Chicago terror prosecution puts Pakistan spy agency on trial

Allegations that Pakistan’s intelligence service was involved in the Mumbai terror attacks will be scrutinised in an American court case starting on Monday when the man who helped plan the 2008 strikes testifies against his alleged accomplice.

David Headley, a Pakistani-American businessman who has confessed to his involvement in the attacks, will be the star witness in the trial of Tahawwur Rana, his childhood friend, in Chicago.

Rana is charged with providing material support for terrorism in the assaults, which killed 166 people, as well as a plot in Denmark that was never carried out. Opening arguments in the case, based on the deaths of six Americans in Mumbai, will begin on Monday.

The case has drawn international attention because Headley’s testimony is expected to reinforce allegations that Pakistan plays a double game in the fight against terrorism. Its success will depend largely on how the jury views Headley, 50, who is said to have juggled relationships with multiple wives, terrorist groups and intelligence agencies.

Headley is a former informant for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). He pleaded guilty last year to conducting reconnaissance for the Mumbai attacks and for the Danish plot. His confessions painted a devastating portrait of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) – he says ISI officers helped the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist group plot the commando-style attacks on Mumbai…

Prosecutors recently raised the political stakes by indicting a suspected ISI officer for the murders in Mumbai. The officer, identified only as Major Iqbal, allegedly oversaw Headley’s scouting in India.

The decision to indict Iqbal was made at high levels in Washington, sending a signal from Barack Obama’s administration, which had expressed frustration about Pakistan’s reliability even before Osama bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad.

RTFA. Beaucoup detail. Involved, intricate, opportunist – and offering all the corruption you would expect in global politics.

The ISI is about as useful to processes dedicated to peace and security as the average teabagger is to stem cell research.