains mere allegations that are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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  • Display: Sort:
    mr. headley's case is (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Sun Nov 22, 2009 at 05:33:46 AM EST
    an unusual one. from the times' story, it appears he had some difficulty adjusting to life in the US, displaying anger at all "infidels", and a stated desire to turn the clock back to the 14th century.

    my guess, he had girl problems, starting with mom. freud would have a field day with fundie muslims and christians.

    Your description (none / 0) (#5)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Sun Nov 22, 2009 at 02:30:35 PM EST

    Your description sounds a lot like Major Hasan of Fort Hood infamy.  Perhaps these guys knew how to work the system.

    The Philadelphia Inquirer (none / 0) (#2)
    by Peter G on Sun Nov 22, 2009 at 11:43:44 AM EST
    ran a long investigative story a few days ago about Headley's early life -- his mother lived in Philadelphia, and so did he -- that was very interesting.

    Islamic terrorism (none / 0) (#3)
    by pca54 on Sun Nov 22, 2009 at 12:46:46 PM EST
    Reading newspapers and blogs and watching tv isn't going to educate anyone on the history of Islam and its relationship to Western culture or its goals and ambitions as a religious and political movement.  First, one should read the Koran...ideally a 50+ year old translation to avoid all the sanitizing done in the politically correct modern version.  Second, one should read several negative and critical books on Islam and then cross check all claims and references.  This is very important...time consuming but important if you are really interested in being informed and not just programed.  One of the most inflamatory yet also accurate books about Islam, modern and historical is The Force of Reason by the late Oriana Fallaci.  This book was written during her last years when she was losing her batle with cancer and she had little patience with politness or politically correct chat.  How this relates to recent and future events will be up to each of your to decide.  

    off-topic (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Nov 22, 2009 at 01:40:47 PM EST
    this thread is about Headley/Gilani. Off-topic comments are not allowed here. Thank you.