Chicago "Justice" To Supporters Of Mumbai Massacre

By J. Millard Burr
Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 @ 5:15AM

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Former US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald told the Chicago court that just half an hour after David Headley was arrested and given his Miranda rights at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, he “fully admitted” his role in the 2008 Mumbai massacre.

Headley was arrested 2009, but it was not until January 2013 that he finally went on trial for serving as an advance scout for Lashkar et-Toiba’s Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008.

U.S. citizen Daood Gilani was born in 1960 to a Pakistani father and American mother. He changed his name to David Headley in 2006 in order to facilitate at least eight visits to India.  The videos that he took while there were said to be essential to the attacks where 166 people, including six Americans, were murdered and hundreds more were wounded.

The judge was prevented from imposing the death penalty because of Headley’s plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Lest anyone wonder why it took so long for the DOJ to make its case, the judge was informed that the terrorist had been cooperating with security agencies in both the United States and India.  Ostensibly, he had helped bring the Mumbai bombers “to justice” while preventing “other terrorist attacks.” There was no doubt as to his guilt, but thanks to the DOJ, Headley escaped with a 35-year prison sentence.

Patrick Fitzgerald, the former U.S. attorney who appeared in court and who served as director of the prosecution claimed that Headley’s decision to turn informant “saved lives.”  (Bear in mind that, without prompting, the terrorist facilitator had begun to spill the beans within minutes of his arrest.) Given Fitzgerald’s methods, he would have us believe that Headley was held until every scrap of knowledge was squeezed out of him.

Since Fitzgerald’s MO is known, it is perhaps necessary to recall the federal official’s activity in a previous terrorist case in 2002, against Enaam Arnaout and the Illinois-based Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). Fitzgerald tried to squeeze the defendant despite the fact that the prosecution handed him on a silver platter.

The BIF had offices in nine countries and a budget in excess of $3 million annually when its assets were frozen. Arnaout, a Syria-born US citizen, was arrested for allegedly lying to federal officials.

The charge was based on the trove of Al Qaeda documents found when Bosnia police raided the BIF office in Sarajevo. There was no doubt that Arnaout had been present in Khost, Afghanistan, in August 1988 when some thirty Mujahedeen took the pledge (bayat) to support Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda. Subsequently, Arnaout created the BIF. The documents found in Bosnia proved that the BIF was established to fund Bin Laden, and had sent nearly $700,000 to Chechen rebels and arms to Afghanistan and Croatia.  The BIF also assisted the travel of a number of Jihadists and provided arms and other support to Mujahedeen operating in Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Azerbaijan and Chechnya.

Arnaout’s arrest occurred shortly after Judith Miller’s  December 3, 2001 report in the New York Times that the FBI was interested in the Benevolence International; the publication prompted the FBI to move prematurely, and on the following morning arrested Arnaout and searched the BIF office. U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales then brought charges claiming that Miller and her colleague Philip Shenon, had alerted the BIF to the search planned by the feds.  Eventually, the charges were dropped but not forgotten.

Arnaout was held without bond while Fitzgerald squeezed and squeezed.  Still, there was no indication (now or then) that Arnaout ever gave Fitzgerald and the Feds what they had hoped for — which would have been no less than information leading to the capture or death of Osama Bin Laden.  Nonetheless BIF was exposed as a major fundraiser for Bin Laden.

In addition, shortly after Arnaout’s arrest the FBI charged Bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammad Jamal Khalifa with involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, as well as with the BIF and Arnaout.  For reasons that are unfathomable, no real effort was made to arrest Khalifa who in the following years was reportedly seen from the Far East to southern Africa.

In February 2003, Arnaout pled guilty to the picayune charge that he had illegally bought boots and uniforms for mujahedeen operating in Bosnia and Chechnya.  Reportedly, he had worked out a deal with Fitzgerald in exchange for his cooperation.

Incredibly, Fitzerald dropped charges that Arnaout had “aided Bin Laden,” despite having a treasure trove of evidence that should have sent Arnaout away for life.  In one aspect of  the Arnaout trial, the DOJ was slammed by a federal judge in Chicago Federal District Court  for erring in its use of perjury statutes in charging Arnaout and the BIF.  Those charges had to be dropped.

This however, did nothing to stop Patrick Fitzgerald from serveing a record ten years and eight monthsas U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.   While Fitzgerald blew the Arnaout prosecution, he later buffed his credentials with slam-dunk cases brought against Illinois governors George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich. He also served as Special Prosecutor in the case concerning “outed” CIA employee Valerie Plame – a controversial probe that led to the conviction of Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff.  This case facilitated Fitzgerald’s revenge against Judith Miller who was jailed for a time for refusing to divulge sources during the Libby embroglio.

UNHAPPY INDIA

Fitzgerald, who directed the federal case against David Headley, noted that while the defendant took part in a “very, very heinous crime,”  the judge should consider the “unusual nature” of Headley’s cooperation.   The judge, addressing the defendant, argued that it would have been easy to impose the death penalty, and  “That’s what you deserve.”

While the DOJ claimed that the government of  India was in accord with the Headley decision, the Chicago legal process was perceived in New Delhias a slap in the face.  And when  the US Department of Justice refused to extradite Headley, the Indian government’s Union External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had demanded that he be given the death penalty.

US attorneys argued that while Headley’s criminal conduct was deplorable, his decision to cooperate provided “uniquely significant value” to the US efforts to combat terror. “We are seeking less than life time sentencing, because of the significant intelligence value information provided by Headley.  [While the] “crime is deplorable, shocking and horrific. We have to recognize the significant value of the information. We believe that 30-35 years of imprisonment would be justified and balance and thus be downgraded from life sentence,”

To justify its request, the DOJ offered four reasons:

(1) The informant provided “extensive information” on the operation of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT)

(2) Gave essential information on terrorist leader Illyas Kashmiri;

(3) Led to charges being brought against five terrorists;

(4) Also led to the conviction of Headley’s co-conspirator,  Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana who received a 14 year sentence in an earlier trial.

(1)  Regarding the extensive information Headley provided on the Lashkar-e-Toiba (the Party of Islamic Liberation): The LeT forms part of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which it is not at all a mysterious operation.  Founded in 1953 in Jerusalem, it operates in more than forty countries, including the United States.  A Sunni-dominated pan-Islamic movement that seeks to reestablish an Islamic Caliphate, it has been labeled by some as an Al Qaeda without the suicide vests.

In Europe, HuT  is very active in the UK where numerous efforts to outlaw the organization have failed.  Still,  according to most reports the HuT urges its membership to kill Jews wherever they are found and “infidels” for good measure. HuT has been banned in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia (at least until recently), and in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey, and in the former Soviet states in Central Asia.  In the last case, it continues to have widespread influence, especially in Uzbekistan..

In Egypt HuT activists are now urging attacks on Israel and the elimination of all colonial vestiges in North Africa’s Maghreb.  In Pakistan, the Jamaat-ud-Dawah has served as the front for LeT.

However, since the UN Security Council issued sanctions on it for its role in the Mumbai bombing, it reportedly changed its name to Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool (Movement for defending the honor of the Prophet).

Both the HuT and the LeT are known entities to the intelligence agencies.  Thus, it seems likely that Headley provided the FBI with information of immediate but not enduring  value.  If the information obtained through him and provided the Indian government was really as valuably as the U.S. claimed, it is unlikely they would have been so demanding of the death penalty.

(2) Illyas Kashmiri:  Ilyas Kashmiri, the senior Al Qaeda military operations man in Pakistan, was involved not only in the Mumbai attacks but in suicide attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was killed by a US drone strike in South Waziristan in June 2011.  At the time he was operations chief of the Harakut-ul Jihad Islami, a militia of some 3,000 members tied to both Al Qaeda and the Punjabi Taliban.  Just how Headley may have been involved in the action involving Kashmiri has never been revealed.

(3) Charges brought against five terrorists: No information provided.

(4) Conviction of  Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana;  At the trial of his co-defendant and school friend Tahawwur Rana, Headley admitted that he attended training camps in Pakistan operated by LeT on five separate occasions between 2002 and 2005.

Some time around 2006 Headly met with Rana, a friend since boyhood.   Apparently, he was able to convince Rana, who already knew of his involvement with the LeT, to open a branch of his Chicago based First World Immigration Services in Mumbai as a cover to LeT operations, secure work visas and travel in and out of India. According to Headley, Rana also provided material to support the LeT terrorist attack against a Danish newspaper.

The DOJ implied that Headley gave up his friend.  However, it would not have taken more than a few days work to determine that there was a close relationship between Rana and Headley. Rana entered a plea of not guilty in an indictment that included seven names, six of which were charged in absentia.  In effect, Rana did not stand a chance.  He was found guilty and sentenced.

Later, during the Headley trial, Defense attorney Charles Swift described his charge:

“[Headley is] a man who had been manipulating people for years, including Rana, a Pakistani-born Canadian who has lived in Chicago for years. Swift said Headley has a history of cooperating with the government in order to get out of trouble and spoke of Headley’s work with the Drug Enforcement Administration in the 1990s. At one point, Swift said, Headley was working for the DEA, Lashkar and Pakistani intelligence at the same time.”

In the reporting surrounding the prosecution and its aftermath practically nothing was made of Rana’s First World Immigration Service.  The Chicago Tribune (January 03, 2010) had headlined, “Federal officials target operations of First World Immigration.”  The  article reported that “probers allege” that the Chicago agency which served Chicago’s South Asian community was “a front for terror plot.”  It added, “US authorities are sharpening their sights on the West Rogers Park agency in search of possible acts of Immigration fraud, according to sources familiar with the probe.”  But Fitzgerald did nothing to pursue First World Immigration. Thus, First World that would have been a target for investigations to both Federal investigators and the Chicago press, was never investigated. In addition, there is no evidence that First World offices in New York and Toronto were investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing. Thus First World is free to operate thanks Patrick Fitzerlad’s perception of justice.


Categories: ACD/EWI Blog, ACD/EWI Exclusive

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