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Scout in Mumbai attacks was DEA informant while in terror camp, authorities say
Headley is the son of a Pakistani father and an American mother. He became an informant for the DEA in the late 1990s, after he was arrested on heroin charges. His U.S. wife told investigators that he told her he started training with Lashkar in early 2002 as part of a secret mission for the U.S. government.
On Saturday, a federal official said Headley's work as an informant appears to have lasted until sometime between 2003 and 2005.
Another federal official said Headley was a DEA informant in "the early 2000s."
"I couldn't say it continued into 2005, but he was definitely an informant post-9/11," the official said.
Although Lashkar has not been involved in major drug activity, the terrorist group could offer an informant access to the terrain where Islamic extremism intertwines with South Asian drug mafias.Because of the difficulty of spying in Pakistan, Headley could have been valuable to U.S. intelligence services. In late 2001, some drug informants moved into anti-terrorism operations. The DEA also sometimes shares informants with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
"After 9/11, a lot of guys who had been closed down for some time came forward offering their services," a former senior law enforcement official said. "They were passed off to the FBI or CIA unless it was mainly drug work."
Headley's relationship with the U.S. government is especially delicate because the investigation has shown that he also had contact with suspected Pakistani intelligence officials and a Pakistani militant named Ilyas Kashmiri, who has emerged as a top operational leader of al-Qaeda.
Last year, Kashmiri worked with Headley on a plot against a Danish newspaper that had angered Muslims by publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. To advance the plot, Kashmiri put Headley in touch with al-Qaeda operatives in Britain, according to a senior anti-terrorism official.
British intelligence detected the meetings between the operatives, who were under surveillance, and Headley, who surfaced as a figure known as "David the American," the senior official said. That led to Headley's arrest by the FBI last October.
In March, Headley pleaded guilty to charges of terrorism in the Mumbai attacks and to a failed plot to take and behead hostages at a Danish newspaper. He is cooperating with authorities.
Kashmiri's network has played a central role in sparking the recent U.S. alert about intelligence that al-Qaeda is plotting "Mumbai-style attacks" in Europe, U.S. officials told ProPublica.
"Kashmiri is directly linked to those threats, especially involving Britain and British Pakistanis," the federal official said Saturday. "There is some linkage to Headley."
For weeks, U.S. anti-terrorism officials have been alarmed about intelligence that Kashmiri has a network in Europe of about 15 operatives with Western passports, according to two U.S. law enforcement officials. Headley had contact with Kashmiri's network, but it is unclear whether he met with the same European operatives involved in the recent plots, the officials said.
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