Days later, Headley married the Canadian woman at a resort in Jamaica. He did advanced Lashkar training in Pakistan in April, August and December. He wanted to fight in Kashmir, but the bosses had other ideas.
The American Behind India’s 9/11—And How U.S. Botched Chances to Stop Him
Headley was cultivated by Sajid Mir, a chief in charge of foreign recruits. Mir was about 30, a rising star. He was waging global jihad at a time when many Western authorities mistakenly saw Lashkar as a threat limited to India.
“My impression was that he was an authority and a power in his own right,” said Charles Wardle, a former Lashkar operative from New Zealand. “He could pretty much do whatever he wanted.”
Wardle, now 28, is one of Mir’s few known recruits who is not dead or in prison. He was an angry drifter who arrived at Lashkar headquarters in the heady days of the fall of 2001. He hung out with American, French and British trainees whom Mir later deployed to procure equipment and scout targets in the United States and to carry out a bomb plot in Australia that was foiled in 2003.
The recruits included a Korean-American and a French-Caribbean convert: Mir was looking for operatives with unlikely profiles suited to espionage-style work.
Mir didn’t let Wardle take paramilitary training because he had just converted to Islam. But Mir gave him travel cash and kept in touch as Wardle traveled to Saudi Arabia, where Lashkar militants helped him make his way to Iraq in time for the outbreak of the war.
Wardle narrowly survived combat alongside militants in the north.
In the summer of 2003, Mir sent Wardle from Pakistan to Dubai, a hub of Lashkar activity, for training in the use of explosives and espionage techniques. Mir visited him in Dubai.
Mir gave “the impression … that I would be returning to my country,” Wardle said. “I can only guess, but explosives training, I guess he would have had a target in mind.”
Before training could begin, however, Dubai police arrested and deported Wardle in a round-up of Islamic extremists. Mir was also detained in Dubai at some point but used Lashkar connections to get out of it, according to investigative documents.
Mir did not seem fazed by the incident or, in 2007, by his conviction in absentia in France on terror charges. Pakistan did nothing in response to the verdict or an Interpol warrant from Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, who led the French investigation. Bruguière is convinced that Mir was in the military or ISI.
“When you send an Interpol warrant and a country ignores it, it tends to confirm my theory that he was extremely powerful, that he was protected at high levels,” Bruguière said in an interview. “And the fact that no one has done anything about him, even today, confirms it once again.”
Other investigators believe Mir was close to the security forces but not an officer.
“There are a lot of questions about Sajid Mir,” Sageman said. “Is he really an ISI person who is within Lashkar-i-Taiba? Or is he a Lashkar-i-Taiba person who was trained by the military in the background? It doesn’t matter because, in a sense, Lashkar-i-Taiba was a proxy of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.”
Chapter 5: Narrow Escapes
Mir told Headley he wanted to use him for missions in India.
The American suggested he could perfect his cover by changing his name to hide his Pakistani ancestry and using a Chicago immigration consulting firm owned by Rana, his boyhood friend. Mir loved both ideas.
In the summer of 2005, Headley saw his Canadian wife in New York. He had applied for a green card for her, even though his marriage to his Pakistani wife was known to U.S. immigration, officials say.
The Canadian was furious. He had gone for months without communicating with her from Pakistan. She had called Headley’s father in Lahore, and he told her about the Pakistani wife and children, according to Headley’s associate and U.S. officials. The father said Headley claimed to be working for the U.S. government but was spending time in the Lashkar camps, the associate said.
On Aug. 25, Headley and his wife argued at his video store, and he allegedly hit her. Police arrested him on charges of assault. The wife also called a terror tip line. Headley had told her a lot over the years, even calling and emailing from the training camps. She knew more about Lashkar, a relatively obscure group, than most Westerners, officials say.
Agents from the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force interviewed her three times. She told them about his extremist activities, overseas training and acquisition of equipment for the terror group. She said he had told her periodically that he was working as a U.S. informant in Pakistan, according to officials and the close associate.