Journalism in the Public Interest

The American Behind India’s 9/11—And How U.S. Botched Chances to Stop Him

Officials say David Coleman Headley slipped through the cracks despite repeated warnings to U.S. law enforcement. Indian authorities think the U.S. knew more than it has revealed about the ex-informant’s activities before the 2008 siege that killed 166 people, including six U.S. citizens. Both scenarios suggest breakdowns in counterterror systems.

Pictured left: David Coleman Headley, born Daood Gilani. Right: Sajid Mir, the Lashkar-i-Taiba chief in charge of foreign recruits. Background: Fire and smoke gush out of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel during the 2008 Mumbai attacks. (Photo by Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

Jan. 24 Update: A federal judge today sentenced American David Coleman Headley's to 35 years in prison for his role in organizing scouting missions for the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai that killed 160 people. Read our extensive coverage of Headley and his role as a U.S. drug informant and operative of the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-i-Taiba below.

This story was co-published with PBS FRONTLINE, which will air a film version today. Check local listings. It was originally published on Nov. 22, 2011.

Prologue: Justice Denied

During a meeting overseas last summer, a senior U.S. official and Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of Pakistan’s armed forces, discussed a threat that has strained the troubled U.S.-Pakistani relationship since the 2008 Mumbai attacks: the Lashkar-i-Taiba militant group.

The senior U.S. official expressed concern that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a terrorist chief arrested for the brutal attacks in India, was still directing Lashkar operations while in custody, according to a U.S. government memo viewed by ProPublica. Gen. Kayani responded that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), had told prison authorities to better control Lakhvi’s access to the outside world, the memo says. But Kayani rejected a U.S. request that authorities take away the cell phone Lakhvi was using in jail, according to the memo to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the National Security Council.

The meeting was emblematic of the lack of progress three years after Lashkar and the ISI allegedly teamed up to kill 166 people in Mumbai, the most sophisticated and spectacular terror strike since the September 11 attacks. The U.S. government filed unprecedented charges against an ISI officer in the deaths of six Americans. Yet, Pakistani authorities have not arrested him or other accused masterminds. The failure to crack down on the jailed Lakhvi, whose trial has stalled, raises fears of new attacks on India and the West, counterterror officials say.

“Lakhvi is still the military chief of Lashkar,” a U.S. counterterror official said in an interview. “He is in custody but has not been replaced. And he still has access and ability to be the military chief. Don’t assume a Western view of what custody is.”

In the United States, stubborn questions persist about the case’s star witness, David Coleman Headley, a confessed Lashkar operative and ISI spy. The Pakistani-American’s testimony at a trial in Chicago this year revealed the ISI’s role in the Mumbai attacks and a plot against Denmark. It was the strongest public evidence to date of ISI complicity in terrorism.

But the trial shed little light on Headley’s past as a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informant and the failure of U.S. agencies to pursue repeated warnings over seven years that could have stopped his lethal odyssey sooner — and perhaps prevented the Mumbai attack.

U.S. officials say Headley simply slipped through the cracks. If that is true, his story is a trail of bureaucratic dysfunction. But if his ties to the U.S. government were more extensive than disclosed — as widely believed in India — an operative may have gone rogue with tragic results. Both scenarios reveal the kind of breakdowns that the government has spent billions to correct since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Obama administration has not discussed results of an internal review of the case conducted last year, or disclosed whether any officials have been held accountable.

During an interview in Delhi, former Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai asserted that U.S. authorities know more about Headley than they have publicly stated. Several senior Indian security officials said they believe that U.S. warnings provided to India before the Mumbai attacks came partly from knowledge of Headley’s activities. They believe he remained a U.S. operative.

“David Coleman Headley, in my opinion, was a double agent,” said Pillai, who served in the top security post until this past summer. “He was working for both the U.S. and for Lashkar and the ISI.”

The CIA, FBI and DEA deny such allegations.

File photos of Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in November 2004 (bottom) and on November 26, 2008 (top) as fire engulfs the top floor after a shootout with terrorists. (AFP PHOTO / PAL PILLAI (top) | AFP PHOTO/Getty Images/SEBASTIAN D'SOUZA (bottom))
File photos of Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in November, 2004 (bottom) and on November 26, 2008 (top) as fire engulfs the top floor after a shootout with terrorists. (AFP PHOTO / PAL PILLAI (top) | AFP PHOTO/Getty Images/SEBASTIAN D'SOUZA (bottom))

An investigation by ProPublica and FRONTLINE during the past year did not find proof that Headley was working as a U.S. agent at the time of the attacks. But it did reveal new contradictions between the official version of events, Headley’s sworn testimony and detailed accounts of officials and others involved in the case. The reporting also turned up previously undisclosed opportunities for U.S. agencies to identify Headley as a terrorist threat, and new details about already-reported warnings.

U.S. and foreign officials say his role as an informant or ex-informant helped him elude detection as he was training in Pakistani terror camps and traveling back and forth to Mumbai to scout targets. And three counterterror sources say U.S. agencies learned enough about him to glean fragments of intelligence that contributed to the warnings to India about a developing plot against Mumbai.

In contrast, some U.S. officials say spotting a threat is harder than it seems. Glimmers of advance knowledge are part of the landscape of terrorism. In cases such as the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2004 Madrid train bombings, security forces had detected some of the suspects but not their plots.

“I just have to dispel some of these notions,” said Philip Mudd, a former top national security official at the FBI. “We look at a grain of sand and say … 'why couldn’t you put together the whole conspiracy when you saw that grain of sand?' Well, you got to reverse it. Every day coming into a threat brief, you’re not looking at a grain of sand and building a beach. You’re looking at a beach and trying to find a grain of sand.”

New information about the case comes partly from the DEA. After months of silence, DEA officials recently granted an interview with a ProPublica reporter and went over a timeline based on records about their former informant. The DEA officials said Headley’s relationship with the anti-drug agency was more limited than has been widely described.

The DEA officially deactivated Headley as a confidential source on March 27, 2002, according to a senior DEA official. That was weeks after he began training in Lashkar terror camps in Pakistan and six years before the Mumbai attacks. The senior official denied assertions that Headley had worked for the DEA in Pakistan while he trained with Lashkar in 2002 and beyond.

“The DEA did not send David Coleman Headley to Pakistan for the purpose of collecting post-9/11 information on terrorism or drugs,” the senior DEA official said.

The denial adds another version to a murky story. Officials at other U.S. agencies say Headley remained a DEA operative in some capacity until as late as 2005. Headley has testified that he did not stop working for the DEA until September 2002, when he had done two stints in the Lashkar camps.

Some U.S. officials and others involved say the government ended Headley’s probation for a drug conviction three years early in November 200

john wheat gibson, sr.

Nov. 22, 2011, 1 p.m.

Thus U.S. did not “botch” a chance to stop Headley.  The U.S.A. consistently promotes and facilitates terrorist attacks by Muslim lunatics throughout the world for the purpose of fomenting hatred and fear of Islam generally, which becomes visceral support for Israel’s program of ethnic cleansing, most of the victims being Muslim.  The U.S. intelligence agencies knew exactly what they were doing when they allowed Headly to consummate his plans.

Stuart Davies

Nov. 22, 2011, 1:20 p.m.

You nailed it, John.
  “The DEA did not send David Coleman Headley to Pakistan for the purpose of collecting post-9/11 information on terrorism or drugs,” the senior DEA official said. That is certainly a clear and truthful assertion by this “senior DEA official. What they sent him to do, no doubt, was to recruit collaborators in the terrorist attack on Mumbai AT THE BEHEST OF THE DEA/CIA/NSC. And, no doubt, there were elements within the Indian government who were in the loop the entire time.

This is one of the most brilliant investigative pieces I have read. Thanks to all and may your kind grow and flourish.

Stuart Davies

Nov. 22, 2011, 2:18 p.m.

I agree that Pro Publica has brought some very interesting facts to light with the series of reports they have published on this matter. However, since they lack the courage to draw the obvious inferences that these disturbing facts point to, even as one possible explanation of these events, and in fact make repeated references to the far less plausible explanation that Headley went “rogue” on his handlers - in the end Pro Publica becomes the unwitting conduit for media misdirection by the very elements who engineered the attacks in the first place.

I agree, Stuart.  This case has all the trappings of the FBI sting operations using provocateurs to induce Muslims within the U.S. to commit crimes.  The singular exception is that they actually let the event unfold, and many people were killed. Shades of Luis Posada Carriles!  If all they wanted was the intelligence, they could have interrupted the flow of events and saved all those people. It’s no wonder that Pakistani Officials are unwilling to pursue individuals implicated by Headley’s testimony in the U.S.  When you hear that the government didn’t bother to go after him because they ‘heard’ that he was out of the country, you have only to look at the assassination of Anwar al Awlaki to see, by contrast, what happens to provocateurs who aren’t on the home team.

Re:  [..] a U.S. counterterror official said in an interview. “He is in custody but has not been replaced. And he still has access and ability to be the military chief. Don’t assume a Western view of what custody is.”

Made me laugh…there is a certain amount of cultural bigotry in that statement.  Americans are certainly familiar with the concept of corruption leading to prisons-that-aren’t-really-prisons; I give you the prison scene in the movie Goodfellas:

Further, from Mexico south you can make…“arrangements”.  It is all a matter of the amount of wealth or power you can bring to bear, and wherever inequality marks a society the truth of that statement is only amplified exponentially.  Concepts like “law”, “government”, and “civilization” are cooperative ventures; if a significant portion of a population sees ever less reward for themselves in playing by rules that benefit only a dwindling percentage of the population, then an ever larger percentage of the population becomes amenable to ignoring the rules - to include prison staff.

That is true the world over…to include in “the West”.

Ten years, hundreds of billions of dollars, the sacrifice of the Constitution and cherished traditions of limited government, the spawning of a security industrial complex of mind boggling proportions and they STILL can’t get it right?


It is quite ludicrous and delusional to claim that the US promotes attacks by Muslim terrorists, or that there were elements within the Indian government who were in the loop. This echoes conspiratorial views popular in Pakistan and in much of the Muslim world that the 9-11 attacks were organized either by the US government or the Zionists (or both, depending upon how willing one was to suspend disbelief). Muslims have shown themselves to be quite capable of committing global terrorism without being manipulated by their “Great Satan”; a convenient scapegoat to avoid accepting responsibility for their own actins.

Applying Occam’s razor, the US most probably used Headley as an intelligence asset without realizing how far he had turned to the dark side. On the other hand, the US has provided Pakistan with ample rope over the years, and looked away much of the time, until it was Americans who were caught up in the terrorism employed as statecraft by Pakistan, and not some Indians whose lives don’t matter. At the worst it can be accused of not caring and most certainly not for being complicit in the barbarism exhibited by Pakistan’s genocidal and homicidal military.

Mr. Rotella is to be congratulated for demonstrating what it means to be a superb investigative journalist. I trust that he will write a book to go over his findings in more detail. The hundreds of butchered victims of this horrific atrocity cry out for justice, of which there is little hope in either the US or in India due to compulsions of realpolitik.

Stuart Davies

Nov. 22, 2011, 6:32 p.m.

Hilarious. “This echoes conspiratorial views popular in Pakistan and in much of the Muslim world that the 9-11 attacks were organized either by the US government or the Zionists (or both, depending upon how willing one was to suspend disbelief)” Yes, bozo boy, this is a view quite popular right here in the good old USA as well - and for good reason. There are mountains of evidence that this is precisely what transpired.

Years of trips to South Asia, Pakistan for militant training, recon trips to Mumbai, and multiple tips from people who knew him, and nothing is followed up on. The moment he becomes active in Europe, law enforcement goes ballistic.
Lives all over the world are threatened by terrorists, not just in the West. I wish that American law enforcement could value all human life equally. After all, six American lives were snuffed out in India due to prioritizing “intelligence gathering”.

Yes “Stuart”, the poor rabbi and his wife were sacrificed by the good old USA just to make Pakistan look bad. Say goodnight, Gracie.

BTW “Stuart”, latest news reports indicate that the FBI is focussing on Pakistani Americans who have anglicized their names, just as Daood Gilani/David Headley did.

I kinda doubt that is was just to make Pakistan look bad. Probably more along the lines of bringing the Indian state more firmly into the western fold and spur their growing nuclear arsenal as a counterweight to the menacing threat of a Chinese-Pakistani military alliance. And to throw a cold bucket of water on talk of an Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline that would provide a flow of Iranian oil to China outside of the easy US naval choke point at the straight of Hormuz. Creating yet another horrifying spectacle of the rabid blood lust of crazed Islamic zealots plays well for domestic purposes, and manipulating the Indian people into a more entrenched participation in the so called “War on Terror” could have multiple benefits to the Western Corporate states.

Thanks for the report, Sebastian.  The attacks in Mumbai were horrific for the scope of them and the length of time they went on.  It doesn’t surprise me that the US agencies using this man lost control early on, if they ever had it at all.  I suspect many of the people working in those agencies over-extend in the name of appearing to be “doing something” about terrorism.  I know that mainstream media virtually ignored this story, and that attitude is of great assistance to people like Dave Headley. 
I believe our government is evil enough to orchestrate something like this, I just don’t think they are, on the whole, smart enough.

As usual we see here conspiracy theorists and terror cheer leaders talking about India and US having a hand in the attacks, these charlatans will get offended if asked the real question, why is this world tolerating a terrorist infested country whose Armed forces breed barbarians to kill and maim innocents.

#Mark Summers summed it all. But thats one side of the coin, the other side is pakistan’s terrorist infested ISI’s ugly involvement.

‘Stuart Davies’’s that Nihari restuarant coming along then?

Stuart Davies

Nov. 23, 2011, 8:21 a.m.

Very good question, Suresh. Why, indeed, is this world tolerating a terrorist infested country whose Armed forces breed barbarians to kill and maim innocents? Perhaps because this terrorist infested Corporate state whose armed forces breed barbarians to kill and maim innocents has the largest arsenal of mass destruction on the planet.
  It is also quite true, as you pointed out,  that you can’t ask these corporate state terror cheer leader charlatans a real question without them getting all offended… you are likely to be pepper sprayed or subjected to extraordinary rendition and sent down to Guantanamo for an indefinite spell of enhanced interrogation.

This is detailed and thus useful for the police forces of Indian States.My congratulations to you!

Good story! And the gaps in Headley’s “carreer” (prison time, US time, Pakistan time) allow room for one to think whether he was another of the US government’s experiments at planting an agent inside the LeT (like Taliban style) to learn about them, and the operation just went all wrong when Headley got carried away by the fundamental ideology of LeT and instead of spying/working for the US, he became a rogue agent or just changed sides! Why else after 9/11 a person like Headley would be able to evade arrest in the US so easily? This may indeed sound like a thriller novel…. but it’s surely worth researching to get more facts. At least for the sake of the people who died because of this man.

Asif Chauhdary

Nov. 24, 2011, 1:41 a.m.

The aim is not to let Pakistan stay at peace, come what may. If the time being spent in teaming up and corroboration by the Western and Indian media to cook up conspiracies against Pakistan and its intelligence agency, would have spent on addressing the home grown problems, by the Indian authorities, the issues would have had resolved long ago.
How strange phenomena it is that a country that is the frontline echelon of war on terror, the Army that is most effected and has suffered more than any other war ally and the intelligence agency that has nabbed the maximum number of terrorists is being pushed against the wall and being blamed for all that. Isn’t it sounding weird if someone creates a problem for itself and then wrestle with it to suffer?
Just a simple question that why don’t the world look at it from an unbiased and impartial window. May be they find the Bombay tragedy and other events the reaction of internal suppression of Kashmir movement, human rights and discrimination against the Christians, Sikhs and Dalits? After all no harm in looking at the things without being prejudice? Please.

People like Asif is the main problem with Pakistan.

They try to avoid the issue and facts and divert the problem somewhere else. Is Kasab not pakistani? Did all 10 terrorist not come from Pakistan? Were they trained on Mars? Get real and know that you have a problem at hand. Placing blame on Sikhs and Dalit issues is not going to get Pakistan out of its problems.

Sebastian Rottella deserves accolades for such a thorough and professional investigation. Being an Indian, I can vouch for the sheer trauma of those 60 hours; indeed the agony and trauma is pervasive amongst all Indians even today; on the eve of the 3rd anniversary of 26/11.
  I guess the authorities in the US looked the other way in spite of so many warnings on Headley because
i) They didn’t think that Headley would harm western interests and
ii) The didn’t want to antagonise Pakistan, their ‘most important ally’ in the war on terror or to put it in Colin Powell’s words; their ‘Major Non-Nato Ally.’
          Inspite of the fact that no amount of justice, punishment or remorse can ever mitigate the despair and anguish that we as a nation went through during and after the attacks, it is galling to see the masterminds of these attacks-Major Iqbal, Sajid Mir and others freely roaming around in Pakistan, with full knowledge, indeed protection of the authorities there. And all that the US or India can do is continue to romance the world’s real terrorist state.

Asif Chauhdary

Nov. 24, 2011, 4:10 a.m.


Don’t you have these problems? Are you living in some Utopian state? Be cool my friend and remember that what you sow, so shall you reap. I am not diverting the issue. Please come out of emotional state and read it carefully. I only tried to draw world’s attention towards the fact that the reason for the problems India is facing are mostly home grown. Take it easy. You don’t believe it then please facing the music but Kettle should avoid calling a pot Black.

@Stuart Davies…Liked your comments…....I was surprised when you said on terrorist attack on Mumbai that - “there were elements within the Indian government who were in the loop the entire time.”(your first comment)......Could you please elaborate more on this? What made you belive that?

The manipulation of intelligence into tales of WMDs and al Qaida training camps and the subsequent use of those distortions to justify war in combination with unfortunately equally true tales of “extraordinary renditions” in other sovereign nations has made a not insignificant percentage of the American people suspicious of their government and its motivations.

I don’t know (I lack sufficient data) whether to call it patriotism or paranoia when such individuals ascribe the same malignant corruption to the governments of the rest of the world; it is an unfortunate fact that the perception is growing of a shadow world government representing the interests of the few against the peoples of the entire planet…assumptions reinforced by the public perception that there was a cooperative effort between the British and the United States governments - at least - to create the Iraq invasion intelligence.

That can lead to assumptions about intergovernmental cooperation with any government in the world that cooperates with the United States government in the “war on terror” but displays the same perplexing ineffectualness of the United States under the Bush Administration - especially if the elite of the external nation are a beneficiary of the economic war being perpetuated against the American people by our own corporate and governmental leaders or whose countries are undergoing similar forced wealth redistribution.

There are sound historical reasons for suspicion centered upon governments that rely on growing security apparatuses and evoking perpetual fear of external threats as a means of population control particularly when that occurs in any nation that is fragmenting into the duality of an elite and an underclass:

America, for one, has powerful figures whose fortunes are derived from such systems and who might consequently find them appealing to seek their replication - and who are…vigorously…manipulating our political system.

I personally recognize that what I read may be wild speculation or the simple truth; to me, the question is whether the supposition raised is intriguing enough to seek corroborating data through multiple sources.

I can’t point to any specific evidence of that, Jay - I admit it is pure conjecture on my part, and I may be wrong about that part. But you need to ask - cui bono? Consider the long standing history of false flag attacks in the west… if you understand this history you can see immediately how this technique (and its benefits) would be perfectly applicable in this case to India as well.
  The other possibility is that this was a US or G-8 intelligence conceived plot undertaken without any involvement from Indian intelligence operatives. The direct evidence of American intelligence involvement is overwhelming, in any case…. their fingerprints are all over the place. This pathetic misdirection about Headley going “rogue” is a malodorous crock of bovine offal. He was their boy, doing their bidding the whole time.

This is an excellent investigation. Kudos to Sabestian. The sad part is even if the US knows exactly that Pakistan is behind the attack, they cannot do much

Thanks Stuart for your response.I asked you this question because a retired IG of Police of Maharashtra in his book-“Who killed Hemant Karkare” has said the same thing that the entire operation was known to Intelligence Bureau of India before hand.There is not at all a possibility of you reading that book(please correct me if I am wrong).

Stuart Davies

Nov. 25, 2011, 9:59 a.m.

Hey Jay - that is very interesting… do you have a link on that you can post? No, I never heard about this book, like I said, it was conjecture on my part. It just struck me as a rather obvious possibility, or probability.

Hello Asif,

Please come out of your stupor and understand the truth. The investigation is unbiased and completely lays the blaim on pakistan and specifically the ISI. If you still believe this terror strike was due to an internal problem in india you must be out of your mind. As long as people like you are there in pakistan who conjure up false theories, the higher ups in pakistan will be playing you

Priyali, mumbai

Nov. 26, 2011, 4:12 a.m.

Interesting investigation, certainly more detailed than anything the Indian media has published on the subject matter. In fact, ‘Times Now’ aired the documentary yesterday night here in India and I was glued till the end. As someone who was in Mumbai at the time of the attack, I would like to thank the reporters of Frontline and Propublica for their pursuit of the truth. I always felt there was more to Headly than being let on, your investigation also suggests this. On the other hand, with regard to some of the conspiracy theories above, I find it hard to believe India’s intelligence service was in involved. Criminally negligent? Sure. There is, however, a difference between premeditated conspiracy to murder and pure impotence. As multiple bomb blasts rock the county, these same agencies have failed to identify, let alone arrest, the masterminds behind them. Thus, the 26/11 fiasco seems to fit that trend of ineptitude. The IB is an organisation, in my opinion, who’s first role is to secure/stabilise the government of the day and so, “political intelligence” tends to be it’s forte. Their track record on Islamic militants is patchy, with Indian courts often forced to release suspects due to lack of evidence or because judges suspect the motives of the Police service. As Mumbai today marks the third anniversary of the attack, I don’t feel the city is more secure. Overnight improvisations like ‘Force One’ (supposed anti terror unit) appear almost juvenile. Specialised skills take time to build up in intelligence units or first responders troops. An effort that is yet to be undertaken.
Thank you for an excellent storey.

Kashmir - India claims it because it was always a part of India pro division of India in 1947. Pakistan claims it because it is an Islamic state. By this logic Pakistan should be reassimilated in India as India has more Muslims than Pakistan. Now with regards terrorism. It is wrong. Full stop. It cannot be justified.

And both of ‘em hope China doesn’t decide to just take it.

john wheat gibson, sr.

Nov. 27, 2011, 8:49 p.m.

Svetaketu wrote, <<<Being an Indian, I can vouch for the sheer trauma of those 60 hours; indeed the agony and trauma is pervasive amongst all Indians even today; on the eve of the 3rd anniversary of 26/11. >>>
Svetaketu is exactly right.  This anti-Muslim fear and hatred is exactly what the Mumbai attack produced.  It is exactly what the CIA and Mossad intended, when they planned it.  Svetaketu demonstrates by his own rhetoric that the Mumbai attack had exactly the effect on him that the CIA and Mossad wanted.

Chl writes, << that the 9-11 attacks were organized either by the US government or the Zionists (or both, depending upon how willing one was to suspend disbelief)>>  My God, Chl, where have you been sleeping for the past 60 years?  The US government IS the Zionists.  Read the Congressional Record.  They make no secret of it.

The one and the only reason for Mumbai attacks which many have missed here and Why the ISI and Pakistani military (not the Government) wanted these attacks, was to divert the Pakistani military from the borders of Afghanistan. At that time, the Pakistani military had to fight extremist al Qaeda and Taliban on their western borders, unwillingly with US. They have thought that these attacks will result in great tensions and maybe war with India, which will give them a perfect excuse of diverting their soldiers from West to East. It was a very thoughtful plan by ISI and military, which ultimately failed, cos of Indian government acting very sensibly and did not let that happen. It should now become duty of all West and US to make sure that these perpetarators are not only taken to task but all these ISI and military men should be exposed who helped plan these attacks. Headley was just a small pawn who was used in this case.Pakistan will never change its colours.

Good post there, ibsteve. I agree that we all need to gather our information from many diverse sources, take everything with a grain of salt, run everything through our bullshit detectors, and look for corroborating bits of information. Even deliberate disinformation can be very revealing, and provide another dot to connect in the matrix of the big (grainy) picture.
  The piece by George Kennan in the link you posted is quite interesting, though seemingly off topic at first glance. I don’t believe I had ever read anything written by that staunch old cold warrior - he clearly had a very keen intellect.
  Here is a good quote I mined from his essay: “As things stand today, the rulers can no longer dream of parting with these organs of suppression. The quest for absolute power, pursued now for nearly three decades with a ruthlessness unparalleled (in scope at least) in modern times, has again produced internally, as it did externally, its own reaction.” Of course, he is referring to the old school soviet rulers, but it certainly seems that it is becoming increasingly applicable to contemporary western oligarchs.

@Stuart Davies:  I tend to irritate people when I claim that it doesn’t matter what - democracy, socialism, communism, capitalism, etc. - you call the form of government and driving ideology.

It doesn’t matter because no form of government is inherently evil, but all forms of government become evil when they fall under the control of evil people.  The judgment of the success or failure of a government lies in whether that government serves the purposes of most of the people that government can affect most of the time.

Government transformed to serve the desires of the few at the expense of the many is simply evil no matter what protestations are made of the relative good of that government’s professed guiding ideology.  When they begin going bad, behavior/consequence symptoms such as Kennan observed in the Soviets’ efforts to maintain the control of the few inevitably become visible.

In summary, totalitarianism by any other name is still totalitarianism.  Totalitarianism, after all, is just another way of saying that the few control government.

And I got to thinking ahead and misspoke/mis-wrote:  Read “The judgment of the success or failure of a government lies in whether that government serves the purposes of most of the people that government can affect all of the time.”

Give the few an inch and they’ll take a mile and hang you with it.

Stuart Davies

Nov. 28, 2011, 6:42 p.m.

Hey steve - yeah, I got your drift there, figured that must be what you were getting at. And few would disagree with the premise that totalitarianism by any other name is still totalitarianism. Unfortunately, too many Americans remain in denial about the true nature of our political system and those who control it.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:

Pakistan’s Terror Connections

The Mumbai terror attacks have revealed evidence of the extent of the ties of Pakistani intelligence to terrorist groups and the flaws in the U.S fight against Pakistan-based terror.

Get Updates

Our Hottest Stories