US's duplicity

Fresh information that has become public about US double agent David Coleman Headley’s role in terrorist action directed at India is a damning indictment of the conduct of US anti-terrorist organisations. It has now been revealed that Headley’s suspicious activities had been brought to the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by his two wives much before the 26/11 attack in Mumbai. One of his wives had told the FBI three years before the attack that he was an active militant with links to the Lashkar-e-Toiba and had received training in Pakistan. Evidence, including cassettes and other material of his activities, were also presented. Another wife had told the FBI of his activities and even shown the agency’s officials of his pictures in the Taj Mahal hotel which he visited for reconnaissance and to prepare the ground for the attack. This was one year before the attack.

If the US agency had taken the warnings seriously, the attack might not have even taken place. Instead, it dismissed the information and refused to alert India about the conspiracy which was taking shape then. The US State Department says that there were no specific details about the timing of the attack or details which could be passed on to India. The time of the attack may not have been finalised at that time but what prevented the US agency from alerting India on the plan and the man who was involved in it? The FBI even refused to consider the details provided by the women and almost told one of them not to approach them in future with her concerns.

It is now known that Headley was a double agent who was also working for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, and that may have made the FBI protect him and show leniency to him. It was after much diplomatic pressure that the US even gave access for Indian officials to Headley and allowed them to question him after he was held for his activities. Therefore there is reason to presume that the reports about him were deliberately ignored because he might still have been of use to the US. That casts serious doubts on the quality of US intelligence co-operation with India and the sincerity of US officials in practising such co-operation. If the warnings were ignored for any other reason, that also raises questions about the efficiency of the US counter-terrorism machinery.

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