US spy chief James Clapper has defended his agency after a probe found US intelligence did not pass on warnings about an American man who was a key figure in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Although the US government had some information about before the attacks “it was not sufficiently established that he was engaged in plotting a terrorist attack in India,” said a statement from Clapper’s office.
“Therefore, the United States government did not pass information on Headley to the Indian government prior to the attacks,” added the statement from the office of the director of national intelligence.
Headley, the son of a former Pakistani diplomat and a white American woman, is being held in the United States. He has confessed to helping plan the Mumbai attacks and in exchange for pleading guilty US prosecutors agreed he would not face extradition to India or the death penalty.
Specifically, Headley admitted to scouting the hotels and other sites that were targeted in the eventual assault by 10 Islamist militants, which killed 166 people.
But Clapper’s statement said: “The review finds that the United States government did not connect Headley to terrorism until 2009, after the attacks on Mumbai.
“Had the United States government sufficiently established he was engaged in plotting a terrorist attack in India, the information would have most assuredly been transferred promptly to the Indian government.”
Yesterday, US President Barack Obama shared the results of the probe with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the third day of his trip to India which has focused in part on the Mumbai attacks.
The president stayed in the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai, which became the focus of the assault, and met survivors and victims’ relatives, hailing their courage and pledging to stand with India to fight terrorism.
“The United States takes counterterrorism and broader national security cooperation with our Indian partners very seriously,” the statement from Clapper’s office said.
“The review finds the United States government aggressively and promptly provided the Indian government with strategic warnings regarding Lashkar e-Tayyiba’s threats to several targets in Mumbai between June and September 2008.”
Clapper’s statement added that since the attempted Christmas Day bombing on a Detroit-bound plane the Obama administration “has focused on information sharing reforms.”
It added that “new watchlisting policies and procedures have been enacted, as well as an increased focus on the pursuit of seemingly disparate and unrelated information regarding reports on individuals and their activities.”