The Chicago terrorism trial, set to begin on Monday, of Pakistani-Canadian businessman Tahawwur Rana is going to reveal information that could cause serious diplomatic heartburn between the United States, Pakistan and India. The trial could also renew calls in Congress to cut foreign aid to Pakistan; there may be testimony that Pakistan's intelligence service had a role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. They left 164 dead, including six Americans.
Rana has been charged with three counts of providing material support to the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba terrorist group to assist Chicago resident David Headley, the operational planner of the Mumbai attacks. Headley, who pleaded guilty last year to terrorism charges, conducted surveillance for the attackers, used a GPS to program in key location markers for the Mumbai terrorists as they moved to their targets, and ravaged the city for three days in November 2008. They struck luxury hotels, the train station, restaurants and a Jewish center.
Rana, who owned and oversaw the First World Immigration Services in Chicago and other cities, allegedly allowed Headley to use his business as a cover story. The indictment filed against Rana and other conspirators in the case alleged that in June 2006 Headley "advised…[Rana] of his assignment to perform surveillance for potential targets in India and obtained Rana's approval for opening a First World office in Mumbai, India as a cover for these activities."
Last month a superseding indictment revealed the names of additional plotters in the case, Sajid Mir (Headley's handler), Abu Qahafa, Mazhar Iqbal, and a man known only as "Major Iqbal" who is believed to be in either the ISI or Pakistani military. (Their pictures are on this Indian government website: http://nia.gov.in/writereaddata/press_07102010.pdf )
Although many of the court proceedings have been closed and numerous documents in the court docket are sealed, U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber has released one key segment of Headley's grand jury testimony which was secret until last month where Headley discussed doing work for the ISI. Headley in his own testimony acknowledged his work for the ISI telling the grand jury: "During my trip to Chicago, I told [Rana] about my meetings with Sajid and others in Lashkar. I also told him about my meetings with Major Iqbal, and told him how I had been asked to perform espionage work for ISI. I even told him some of the espionage stories that Major Iqbal had told me."
Court watchers, journalists and the victims of the Mumbai attacks hope to learn more about the mysterious Major Iqbal and who he may be. Several of the U.S. family members who lost their loved ones in the attacks have sued the Pakistani government and the ISI. According to court records in the civil lawsuit the attorneys representing the families attempted to serve subpoenas to Major Iqbal and members of the ISI to find out information about the attacks. Several of the subpoenas were returned unopened but the subpoena for Major Iqbal, which was delivered to a location in Pakistan, was returned to the New York attorneys and had been opened.