How Did David Headley Outwit the DEA?

When the Chicago terror case against Daood Gilani, aka David Coleman Headley and Tawawwur Hussein Rana first came to light, the most striking fact was that Headley had two prior heroin convictions and bargained his way out of heavy time for both by cooperating for the DEA. After 13 years of on and off again cooperation, he wasn't a newbie at the cooperation game, and he was well known to his handlers. Yet the DEA dropped the ball on Headley big time. And no heads have rolled.

In 1988 Gilani/Headley was busted at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, when a customs officer asked to check his belongings. Finding 2 kilos of heroin inside, he called for a D.E.A. agent stationed nearby and who arrived at the scene? Derek Maltz. Maltz, who has since been promoted to head of DEA Special Operations, is 48 now. (He still crows after every big bust, but he's been focused more on Mexico and South America lately, it seems. Here's a You Tube video of him a few months ago, pleased as punch with his new perps. Or read this description of one of his many talks.

He's been with the agency 25 years (his father also spent his career in drug enforcement). He would have been 25 when he was stationed in Frakfurt and made Headley's bust. Within two days (probably on the flight home) Headley agreed to cooperate. Two days later, he was back home at his apartment in Philly, all wired up for his first snare. [More...]

The two unwitting dupes he snared that day were Richard Roundtree and Darryl "Tarik" Scoggins. Headley got a 4 year sentence, and when he came out in 1992, it wasn't for long. He had a heroin addiction (probably picked up years earlier) was sent for treatment in 1994, and then back to jail for 6 months in 1995.

In 1997, he got caught again with kilos of heroin, and got an even sweeter deal. (The court docket is here.)Although detained without bond since February, 1997 when he was arrested, by May, 1997, he had agreed to cooperate, and the Government agreed to release him on bail pending sentencing in September -- so he'd be free to make new cases for the DEA.

This time he worked for the DEA in New York,where he set up Ikram Haq and Maroof Ahmed (details here.) Before trial, Maroof picked up a case in the Southern District. so he wasn't tried with Ikram. Gilani/Headley was the star witness against Haq at trial. It was a he said/he said case. The jury believed Haq and acquitted him. Not a good thing for an informant's resume. He also set up a guy named Zaheer Barbar, who had flown off to Pakistan to bring back 1 kilo. Barbar pleaded guilty.

By September, 1998, he had done enough busts to earn, according to the DEA and prosecutor, a sentence reduction from 10 years down to 15 months. The agents told the judge that in addition to the busts, Gilani/Headley had helped translate hours of tape-recorded telephone intercepts, and coached drug agency investigators on how to question Pakistani suspects. He shuttled off to Fort Dix to serve his time in Dec. 1998. With credit for time he served in pre-tial detention, he had about 7 months to serve. He was out by July, 1999, and placed on 5 years supervised release. As soon as he got out of Fort Dix, his lawyers asked for permission for him to go to Pakistan for five weeks in August. The Government didn't object and the Court granted the request.

He returned, and two years into his supervised release, in November, 2001, two months after 9/11, Gilani/Headley and the Government make a joint applicaton to terminate his supervised release three years early. The DEA told the judge they considered him "reliable and forthcoming" and they wanted him to go to Pakistan to develop intelligence on Pakistani drug traffickers. According to the probation officer, it was a rushed affair. He had to apologize for not being in court attire, and the prosecutors apologized for not having enough time to put the motion in writng. The Court granted it. One thing that was clear from the hearing, was the DEA had more than drug cases in mind for Headley.

Headley left for Pakistan in December, 2001. So he had a working agreement with the DEA in 2001 when he went off to Pakistan. Coincidentally (or not) this was the same month the Government designated LeT a terror organization. By February, 2002,Gilani/Headley was enrolled in his first LeT training program.

When Headley was debriefed by the Indian Authorities in Chicago, he told them,

It was in 2001 that I decided to join the LeT and fight for the cause of jihad. Since my video business was not doing well, I rented it out and moved to Pakistan where my thoughts on jihad and Salafi Islam got strength.

So he knew before he left for Pakistan he was going to join LeT. The clueless DEA had no idea, they signed him up as an informant thinking he was working just for them. Plenty of egg to go around all the faces of the DEA who were involved with this genius move.

In Feb.2002, he undertook Daura-e-Sufa training of three weeks in Muridke. In August, 2002, he attended LeT’s Daura-e-Aam training in Muzaffarabad. In April, 2003, In April 2003 he attended the three month long Daura-e-Khas at Muzaffarabad. in September, 2003 , he took unarmed close quarter combat training with the LeT. It was at the September training that he met LeT commander-in-chief Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. Where was the DEA? Still clueless, apparently. They were probably feeding him information and money which he fed right back to LeT.

The DEA has given conflicting answers on when he stopped working for them, but there are many news reports that a copy of his cooperation agreement is expected to be introduced at Rana's trial. The DEA and FBI have joint terrorism/drug task forces, so he was probably working for both. Was he still working for them in 2006 when he decided to change his name to David Headley?

The main question is why did the DEA sign up a heroin addict with two strikes to work for them in Pakistan? Why didn't they send a handler with him? Why didn't they keep tabs on him? How did they not realize he had switched sides or was playing both sides? They didn't have a clue until the British told them. More egg, please.

If the DEA hadn't agreed to terminate his supervised release in 2001, Gilani/Headley would have been stuck here until 2003. He wouldn't have had the benefit of a DEA cover to allow him to travel around the world joining terror groups. So who is responsible for creating David Headley the terrorist? In my view, it's the D.E.A. And what happened to the young DEA Agent Derek Maltz? Despite the fiasco of Gilani/Headley, he got promoted, to where he's now in charge of DEA Special Operations Division in Virginia, and in the news every week touting the agency's latest and greatest huge international bust and the importance of information sharing among law enforcement.

Headley's got a lot of explaining to do on cross-examination. I think Rana's team will be up to the task. I hope the judge doesn't cut them off at the knees, kow-towing the to prosection's stated intention of keeping the Pakistani government and ISI in particular. out of the trial.

As to what exactly Rana is alleged to have done, it's very simple. Headley changed his name and used Rana's immigration business as a cover and to get new documents so he could go scouting in India. Headley told him he was doing missions for the ISI. Rana, a former Pakistani Army doctor, thought by helping Headley, he was helping the ISI. The Judge won't allow that at trial either, but he can say he was duped by Headley.

Rana faces up to life in prison if convicted. And while he's the one on trial this week, make no mistake: All eyes will be on the Government's star witness, Daood Gilani, aka David Headley.

All of our coverage on the case is available here.

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    In this one sentence (none / 0) (#2)
    by scribe on Mon May 16, 2011 at 06:04:25 AM EST
    So he knew before he left for Pakistan he was going to join LeT.

    There's a wealth of cross-examination material.

    Starting with how and from whom did he find out something called LeT existed?

    And it goes on from there.

    Wow... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Mon May 16, 2011 at 11:13:26 AM EST
    so, in theory at least, the DEA aided a terrorist plot and could be officially designated a terrorist organization?  And every American taxpayer could be charged for financial support of same?

    If equality under the law existed of course, and/or incompetence was treated the same as ignorance of the law.