The ministry of home affairs of the government of India has been less than honest with the public by trying to convey an impression that it will continue to try for the extradition of David Coieman Headley of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), who has been sentenced to 35 years in prison by a Chicago court for his co-operation with the LET of Pakistan and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the planning and execution of the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai and his role in the abandoned plans of the LET to blow up the office of a Danish paper which had published caricatures of the Holy Prophet.
His extradition is legally out of question since as part of the plea bargain entered into with him, the USA’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has made a commitment to him that he will not be extradited to India. Moreover, since he has been convicted by the US court for his role in the 26/11 strikes, the bar of double jeopardy will come in the way of his being tried in India. This prohibits the conviction of a person twice for the same offence.
When the FBI originally informed the court of the plea bargain, I had written that before the plea bargain is accepted by the court, the government of India and the relatives of the victims of the 26/11 strikes should oppose its acceptance since its acceptance would preclude the death sentence and extradition. No action was taken by the Government of India and the relatives. His plea bargain was accepted by the court and he has now been convicted under it.
The MHA must have the honesty to admit that as a result of its bad handling of the case, the extradition door has been closed for ever. But an option of limited utility still remains open. As part of the plea bargain, Headley has made a commitment to the FBI to continue to co-operate with it and with the agencies of other countries having liaison with the FBI in any future investigation. Under this, a team of our National Investigation Agency (NIA) can still visit the US and question Headley in judicial custody in the presence of the FBI. However, it is doubtful whether anything useful would come out of this exercise, but we may still try it to find out about his network in India.
In my reading, the extradition door is still open in the case of Tahawur Hussain Rana, Headley’s Chicago-based accomplice. Intriguingly, the FBI did not consider it necessary to enter into a plea bargain with him. Only one logical explanation is possible for the FBI’s double standards in the case of Headley and Rana. The FBI wanted to protect Headley from independent Indian interrogation because he was an agent of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Rana was apparently not an agent of the Agency. The FBI, therefore, did not feel the need to protect him through a plea bargain.
Moreover, even though there is considerable evidence regarding Rana’s assistance to Headley and his prior knowledge of the Mumbai terrorist strikes, he has been convicted by the Chicago court only for his role in the Copenhagen case and not in the Mumbai case. The bar of double jeopardy may not apply in his case.
From the moment Rana was arrested, I have been pointing out that while extradition may be difficult in the case of Headley, it may not be difficult in the case of Rana and that we should press for it in order to collect details of the Headley-Rana network in India. Again intriguingly, this option has till now not been vigorously pursued by the NIA, which works under the MHA. At least now, we should try for his extradition.
There were definite sins of commission and omission by the FBI which came in the way of the prevention of the 26/11 strikes in Mumbai. Firstly, the FBI was aware that David Coleman Headley had originally an American passport under the name Daood Gilani. Before he started frequently travelling to Pakistan and India, he obtained a new US passport under the name David Coleman Headley. In India, when a person obtains a new passport under a different name, we make an endorsement in his new passport that he previously used to travel with another passport under the name. Many other countries follow this security precaution. Surprisingly, the FBI did not make any such endorsement. As a result, the Indian Consulate in Chicago, which issued a multiple-entry visa to Headley, was not aware that he previously used to travel as Gilani. After the strikes, we became aware of the various travels of Headley to India as Headley. Are we aware of the travels that he might have made to India as Gilani before he changed his name?
Second, the FBI was aware that during his travels to Pakistan for the Drug Enforcement Agency, Headley had also been visiting India and going back to Pakistan. He had even visited India once after the strikes. The FBI did not alert India even once before the strikes. It was apparently afraid that if it informed the Indian agencies, they may detain and question him thereby exposing his being an agent of the Drug Enforcement Agency. It chose to keep quiet.
Third, immediately after the 26/11 strikes, the Hindustan Times had carried a report by Vir Sanghvi, citing an unnamed high-level officer of the R&AW as saying that the CIA had twice alerted the R&AW that the LET was planning a sea-borne terrorist strike in Mumbai and that the R&AW had conveyed the information to the IB. Wherefrom did the CIA get this information, which proved to be correct? Was it from Headley or from one of CIA’s sources in Pakistan or from technical intelligence of the USA’s National Security Agency? No Indian journalist or analyst has gone deeper into this.
There have been serious sins of commission and omission by the Indian intelligence too. The processing of Headley’s case for a multiple-entry visa was handled by the Indian Consulate in Chicago in an unsatisfactory manner.
Headley was frequently coming to India from Pakistan and going back to Pakistan with the help of the multi-entry visa. Not once did our immigration question him about his frequent visits to Pakistan and keep him under surveillance in India. Even after we became aware of his frequent travels to India after the 26/11 terrorist strikes, we have not made thorough enquiries about his network in India.
In 1988, a source of the US Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) had reported that a Palestinian terrorist group was planning to blow up a US flight to Europe around Christmas. The FAA alerted the CIA, the FBI and the US diplomatic missions in Europe, but did not alert the US public of the likely danger of a terrorist strike against a US flight to Europe.
A flight of Pan Am was blown up off Lockerbie in Scotland killing all the passengers. The US media reported about the prior intelligence that was available to the US intelligence agencies which was not shared with the public. Some relatives of the victims took the US Government to court. It was from then that the practice of issuing an advisory about likely terrorist strikes started.
As reported by Vir Sanghvi, the CIA was aware of the LET’s plans for a sea-borne terrorist strike in Mumbai. Yet, the State Department did not issue an advisory to the US citizens intending to travel to India about the dangers of a strike n Mumbai. If it had gone public with the warning, that itself might have acted as a deterrent on the LET.
We still do not have a completely satisfactory reconstruction of the strikes and the roles of Headley and Rana. It is important for the relatives of the Indian, American, Israeli and other foreign victims to take the matter up before courts in India and the US in order to force the two governments to come out with the truth.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary ( retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies
If we get Headely extracted in India where will the stands of Digvijay Singh and ther Seculars like 26/11 RSS ki Sajish or latest the discovery or propaganda of Hindu Terror in India will stand ??
Mr Raman, you had predicted that US would not allow India investigators to question Mr Headley. You were proven 100% wrong. US allowed Indian investigators to question mr Headley, for as long as the Indian investigators wanted, in presence of US investigators. There was no restriction on what questions were allowed and Mr headley's deal required that he co operate fully with all investigators.
You never acknowledged that. US investigators have done more to expose the links between Mr Headley and Pakistan ISI/Army officers. They have been named in court records in Chicago. That is more than what Indian Government has done.
Your anti-US bias prevents you more acknowledging the good work US has done in arresting and prosecuting Mr headley , publicly and giving full access to US investigators to question him.
What the U. S. are worried about is a nuclear explosion or a chemical bomb attack, and they being the cause of it, not only in the U. S., but anywhere. It seems, if there was an attack, of such a nature, happening anywhere, people like Mr. Headley, are bound to inform the authorities. I feel it unfortunate, that this system is perpetuated at all, and Mr. Headley is a U. S. citizen, a Caucasian, who was drawn to what he saw as a religion, Islam, because he must have experienced this interaction with his govt. He must not have told the U. S. govt. about his interaction with the Lashkar e Toiba, and how it would affect the future blasts in Mumbai.
unless Rana was associated with RSS why should NIA pursue him, how does it help the MHA with reelection ?
If Headley had been tried and convicted in India, I don’t think as many details would have come to light. Indian investigations are generally half-hearted and not very competent. They seldom pay attention to details. They lack the skill to trick one defendant to inform on the others. The Indians tend to fill up an enormous number of pages; but as for accuracy and details they would be wanting.
As Raman points out, Indian officials did not even try to oppose the plea agreement that David Headley was trying to negotiate with his US captors. That shows how lazy, incompetent or careless the Indians are. This reminds me of the time when an Italian, Mr Quattrocchi, wanted in connection with the Bofors scandal, was apprehended in a Latin American country on an Interpol warrant, our esteemed CBI did not bother to file the necessary papers to take him into custody. So, the said country had no choice but to release the Italian. Yet, again the CBI made another valiant attempt to apprehend him in East Asia – with the same results. After spending billions of rupees and over 20 years of effort, the CBI finally closed the book on the Bofors scandal.
India takes years to finish a job which the US can do in a matter of months, because of the emphasis on efficiency and accountability in the US system. For example, the 1984 systematic massacre of 3000 Sikhs in greater Delhi is still under investigation as of January 2013; and none of the ringleaders have ever been tried. As things stand, I don’t think any of them will ever face justice, although all of them have been identified in one or the other of four enquiry commission reports issued by the Government of India. The ringleaders identified in the reports are still politically so powerful that the government has not even attempted to build a case against them. As it has already been 28 years since the commission of the crimes, it is unlikely that they ever will be tried. In a few more years they will all be either dead or declared mentally incompetent. Then, the authorities will make a well publicized and strenuous effort to bring the culprits to trial, only to discover they are either dead or mentally incompetent. In either case, they cannot be tried. So, they will close the books on all the cases, and congratulate themselves on a job well done. The only tangible outcome of decades of intensive investigation and legal proceedings into the matter would be a humongous case file running to tens of thousands of pages. And the funny thing is – by the time the case is closed, much of the documentation may not even be very legible because of the poor quality of paper, typing materials, etc. Nevertheless, it would be dubbed in the media as a great investigation.
Fortunately, in the US system trials move quickly and efficiently. Endless adjournments, jurisdictional disputes, litigation regarding bail, etc are unknown. Unlike in the Indian system the US prosecutors will not apprehend the suspect until sufficient evidence has been collected to hold him. Also, US awards serious sentences such as 35 years in jail for Mr Headley. He will not become eligible for parole until he has served a substantial portion,something like 30 years, of his sentence. In the Indian system, on the other hand, long sentences are unknown. The Indian Penal Code does not specify ‘a life sentence without the possibility of parole.’ The so-called life sentence of the Indian code is no more than 14 years, although in theory it can be up to 21 years.
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