Shock at Chicago Man Charged in Mumbai Attacks

David Coleman Headley is said to have worked with Pakistani terrorists in planning the deaths of 170

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David Coleman Headley (born Daood Sayed Gilani), an American from Chicago and son of a former Pakistani diplomat, was arrested two months ago for his alleged role in planning attacks on a Danish newspaper. But today the Department of Justice has charged Headley with direct involvement in planning the deadly Nov. 26, 2008, terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. The DoJ press release implicates him in surveying Mumbai targets and working extensively with Lakshar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani terrorist group responsible for the attacks' 170 deaths. He is charged with material support of terrorism as well as conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country. Officials say he could receive the death sentence.

  • A New Kind of Terrorism The Jawa Report's Rusty Shackleford worries. "Up until now we have only seen cases of individual Americans joining terror groups (eg, al Shabaab in Somalia, al Qaeda in Afghanistan) abroad. Americans have also been involved in planning failed terror plots at home. But Headley would be the first case of an American actually involved in the planning of a major terror attack abroad. Think about that. An American involved in international terrorism abroad. That's a big deal and a far cry from our template of what the usual suspects would look like," he writes. "The importance of this being that radical Islamists are now using their American passports to bypass suspicion that would normally be put on them if traveling under, say, a Pakistani passport. They are using their American citizenship to plot and execute terrorist plots abroad."
  • Pressure Against Pakistan The Times of India hopes this will be leverage against the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, the state intelligence agency suspected of being soft on or even encouraging anti-Indian terrorism. "This raises hopes for India's effort to get to the bottom of the conspiracy against Mumbai and press Pakistan to act against the masterminds -- including those who have not been detained. Significantly, the FBI has also formally charged a retired Major of the Pakistan army, Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, for the plot against a Danish newspaper that Headley wanted to attack for the publication of cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. Indian officials familiar with the investigation said the Pakistani army officer was closely linked to the ISI."
  • Bargain For Cooperation? Talk Left's Jeralyn speculates, "Six Americans died in the Mumbai attacks. It sounds to me like the U.S. has agreed not to charge him with the death penalty in exchange for his cooperation."
  • Give India Access Indian journalist Barkha Dutt insists that India must be allowed a role in the investigation. "smell a rat in the headley case?. A lot will depend on whether the US gives India access to headley. Or else charging him with 26/11 futile." But Indian Twitter user Naveenks responds, "India's access to Headley will depend on how much US wants India to know about Pakistan's involvement in terror against India."
  • Who Is David Headley? A November profile of Headley by The New York Times's Ginger Thompson explores his strange life. "The trip from a strict Pakistani boarding school to a bohemian bar in Philadelphia has defined David Headley's life [...] Raised by his father in Pakistan as a devout Muslim, Mr. Headley arrived back here at 17 to live with his American mother, a former socialite who ran a bar called the Khyber Pass."
Today, Mr. Headley is an Islamic fundamentalist who once liked to get high. He has a traditional Pakistani wife, who lives with their children in Chicago, but also an American girlfriend -- a makeup artist in New York -- according to a relative and friends. Depending on the setting, he alternates between the name he adopted in the United States, David Headley, and the Urdu one he was given at birth, Daood Gilani. Even his eyes -- one brown, the other green -- hint at roots in two places. [...]

"Most people have contradictions in their lives, but they learn to reconcile them," said William Headley, an uncle who owns a day care center in Nottingham, Pa. "But Daood could never do that. The left side does not speak to the right side. And that's the problem." [...]

In 1998, Mr. Gilani, then 38, was convicted of conspiring to smuggle heroin into the country from Pakistan. Court records show that after his arrest, he provided so much information about his own involvement with drug trafficking, which stretched back more than a decade, and about his Pakistani suppliers, that he was sentenced to less than two years in jail and later went to Pakistan to conduct undercover surveillance operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.