Washington: Pakistani-origin American
David Coleman Headley, charged by FBI of being involved in the
Mumbai terror attacks, was using US as a base to plan future
attacks outside the country, a top Senator said on Thursday.
"I understand he was able to use the US as a base of
(terror) operations," Senator Joe Lieberman, Chairman of the
Senate Homeland and Security and Governmental Affairs who has
received a classified briefing on the issue, said at a
"In the briefings that I've had on this without
revealing anything classified, it seems I gather that he was
not involved in any plots related to targets in the US,
although one wonders whether that would have been the case for
an extended period of time, but that he was using us as a base
from which to plan attacks outside of the US," he said.
Senator Lieberman termed it as a "very troubling" case
of Headley, who has been charged with six counts of conspiracy
to bomb public places in India, murder and maim persons in
India and Denmark, support the foreign terrorist plots and
support Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba and six counts of
aiding and abetting murder of US citizens in India.
"Now as you know he's alleged to have made five trips
from Chicago where he was living to Mumbai from 2006 to 2008
to conduct pre-attack planning and surveillance really to many
of the targets that were struck in the November 2008 Mumbai
attacks," he said.
Because Headley was a US citizen his travel at least
based on entry and exit did not raise suspicions, although it
may have in other ways, Lieberman noted.
The arrest this fall of a number of people charged
with planning terror attacks in US - Najibullah Zazi, Betim
Kaziu, Michael Finton, Hosam Smadi, David Headley - are the
reminders that terrorists are crossing our borders legally in,
and in Headley's case, out living among us and plotting to
target us or in Headley's case are allies, he said.
"We can no longer assume that Americans are not
involved in terrorism," Assistant Secretary of Homeland
Security for Policy David Heyman said in his response to the
issues raised by Lieberman.
When asked whether an ulterior-motivated name change
could be blocked, the answer Lieberman received was no.
"It has been reported that Headley changed his name...
His original name was Daood Gilani and he changed it to David
Headley, allegedly to reduce scrutiny by Immigration and
Customs officials while traveling," Lieberman said and asked
what can be done to block this kind of name change being used
as a way to avoid being on a watch list?
"I find challenges in my particular position because
it's truly a balancing act," said Timothy Healy, Director FBI
Terrorist Screening Center.
"It's a balancing act between safeguarding civil
liberties and protecting the American people, and the best we
can do is just keep driving the intelligence and keep working
the intelligence as much as we possibly can to get the
information. I don't know how else you could do it," he said.
First Published: Thursday, December 10, 2009, 10:13