The Pakistani intelligence agency ISI was more in control of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks operation in 2008 than was earlier known, show US prosecution case ordered unsealed on Wednesday by a Chicago court trying Tahawwur Rana.
David Coleman Headley, who is deposing in the trial as a government witness was met with by Major Iqbal — an ISI operative — after every visit to India. In fact, the two met before Headley could meet his Lashkar-e-Taiba handlers.
The unsealed documents — known as Santiago Proffer — show Pakistan’s role in the attacks more clearly than previously known. ISI didn’t simply play host to the conspirators, it might have masterminded it.
Santiago Proffer is an outline of the prosecution’s plan — mostly used in the trial of corruption or criminal cases — connecting witnesses, evidence that is given to the court. It’s usually kept confidential.
After he was told to travel to Mumbai by his Lashkar handlers in 2006, Headley met Major Iqbal. “Major Iqbal was already aware of Headley’s assignment, despite the fact that Headley had not yet told Major Iqbal about it,” the proffer said.
While Headley’s deposition was expected to yield nothing new in terms of information about the planning of the attacks, it has brought out into the open what had only existed in confidential but leaky files.
Every word uttered by Headley over the last four days that he has deposed has come as an indictment and reiteration of Pakistan’s role as a global terror hub, which also was home to Osama bin Laden.
The discovery and killing of bin Laden in Abbottabad, where he was, as US officials like to put it, “hiding in plain sight”, shocked and horrified many Americans and experts and lawmakers called for drastic action. Rana’s trial is keeping Pakistan firmly in that dock.
And the proffer is bringing out more dirt.
Major Iqbal took over the planning of Headley’s India cover completely, from financing it to deciding the logistics for it. The cover was to be a branch of the First World Immigration Services, a company owned by Rana.
ISI’s role in the attacks was suspected by India from day one. It was confirmed by Headley during seven days of his questioning here by officials of the National Investigation Agency of India in June 2010.
The US’s case unsealed Wednesday comes as a reaffirmation of Pakistan’s role through the ISI, with more details — the US has had Headley in its custody for far longer than the limited access granted to India.
“Major Iqbal instructed Headley to travel to India, but not to go through Pakistan,” said the prosecution’s case document. Later, the ISI operative would instruct Headley on the targets to be surveyed on his subsequent visits.
“Like Sajid, Major Iqbal instructed Headley to take detailed footage of the Taj hotel,” the document said. “Major Iqbal told Headley that he had discussed Headley’s assignment in Mumbai with Sajid.”
Major Iqbal was as deeply into the operation as any of the Lashkar operatives, from start to the finish. And even after, asking Headley to return to survey more targets, elsewhere in India.