Chicago: One compelling possibility that arises in the aftermath of the drone killing of Ilyas Kashmiri is whether key Mumbai terror plotter David Coleman Headley offered actionable intelligence on the powerful al Qaeda commander`s whereabouts.
While it is nearly impossible to confirm what specifically Headley might have revealed to the US federal investigators and whether that intelligence helped establish Kashmiri`s location, his plea deal with the government and his five days of testimony that concluded last week point to his close ties with the Harkat ul Jihad al Islami (HUJI) leader.
Headley first met Kashmiri in February 2009 along with Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, a former Pakistani army officer also known as Pasha, in Waziristan. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the details of video surveillance of Copenhagen carried out by Headley as part of a plot to attack the office of the Morgenavisen Jylland-Posten newspaper which had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in 2005 which Muslims found highly offensive. Headley and Pasha met Kashmiri again in May that year in the same Waziristan area.
US authorities have maintained that Kashmiri wanted to carry out a suicide attack on the newspaper and have the attackers behead newspaper employees and throw their heads out of the building to create maximum impact.
Having been to Kashmiri`s Waziristan location at least twice, Headley had a fair idea where to point the US investigators to. After his arrest in October 2009, as Headley began showing near desperation to cooperate with the federal investigators to earn his plea deal, he felt so compelled to ensure that his information led to some major arrest that he offered an extraordinary idea to the US government.
He told them they should send him back to Pakistan with an ornate sword embedded with a locator chip which he could gift Kashmiri. The US then could use the signal from the chip to locate and target him. There is nothing to suggest that the US authorities even considered the idea.
Headley testified on May 31 during his cross examination about a possible plot by Kashmiri to kill the CEO of defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin because he thought the company makes the predator drones. The reality is somewhat at variance because Lockheed produces the Hellfire missiles that the drones use as the weapon of choice. The drones are made by General Atomic Aeronautics` Aircraft Systems Group.
In an ironic twist that could not have been conceived better by an espionage thriller writer barely within four days of Headley`s testimony, Kashmiri was killed in a drone attack by a Hellfire missile along with eight others in South Waziristan.
During his cross examination, his fellow accused and boyhood friend Tahawwur Hussain Rana`s attorney Patrick Blegen asked Headley about the time when he secretly used the office computer for research on the Lockheed CEO. While conceding that he did carry out a Google search unbeknownst to Rana, he also added, "My research is more in-depth than Googling someone a couple of times."
Headley said he did Google search because he remembered his previous discussions with Kashmiri about a plot to kill the Lockheed CEO.