Washington did not pass on information about Pakistani American David Headley to India before the 2008 Mumbai attacks because it was not 'sufficiently established' that he was plotting a terrorist attack in India, says US intelligence chief James Clapper.
Defending the US intelligence agencies, the director of National Intelligence acknowledged that the US government had some information about Headley, who has confessed to helping plan the Mumbai attacks.
But "it was not sufficiently established that he was engaged in plotting a terrorist attack in India", said a statement from Clapper's office after a probe found US intelligence did not pass on warnings about the son of a former Pakistani diplomat and a white American woman.
"Therefore, the United States government did not pass information on Headley to the Indian government prior to the attacks," added the statement.
Headley, who changed his given name of Daood Gilani in 2006 to scout targets in Mumbai without arousing suspicion, is being held in a Chicago jail. He has pleaded guilty to avoid facing extradition to India or the death penalty.
Specifically, Headley admitted to scouting the hotels and other sites that were targeted in the eventual assault by 10 gunmen from Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan based terror outfit, which killed 166 people.
Clapper's office suggested US government did all it could to warn India about terrorists' interest in attacking Mumbai, even though Headley had been on the intelligence community's radar for years and at one point worked as a government informant.
But Clapper's statement said: "The review finds that the United States government did not connect Headley to terrorism until 2009, after the attacks on Mumbai."Had the United States government sufficiently established he was engaged in plotting a terrorist attack in India, the information would have most assuredly been transferred promptly to the Indian government."
"The United States takes counterterrorism and broader national security cooperation with our Indian partners very seriously," the statement said.
"The review finds the United States government aggressively and promptly provided the Indian government with strategic warnings regarding Lashkar e-Taeba's threats to several targets in Mumbai between June and September 2008."
Clapper's statement added that since the attempted Christmas Day bombing on a Detroit-bound plane the Obama administration "has focused on information sharing reforms".
It added that "new watchlisting policies and procedures have been enacted, as well as an increased focus on the pursuit of seemingly disparate and unrelated information regarding reports on individuals and their activities".