Mumbai Terror Attack Trial: Chicago Man David Headley Says He's No Longer Proud of Role

David Headley earlier testified he was "pleased" by coverage of Mumbai attacks.

May 26, 2011, 3:07 PM

May 26, 2011 — -- David Headley, the Pakistani-American man who helped plan the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, today expressed remorse for his involvement in those attacks for the first time publicly.

Headley, of Chicago, is the government's star witness at the trial of Tahawwur Rana, who is charged with providing material support to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, the terrorist group behind the Mumbai attacks. Rana allegedly supported Headley's operational planning for the attacks by letting him use his immigration business as a front for Headley's time in Mumbai.

In court today, an attorney representing Rana asked Headley if he was still proud of his actions. Headley told the jury, "No."

Under previous questioning by prosecutors in the case, Headley said he was initially very pleased with the results of the attacks that left 164 people dead including six Americans.

David Headley Describes Denmark Plot, Ignoring FBI Query

Headley today also described his involvement in planning for another attack -- in Denmark, against the Jyllands Posten newspaper -- and how his desire not to interrupt that planning led him to ignore the FBI when it wanted to talk to him about Mumbai.

In December 2008, Headley's cousin in Philadelphia informed him that the FBI wanted to speak with him about Mumbai. At the time, Headley said, he was in Pakistan.

"I didn't want to wait" on the Denmark planning, Headley told the jury.

Although there was pressure on members of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Headley said he was not concerned the FBI wanted to speak to him.

"It didn't seem anything serious," Headley said.

Headley and terrorist groups targeted the Jyllands Posten newspaper for publishing cartoons that they felt mocked the prophet Muhammad.

And, it seems, Headley may have engaged in some mocking in the other direction. He testified today that he bought his Pakistani handlers "Copenhagen" hats on his trip as souvenirs.

"It was a joke because the guys you gave the hats to knew you were going to be killing people in Denmark," defense counsel Patrick Blegen suggested. "You were sharing a conspiratorial joke."

In part of a wider defense strategy of attempting to distance Rana from Headley's plots, Blegen noted that Rana did not get a hat from Headley.

During his visits to Denmark in early 2009, Headley allegedly used the cover of Rana's business to visit the newspaper's offices, where he expressed interest in buying an advertisement for the Immigrant Law Center. Headley made surveillance films of the newspaper's offices and surrounding areas.

Headley was arrested in October 2009, when he was leaving the United States to go to Pakistan to give his handlers the surveillance videos.

The attacks planned for Denmark were dubbed the "Mickey Mouse Project" by Headley for use in coded conversations. However, defense attorneys said, though Headley used the abbreviation MMP in emails to his handlers in Pakistan, he did not use the abbreviation when he sent messages to Rana.

The defense also noted that Rana and his business partner, Raymond Sanders, an immigration lawyer, were interested in expanding their immigration business in India and in Scandanavia.

The jury has seen an email that Headley sent Rana in which he wrote, "I checked out business opportunities here ... they seem quite promising."

"No reference to MMP," said Charles Swift, a Rana defense attorney.

When he was questioned by the prosecution, Headley testified that he and Rana discussed the plan to attack the Danish newspaper.

Blegan today asked why there was no evidence of that other than Headley's claim.

"He said 'OK,'" Headley said. "I'm not saying that he was jumping at joy."

Tahawwur Rana's Lawyers Question His Foreknowledge of Mumbai Terror

Headley also has claimed he discussed Mumbai with Rana.

The defense claims that although Headley received two notices in the months leading up to the Mumbai attacks, he never told Rana the attacks were imminent.

Today, the defense asked him why he didn't warn Rana about the Mumbai attacks when Rana traveled to Mumbai in early November 2008 -- days before the attacks.

Rana was in Mumbai to meet with a secretary that Headley had hired to work at the immigration business. Headley said that the secretary was going to work from her home for Rana after Headley decided to leave India.

The defense counsel also asked why Headley received congratulatory emails and praise from his handlers in Pakistan and even his wife Fazia about Mumbai, yet there is no evidence that Rana praised the attack other than Headley's own word.

"There is no congratulations from Rana about Mumbai," Blegan said.

Defense Attacks on David Headley's Character

Besides questioning Rana's knowledge of Headley's plots, defense lawyers today ripped into Headley's personality, his character and his allegedly radical views on Islam.

It continued a pattern from Wednesday, when Headley was sharply questioned by the defense about his past as a convicted drug smuggler and work as a DEA informant.

Defense attorneys today asked Headley about an incident in Chicago that was witnessed by a concerned observer. When Headley's young son was playing soccer in a game and the coach yelled for the boy to shoot on goal by yelling, "Shoot! Shoot!" the boy rolled to the ground and took up a prone position as if he was shooting a gun.

Asked why his son did that, Headley said, "I want him to be a soldier."

Defense counsel Blegen also asked Headley about Rana's support for helping his children get a good education. Headley had only wanted to send his children to a Koranic school where they would memorize the Koran as their only course of study but, at Rana's urging, he enrolled them in school in the United States after moving from Pakistan.

Headley and Rana often had disagreements about their interpretations of Islam because he and Rana observed different sects.

Headley became defensive today when he was questioned about whether one of his wives knew about his role in the Mumbai terrorist attacks and knowingly supported his travel by buying him a plane ticket to Pakistan.

Headley said his wife bought him a ticket after his casing trip in Denmark.

Headley also testified that one of his wives accompanied him on one trip to Mumbai early in his casing operations.

Headley will be on the witness stand through next Tuesday under questioning by the defense. The trial is expected to last another two weeks.

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