Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has long been known to have played a significant role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, but a conspirator being tried in the US sought to use the spy agency’s involvement to justify his actions and claim innocence.
The 26/11 attacks by 10 Pakistani terrorists left 166 people dead, including six Americans.
Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Canadian accused of providing 26/11-accused David Headley the cover for carrying out reconnaissance of the targets, cited ISI involvement to plead that he was acting on “public authority” on behalf of the Pakistani government and the ISI. He also argued that Islamabad was well within its rights to act in India to protect Pakistan’s national interests. Acting on Pakistan’s behalf, therefore, he had done nothing unlawful.
A federal court in Chicago dismissed his plea.
The US allows the “public authority” plea to justify actions, which are lawful and authorised by its own government officials, but not for unlawful activities and those mandated by foreign governments.
The ISI’s role in the Mumbai attacks has been suspected for a long time, and confirmed by Headley to a team of officers from India’s National Investigation Agency in June 2010.
Headley told the team that his ISI handler was one Major Iqbal, who was not only aware of the Lashkar-e-Taiba plot but also gave him money to carry out surveillance of the targets.
Headley was arrested in 2009 while leaving the US for Copenhagen, where he was planning an attack on the office of a newspaper that had published a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad.