Rana Pleads Not Guilty in Mumbai-Danish Terror Plots

On Jan. 15, we wrote about the Superseding Indictment returned against David Headley, formerly known as Daood Gilani, and Tahawwur Rana regarding the Mumbai attacks and alleged planned attack in Denmark. Also indicted were Retired Pakistani military officer Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed (Pasha)and alleged Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI) leader Ilyas Kashmiri. The U.S. Attorney's office released this detailed press release (pdf) on the charges.

Rana, who is still appealing the denial of bond, was arraigned today and pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Patrick Blegen, asked the court to appoint him under the Criminal Justice Act so he can be paid from public funds. [More...]

Rana is not indigent, he said, but "virtually no one" can afford a defense in such a massive federal case, he said.

I'm more interested in David Headley, who is cooperating with the Government. I've written several times about his past heroin case and cooperation with the DEA for a light sentence, early termination of supervised release, and travel to Pakistan. In recent years, the question arises, was he working for the U.S., and did he become a rogue agent or a double agent?

Yesterday I spent a few hours again reviewing the Superseding Indictment and other pleadings filed in the current case, and the docket sheet from Headley's past case.

The questions that arise are: Did Headley just stop working for the feds and drop off the Government's radar, or while working for them, did he turn from a cooperating government informant to a rogue or double agent, and when?

This Philadelphia Inquirer article has more details about the drug cases Headley cooperated in. In addition to the Ikram Haq case I've written about at length, in which Headley testified for the Government but Haq was acquitted, he also cooperated before then.

Headley was actually busted for heroin in another case years before before 1997, cooperated for a reduced sentence and went to jail.

In Frankfurt, Germany, the DEA agent stationed there was summoned to the airport and interviewed Headley, then still named Gilani, whom he remembered as "very, very quiet and very controlled." The agent told him he could help himself by cooperating. Gilani agreed.

Two days later - after his apartment on New Street had been wired for sound and video - he delivered the suitcase to Richard Roundtree and Darryl "Tarik" Scoggins. ... Gilani got his sentence cut in half to four years. At his sentencing, the judge said he was giving him a break because of his cooperation, because he didn't have a record - and because he had a heroin habit.

So Headley was a heroin addict.

But he had trouble staying clean and flunked drug tests. He was sent back to drug treatment in 1994 and, in 1995, got an additional six months in jail.

When he was busted again in 1997, bringing heroin into New York, he again agreed to cooperate, wearing a wire as he delivered it in a hotel room.

To get such a reduced sentence, Headley didn't only testify against Lewis. According to court records, he worked for the DEA as a confidential witness, setting up at least three heroin deals.

(Small point: while he may have cooperated against Lewis, I don't think he testified against him as Lewis pleaded guilty and got a ten year sentence. It was Ikram Haq he testified against, who was charged in a separate case. Lewis was released in 2006 to a halfway house and drug program in Brooklyn. It sounds like one of the deals he set up was the one with Haq.)

As to why Haq may have been acquitted, the Inquirer article says he claimed Headley entrapped him. Haq had a low IQ and spoke little English. Headley had met Haq during his first stint in prison, which apparently was a state case, since Haq was at Otisville. During his trial, Haq subpoened a lot of inmate phone calls, so it seems like Headley was trying to induce Haq while Haq was still in prison. Haq's co-defendant, Maroof Ahmed, pleaded guilty, but that might be because he also had another case with his brother Shahzad Ahmed, and he wanted to avoid two trials. Maroof is still in prison at FCI Schuykill.

Back to the Headley and the Mumbai charges. The time line in the Superseding Indictment is very interesting -- I'd say illuminating -- in figuring out whether Headley was a double agent or rogue agent. Here's why.

The Superseding Indictment says Headley trained with Lakshar (LeT) in Feb. 2002, August 2002, and April, August and December, 2003.

Here's the chronology from the docket sheets in Headley and Lewis' case and Haq's case:

Headley and Lewis are busted in February, 1997.

May 6, 1997, Headley pleads guilty. (Lewis pleads on May 9.) Headley is released on a $300,000. bond in July. (Lewis is sentenced to 10 years in August.) Headley's bond is continued in October and again in December, and again in February,, when sentencing is set for September, 1998.

During July, 1998, Headley testifies against Haq, and the Government fails to make its case using his testimony, because Haq is acquitted.

Nonetheless, in September, 1998, when Headley is sentenced, he gets a sentence reduction from the ten year mandatory minimum down to 15 months, with 5 years supervised release.

Headley is granted a voluntary surrender to Ft. Dix and he arrives on 11/6/98 to serve his 15 month sentence.

Headley is out in 8 or 9 months, by August, 1999, because on July 14, 1999, his lawyer files a motion requesting permission for Headley to travel to Pakistan from August 10 to September 15. Given the Government's agreement, it seems likely he was going there for the DEA.

Headley returns September 15, 1999 and nothing else happens -- until November, 2001, which is two months after 9/11. On November 16, the Government and Headley jointly file a motion to terminate his supervised release three years early. It's granted.

So, on November 16, 2001, the Government moves to terminate him from supervised release, and three months later, in February, 2002, according to the current Superseding Indictment, Headley is in a Lakshar training camp in Pakistan (with repeat visits every few months through 2003.) The Indictment also says while he's at the training camps, he assisted senior Lakshar in planning terrorist attacks.

Is it reasonable to believe the Government moves to terminate his supervised release two months after 9/11, but then loses track of him -- and three months later he's training with LeT? I highly doubt it.

I think it's much more likely that Headley switched from being a DEA informant to an FBI terror informant, and was sent to Pakistan to infiltrate the LeT training camp. Repeatedly.

Another reason: In December, 2001, the month after the Government moves to terminate Headley's supervised release, the U.S. declares LeT a terrorist organization. Coincidence?

Since Headley is now indicted for the Mumbai attacks and failed Danish plot, it's obvious he turned on the FBI or some other intelligence agency at some point. (The CIA has denied he ever worked for them.) The question is when?

The Superseding Indictment doesn't label any of Headley's acts criminal until "late 2005", when it alleges he began planning terror attacks in India.

So, during 2004 and 2005, was he still working for the feds to get information on LeT, or had he stopped and switched allegiances to LeT? Or, was he fooling the U.S. all along, always intending to assist LeT in its planning and attacks?

The Government is now portraying Headley as a criminal, rather than an informant, at least as of late 2005. The Superseding Indictment then alleges that in February, 2006, he changed his name from Daood Gilani to David Headley. In the spring of 2006, it alleges that he and a LeT associate discuss setting up an immigration business in Mumbai as a cover for his activities. In June, 2006, Headley travels to
Chicago, meets with Rana, and gets approval to open a branch of Rana's immigration business in Mumbai.

In July, 2006, Headley gets $25k from “Person A” to launch the business, and to pay for living expenses while Headley "carried out his assignments for Lashkar."

"Person A" seems to be a key here. He's listed as an unnamed co-conspirator. He's a resident of Pakistan. He's not one of the members or leaders of LeT, he's "an associate" of LeT. Who is he? Is he just a facilitator of funds?

According to the Indictment, he is someone who, in June, 2008, gave Headley more money for the Mumbai immigration office, but discussed with him the intention of later opening an office in New Delhi for future endeavors.

In July 08, Person A communicated with Headley by passing messages through Rana. So Rana also knows Person A.

And after November, 2008, Person A told Headley to stop communicating with him and to remove all incriminating things from Headley's home in Pakistan.

Headley and Person A worked together from at least 2006 through 2008. Person A was present when Headley met with LeT members.

So again, the questions are, how did this get past the FBI? Or, did they know all along he was working to set up the Mumbai attacks and let him continue? Or, was Headley fooling the FBI all along?

And, who is Person A and why is he not named or charged? Is he cooperating? Or is he under arrest in India or Pakistan?

The U.S. gave India specific information about a planned Mumbai attack in September, 2008, weeks before the actual attacks. Did that come from Headley? The U.S. has told India it did not begin surveilling or suspecting Headley until August, 2009, when he gave inconsistent answers to a customs inspector at the airport.

The Headley dots may not all add up yet, but it seems fairly obvious 9/11 prompted the Government to use him as a terror informant, following his days as a drug informant, and that his LeT training in 2002-2003 was at their behest. But for the fact that the U.S. Attorney says Headley has authorized them to say he is cooperating now, I suspect his defense would have been he thought he was acting on their behalf all along.

All of our prior coverage is assembled here.

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    Just another covert operation? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Yes2Truth on Mon Jan 25, 2010 at 06:06:11 PM EST

    Almost certainly, IMO, although it's possible that some of these so-called terror acts are the result of genuine outrage against U.S. foreign policy - but most of them are inside jobs, planned and carried out either directly or by proxies of U.S. intelligence services...or in combination with.