In the fourth and concluding part of the series ProPublica's Sebastian Rotella talks about how Laskar-e-Tayiba operative David Coleman Headley was finally nabbed by United States law enforcement agencies, but only after he hoodwinked them for seven years. But the epilogue in the story is rather like the prologue: full of impunity and mystery.
On the night of Nov 26, 2008, Lashkar-e-Tayiba David Coleman Headley was at home in Lahore when his handler Sajid Mir sent him a text message. It said, "Turn on your television."
The siege of Mumbai lasted three excruciating days. The 10-man attack team arrived by sea, landing at a fishermen's slum chosen by Headley for its strategic location. The young gunmen had never been to India. They were guided by Headley's videos and written reports, his provision of GPS coordinates and his work with a Pakistani navy frogman on the maritime approach.
Mir and other Lashkar bosses directed the slaughter by phone from a command post in Karachi. Their calls were intercepted by Indian intelligence and have been subsequently broadcast in international television reports.
Headley watched the coverage with his Moroccan wife; they had reconciled weeks earlier. He got a celebratory email from his Pakistani wife, whom he had moved with their children to Chicago in September. The wife knew about his reconnaissance and praised him in an email using coded language, according to court testimony.
"Congrats on your graduation," the wife wrote on Nov 28, according to court documents. "Graduation ceremony is really great. Watched the movie the whole day."
Headley was already thinking about his next mission.
In October, Major Iqbal and Mir had visited him at home, the first time he had seen his Inter-Services Intelligence and Lashkar handlers together, according to Headley's testimony. They wanted to take their holy war to Europe. They assigned him to scout the Jyllands-Posten newspaper of Denmark, a terrorist target because it had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Headley visited his family in Chicago over the Christmas holiday. He learned that yet another tipster had gone to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to his testimony. It was a female friend of his mother, who had died earlier in the year. Apparently motivated by news of the Mumbai attacks, the woman contacted the Wilmington, Delware, FBI office, which passed the lead to the Philadelphia field office.
Interviewed on December 1, the tipster said Headley's mother had told her years earlier that her son was fighting alongside militants in Pakistan. The tipster said she believed he was still involved in militant activity. FBI agents reviewed records and found "most or all" of the warnings dating back to 2001, according to a senior US law enforcement official.
On Dec 21, agents interviewed Farid Gilani, Headley's cousin in Philadelphia. He deceived them by saying Headley was in Pakistan, according to testimony. The cousin called Headley in Chicago to alert him, according to testimony. In an email to a militant in Pakistan, Headley speculated that the FBI's interest was related to the allegations months earlier at the US embassy by his Moroccan wife, whom he called "M2.""So I think that it is OK, just routine, because of what M2 said before," Headley wrote on Dec 24.
This story was co-published with PBS FRONTLINE.