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Headley is a quadruple agent

December 16, 2009 12:57 IST
In my column of November 13, 2009, I had extracted references to India from the affidavits filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Chicago court. Some of the other significant extracts are reproduced below:

On July 3, 2009, Lashkar-e-Tayiba Member A sent Headley an email saying, 'I need to see you for some new investment plans.'

On July 8, 2009, Headley sent Member A an email which stated, in part: 'What do you want me to do? Where are you interested in making investments?'

In another email on July 8, 2009, Headley told Member A, 'I think when we get a chance we should revisit our last location again and say hi to Rahul.' Following his arrest, Headley acknowledged that, in this email, 'Rahul' refers to a prominent Indian actor with the first name 'Rahul'. 

Member A replied to the above email on July 8, 2009, and told Headley in an email that 'to see Rahul is a good idea coz have some work for you over there too. Matters are good enough to move forward....'

On July 9, 2009, Headley responded: 'When you say 'move forward' do you mean in the North direction or towards Rahul? Also in the future if we need to meet to discuss anything, do I have to come all the way over there or can we meet somewhere in the middle like Africa or Middle East?'

The same day, Member A responded, 'I mean towards Rahul.'

On July 10, 2009, Headley sent an email to Member A in which he stated: 'I would like to know a few things if you can tell me:1) What is the status with the Northern project, is it still postponed indefinitely? 2) The visit to Rahul's place, is it for checking out real estate property like before, or something different and if so tell me what you can please. Also is it exactly in Rahul's city or different one? 3) How long do you think I will need to stay at Rahul's place to complete this task? 4) Will I have to stay there continuously for a while, or back and forth like before?'

'Based on my (the FBI agent's) review of this and other communications, I believe that Headley had inquired of Lashkar-e-Tayiba Member A whether the Denmark project was on hold, and whether the visit to India that Member A had asked him to undertake was for the purpose of surveillancing targets for a new terrorist attack.'  

Later on July 10, 2009, Lashkar-e-Tayiba Member A responded to Headley's email, stating, in part: 'There are some investment plans with me, not exactly at Rahul's city but near that. Rest we can decide when meet according to your ease.'

In an email to Member A on July 16, 2009, Headley stated, in part: 'One very important thing I need to know please is that how long do you need me for, meaning how long should it take me to finish my work, in your opinion. And is it really urgent? Before it seemed that the Northern Project was really urgent.' 

After Member A responded on July 18, 2009, that 'it may take somewhere between 2 to 4 weeks,' Headley replied on July 19, 2009, that 'I think I can manage it,' and that he would be available in October. He closed his email by asking, 'Is the Northern Investment definitely postponed for now?'

Lashkar-e-Tayiba Member A and Headley continued to exchange emails through late August 2009, when Headley told the former that he 'will be there end of next month.' 

'I (the FBI agent) understand these emails to reflect that beginning in July 2009, Lashkar-e-Tayiba Member A was placing a higher priority on using Headley to assist in planning a new attack in India than on completing the planned attack in Denmark.'

By studying these extracts submitted by the FBI along with other documents submitted to the court and US media reports about Headley's links with the Drug Enforcement Administration, one can make the following assessment:

1. Headley was not a double agent, but a quadruple agent. He initially started working for the DEA around 1998. Even if one presumes that initially the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency were not aware of this, they should have become aware of this by 2004 when the National Counter-Terrorism Centre with a common charter and a common database was set up by the Bush administration under the newly-created post of Director National Intelligence.

2. He started working for the Lashkar-e-Tayiba some time in 2005. It is not clear whether he joined the LeT at his own instance or at the instance of the FBI or the CIA or both in order to penetrate it. He was already visiting Pakistan at the instance of the DEA since 1998. Since 2006, he started visiting India too. The DEA and the FBI would have been aware of his visits since every time a conscious agent of an agency travels abroad his passport is scrutinised by the controlling agency on his return. This is a security precaution followed by all intelligence agencies.

3. He started working for the 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri towards the end of 2008 and agreed to visit Copenhagen to collect operational information for a possible terrorist attack. This was probably not at the instance of the FBI, which came to know accidentally of Headley volunteering himself to undertake a task in Copenhagen while monitoring the chat-room of the old students of the Army Cadet School at Hasan Abdal. Both Headley and Rana studied in the school. The FBI put Headley under electronic surveillance after obtaining the orders of a relevant court.

4. While doing electronic surveillance to monitor his involvement in the Northern or Copenhagen or Micky Mouse project for the 313 Brigade, the FBI  came across a series of e-mail intercepts in July and August 2009, which showed that Headley had helped the LeT in preparing for the 26/11 terrorist strikes and had agreed to help the LeT in carrying out another terrorist strike in India for which he was to visit India. The FBI started monitoring the meetings and conversations of Headley and Rana and recorded their conversation of September 7, 2009, in a car which clearly indicated their involvement in the 26/11 terrorist strike.

5. The communications between Headley and his LeT handler intercepted by the FBI in July and August also indicated that he was planning to visit India in October to prepare the ground for another terrorist strike. The FBI had two options -- either allow him to go to India, alert the Indian intelligence and keep him under surveillance, or arrest him before he left for Pakistan and India.

If he had been allowed to go to India, been watched there and arrested by the Indian intelligence, his past contacts with the US agencies and his role in 26/11 would have come to the notice of the Indian authorities. There is no evidence so far to show that till July 2009 the FBI was aware of his active role in 26/11. They were probably only aware of his frequent visits to Pakistan and India on behalf of the DEA's operations. The FBI arrested him when he was about to leave for Pakistan and India on October 3.

6. He was also in touch with serving and retired officers of the Pakistan Army.

7. Headley's case reflects poorly not only on the US agencies, but also on the Indian agencies. The ease with which he and Rana allegedly obtained multiple-entry business visas from Indian consular authorities despite their Pakistani origin and with which they repeatedly visited India without any alarm bell ringing in our airport immigration control shows shockingly lax immigration controls.

Rana was a Canadian citizen living and working in Chicago. Was the clearance of the Indian high commission in Ottawa obtained before issuing him a visa? Did Headley obtain the clearance of the governments of Maharashtra and India before opening an immigration consultancy office in Mumbai? Did he inform the income-tax authorities? Did he obtain an income-tax clearance certificate before leaving India after each stay?

The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:

B Raman