David Headley: stranger than fiction
Updated on 21 January 2010
US intelligence, bodybuilding and cheese steak washed down with Diet Coke: Jonathan Miller reveals the peculiar facts behind the David Headley story.
- David Coleman Headley, aka Daood Syed Gilani, has a half-brother in Pakistan who is the Pakistan prime minister's press secretary. Danyel Gilani said that he last saw his half-brother in Pakistan a few days after their father, Syed Saleem Gilani, died, in December 2008. That was just one month after the Mumbai attacks. Headley is apparently not related to the Pakistan Prime Minister himself, Yousaf Raza Gilani.
- Headley invited his Indian bodybuilder friends Rahul and Vilas to join him on a trip to the tribal territories of Pakistan, next to the Afghan border, which Gordon Brown calls "the crucible of terror." When Rahul Bhatt and Vilas Varak expressed alarm and said that as Indians they feared kidnap and decapitation, Headley told them, "It's OK, you'd be safe with me." He told them that they would be very well protected and that they would travel in a convoy of Pajero jeeps into Waziristan - deemed a no-go zone by most Pakistanis. He told Rahul he'd take him to the gun bazaar in Peshawar.
- Indian and Israeli intelligence claim that while conducting surveillance in India for the jihadi group Lashkar-e-Toiba, David Headley posed as a Jew, even entering Mumbai's Jewish centre, passing himself off as a potential donor. The FBI says that after his arrest, a book entitled "How to Pray Like a Jew" was found at his home in Chicago.
- According to Rahul and Vilas, who had been befriended by Headley in Mumbai, his favourite haunt was the Indigo Cafe, behind the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, where, on his insistence, they would eat Philadelphia cheese steaks and fries followed by apple pie and vanilla ice cream, all washed down with Diet Coke.
- Rahul Bhatt reveals that Headley "was quite homophobic." He apparently castigated the dancing style of a number of prominent Bollywood actor as "very gay" and said "that's not what works in the West."
- US court documents confirm that Headley had worked as a DEA informer for ten years. Intelligence sources suggest that post 9/11, he may have worked for the FBI. The latest charge sheets accuse Headley of attending Lashkar-e-Toiba training camps, starting in February 2002. A former classmate from the elite Cadet College Hasanabdal told us that at a class reunion in Islamabad at around that time, Headley - still called Daood Syed Gilani - had turned up sporting "a beard to his waist" and that he had become "very religious."
- Headley's uncle, William Headley, who lives in Philadelphia, is quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying that Headley "found God" in prison while serving a sentence for heroin smuggling. He told the newspaper: "I have this image of him. He would have the Koran under one arm and a bottle of Dom Pérignon under the other. He loved Armani suits and yet would wear native dress and a beard at other times. He is an extremely rare bird."
- David Headley settled in Chicago in 2006 with his Pakistani Muslim wife and their four children.
- Indian newspapers have widely quoted an FBI source as saying Headley's cellphone in Chicago was registered in the name of a dead person, as was his apartment.
- When Headley returned to India in March 2009, he did not "say hi to Rahul" and Vilas, his friends in Mumbai. He is accused of planning further attacks on the National Defence College in Delhi and other targets. Israeli intelligence believes he staked out the El Al office and the Jewish Centre in Delhi, the synagogue in Pushkar and the village of Arjuna in Goa. The Israeli Counter Terrorism Bureau issued a warning to Israelis in India based on a "very high level concrete threat," a warning understood to have been passed to them by the US. This warning was issued in September 2009, a month before Headley's arrest. The suggestion, once again, is that Headley himself was the source of the US intelligence.