Washington, May 31: As Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley returns to the stand Tuesday to testify in a high-stakes terrorism trial in connection with the 2008 Mumbai attacks, questions are being raised about his credibility.
The question whether Headley aka Daood Gilani, Washington-born son of a Pakistani father and an American mother is telling the truth will hover over the Chicago trial of his one-time friend Pakistani Canadian Tahawwur Rana.
In an investigative report published in association with PBS Frontline Tuesday, ProPublica, an investigative news site, said by his own admission Headley has credibility problems.
“He is a former heroin addict and drug smuggler. He has juggled allegiances to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group, Al Qaeda and Pakistani intelligence” agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), it noted.
But noting that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had compared his story to the results of investigations in India, Pakistan, Denmark, Britain and elsewhere, ProPublica said as a result, the case unfolding in Chicago consists of far more than Headley’s word.
Headley’s most eagerly awaited testimony involves ISI and centres on a shadowy figure known as Major Iqbal, who Headley says was the ISI handler who trained, directed and funded him, though he admits he does not know Iqbal’s real name.
Some question whether Iqbal really exists. But US prosecutors are so convinced that Major Iqbal is real that last month they took the diplomatically explosive step of indicting him, the investigative report noted.
The trial has featured phone evidence, including a number Iqbal obtained with a New York area code to disguise his calls from Pakistan to India.
Iqbal was also not Headley’s only point of contact with the spy agency. Headley has described meeting several other high-ranking officers, it noted.
Experts cited by ProPublica say Headley’s tradecraft as a reconnaissance operative suggests that he did, in fact, have professional training.
“The meticulous advance work and tactical sophistication of the Mumbai plot far exceeded the majority of operations by Al Qaeda and other groups working without state support,” it said.
But in the end, the impression Headley makes on the stand could determine whether the jury convicts Rana — “and whether Americans who are following the trial believe Pakistani intelligence officers took part in a plot to kill Americans,” ProPublica said.