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Mumbai Attacks: Headley’s a compulsive liar … used LeT, ISI, CIA … playing to India now … Ishrat Jahan claim’s a red herring: Adrian Levy

Adrian Levy is an award-winning journalist and co-author of The Siege: The Attack on the Taj which researched 26/11. As David Headley deposed before an Indian court, Levy spoke with Srijana Mitra Das about the agent who double-crossed ISI and FBI, Hafiz Saeed distrusting Headley, claims of Ishrat Jahan recruited by Lashkar – and India’s security today:

How much of David Headley’s revelations surprise you?

So far, nothing he’s said differs greatly from what he told the NIA team, FBI, etc.

But the most important thing to remember is that Headley is psychopathic – which means compelling. He thrives in an interrogation room, bonding with even skilled questioners.

If you watch videos of Headley in the FBI holding centre, one thing becomes self-evident – who is pushing whom?

A conniving, convincing sociopath, he trades in half-truths. Since he was first arrested, as a young man trafficking heroin, he always betrayed those close to him. Childhood friends. Business partners. Drug cartels. His wives and girlfriends. There isn’t a single relationship he entered that he has not compromised to better his situation.

What does this add up to? A compulsive liar – who cannot be trusted.

What about his claims of Ishrat Jahan recruited by LeT?

A complete red herring – look at the modus operandi for LeT. This is classic Headley, taking real events – and laminating with an intoxicating story.

Headley says two attempts were made to storm Mumbai before 26/11– what does this reflect about intelligence preparedness in India?

These are facts detailed in The Siege and derived from the Pakistan intelligence inquiry into events leading up to 26/11 – Headley had no first-hand connection to these moments and learnt of them later, trading them now as goblets of intelligence that do not belong to him.

Nor are they valuable on both occasions, the boats leaving Pakistan never got far. Neither event impacts on Indian intelligence as both happened in Pakistan waters.

Headley’s directly named Hafiz Saeed and LeT – will this reshape Pakistan’s response to the 26/11 issue, once dismissed as ‘fiction’ created by India?

Headley named him before – he’s doing so now to play to the Indian audience.

But an interesting coda – Hafiz Saeed rejected Headley, suspecting he was a double agent, which he was, working for the US and ISI.

His involvement in Lashkar was closely monitored – Lashkar suspected him from the start and removed him from close management of the 26/11 operation, sending him on demeaning shopping trips to procure minor items.

LeT was sure Headley would turn on them and protected themselves accordingly.

What he’s now repackaging for the Indian market is second-hand goods. ISI also became convinced Headley was a traitor and stopped seeing him face to face, talking only via email and coded calls, where they sent him on wild goose chases to surveil targets that would never be selected.

Headley’s existence tells us that all sides were played. The US intelligence community probably suffered the most – DEA, FBI and CIA were all suckered by Headley and let him run so long that Mumbai became unstoppable.

Indian failings are self-evident – fed high-grade intelligence on multiple occasions by the Americans that named every target but failed to supply a date, almost no security revisions were made to counter a sea-borne assault, protect the hotels, Leopold’s or the station.

Given the new IS threat, assess India’s security and intelligence situation today.

Well, reading audit reports on coastal security, no advances have been made. Listening to internal debates on nuclear security, the threat here also seems heightened.

Perhaps the only improvements are in intelligence sharing with other nations – but practical application remains doubtful as IB and RAW remain massively understaffed with modernisation plans on hold.

Could you suggest three steps to swiftly improve the situation?

First, enact a charter for IB and give it a mission statement, so it can be held accountable. Remember the Central Administrative Tribunal in Chennai called it a chicken that could not fly.

Second, professionalise intelligence analysts, clandestine agents, etc., as Western powers have, so that it’s seen as a career for graduates and non-graduates.

Third, introduce an internal ombudsman or Inspector General as the outfit is rife with discrimination, chauvinism and bullying – the absence of women is laughable as is the low percentage of non-Hindus who get in or reach any seniority.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.
courtesy: Times of India
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