US agencies forewarned about Headley’s terror ties

November 6th, 2010 - 2:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 6 (IANS) US authorities have found at least five cases in which intelligence agencies were warned that David Coleman Headley, a suspect in November 2008 Mumbai attacks, was training or working with Pakistani militants, a media report said Saturday.

According to the Washington Post, a review being conducted for the director of national intelligence (DNI) found that allegations about the Pakistani-American’s extremist ties began as early as 2001 and were more numerous and specific than previously disclosed, officials said.

In the seven years in which leads accumulated, Headley was not questioned or placed on a terror watch list, officials said.

They described to ProPublica, a non-profit organisation based in New York city, the results of internal inquiries being conducted by the FBI, the CIA and other agencies.

In a previously unreported tip just seven months before the Mumbai attacks, one of Headley’s ex-wives told US officials overseas that she suspected he was linked to a 2007 bombing in India that killed 68 people and has been blamed on the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.

She also warned that Headley was on a “special mission”, according to a senior anti-terror official.

Since the Sep 11 attacks, the government has invested billions of dollars in new threat-detection systems. But the Headley case suggests that flawed information-sharing, an overwhelming flow of raw intelligence and a lack of focus on Lashkar kept investigators from identifying the threat posed by an American terrorist, the report said.

“It’s a black eye,” said the anti-terror official. “The problem is the information system. New York didn’t know about Philadelphia. Islamabad didn’t know about Philadelphia or New York.”

The DNI launched a review of the Headley case after ProPublica and the Washington Post reported last month that federal investigators in New York city looked into a 2005 tip from Headley’s wife. The New York Times then reported a tip from another of his wives in Pakistan in 2007.

The review has found four additional warnings — in 2001, 2002, April 2008 and December 2008 — a month after Pakistani gunmen killed 166 people in Mumbai, six of them Americans.

Headley, 50, was not arrested until October 2009. He has pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges and is cooperating, the report said.

DNI spokeswoman Jamie Smith said she could not comment on the findings.

“Reviews of this nature are not uncommon and an important part of improving existing processes,” Smith said.

Federal officials pointed out that the first two tips surfaced after the Sep 11 attacks, when agencies struggled to modernise databases.

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