Illinois Public Media News
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)
Police in Champaign County are calling a death overnight at the county's correctional facility a suicide.
The sheriff's office says 24 year old Jesse Masengale had been sentenced on Monday to 30 years in prison for predatory criminal sexual assault on a child.
They say during a routine check, corrections officers at the county's satellite jail found Masengale inside a shower room inside an open dorm for non-problem jail inmates, hanging from a strip of fabric torn from a jail bedsheet. He was pronounced dead less than an hour later at Carle Hospital after officers tried to revive him.
Sheriff's officials say they're investigating Masengale's death but haven't found reason to believe anyone else was involved. They say a mental health interview conducted after his sentencing Monday found no concern of self-harm.
An admitted terrorist will be back on the stand Tuesday in a Chicago courtroom.
David Headley is the government's star witness in the terrorism trial of Chicagoan Tahawwur Rana, but Headley is a sketchy star witness. He has been convicted twice for bringing heroin into the U.S. and he seems unapologetic on the stand talking about his participation in the Mumbai terror attack that left more than 160 people dead.
Headley said Rana allowed him to pretend to be an employee of Rana's immigration business. Prosecutors say that allowed Headley to scope out potential terror targets in India with ease because he appeared to be a secular American businessman, rather than a Muslim Pakistani terrorist. Prosecutors say Rana never carried a gun or threw a grenade in the attack, but his support was critical to the success of the Mumbai plot.
Rana's attorneys told jurors they should not trust anything Headley has to say. Headley's cooperation with the government allows him to avoid the death penalty.
(AP Photo/Tom Gianni)
Officials at U.S. District Court in Chicago say the corruption retrial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich won't restart until Wednesday.
Clerk of Court Michael Dobbins released a brief statement Friday afternoon saying there'd be no trial proceedings either Monday or Tuesday.
Since testimony got under way at the start of this month, jurors have heard evidence Monday through Thursday with Fridays off.
Judge James Zagel has said he'll meet attorneys Monday to begin discussing instructions that'll eventually be given to jurors when they withdraw to deliberate.
That meeting is still expected to take place. Dobbins' statement didn't say why there'd be no testimony early in the week.
The prosecution rested this week. And the defense is expected to start calling witnesses when the retrial resumes Wednesday morning.
The Illinois Senate overwhelmingly OK'd prohibiting public disclosure of the names of people who hold firearm owner's cards.
The 42-1 vote Friday would overturn a ruling earlier this year by Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office that the names are public under the Freedom of Information Act.
Madigan responded after the Illinois State Police refused to release to The Associated Press the names of 1.3 million people who are registered to own firearms.
The bill goes to Gov. Pat Quinn. His office didn't immediately comment.
Sen. Kirk Dillard says publishing the names would provide a "map'' to criminals determining whose homes to burglarize.
Anti-violence groups say it would allow the public to determine whether cards have gone to people who shouldn't have them.
There are some intriguing possibilities about witnesses Rod Blagojevich's defense attorneys could call as they mount their case next week at the former governor's retrial.
Attorney Sheldon Sorosky said Thursday the defense will call "people of some prominence'' but didn't say who.
The defense didn't call any witnesses at the first trial last year. But they did subpoena then-White House chief of staff and now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, among others.
Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat.
Emanuel's never been accused of any wrong doing in the case.
But witnesses described how Blagojevich hoped Emanuel would help him cut a deal where Blagojevich would name Obama friend Valerie Jarrett to the seat and Blagojevich would get a Cabinet post.
An Indiana attorney will ask the state's Supreme Court to reconsider a controversial decision that involves police entry into homes.
The original case started with the arrest of Richard Barnes in Evansville, a city in the far southwestern corner of the state.
In late 2007 Evansville police tried to enter Barnes' home after being called to quell a domestic disturbance between Barnes and his wife. According to court records, Barnes told officers that they were not needed. Barnes and his wife tried heading back to their apartment. Police followed and then asked to be allowed inside. Barnes refused and shoved an officer. The officer entered anyway and subdued Barnes. Police eventually charged Barnes and a court convicted him on a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest.
Barnes attorney Erin Berger challenged the conviction on the grounds that police didn't have a warrant. The Indiana Appeals Court agreed. But after a ruling last week, the Indiana Supreme Court says Hoosiers cannot resist police entry into their home, even if that entry is illegal.
In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David wrote, "the right to reasonably resist an unlawful police entry into a home is no longer recognized under Indiana law."
David added that a resident's refusal to allow an officer entry could lead to further violence. The court says a resident can challenge the entry in court at a later time. But Justice Richard Rucker, a Gary native, dissented.
"A citizen's right to resist unlawful entry into her home rests on a very different ground, namely, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution," Rucker wrote. "In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally - that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent, or exigent circumstances."
Berger's taking the usual step in asking the court to reconsider its ruling.
"The breath of the decision would absolutely allow a police officer to enter a home for no reason, whether there's a warrant or not, whether there's extenuating circumstances or not," Berger said Wednesday. "Citizens no longer have the right to even tell the officer 'No,' and close the door against the officer's hand."
Following the ruling, threats have been made against the judges of the Indiana Supreme Court, and protesters have planned a march in Indianapolis for next week.
Indiana lawmakers are also considering amending the law so police within the state follow protections laid out in the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment.
The FBI said it is investigating whether Unabomber Ted Kaczynski was involved in the Chicago-area Tylenol poisonings that killed seven people in 1982.
Kaczynski wrote in papers filed in federal court in California last week that prison officials conveyed a request from the FBI in Chicago for DNA samples.
Chicago FBI spokeswoman Cynthia Yates confirmed Thursday that the agency has asked for Kaczynski's DNA. She said he's refused to voluntarily give a sample but declined to say whether the agency could compel him to provide one.
The Tylenol case involved the use of potassium cyanide and resulted in a mass recall. Kaczynski said he has never possessed potassium cyanide.
Kaczynski is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in 1998 to setting 16 explosions that killed three people.
(AP Photo/Department of Motor Vehicles, File)
Illinois may be the new host of a maximum security federal prison.
Since late 2009, the state and federal government have been in negotiations and while there has been no official confirmation, legislators have confirmed terms of transferring the Thomson Correctional Center to the feds. President Barack Obama's original plan was to send Guantanamo Bay's terror suspects to Thomson. A backlash killed that plan.
Still the administration insisted it wanted to take the state-of-the-art prison off Illinois' hands, as it has barely been used. State legislators from northwestern Illinois, including Republican Representative Richard Morthland, say they were notified by Governor Pat Quinn of a deal.
Morthland said it was to be kept quiet because there are unfinished details. However, it appears the state will get $165 million for Thomson. That's lower than its $220 million appraised value. But Morthland said it will create needed high-quality jobs.
"They'll need places to live, there're going to need places to shop, and they're going to be providing a lot of services," Morthland said. "The Federal Bureau of Prisons has a preference to working with local producers, so the farmers in the area and other people will be able to do business with the prison. And so it's really going to be a great shot in the arm for northwestern Illinois."
Given crowding in Illinois correctional facilities, the state could surely use it to house its own criminals. But Illinois doesn't have the money to open the prison. Congress would still need to approve the purchase, but no further action is necessary at the state level.
A jury has been seated in the terrorism trial of a Chicago man.
The twelve jurors and 6 alternates chosen will be hearing the case against Tahawwur Rana who's accused of planning the Mumbai terror attack that killed 160 people.
Ten of the jurors are women and eight are African American. Rana's defense attorneys say there were a lot of minorities in the overall pool of jurors, and that's why there are so many on the panel. Charlie Swift says it's a good jury for them.
"The idea here was to get a jury of Mr. Rana's peers and I believe that we got a jury of Mr. Rana's peers. People who can understand Mr. Rana's position as an immigrant. People who can understand Mr. Rana's position as a minority in his community, Mr. Rana's position as a businessman and as a family member," Swift said.
Opening statements in the case are scheduled to begin Monday.
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