Illinois Public Media News
An angry judge chastised ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday for "smuggling" testimony into his political corruption retrial that the judge had previously ruled inadmissible.
Judge James Zagel said Blagojevich has insisted on mentioning issues or opinions that the judge has ruled shouldn't be cited in front of the jury. He warned him sharply not to do it again.
"This is a deliberate effort by this witness to raise something that he can't raise," Zagel said. "This is not fair, this is a repeated example of a defendant who wants to say something by smuggling (it) in."
Zagel, who sent the jury out of the room before admonishing Blagojevich, implied that the former governor's motives were less than pure.
"I make a ruling, and then the ruling is disregarded, and then I have to say, 'Don't do it,'" Zagel said. "And when you do that more than once or twice, it is inevitable that I'm going to believe that there is some purpose other than the pursuit of truth."
The judge had said earlier that Blagojevich wasn't allowed to tell jurors that he thought his plans to seek a top job in exchange for appointing someone to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat were legal.
At a hearing without jurors present, Blagojevich told Zagel that he wanted to testify that he believed he wasn't crossing any lines by asking Obama to appoint him to an ambassadorship or Cabinet post in exchange for appointing the president-elect's choice for the seat.
But Zagel was largely unswayed, ruling that jurors won't be allowed to hear any opinions about legality.
"The fact that he thinks it is legal is not relevant here," Zagel said.
Prosecutors had fought to keep Blagojevich from talking about the legal issue, and it's unclear how radically it will affect Blagojevich's testimony going forward or his defense strategy.
Jurors finally began hearing from Blagojevich about the Senate seat Tuesday after three days of testimony in which he had focused on accusations that he attempted to shake down executives for campaign cash. He began delving into the Senate seat charge toward the end of that day.
Blagojevich told jurors he wasn't enticed by an alleged pay-to-play proposal from fundraisers close to U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to raise millions of dollars in campaign cash if Blagojevich named Jackson to the seat.
"That's illegal," Blagojevich said. "I was opposed to the offer of fundraising in exchange for the Senate seat."
Blagojevich also echoed a long-held defense argument that all the FBI wiretaps that capture him talking on the telephone about how he might benefit from naming someone to seat was just that - talk.
Asked by his attorney, Aaron Goldstein, if he spoke frequently about the seat in the weeks before his arrest on Dec. 9, 2008, Blagojevich did not miss a beat.
"Absolutely, yes. Incessantly," said Blagojevich.
He explained that his method for arriving at a decision on the seat was to talk with as many confidants and as often as possible.
"I wanted to be very careful to invite a full discussion of ideas ... good ones, bad ones, stupid ones," he said. He added, "There was a method to the madness."
The twice-elected governor briefly mentioned that he got word in November 2008 that Obama appeared to be interested in seeing family friend and fellow Chicago Democrat Valerie Jarrett named as his replacement.
Prosecutors played a recording during their three-week case where Blagojevich asks one aide about appointing Jarrett, "We could get something for that couldn't we?" He mentions the possibility of a Cabinet post.
Blagojevich told jurors he had in mind what he described as legal, political horse-trading.
At the end of those proceedings, prosecutors complained that Blagojevich seemed to be resorting to arguments that Zagel explicitly ruled he could not make, including that he was merely engaging in the kind of wheeling and dealing all politicians engage in.
Zagel agreed, warning defense attorneys then that he would likely instruct jurors before they began deliberating that any defense based on the theory that everybody does it isn't valid.
"There's legal horse-trading and there's also illegal horse-trading," Zagel said.
Blagojevich, 54, denies all wrongdoing. He faces 20 criminal counts, including attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud. In his first trial last year, a hung jury agreed on just one count - convicting Blagojevich of lying to the FBI.
(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, testifying for a third day at his federal corruption trial, disputed prosecution claims that he tried to leverage state action for campaign donations.
Race track bill
Guided by his attorney, Aaron Goldstein, Blagojevich provided his defense to government charges that he tried to get campaign donations in 2008 by withholding his signature from a bill that would benefit the horse race track industry.
Prosecutors had played secretly-taped conversations between Blagojevich and his former chief of staff, Lon Monk, who was working as a lobbyist for the industry. The government alleges Blagojevich and Monk were trying to squeeze money from the racetrack-owning Johnston family in exchange for signing the legislation.
In his testimony Tuesday, Blagojevich said he had a couple reasons - entirely legal ones - for withholding his signature on the bill. First, he said he wanted to consider the legislation as part of his broader plan to use his amendatory veto power, what he called his "Rewrite to do right campaign."
Second, Blagojevich said he was nervous that he would sign the bill around the same time that a campaign donation from the Johnstons would arrive. He said he believed the donation was "imminent" based on his conversations with Monk, and didn't want there to be a perception that he signed the bill because of the money. He noted he'd been "stung" by a similar allegation in the past.
Also Tuesday, Blagojevich addressed accusations that he tried to shake down road construction bigwig Gerald Krozel, by holding back approval for a major tollway project. The ex-governor, in his testimony, sought to provide another reason for his reluctance to move forward with expansion: that he was trying to get the legislature to approve with a much larger statewide construction plan, known as the capital bill.
The defense played a secretly recorded conversation between Blagojevich and his chief of staff at the time, John Harris. In it, they talked about a request from then-DuPage County Board Chair Bob Schillerstrom to include a western access road to O'Hare Airport in the tollway plan. Blagojevich scoffed at the request, as he wanted Schillerstrom to use his political heft to pressure House Speaker Mike Madigan to call for a vote on the larger capital bill.
That recording included several expletives from Blagojevich, which the ex-governor addressed on the stand.
"You had to pick one of me swearing, eh?" he asked his attorney. Then, to the jury, "I'm sorry again about that language."
The former governor also discussed a meeting he had with Krozel at his campaign offices. Krozel testified that at this meeting he felt Blagojevich was linking campaign donations and the expanded tollway plan, which would provide obvious benefits to Krozel's industry.
Blagojevich acknowledged both topics came up at the meeting. He said he talked to Krozel about a new ethics law, which restricted political donations from state contractors beginning on January 1, 2009.
"The good news for you and bad news for me is you can't contribute money to me anymore," Blagojevich recalled telling Krozel. "This is your last hurrah."
Blagojevich denied threatening or demanding that Krozel fundraise for him. He said the construction executive told him he wanted to help.
Blagojevich's team has yet to address the most headline-grabbing allegations against their client. He is accused of trying to personally profit from his power to fill the U.S. Senate seat that President Barack Obama vacated in late 2008.
Blagojevich testifed Tuesday that "whenever a baseball manager calls me...I call them back." Such was the case when former Cubs manager Dusty Baker called Blagojevich in 2008 to ask him to help out Children's Memorial Hospital. The hospital's executive ended up asking Blagojevich to push through a Medicaid reimbursement rate increase for pediatricians.
Budget times were tight, but Blagojevich said he agreed. The governor said he told his deputy governor, Bob Greenlee, to get it done. He said Greenlee eventually told him he'd found the money to make it happen, effective after January 1, 2009.
Prosecutors allege Blagojevich was trying to get fundraising help from Patrick Magoon, and actually ordered the rate increase be put on hold when Magoon resisted. Blagojevich dismissed that claim, noting that he thought the rate increase was set. "My state of mind was it was done," he testified.
Blagojevich says the hospital was "a personal place" for him because a cousin died there in the 1960s.
Blagojevich's binder blunder
Shortly after Blagojevich began testifying Tuesday morning, the judge halted the proceedings and sent the jury out of the room because the ex-governor's microphone kept going on-and-off. Court staff soon discovered the problem: Blagojevich's binder, containing transcripts of wiretaps, "was resting on the on-and-off switch."
"You got to watch that binder, Rod," Goldstein told his client after the jury returned.
"Evidently it was my fault," replied Blagojevich.
Blagojevich has denied all wrongdoing since his arrest on December 9, 2008. Less than two months later, he was impeached and removed from office by the Illinois General Assembly. Since then, he's waged a very public campaign, declaring his innocence at every turn. He hosted a radio show on a local station, appeared in Celebrity Apprentice and acted as a pitchman for pistachios.
Blagojevich faces 20 federal charges, including wire fraud, attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery. This is the ex-governor's second trial, after a different jury last summer deadlocked on all but one count. It found him guilty of lying to federal investigators, a charge that carries a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Goldstein briefly asked Blagojevich about that conviction on Tuesday. The ex-governor acknowledged he was found guilty, and said Judge James Zagel is responsible for sentencing him. Goldstein then told Blagojevich he would move on to another subject, to which the defendant replied, "Please do."
When the jury was out of the courtroom on a break, Blagojevich attorney Lauren Kaesberg told Judge Zagel that she has witnessed prosecutors making faces and engaging in "animated discussion" that jurors were noticing.
Prosecutor Reid Schar denied this, and Zagel said he had not noticed it.
The government made a similar complaint about Blagojevich during the first trial.
There were only 17 jurors listening to testimony today, down one from the standard of 18. It is not uncommon for one or two jurors to withdraw during a trial. It can sometime happen for health or personal reasons.
(AP Photo/Tom Gianni)
Defense attorneys for a Chicago businessman accused in the 2008 Mumbai attacks are trying to undermine the credibility of an admitted terrorist who is serving as the government's star witness.
David Coleman Headley returns to the witness stand Tuesday to face questions from defense attorneys for Tahawwur Rana. He's accused of helping Headley, his longtime friend, lay the groundwork for the attacks that left more than 160 people dead in in India's largest city.
Headley has already pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Rana, who is accused of providing a cover as Headley conducted surveillance for the attacks.
Rana's attorneys say Headley's testimony isn't credible because he's lied in the past. They went after his credibility last week, and told a judge they're just getting started. Headley has already pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Rana, who is accused of providing a cover as Headley conducted surveillance for the attacks.
Rana's attorneys say Headley's testimony isn't credible because he's lied in the past. They went after his credibility last week, and told a judge they're just getting started.
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is be back on the witness stand today trying to convince jurors that he is innocent. He spent about six hours in total on the stand last week.
He is still being questioned by his own attorney Aaron Goldstein. The questions give Blagojevich a chance to say that he never extorted anyone. Blagojevich says he never explicitly or implicitly threatened to withhold state action if they didn't give him campaign contributions.
He has told jurors that it's important for politicians to raise money because, "this is the system that we have in America."
He said the U.S. Supreme court has protected campaign contributions under the first amendment right to free speech. He has also told jurors that following fundraising laws can be delicate because of the nature of politics and he's explaining how he tried to follow the laws.
Prosecutors could spend days challenging Blagojevich's assertions after defense attorneys finish their questioning.
Blagojevich has so far only addressed about half of the allegations against him. The 54-year-old hasn't yet touched on the most serious accusation that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat for a top job or campaign cash.
His attorneys have said Blagojevich most likely wouldn't delve into that explosive allegation until later this week.
He faces a total of 20 counts. He has denied any wrongdoing.
(AP Photo/Tom Gianni)
Impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich switched his focus Friday during his second day on the witnesses stand from describing himself as an everyday man to seemingly pointing the fingers at others.
A less-animated Blagojevich offered nitty-gritty, often laborious detail to jurors about the legislative process and the hardscrabble world of political fundraising. Gone were the hand gestures, emotion and long monologue about himself from the day before.
Blagojevich still did not get to most explosive allegations against him, that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat for campaign cash or a top job.
His testimony Friday centered on allegations that he tried to shake down racetrack executive John Johnston for a $100,000 campaign contribution by withholding his signature on a bill that benefited the horse-racing industry.
The twice-elected governor conceded that he was eager to get a contribution from Johnston, but when his attorney asked if he was refusing to sign the bill as a way to squeeze Johnston for money, Blagojevich denied it.
"No, I was not," he said in a firm voice. "My intention was to follow the law ... and be careful not to cross any lines."
Blagojevich also told jurors that advance commitments from would-be donors - and urging would-be donors to follow through - was critical to enabling politicians to plan ahead for hard election fights.
"This is the system we have in America," he said. "I think it is an imperfect and flawed system."
The former government appeared to suggest that two of his close friends turned top advisers, Lon Monk and Chris Kelly, may have been at least partly to blame for the perception that Blagojevich seemed to be shaking down the executive.
His attorney asked Blagojevich to explain excerpts of an FBI wiretap recording, in which Monk tells Blagojevich about having just met Johnston, pressing him for money. Blagojevich several times noted that it was Monk, not him, who went to Johnston.
Later, he talked about his late friend Chris Kelly, offering suspicions that Kelly might have been "meddling" in the racetrack legislation himself as an explanation for why Blagojevich was so slow to sign the bill.
Kelly committed suicide in 2009, days before he was to report to prison to begin a term on tax and mail fraud convictions.
Though he didn't explain in detail, Blagojevich claimed that he believed Kelly might be trying to manipulate the racetrack bill somehow in an effort to curry favor with people with supposed connections to then-President George W. Bush. Kelly's aim, Blagojevich told jurors: To get someone to ask Bush to grant Kelly a pardon and keep him out of prison.
Blagojevich said that, and not any shakedown, was his reason for delay in signing the race-track bill.
"I don't want anyone to say I am signing the bill because I am part of some scheme with Chris," Blagojevich told jurors. "I was afraid if I sign the bill, this is what they might say."
As he did on Thursday in his first day of testimony, Blagojevich frequently veered off-topic. Judge James Zagel frequently intervened.
"See if you can answer a question yes or no," he told Blagojevich at one point.
Zagel sent jurors home for the Memorial Day holiday at around noon on Friday. Defense attorneys told Zagel that Blagojevich will be called to the stand again on Tuesday and that he could remain on the stand for the defense until Thursday.
(AP Photo/Tom Gianni)
Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich told jurors Thursday about his life and blue collar roots while testifying at his corruption retrial in Chicago.
Introducing himself to jurors, he said, "I used to be your governor" and "I'm here today to tell you the truth."
The testimony has been mostly autobiographical, though at times Blagojevich has made obvious attempts to link this background to the federal charges he now faces.
He proceeded to talk about his upbringing in a working-class Chicago neighborhood. Blagojevich spoke in a low voice and remembered his first hit in little league baseball. Jurors watched him intently.
Blagojevich described his first jobs as a shoeshine boy and then working in a packing company. He talked about his father leaving home to work on the Alaskan pipeline. Blagojevich said he also worked on the pipeline, washing pots and pans.
Blagojevich's voice broke when he spoke about his deceased parents. He later choked up when he began to tell the story of how he met his wife, Patti. That prompted Judge James Zagel to send the jury out of the room, and call for a lunch break.
Earlier, Blagojevich addressed his days as an undergrad at Northwestern University. He told jurors that he often felt inferior compared to other students. But he said he got good grades, and was a history buff.
"I had a man crush on Alexander Hamilton," Blagojevich said.
In talking about Winston Churchill and how leaders made decisions, the ex-governor offered a preview of his defense to the corruption charges he faces, some of which are based off secretly taped phone calls with his aides.
Blagojevich said, like Churchill, he believes in "full discussion," that leaders "should be free" to bounce ideas off advisers, to "end up in the right place."
Later, talking about law school, Blagojevich said he applied to a number of top schools, including Harvard University. The rejection letter, he said, "came back pretty quick." Blagojevich eventually went to Pepperdine University in California. His first year, he said, was "almost catastrophic," because he wanted to read history books instead of law books.
Blagojevich attorney Aaron Goldstein asked him about his friendship with Lon Monk. Monk is a former Blagojevich aide who testified against him in exchange for a lighter sentence for himself.
Blagojevich said he met Monk while studying abroad in England during law school, and it developed into "a lifelong, very close friendship."
He talked about how different his upbringing and family were Monk's, whose father was a successful California obstetrician and gynecologist. Blagojevich said he "became very close" with Monk's family. He said they had a "beautiful house...with peacocks in the back yard."
"I love Lon Monk," Blagojevich said of his once-close friend. Asked if he trusted him, the ex-governor said, "Absolutely. Infinitely."
The ex-governor talked about how he worked as a paralegal for Ed Vrdolyak, at the time a lawyer and Chicago alderman.
"I didn't do a lot of law," Blagojevich said, noting that his job consisted of doing campaign work for, among others, then-Mayor Jane Byrne, and picking up cheesecakes for the alderman's driver.
Blagojevich said Vrdolyak later reneged on a promise to hire him, and again on a promise to get him a job with the Cook County State's Attorney's office. He was hired anyway, working in the office while Richard M. Daley was state's attorney.
"While he was my boss, I never saw him," said Blagojevich. He talked about his work in the traffic division, and later on domestic violence cases.
No doubt in an effort to make sure the jury knew he was not professionally familiar with the laws he is accused of breaking, Blagojevich attorney Aaron Goldstein asked the ex-governor a series of questions about his struggles to pass the bar exam, and his experience in private practice. Blagojevich testified that he never worked on any federal case, nonetheless one involving the fraud or extortion statutes.
Blagojevich's attorney cited his tendency for profanity. Blagojevich then apologized directly to jurors. He said when you hear the curses and swear words, "it makes you wince." Blagojevich called himself a jerk for swearing.
Once his own attorneys are done questioning him, Blagojevich is sure to face blistering cross-examination from the government. Prosecutors are likely to replay FBI wiretaps that captured his blunt talk.
Blagojevich's testimony comes on the heels of a terrible day in court for the defense Wednesday.
They called Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the stand. He testified for only four minutes. They also called Jesse Jackson Jr. who said he never offered Blagojevich money in return for being appointed to Barack Obama's old senate seat.
But under cross examination by prosecutors, Jackson offered up a whole new allegation of extortion. He says Blagojevich asked for a $25,000 dollar campaign contribution, but Jackson didn't pay. Later, Jackson's wife, Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, applied for, but was denied a job in the Blagojevich administration. At a subsequent meeting Jackson says the governor referred to the job, then snapped his fingers and pointed in an Elvis-like way and said, "You should have given me that $25,000."
Jurors wouldn't have heard this story if Blagojevich's lawyers hadn't called Jackson to the stand. The anecdote is like an additional criminal count against the former governor, compliments of his own defense team.
Blagojevich's attorneys didn't call any witnesses during his first trial last year. That jury deadlocked on 23 of 24 counts, including allegations that Blagojevich tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat.
(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
An admitted American terrorist who scouted sites in the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks is expected to face intense questioning from defense attorneys Wednesday when he returns to the stand as the government's star witness in the trial of a Chicago businessman accused of helping him.
David Coleman Headley's testimony has alleged close coordination between Pakistan's main intelligence agency and militants in the three-day rampage that killed more than 160 people in India's largest city.
Headley, who pleaded guilty in plotting the attacks, is the government's top witness in the trial of Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana. His testimony also comes at a pivotal moment in U.S.-Pakistan relations, just weeks after Navy SEALs found Osama bin Laden hiding outside Islamabad, raising concerns that Pakistan may have been protecting the world's most wanted terrorist.
Defense attorneys get their first chance to undermine Headley's credibility before jurors on Wednesday. Attorneys for Rana, who is accused of helping Headley establish cover in Mumbai and for another plot in Denmark, have called Headley manipulative and claimed he had other reasons in implicating Rana, his longtime friend.
"Some of the evidence that we expect to come in will show that David Headley absolutely had additional motives, including protecting his wife," Rana attorney Charles Swift told reporters this week. "There's written proof that she knew and there's not going to be that same proof where Dr. Rana's concerned."
Federal prosecutors have guided Headley through days of testimony where he provided rare insight into the web of international terrorism.
Pakistan has deflected the accusations and repeated what it's maintained since 2008: The Inter-Services Intelligence agency, known as ISI, had no links to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani-based terrorists who claimed credit for the Mumbai attacks.
The ISI knew about and helped fund and direct the Mumbai plot, Headley said.
A "frogman" in Pakistan's military even helped select a landing site in Mumbai where Lashkar terrorists would arrive by boat, he testified. Headley recalled an instance a few years before the Mumbai plot conception when Lashkar leaders wanted to get signoff from the ISI before making a decision that could have diplomatic consequences with the U.S.
"They coordinated with each other, and ISI provided assistance to Lashkar," Headley said.
Headley, who said he started working with Lashkar in 2000, said the Pakistan-based terror group, and the ISI operate under the same umbrella. As Headley scouted sites for targets in Mumbai, he met regularly and received money from someone he said was an ISI major, known only as "Major Iqbal."
Iqbal and Headley's regular Lashkar contact, Sajid Mir, both gave him the same instructions for where to go and what to scope out, he said. Headley would provide videos he took of sights in Mumbai to Iqbal and then to Mir. Headley said Mir and Iqbal were in contact with each other. Headley has testified that Rana was apprised of all developments and largely approved.
In October 2008, Headley said he and his Lashkar and ISI handlers all met together in Pakistan, about a month before the attacks. During this meeting, the men also talked for the first time about a separate plot to attack a Danish newspaper that in 2005 had printed cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, Headley said. That plot was foiled by law enforcement.
"I suggested we only focus on the cartoonist and the editor," Headley testified of a later meeting with Mir. "He said, 'All Danes are responsible for this.'"
Prosecutors showed emails among the three men - some of them forwarded to Rana - detailing points on the Mumbai attacks and the aftermath.
Defense attorneys have raised issues with Headley's credibility. He reached a plea deal with prosecutors in the terrorism case in exchange for avoiding the death penalty and previously had been an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration after a heroin conviction.
Though Rana is on trial, much of Headley's testimony so far has focused on his dealings with Iqbal, Mir and Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, identified by prosecutors as a retired Pakistani military with links to Iqbal. All three are charged in absentia.
(AP Photo/Tom Gianni)
Rod Blagojevich's attorneys are set to begin their first defense of the former Illinois governor in his second trial on corruption charges.
A person familiar with the defense plans says new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will be among the opening witnesses. The person spoke on condition of anonymity, citing not being authorized to speak publicly.
In the first trial last year, Blagojevich's attorneys rested without calling a single witness. The jury later deadlocked on 23 of the 24 counts against the former governor, including allegations that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat in exchange for campaign funds or a job for himself.
The defense attorneys say the two elected officials could help prove Blagojevich's actions weren't crimes.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is re-deploying 500 officers to police beats around the city, but some officials say the plan doesn't satisfy Emanuel's campaign promise to put 1,000 officers on the streets.
Emanuel said at a Tuesday news conference that he is putting 500 existing Chicago police officers on beats. He said that would help build relations with communities and eventually drop crime. The officers are already on the street, but don't necessarily have specific beats. Emanuel called it a down payment on his campaign promise to add 1,000 officers to beats.
"I can wait to find the resources, or I can basically say, 'Are we most efficient in applying our officers to where crime is,'" he said.
But Alderman LaTasha Thomas said she was expecting 1,000 new officers, not the re-deployment of officers already on the force.
"They're taking a step, but this is not the thousand to me," Thomas said.
The head of the police union, Michael Shields, said in a statement, "The department has taken hundreds of highly-skilled street officers and transformed them overnight into hundreds of highly-skilled beat officers. What's the difference?"
Emanuel said some of the cops will be deployed to high crime areas.
(Photo by Tony Arnold/IPR)
The federal government's star witness at a Chicago terrorism trial revealed more potentially damaging details on Tuesday alleging close cooperation between a Pakistani militant group and the country's top intelligence agency, telling jurors that he frequently exchanged emails and met with members of both groups a month before the deadly 2008 attacks in Mumbai.
David Coleman Headley returned to the witnesses stand for a second day in the terrorism trial of a Chicago businessman accused of collaborating in the three-day siege of India's largest city - giving a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and how he was recruited by a member of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, known as ISI, to take part in the Mumbai plot.
Headley told jurors Tuesday that he met with both his handlers from Lashkar and ISI in Pakistan in October 2008 - one month before the Mumbai rampage that killed more than 160 people including six Americans - and his Lashkar contact, Sajid Mir, said militants had unsuccessfully tried to do the attack in September but crashed their boat leaving Pakistan. They also talked for the first time about a separate plot to attack a Danish newspaper that in 2005 had printed cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, he said.
"I suggested we only focus on the cartoonist and the editor," Headley testified of a later meeting with Mir. "He said, `"All Danes are responsible for this.'"
As the government's first and main witness in the trial of his longtime friend Tahawwur Rana, Headley's testimony outlining links between the ISI and Lashkar could inflame tensions between Pakistan and India and place even more pressure on the already frayed U.S. and Pakistani relations.
It also could add to the questions about Pakistan's commitment to catch terrorists and the ISI's connections to Pakistan-based terror groups, especially after Osama bin Laden was found hiding out earlier this month in a military garrison town outside of Islamabad.
Headley pleaded guilty to laying the groundwork for the Mumbai attacks that killed more than 160 people including six Americans, and he agreed to testify against Rana to avoid the death penalty, making him one of the most valuable U.S. government counterterrorism witnesses.
"Headley's testimony is a nail in the coffin of U.S.-Pakistani strategic cooperation," said Bruce Riedel, a former White House adviser on Middle Eastern and South Asian issues. "Until now his commentary has gotten very little attention outside India, now it will finally get the attention it deserves here."
The Pakistani government has denied the ISI orchestrated the Mumbai attacks, and a senior ISI official said Tuesday that the agency has no links to the terrorists behind the rampage. When asked about the testimony being heard in Chicago, the official said "it is nothing." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because his agency doesn't allow its operatives to be named in the media.
On Tuesday, Headley testified that details of planning for the attacks were known by an ISI officer known only by the alias "Major Iqbal" and Mir. Iqbal said a list would be provided to Headley of possible targets and later he would receive it from Mir. The three men met together in Pakistan in October 2008 where Mir told Headley about the failed attempt on Mumbai. The meetings continued.
"In a few weeks if everything went well, they were going to launch a second attempt," Headley testified.
Prosecutors showed emails between the three men - some of them forwarded to Rana - detailing points on the Mumbai attacks and the aftermath. They wrote in code from ever-changing email addresses including some that came from transliterated Urdu words into English and others from seemingly innocuous phrases like the email handle "Get Me Some Books," that Mir used at one time.
When the attacks happened, Headley, who was born Daood Gilani, testified that he got a text message from Mir asking him to turn on the television.
"I was pleased," he told jurors, but later he started to worry. "I was concerned if our plan had been leaked out."
At this time, Headley said, he was also in more frequent contact with Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, whom prosecutors identified as retired Pakistani military with links to Major Iqbal. Syed was referred to as "Pasha."
Rana, who attended medical school in Pakistan, was only brought up periodically throughout testimony, with Headley saying that he debriefed all his plans with Rana. He said they discussed the Mumbai attacks afterward and what they considered a successful mission against Indians.
"Dr. Rana said, `They deserved it,'" Headley said.
Rana, a Canadian citizen who has lived in Chicago for years, is accused of giving Headley cover during his time in Mumbai by allowing him to set up a branch of his Chicago-based immigration services business. His name is the seventh one on the federal indictment, and the only defendant in custody. Among the six others charged in absentia are Mir, Iqbal and Pasha.
Rana, who has pleaded not guilty, is also accused of helping arrange travel and other help for Headley, who planned the separate attack that never happened on the Danish newspaper. Defense attorneys have told jurors their client was taken advantage of by his friend and did not know what was in store. But prosecutors have said Rana was not duped and knew of the plans, both in Mumbai and Denmark.
Defense attorneys were expected scrutinize Headley's credibility as a witness, saying he has been motivated to change his story and that he was working for the U.S. government even as he said he was working for Lashkar and ISI.
(AP Photo/Tom Gianni)
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