Report on David Headley and Pakistani Military Officials

Pro Publica and the Washington Post have a new report on the Mumbai bombings of 2008, focusing on Sajid Mir, aka Sajid Majid, who allegedly was put in charge of the attacks by Lashkar-i-Taiba. A second installment will be published tomorrow. According to the report, Mir trained David Coleman Headley for two years prior to the attack, and both active and retired Pakistani military officials were involved.

Mir and his victims are at the center of a wrenching national security dilemma confronting the Obama administration. The question, simply put, is whether the larger interests of the United States in maintaining good relations with Pakistan will permit Mir and other suspects to get away with one of the most devastating terrorist attacks in recent history.


While Ilyas Kashmiri, believed to be the head of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (Huji) and of al Qaeda's 313 Brigade, and retired Pakistani military official Major Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, aka Major Abdur Rehman, aka Pasha, have been added to Headley's indictment, Mir has not yet been. (Nor has Major Iqbal, another Pakistani military or intelligence official. (Mir appears to be "Lakshar Member A" in the Headley Superseding Indictment and Iqbal is "Person A.") DOJ tells the story in this press release.

Headley came along when another operative named Brigitte left.

Headley radicalized in the late 1990s. U.S. officials say he was still a DEA informant when he began training in the Lashkar camps in early 2002. Although the Pakistani instructors thought he was too old and too slow for combat, the charming American hit it off with Mir. Mir decided to cultivate this man of two worlds as a clandestine operative, according to documents and officials.

According to the report, it was Mir that instructed Headley to return to America and change his name from Daood Gilani to David Coleman Headley.

Armed with his new identity, Headley returned to Pakistan. In July 2006 he received $25,000 for a new assignment. The money came from a man he knew only as Major Iqbal, according to officials and court documents.

U.S. and Indian anti-terrorism officials suspect Major Iqbal was a serving ISI officer and a liaison to Lashkar. According to anti-terrorism officials and U.S. court documents, Major Iqbal and Mir became Headley's handlers. They instructed him to use the money to open a front company and begin reconnaissance in the city that was their next target: Mumbai.

Last month, Interpol issued arrest warrants for Sajid Majid aka Mir, and Syed Abdur Rehman Hashim, Major Iqbal, Major Sameer Ali, and Ilyas Kashmiri, who is the head of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (Huji) and also indicted in Chicago with Headley, for their role in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008.

The warrants, known as "red corner notices" require all countries who are members to arrest them. Previously, red corner notices were issued for: LeT founder and main 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed, senior LeT operatives Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Mohammed Ramadhan Mohammed Siddiqui alias Abu Hamza.

Illyas Kashmiri, said to be Headley’s mentor, was involved in 26/11 attacks right from conception stage. The 46-year old terrorist from Kotli, Pakistan, commands the al Qaeda’s 313 Brigade. In February this year, Kashmiri had threatened to attack sporting events including IPL-3 and Commonwealth Games.

The National Investigative Agency sent agents to interview Headley after his arrest:

Headley, who helped NIA identify voices of handlers giving instructions to the 26/11 attackers during the Mumbai carnage, had attributed one of the voices to Sajid Majid, a top LeT terrorist who asked the terrorists in Chabad House to ensure that none of the Israelis were left alive.

Headly also identified Pakistani Army Officer Major Sameer Ali and Major Iqbal. (More on the warrants here.) Reportedly:

Abdur Rehman retired in 2007 from the Pakistan army as a Major. He worked closely with LeT and co-ordinated the activities of Headley. He was arrested in 2009 in Pakistan on unspecified charges and later released.

Major Iqbal was Headley’s handler who arranged funds and trained him in intelligence-gathering. Iqbal gave him $25,000 in August, 2006, to visit India. Another Pakistani army official, Major Sameer Ali, was also identified by Headley as a 26/11 conspirator.

Requests for red notices are pending with Interpol for Lashker commander Zarar Shah and Abu Al Qama.

All of these names have circulated for months. India gave the names to Pakistan, but Pakistan won't take any action.

The U.S. claimed in 2009 Kashmiri was killed in a drone attack, but he wasn't and to set the record straight, he later gave this interview from his then hideout in North Waziristan.

According to the reporter doing the interview, Kashmiri heads up the 313 Brigade, and some say he is the #3 leader of al Qaeda, after Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahiri. Orhers say he is head of global operations for al Qaeda and still others say he is al Qaeda's military commander.

If today al-Qaeda is divided into three spheres, Osama bin Laden is undoubtedly the symbol of the movement and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri defines al-Qaeda's ideology and broader strategic vision. Ilyas, with his unmatched guerrilla expertise, turns the strategic vision into reality, provides the resources and gets targets achieved, but he chooses to remain in the background and very low key.

Kashimiri denied in the interview that he was part of Pakistan's special forces:

Ilyas was never a part of Pakistan's special forces, nor even of the army. Nearly 30 years ago when he joined the Afghan jihad against the Soviets from the platform of the HUJI, he developed expertise in guerrilla warfare and explosives.

Kashimiri refers to the U.S. as "the great Satan" and says "he defeat of American global hegemony is a must." Answering one of the reporter's questions, he says:

"So should the world expect more Mumbai-like attacks?" I asked.

"That was nothing compared to what has already been planned for the future," Ilyas replied.

"Even against Israel and the USA?" I asked.

"Saleem, I am not a traditional jihadi cleric who is involved in sloganeering. As a military commander, I would say every target has a specific time and reasons, and the responses will be forthcoming accordingly," Ilyas said.

On why he joined al-Qaeda:

"We were both victims of the same tyrant. Today, the entire Muslim world is sick of Americans and that's why they are agreeing with Sheikh Osama. If all of the Muslim world is asked to elect their leader, their choice would be either [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar or Sheikh Osama," Ilyas said.

U.S. intelligence officials say Kashmiri is the force behind suspected al Qaeda plans to attack Paris, Berlin and London. They also think al Qaeda has plans, which would be orchestrated by Kashmiri to launch a Mumbai-style attack in the U.S.

So, Headley gave them all up, including the ones still serving in the Pakistan military


Headley's interrogation and subsequent investigation revealed that serving Pakistan army officers Major Sameer Ali and Major Iqbal, along with the retired Major Syed Abdur Rehman, had worked with Lashkar to carry out the 26/11 attack.

India is making new demands on Pakistan in advance of the Nov. 26 anniversary of the attacks. And now the question is how Pakistan will respond, and how Obama will respond to Pakistan's response.

Meanwhile, Headley's co-defendant in the Chicago Case, Tahawwur Hussein Rana, has been filing a lot of motions in the case. They are almost all sealed. Last week, the Judge denied his request for FISA applications and orders, to suppress the FISA electronic surveillance and for a Franks hearing on whether the Government made misstatements in its applications. The Government had previously filed a notice it intended to use FISA obtained electronic surveillance against him. But, under FISA, the judge ruled, as other courts have, a defendant is not entitled to the applications and orders. From the order, available on PACER:

The Court recognizes the frustrating position from which Defendant must argue for a Franks hearing. Franks provides an important Fourth Amendment safeguard to scrutinize the underlying basis for probable cause in a search warrant. The requirements to obtain a hearing, however, are seemingly unattainable by Defendant. He does not have access to any of the materials concerning the FISA application or surveillance; all he has is notice that the government plans to use this evidence against him.

Nevertheless, to challenge the veracity of the FISA application, Defendant must offer substantial proof that the FISC relied on an intentional or reckless misrepresentation by the government to grant the FISA order. The quest to satisfy the Franks requirements might feel like a wild-goose chase, as Defendant lacks access to the materials that would provide this proof. This perceived practical impossibility to obtain a hearing,however, does not constitute a legal impossibility. If Defendant obtains substantial proof that the FISC relied upon an intentional or recklessly false statement to approve the FISA order, he could obtain a hearing.

The Judge also upheld the Ashcroft-induced change to the Patriot Act which tore down the wall between criminal investigative agencies and intelligence agencies by allowing FISA wiretaps where intelligence gathering was only "a significant purpose" of the surveillance. Until then, FISA surveillance applications had to state that "the purpose of the surveillance is to obtain foreign intelligence information. ” The change allowed intelligence officials to share information with those in the DOJ criminal division, bypassing the protections of the 4th Amendment and Title III.

After an in camera review of the documents (which the defense doesn't get to see) he writes, citing other courts:

[T]he Court finds that a “significant purpose” of the FISA surveillance was to gather foreign intelligence information. This “measurable foreign intelligence purpose” complies with the requirements of 50 U.S.C. § 1804(a)(7)(B).

How are "significant" and "measurable" the same? That test would work if the Act were changed to say "a purpose" instead of "a significant purpose" but the use of the word "significant" shouldn't be stripped of all meaning by allowing "a measurable" purpose to suffice. (To make an analogy, a defendant might be caught with a quarter gram of cocaine, a measurable amount. That doesn't make him a significant drug user, and the amount has no significance to drug trafficking. )

Defendant does not cite any persuasive authority, however, which holds that Title III precludes the government from seeking to obtain criminal investigation or prosecution evidence through a FISA order. FISA and Title III can and do co-exist.

Sure, they can co-exist, but the question is whether FISA is being used to co-opt Title III and avoid its stringent requirements in criminal investigations, by claiming a bare-bones intelligence purpose that the defense doesn't get a meaningful opportunity to challenge because it doesn't get to review the documents. The wall was a good thing.

At trial, a lot of the sealed material will have to come out. Now that Rana has lost a critical motion, and will not be given the opportunity to challenge the factual basis for the FISA surveillance, I wonder if he'll be inclined to accept a deal. It's in the feds interest to avoid a trial if they want to keep everything under wraps and stay out of the fight between India and Pakistan as to whether Pakistani military or intelligence officials were involved in the Mumbai bombings.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Seems the only way... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Dadler on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 04:19:54 PM EST
    ...to make anyone accountable these days is, well, hmm, wait, lemme think.

    Is the wretched business we are involved in worth it? Plain and simple. What if we were no longer a global military empire and all those phucked up countries were simply left to phuck themselves up more or less or do whatever they did?  Yes, Pakistan has nukes, but is our meddling violent presence really lessening the chances that those nukes will be protected? Seems the significant chunks of the Pakistani gov't and military, those with their fingers on the buttons and deep connections to AQ, are just about the least trustworthy agents we could be gaming, they seem like the ones who hate us the most. So why even try to game them more?

    Just bring it on home. For good.

    Pres. Obama's goodwill trip to India (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 04:57:10 PM EST
    is in vain if he protects anyone even remotely connected to the Mumbai attacks.

    excellent post, TL (none / 0) (#3)
    by Peter G on Sun Nov 14, 2010 at 08:28:59 PM EST
    ... not only on the international politics of anti-terrorism, but also very fine explanation of some difficult procedural issues in the U.S. criminal case.

    Law & Order - Terrorism Edition (none / 0) (#4)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 12:18:12 PM EST
    Interesting and mind boggling how the US seems to be involved in any serious drug/terrorism related calamity.  It's almost Stalin like, the paranoia we have when it comes to 'intelligence' which always ends up with us in bed with the very people we are suppose to be pursuing.  You know, the bad guys.

    There is always someone out there making decisions that IMO are highly immoral for the greater good in my name which seem to backfire often and with great velocity.

    So here we sit in the middle of a nuke strapped country who harbors terrorists, and an fairly strong ally who's population was terrorized by the other country.  The same country that knowingly harbors the people responsible for a lot of US deaths.

    It's a lose/lose situation, always has been, always will be, and I just wish we would stop with the meddling for whatever Nationalistic reason and just let these clowns continue another century of hatred towards each other.

    It would be a hell of a lot harder to hate Americans if they stayed on their side of the hemisphere.  No one declaring jihad on Canada or Mexico, not a coincidence.