WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States warned India a few months before the Mumbai assault that a Pakistani militant group was plotting attacks on the city, but it did not have details about an American helping the group, the top U.S. intelligence official said on Monday.
U.S. authorities were aware of David Headley, an American who has since admitted to scouting targets for Lashkar-e-Taiba for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement.
“It was not sufficiently established that he was engaged in plotting a terrorist attack in India,” Clapper said of Headley, who according to court papers had been an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
“Therefore, the United States government did not pass information on Headley to the Indian government prior to the attacks,” Clapper said in a statement following an internal review.
The United States “aggressively and promptly” provided warnings to India between June and September 2008 about LeT threats “to several targets in Mumbai,” he said. The attacks happened two months later.
The involvement of Headley, and recent reports that U.S. authorities were warned that he was associated with LeT years before the 2008 attacks, has tested relations between India and the United States and prompted new questions about who knew what and when.
President Barack Obama was in India over the weekend and Indian officials have said they were pursuing extradition of Headley to face charges there. But as part of Headley’s plea agreement in the United States, he cannot be extradited.
Headley pleaded guilty in a U.S. court in March to charges that he scouted targets for the deadly assault in Mumbai and plotted an attack on a Danish newspaper that had run cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammed.
Headley spent his childhood in Pakistan and his father was Pakistani. He changed his name in 2006 from Daood Gilani to make it easier to pass through U.S. security, prosecutors have said.
Indian officials earlier this year were allowed to interview Headley in the United States.
The U.S. intelligence community has been repeatedly criticized for failing to connect information in several plots, including the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the massacre at the U.S. Army base in Fort Hood, Texas, a year ago.
“The review finds that the United States government did not connect Headley to terrorism until 2009, after the attacks on Mumbai,” Clapper said.
Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by Vicki Allen