Headley questioning: US ground rules to apply, say lawyer

By Mayank Chhaya, IANS,

Chicago : Predetermined ground rules will govern any questioning of Mumbai terror plotter David Coleman Headley by Indian investigators, his lawyer has said.

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“The way an actual interrogation or interview will take place the government will have to determine. But we will insist on being present during it,” Headley’s attorney John Theis told IANS.

While pointing to the specifics as laid down in his plea agreement Theis reiterated that it will either be deposition, videoconferencing or letter rogatory. However, he said that the US government will be the eventual decision maker on the kind of interaction Indian investigators will be afforded.

Asked specifically whether Indian investigators will be able to sit across a table and interrogate him, Theis said that is the kind of determination that the government will have to make. “The reason there is confusion or ambiguity about this is because Headley is in US custody and there are logistical issues involved,” Theis said.

Ground rules governing any interrogation will be decided on the basis of “relevance” but once they are set Indian investigators will be able to ask what they choose within those parameters, he said.

On the much speculated question of Headley’s alleged life as a “double agent” for either the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) or unspecified American intelligence units, Theis said, “There is no evidence of that. No one has shown me any evidence. Bloggers have been writing on the basis of speculation.” He said he had even come across some bloggers calling Headley a “quadruple agent” let alone a double agent gone rogue.

Theis said he had not heard of anything specific about if and whether Indian investigators would arrive soon to question his client.

However, considering that Headley’s sentencing is postponed in accordance with the plea bargain to ensure his cooperation in foreign judicial proceedings the questioning will take place sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, Dean Boyd, spokesman, National Security Division at the Department of Justice, had no comment on the subject other than pointing to the statement by US Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer who said, “As the Assistant Secretary (for South Asia Robert Blake) indicated, the U.S. is committed to full information sharing in our counter terror partnership and in fact in this case we have provided substantial information to the Government of India and we will continue to do so. However, no decision on direct access for India to David Headley has been made. The U.S. Department of Justice will work with the Government of India regarding the modalities of such cooperation.”

This continues to strike a contradictory tone compared to what top Indian home ministry officials, including Secretary G K Pillai, has been saying about having been assured access to Headley.

(Mayank Chhaya can be contacted [email protected])