David Coleman Headley, who has pleaded guilty to his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, went for training with the Lashkar-e-Taiba while he was still working as an informant for the United States government’s Drug Enforcement Administration.
Testifying before a Chicago court during the recently concluded trial of co-accused Tahawwur Rana, Headley admitted that he was still working with the DEA when he first attended an LeT meeting in 1999.
“Yes,” Headley answered, when the defence attorney for Rana asked: “1999 [the year when Headley visited Pakistan for Lashkar meeting]. But you were still working with the DEA when you went into the first Lashkar meeting [in 1999], where you made a donation, correct?”
“Did you report to the DEA that you had gone to Lashkar meetings?” Headley was asked. He replied in the negative.
“When you say working for the DEA, I was signed, because I would sign up for periods of time. So I was working for them, but not on any case at that time. I was signed up with them at that time,” Headley clarified.
Responding to the questions from the defence attorney, Headley said that even though he was not assigned any particular task by the DEA, he was in contact with it and was under obligation to inform it if he came to know something of interest to the agency.
Headley told the court that he started attending LeT meetings regularly from 2000 and that Kashmir was the prime motivation for him to join this Pakistan-based terrorist outfit. He said he started going for LeT training soon after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.
He said he went for religious training in 2002, a three-month training in operational military in 2003, and an LeT leadership course in 2004. “I did the basic — the religious course in the beginning; I did a preliminary course, a military. And then I did the advanced course. Then I did the intelligence course. Then I did the anti-terrorist course. Then, I did the leadership course. And that’s it,” Headley said. All these courses, he said, were directed towards fighting in Kashmir.
He also conceded that he was called in by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for questioning after there was a complaint against him. During the questioning, he was confronted about his anti-American statements and his wish to fight ‘jihad’ in Kashmir.
Headley said he told the FBI that he was working for the U.S. government, trying to infiltrate mosques, etc. “I had visited, on the instruction of a DEA agent, one mosque, and I told him so,” he told the court.
“So you covered those statements by saying, I am working for the U.S.; I am going into mosques working for you. Correct?” the defence attorney asked. “Yes,” Headley said, adding he stopped working for the DEA in September, 2001. Hindu