Federal Bureau of Investigation detectives disregarded multiple warnings that the Pakistani-American jihadist David Headley was working with the Lashkar-e-Taiba – two of which came from his own wives.
The FBI, intelligence sources have told The Hindu, instead chose to believe Headley’s claims that he had only made contact with the jihadist group to further his work as a counter-narcotics informant.
FBI officials, the sources said, were long aware of Headley’s links with jihadists in Pakistan’s north-west, and even interviewed him for information in the weeks after 9/11.
But they believed Headley was working for the United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency, which he developed a relationship with, after being arrested in 1988 for smuggling heroin from Pakistan.
In 1997 Headley was arrested by the DEA again, and this time secured his freedom by becoming a key informant. In a 1998 letter, prosecutors said he “helped the DEA infiltrate the very close-knit Pakistani narcotics dealing community in New York.”
He was still on probation when he travelled to Pakistan in 1999 for his arranged marriage with Lahore resident Shazia Geelani – setting off events which would lead to his second brush with the FBI.
Following a domestic violence incident in 2005, Ms. Geelani – with whom Headley has four children, Haider, Osama, Sumya and Hafsa – said her husband had trained with the Lashkar-e-Taiba. She told authorities that he often bragged of successfully deceiving the FBI.
Headley was briefly detained by police in New York on domestic violence charges, but not prosecuted. FBI detectives looked into Ms. Geelani’s allegations, but decided no action was needed.
Later, in 2006, Headley ran into fresh trouble with police – and this time ended up spending eight days in custody at Lahore’s Race Course police station. The arrest, a credible Pakistani media source told The Hindu, was made after a Lahore-based Moroccan medical student complained that Headley had reneged on a promise to marry her. Extra-marital sexual relations are a crime in Pakistan.
Bailed out by Ms. Geelani’s father Javed Ahmed, Headley married Ms. Outhalla weeks later – though his first wife was never informed of their relationship.
In April 2007, Ms. Outhalla accompanied Headley to Mumbai. Less than a month later, Headley enjoyed a holiday in Dubai with Ms. Geelani.
Later though when Ms. Outhalla discovered that Headley was already married, she visited the U.S. embassy in Islamabad and informed them of his links to jihadists. “Indirectly,” she told The New York Times last year, “they told me to get lost.”
The United Kingdom’s domestic intelligence service, MI5, finally sparked off action against Headley when it reported to the FBI that he had made contact with two jihadist suspects in the town of Derby. Hindu