Washington, Nov 6 (ANI): In a shocking revelation, a review being conducted for the director of national intelligence in the United States has found that US agencies had received at least four warnings- before the Mumbai terror siege incident- that David Coleman Headley, a central figure in the 2008 attacks, was training or working with Pakistani militants.
According to officials, in the seven years in which leads accumulated, Headley was not questioned or placed on a terror watch list, the Washington Post reported.
The review, which is not complete, has found that allegations about the Pakistani American businessman's extremist ties began as early as 2001 and were more numerous and specific than previously disclosed, officials said.
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 paper said.
The review has found four additional warnings, in 2001, 2002, April 2008 and December 2008 - a month after Lashkar killed 166 people in Mumbai, six of them Americans. However, 50-year-old Headley was not arrested until October 2009. He has pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges and is cooperating, the paper added.
Although since the 9/11 attacks, the government has invested billions of dollars in new threat-detection systems, 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 paper said.
"It's a black eye," said a senior anti-terror official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The problem is the information system. New York didn't know about Philadelphia. Islamabad didn't know about Philadelphia or New York."
The review is expected to address another question: whether Headley's work as a US informant affected investigations of him. Headley spied on Pakistani drug traffickers for the DEA starting in the late 1990s, though officials say the DEA cut ties with him "well before" Mumbai, the paper added.
Meanwhile, 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.
The first tip against Headley came in New York in early October 2001 from a former girlfriend, who told agents that he and his mother supported Pakistani extremists and even quoted him as saying that he was ready to fight in Pakistan, the paper said.
Agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force interviewed at least three people, including Headley's mother, Serrill, a wealthy Philadelphian, who told them that her son was passionate about Pakistan's struggle with India over the Kashmir region. ut the New York inquiry was closed because investigators saw no danger, the paper added.
In July 2002, a second tipster came forward in Philadelphia: the owner of a business frequented by Headley's mother. The business owner called an FBI tip line and said that Headley's mother had described her son as an increasingly fanatical extremist who talked about training with terrorists in Pakistan. But there was no further contact with the FBI and the Philadelphia lead was closed, the paper said.
As ProPublica has reported, the third tip came in 2005 after a domestic dispute that resulted in Headley's arrest. His wife in New York gave federal investigators an account of his training and other activities with Lashkar, which was designated a terrorist group in late 2001. Her tip went into the FBI's Guardian Threat Tracking System, but investigators found "no nexus to terrorism," the paper added.
In 2006, Headley began scouting targets in Mumbai. In December 2007, his Moroccan wife went to the US Embassy in Pakistan, met with agents of the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security and of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and said that Headley was "looking to participate in jihad against the U.S." and mentioned suicide bombing and terror training, according to officials, the paper said.
But the CIA station chief and the FBI legal attache decided the allegations were too general to pursue, officials said. The senior anti-terror official told ProPublica that the agents in Islamabad did not know about all the previous tips. But the other federal official said that has not been confirmed, the paper added.
Four months later, the Moroccan wife returned to the embassy with a more specific - and previously unreported - warning. "She said Headley had been given a special mission and that he had both US and Pakistani passports," the senior anti-terror official said, adding "She said she felt she had been innocently used in an express train bombing" in India that had killed 68 people in 2007, the paper said.
Officials gave no details on how the embassy personnel responded. The three-day assault on Mumbai began on November 26, 2008.
On December 1, 2008, a final tip surfaced in Philadelphia. A friend of Headley's mother - who had died 11 months earlier - told the FBI that Headley "had been fighting alongside individuals in Pakistan to liberate Kashmir for the past five to six years," officials say, the paper added.
FBI agents tracked down a cousin who told agents that Headley had lived in Pakistan for the past five years, officials say. But Headley was actually dividing his time among Pakistan, India, New York and Chicago, the paper said.
Agents checked Headley's background and found at least some of the previous leads, according to officials, who added that nonetheless, the Philadelphia agents closed the case, because they believed Headley was overseas, the paper added. (ANI)