According to sources, Headley’s repeated response to questions fielded by the three- member National Investigation Agency ( NIA) team is: “ Following the advice of my lawyer, I am invoking, with respect, my right to the Fifth Amendment and say no further in this matter.” This amendment, part of the original Bill of Rights, guarantees that no person in a criminal case, including non- citizens, can be compelled to be a witness against themselves.
On March 18, 2010, Headley was spared the death penalty in exchange for pleading guilty to 12 counts of terror charges, including plotting the 26/ 11 Mumbai attacks at the behest of Pakistan- based Lashkar- e- Tayyeba ( LeT) and conspiring to target a Danish newspaper. The plea agreement between Headley and the US Attorney for Northern District of Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald, carefully outlined his rights to get a fair sentence, in exchange for his cooperation with the US officials, as well as to “ fully and truthfully testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the US by way of deposition, videoconferencing or letters rogatory.” Indeed, Headley agreed to have his sentencing postponed till after the cooperation had concluded.
Sources in New Delhi said there was never any chance that Headley would cooperate with India. According to them, the unexplained aspects of the case and the plea bargain that got Headley off the hook can all be attributed to his relationship with the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s ( DEA) Special Operations Division.
The DEA is a major department of the US government, with extensive powers of arrest and detention and maintains its own intelligence capabilities, though it cooperates extensively with the Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency.
The SOD- Headley relationship began in 1988 when a German customs agent at Frankfurt asked a young Pakistani- American, Daood Gilani, to step aside and be searched while transiting to Pakistan. The customs agent found 2- kg of heroin under a false bottom. The DEA agent, Derek Maltz, who was stationed there was called in and he took the decision to recruit Headley.
Over the next few years, though he was in and out of jail and drug rehabilitation, Headley was in touch with Agent Maltz and the DEA. In 2002, in one of his numerous trips to Pakistan he came in touch with the LeT and according to his interrogation reports, he attended LeT camps in February and August 2002 and thrice in 2003. In February 2006, he changed his name from Daood Gilani to Headley.
The DEA claims that the relationship ended in 2003. But according to what the FBI has told their Indian counterparts, their relationship with Headley continued right up to March 2008, when he was already neckdeep in the Mumbai conspiracy.
The FBI began to panic when in 2008- 09, Headley made two trips to North Waziristan and established contacts with Ilyas Kashmiri, al Qaeda’s point man there. He was put up to this by Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, a colonel in the Pakistan Army who is either serving or retired, or claims to be so.
The al Qaeda’s aim was to use Headley to organise the attack on Jyllands Posten newspaper offices in Denmark for their alleged crime of publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
After he was arrested in October 2009, Headley threatened to reveal his links with the DEA and this is the reason why the entire US system from the Attorney General Eric Holder downwards have worked to sweep all the muck under the carpet.Mail Today June 6, 2006