Terrorist David Headley undercover agent for America? Guilty plea on all 12 counts


Chicago: David Coleman Headley, the US citizen of Pakistani origin accused of scouting the Mumbai attack targets, on March 19 pleaded guilty to all 12 counts he had been charged with.
In return for co-operating and testifying against co-defendant Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Chicago businessman of Pakistani descent, the US justice department agreed as expected not to seek the death penalty for Headley. The department would in any case have found it difficult to get such a sentence from the court.
During the 30-minute hearing, the prosecution said Headley would not be extradited to either India or Pakistan. If convicted, Headley faces imprisonment for life.
Headley claimed, that co-accused Tahawwur Hussain Rana too was involved in the conspiracy. Contrary to Rana claims of not being aware of the conspiracy, Headley, in his plea agreement, has said he not only told the former about his Lashkar-e-Taiba membership but operation details of the audacious attack.
Meanwhile, India wants access to David Headley’s wife in the US, sources have told PTI.
The reports come hours before Headley appears in a US court.
In December, Headley said he was innocent when he was formally accused of playing a key role in 26/11 on behalf of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).
Headley’s revised stand doesn’t surprise some who say it’s in keeping with reports that Headley started out as an undercover agent for America.
Sources say Headley, also known as Dawood Gilani on his Pakistani passport, has been cooperating with American authorities all along, providing them with information about 26/11 and the planned attack on the Danish newspaper that printed the infamous cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.
Many in America (and outside) question whether Headley’s cooperation stems from the fact that he started operating in the sub-continent as an American agent, working for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Has the US decided to let Headley off lightly, in return for information that could well be the key to unraveling other terror networks? Or are they simply protecting one of their own?
The 12 charges against the 47-year-old which range from bombing targets in India to aiding and abetting murders of US citizens could result in a death penalty, but the new deal struck means it’s unlikely that prosecutors will seek capital punishment.
So will Headley’s lighter punishment be a reward for information that could help unravel some of the world’s biggest networks, or are American intelligence officials simply protecting one of their own?
For India, the concern remains whether it will get to question Headley. America has already described India’s request for Headley’s extradition as “too premature.”
Given that Headley made 9 trips to India between 2006 and 2009, and surveyed landmarks that have already been attacked, it’s critical for Indian intelligence officials to get access to him. But “he is a US citizen and unless he waives his rights to be interrogated by a foreign government the US constitution is prohibited from offering him to the Government of India. So we have done the next best thing. Everything that you want to know we are prepared to ask him, and everything that he tells us we are sharing with you,” says Ashley J. Tellis, Foreign Policy Expert, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Government sources say that irrespective of Headley’s plea deal, India’s request for his extradition stands. The government will eventually file a charge sheet against him for his role in 26/11 and other terror-related activities, but the details are still being reviewed.
But if Headley does win a lesser sentence, India’s suspicion of him being a double-agent will be confirmed.
Making a plea deal is not new to Headley. When arrested on drug trafficking charges in the past, he provided so much information about his Pakistani suppliers, that he was sentenced to less than two years in jail. Prosecutors have declined to comment on what deal has been negotiated this time round.

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