FBI Overlooked Tip on Mumbai Bomb Complicitor David Headley

Pro Publica has a lengthy investigative article on admitted Mumbai bombing complicitor and former DEA informant Daood Gilani, aka David Coleman Headley.

The focal point of the article is that Headley's ex-wife told the FBI he had become an extremist involved with Lashkar-i-Taiba back in 2005 when she reported a domestic violence incident between them. The FBI either did nothing or glossed over it. [More...]

In three interviews with federal agents, Headley’s wife said that he was an active militant in the terrorist group Lashkar-i-Taiba, had trained extensively in its Pakistani camps, and had shopped for night vision goggles and other equipment, according to officials and sources close to the case. The wife, whom ProPublica is not identifying to protect her safety, also told agents that Headley had bragged of working as a paid U.S. informant while he trained with the terrorists in Pakistan, according to a person close to the case.

...“We can confirm there was a lead based on his wife’s tip,” said an official who requested anonymity because of pending legal cases. “We can’t get into details.”

I've reported several times on his prior record and the sweetheart deal he got when he became a DEA informant. What's never been answered is whether he was working for a U.S. agency when he went rogue. The Government weakly, through unidentified officials, denies it.

This part of the article is telling.

A federal court discharged him from probation in December 2001, well before the scheduled end date in 2004, court records show. Within two months he was training in Pakistan with Lashkar, which had just been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and Pakistan, documents say.

After the September 11 attacks, Gilani told associates that he planned to train with Lashkar as part of a secret mission for the U.S. government, the person close to the case said.

“The FBI and DEA have joined forces and I am going to work for them,” this person quoted him as saying. “I want to do something important in my life. I want to do something for my country.”

(Not to be picky with Pro Publica, but he was released from supervised release, not probation. He got 5 years supervised release to be served after prison and the court terminated it after about two years.) The docket entries:

  • 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
  • 07/20/1999
    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.
  • 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.

It sure sounds like the Government sent him to infiltrate the terrorist group and unbeknownst to them, within a few months, he went rogue. (More here from the Times of India.) And it flew right over the radar of the DEA and FBI....and possibly the CIA, if they were involved.

According to The Telegraph last year, it was British Intelligence that tipped the U.S. about Headley after the Mumbai attacks, resulting in his arrest.

Plenty of egg to go around a lot of faces. No wonder virtually all the pleadings in co-defendant Tahawwur Rana's case are sealed. Someone's hiding something, and since Headley has been singing like a bird for almost a year, it's not him.

Update: McClatchy had a good article on Headley and the timeline here.

Headley began serving his 15-month sentence at Fort Dix in November 1998. But within six months, records show, Headley was out of jail and headed to Pakistan for a monthlong trip -- all with the approval of a federal judge and the Department of Justice. The original sentence called for Headley to remain on probation (note: should be supervised release) five years, until mid-2004. But at the end of 2001, his attorney and the prosecutor together asked the judge to end his probation (supervised release)early. The judge agreed.

Less than 60 days later, the FBI now alleges, Headley was back in Pakistan, this time doing more than dealing drugs: He was training with the terrorists. The U.S. government alleges that Headley attended camps of Lashkar-e-Taiba, "The Army of the Good," in February and August 2002 and three times in 2003.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Terrorists - or something else (none / 0) (#1)
    by Yes2Truth on Sat Oct 16, 2010 at 07:17:37 AM EST
    In many of these days of modern times, it's hard
    to tell the difference, but I won't say anything
    more on account of not wanting to upset the patriots amongst us.  Or censors.

    Early discharge from supervised release (none / 0) (#2)
    by Peter G on Sat Oct 16, 2010 at 10:36:49 AM EST
    is authorized by federal law after one year (see 18 USC 3583(e)(1)), and not unusual at all after two years, assuming compliance with conditions and no ongoing drug problem.  So I'm not so sure how "telling" the early termination of supervision is in this case.

    Maybe it depends on the district (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Oct 16, 2010 at 11:16:47 AM EST
    because it's not usual here in my experience. I also rarely see it filed as a joint request by the Government and the defendant. Usually the defendant requests it, the Government is given an opportunity to object, and then the court rules.

    From the Sentencing Commission's July, 2010 report:

    Mandatory minimum terms of supervised release
    are required for drug trafficking offenses proscribed in 21 U.S.C. §§ 841, 846, 960 and 963 and are determined by the types and quantities of drugs and by prior drug convictions.... The Commission's data indicate that, in the relevant time period, a total of 119,533 offenders were convicted under one of these statutes. Courts imposed supervised release for 99.6 percent of those sentenced to prison, and the average supervised release term for these offenders was 52 months.

    In 2008, only 12% of federal offenders received early termination from supervised release. (see page62:

    On average, offenders whose supervised release terms were terminated early served more than 60 percent of the original supervision term imposed. In fact, offenders who benefit from early termination of supervision generally serve terms well beyond the one-year minimum required by statute. For instance, in 2006, offenders whose supervised release terms were terminated early were sentenced to an average of 42 months supervision and served an average of 26 months before being terminated.

    Also, this was not his first felony drug conviction or prison sentence. The point is DOJ moved to free him after 9/11 so he could go to Pakistan and infiltrate a terrorist group and within months he had switched sides or started playing both, and even with a tip, they missed it.


    Interesting statistics on early termination (none / 0) (#4)
    by Peter G on Sat Oct 16, 2010 at 01:14:43 PM EST
    I was not aware that nationally folks are not terminated until serving an average of 60% of their terms.  I wonder, though, why the govt would want to terminate his supervision if he were going to Pakistan on the govt's behalf.  Why not just authorize the travel, and keep the string on him?  After all, if the Lashkar folks were to check up on his case on the PACER docket, they'd be as suspicious of the early termination on joint motion as of anything else, wouldn't they?  Anyway, I appreciate the main point of your post and in no way disagree with it.  Just commenting on a small technical aspect.