More on David Headley and the DEA

For the past year, I've been writing about the sweetheart deal back in 1998 the DEA and DOJ gave David Headley, aka Daood Gilani, who this year pleaded guilty in federal court in Chicago to his involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks. (McClatchy has as well.) It's good to see more of the mainstream media now following this aspect of the story. Three weeks ago Pro Publica and the Washington Post obtained some new details, mostly about an ex-wife of Headley's who had reported in 2005 after their break-up that Headley had terrorist leanings.

The New York Times today breaks more new ground , having obtained the transcript of his Nov. 16, 2001 hearing for early termination of supervised release. My favorite paragraph is the one describing what happened at the hearing, which took place one month after the first of three of Headley's ex-girlfriends/wives reported she suspected he had terrorist leanings: [More...]

The transcript... shows the government took great pains not to identify which agency was handling Mr. Headley, or whether he worked for more than one....

....According to the transcript, it was a rushed affair. The probation officer apologized for not being properly dressed, and the lawyers explained that they had not been able to make their case in writing. Mr. Headley was a potential gold mine, according to an official knowledgeable about the agreement to release him from probation. ...And it was clear from the conversations about him that the government was considering assignments that went beyond drugs.”

I previously posted the court's docket entries, including these:

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. ( Signed by Judge Carol B. Amon , on 7/16/99) (Jean (Entered: 07/20/1999)

11/16/2001 CALENDAR ENTRY as to Daood Saleem Gilani ; Case called before Judge Carol B. Amon on 11/16/01 for Status Conf. ESR: Loan Hong. AUSA: Michael Beys; Howard Leader, Esq. for the Deft. Joint application for termination of Supervised Release granted. (Permaul, Jenny) (Entered: 11/20/2001) (my emphasis)

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. (Entered: 12/27/2001)

All this for a guy who, while he cooperated with the DEA in 1997, was not a convincing witness for them in 1998 (the defendant he testified against, Ikram Haq, was acquitted.) On a guilty plea to a ten year mandatory minimum drug count, Headley got 15 months. After his release from a federal prison camp in 1999, the Government sends him to Pakistan. And then seeks his early termination from supervised release in a rush-rush proceeding at the end of 2001.

How to get the straight story? It's not easy. But here are some places to start and people to talk to (other than government officials now trying to cover their behinds and keep the egg of their faces). There's something odd in the Headley's original presentence report in the 1997-98 heroin case. (The report is not publicly available, so I haven't seen it, but the docket entries are.) It's not often that the Government agrees to give defense counsel portions of a cooperator's sealed probation report on grounds it contains information that could impeach the informant. Usually, the defense has to fight like like cats and dogs to get it. But, as I explained in my earlier post, that's what happened with Headley. From Ikram Haq's case:

07/28/1998 LETTER dated 7/28/98 from AUSA Eric A. Tirschwell to Sam A. Schmidt, Esq. that I am attaching two excerpts from Mr. Gilani's presentence report which Judge Amon today authorized to be released pursuant to Giglio v. United States. (Entered: 07/29/1998)

In other words, since Headley was a witness against Haq, the Government was obligated to turn over Brady and Giglio material. Brady is exculpatory information and Giglio is impeaching information. So something in Headley's report was impeaching as to his credibility, and had to be turned over to the defense. I wonder what.

Next, maybe the New York Times could send a reporter to FCI Schuykill to interview Maroof Ahmed. Maroof was Haq's co-defendant in the Brooklyn case in which Headley testified against Haq. Maroof pleaded guilty before trial because he had picked up a new case in New York's Southern District with his brother Shahzad, involving a million dollars of heroin from Pakistan. I would think if Ikram Haq knew Headley well enough that Headley was a witness against him, Maroof may have as well. Maroof got 87 months. Maybe he'd be willing to talk to a reporter. (Maroof's brother Shahzad went to trial in the new case. He was convicted and is serving a 262 month sentence. (Since Headley was not a witness in Shahzad's Southern District trial, there's no indication Shahzad would know anything about Headley, so there's probably no reason to talk to him.)

Or maybe the Times could track down James Leslie Lewis, Headley's co-defendant in his 1997 case, who ended up getting 100 months and has been released from prison. (He and Headley plead to the same thing. Headley got 15 months, Lewis got 120 months, later reduced to 100 months.) Or get Eric Tirschwell, Haq's prosecutor who turned over the impeaching information from Headley's presentence report, to talk off the record, if that's allowed. (Tirschwell, as I mentioned in my earlier post, is now a New York defense lawyer who has since represented both one of the freed Uigur Guantanamo inmates and Berie Kerik.)

Back to Headley: So Headley gets off supervised release in 2001, and here's the timeline according to the DOJ press release of his indictment, to which he has since pleaded guilty:

In 2002 and 2003, Headley allegedly attended terrorism training camps in Pakistan maintained by Lashkar, and conspired with its members and others, including Rana, Kashmiri and Abdur Rehman, in planning and executing the attacks in Denmark and India. He allegedly conducted extensive surveillance of targets in Mumbai for more than two years preceding the November 2008 attacks that killed approximately 164 people and left hundreds more injured.

The CIA says Headley didn't work for them. So it seems like the ones with the most explaining to do about the embrace of Headley are the DEA and Justice Department, who sent him to Pakistan in 1999, and apparently sent him to infiltrate LeT in 2002, and unbeknownst to them, within months he is working with LeT instead of against them. For how many years were they fooled?

Of course that's assuming the CIA is being truthful, which may be a lot to assume since it seems a bit odd that the DEA would send an informant to infiltrate a group like LeT, whose primary focus in 2001 was terrorism rather than drugs. On the other hand, as Forbes reported, DEA has been recently been trying to connect al Qaeda and LeT to the heroin trade, so maybe their efforts did start that early.

Dawood Ibrahim is one of the world's most infamous gangsters, operating a 5,000-member criminal syndicate that engages in everything from narcotics to contract killing, working mostly in Pakistan, India and the United Arab Emirates. Ibrahim shares smuggling routes with al Qaeda, says the U.S. government, and has collaborated with both al Qaeda and its South Asian affiliate, Lashkar-e-Taiba, which pulled off the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, possibly with Ibrahim's help.

And, there is the DEA's focus on al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which I dubbed their African vacation but others, like Forbes, take more seriously.

As I wrote in David Headley: Double Agent?, there is much suspicion, especially in India, that Headley was sent to Pakistan to infiltrate Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and ended up either working both sides or quickly switching sides. The Telegraph had a good recap about how it was British intelligence that alerted the U.S. to Headley's potential involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

Headley's half brother is Danyel Gilani, the Public Relations Officer to Pakistan's Prime Minister. In a statement, he disclaimed any knowledge of Headley's activities.

Seeking to de-emphasize the connection, the PRO said, “Being much younger to Daood, I have heard that he studied at the Hasan Abdal Cadet College for sometime and in the mid-1970s shifted to America to live with his mother. Since then, the family here only had occasional links with him. In fact, because of his involvement with issues related to drugs my father wanted the rest of the family to stay away from his influence.”

Headley, in an effort to avoid the death penalty, has been cooperating since shortly after his arrest and has pleaded guilty to the 12 counts against him, including:

...six counts of conspiracy involving bombing public places in India, murdering and maiming persons in India and Denmark, providing material support to foreign terrorist plots, and providing material support to Lashkar, and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. citizens in India.

According to DOJ's press release on his guilty plea:

Headley attended the following training camps operated by Lashkar: a three-week course starting in February 2002 that provided indoctrination on the merits of waging jihad; a three-week course starting in August 2002 that provided training in the use of weapons and grenades; a three-month course starting in April 2003 that taught close combat tactics, the use of weapons and grenades, and survival skills; a three-week course starting in August 2003 that taught counter-surveillance skills; and a three-month course starting in December 2003 that provided combat and tactical training.

And DOJ doesn't miss a beat. It lists Headley as one of its great successes in the war on terror.

David Headley, arrested in 2009 and charged in connection with a plot to bomb a Danish newspaper and his alleged role in the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, has provided extremely valuable intelligence regarding those attacks, the terrorist organization Lashkar y Tayyiba, and Pakistan-based terrorist leaders.

Too bad for Mumbai the DEA and/or whatever other agency thought he was working for them were so slow to figure it out.

Bottom line: Headley is a good example of why the DEA should stay out of foreign affairs under the guise of "narco-terrorism."

All of TalkLeft's David Headley coverage is accessible here.

Update: In rereading another of my posts about Headley, I see another interesting factoid. Headley was busted years before his 1997 arrest and was a heroin addict at the time.

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  • Display: Sort:
    His participation is the very reason... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Yes2Truth on Mon Nov 08, 2010 at 08:59:18 AM EST

    why he got such a sweetheart deal.

    "For the past year, I've been writing about the sweetheart deal back in 1998 the DEA and DOJ gave David Headley, aka Daood Gilani, who this year pleaded guilty in federal court in Chicago to his involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks."


    I assume... (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Mon Nov 08, 2010 at 09:40:13 AM EST
    the aiding and abetting terrorism charges against the DEA agents involved are forthcoming (sh*t every American taxpayer could be indicted for same)....and their acronym will be added to the list of known terrorist organizations.

    Fair is fair, equality under the law.