Months before a team of terrorists killed 170 people in coordinated attacks in Mumbai, a Chicago man was conducting surveillance of the hotels and other locations that would come under assault, prosecutors here said Monday.
David Coleman Headley, a shadowy figure who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006 in an effort to ease his travel, was charged by federal authorities with conducting key surveillance that helped plan the November 2008 attacks in the Indian city. Headley, a Pakistani American, allegedly made a number of trips over two years to visit locations including the Taj Mahal Hotel, which was stormed by terrorist gunmen.
Pakistan, where he met with leaders of the terrorist organization blamed for the Mumbai attacks, Lashkar-e-Taiba.
"In or around March 2008, Headley was instructed to take boat trips in and around the Mumbai harbor and take surveillance video, which Headley did," the criminal complaint said.
"Headley met with other co-conspirators, and discussed potential landing sites for a team of attackers who would arrive by sea in Mumbai, India," the complaint stated.
The 10-man attack team indeed landed by sea, then used firearms and grenades to assault two hotels, a cafe, a train station, a Jewish center and other sites. Six Americans were among those killed.
Headley, 49, was one of two Chicago men charged in October in an alleged plot to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Denmark over its publication of unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. He conducted surveillance of the paper's offices in Copenhagen as recently as January, authorities have said, and was arrested at O'Hare International Airport as he tried to make his way to Pakistan with photos from his scouting trip.
Also charged in connection with the newspaper plot was Tahawwur Hussain Rana, of Chicago, who is under investigation for possibly paying for Headley's India missions, sources said. Rana, who owns a halal meatpacking plant in Grundy County and a North Side immigration business, was not part of the new charges Monday.
But added to the newspaper case was Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, identified as a retired Pakistani major. Accused of participating in the planning for the Denmark operation, he was not in custody and is believed to be in Pakistan, officials said.
Several current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials said that the Headley case -- especially the Mumbai-related charges -- underscore a disconcerting new wrinkle in their counter-terrorism efforts: that U.S.-based militants might pose a threat not just domestically, but overseas as well.
"One thing that struck me was the threat everyone has been concerned about has been terrorists making their way to Europe and then staging attacks in the U.S. from there, like the 2006 airliner plot" allegedly hatched by al-Qaida-linked militants in Britain, said Kenneth Wainstein, President George W. Bush's White House homeland security and counter-terrorism adviser until January.
"If the allegations are true, it puts America in the camp of countries that could be a source of terrorist threats to other countries," Wainstein said. "And the implications from that are that our enforcement and intelligence apparatus needs to focus on detecting those outbound threats" as well as inbound ones.
Prosecutors said that in both the newspaper case and the Mumbai attacks, Headley purported to be a representative of Rana's First World Immigration Services as he traveled.
Headley, who is cooperating with authorities and is scheduled for arraignment Wednesday, was named in a 12-count information with six counts of conspiracy related to the Mumbai attack and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. citizens in India.
He was accused of traveling to Mumbai in September 2006, February and September 2007, and April and July 2008.
Authorities said Headley trained in 2001 with Lashkar-e-Taiba, which means "Army of the Good." The group aims to wrest the Kashmir region from Indian control.
The criminal charges, and the affidavits filed in support of them, also raise troubling questions about the continuing links between Lashkar-e-Taiba and Pakistan's army and military intelligence agency, known as the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.
Pakistan has no extradition policy with the United States, but the charges against Rehman, the retired Pakistani army major, could force Pakistan to either arrest him or further antagonize India, and Washington as well.
India has long charged that Pakistani military and intelligence officials use militant groups as a proxy fighting force against them and in Afghanistan. And some U.S. congressional leaders have threatened to withhold billions of dollars in funding for Pakistan over similar concerns.