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In India, Obama Explains What the U.S. Knew About Mumbai Plotter

5:40 pm: This post has been updated with the full statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

During a meeting today with India’s prime minister, President Obama reportedly shared what the United States government knew about an American businessman, David Coleman Headley, who helped plan the attacks that killed 166 people in Mumbai in 2008. According to a statement released today by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the U.S. government did not share information on Headley with the Indian government prior to the Mumbai attacks because it "did not connect Headley to terrorism until 2009."

We reported last month that the FBI had been warned about Headley’s ties to Pakistani terrorists years prior to the Mumbai attacks. After our report and a later report by the New York Times, the Director of National Intelligence launched an investigation into the Headley case and what the U.S. knew about Headley’s ties to extremists.

We reported last week that the U.S. was warned about Headley more times—and with more specificity—than had previously been disclosed. Despite receiving at least five tips through Headley’s relatives or associates, the government’s review found that U.S. intelligence agencies didn’t connect Headley specifically to the Mumbai plot.

"While some information relating to Headley was available to United States government officials prior to the Mumbai attacks, under the policies and procedures that existed at the time, it was not sufficiently established that he was engaged in plotting a terrorist attack in India," according the intelligence office. “Had the United States government sufficiently established he was engaged in plotting a terrorist attack in India, the information would have most assuredly been transferred promptly to the Indian government."

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, acknowledged in comments reported by Politico that new information procedures implemented after the Christmas-Day bomb scare would have been helpful, but said the president did not apologize to India because “the nature of the situation wasn’t one where we had information that’s relevant" to the attacks.

The Times notes in a piece today that the U.S. has faced criticism from India because Headley was working as an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Pakistan:

The Indian government has been outspoken in its concerns that the United States overlooked repeated warnings about Mr. Headley’s terrorist activities because of his links to both American law enforcement as well as to officials in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate — a key ally of the United States in the fight against terrorism.

Headley pleaded guilty in March to involvement in the Mumbai attacks as well as plans to attack a Danish newspaper. According to Reuters, the terms of his plea agreement do not allow him to be extradited, which Indian officials have reportedly been pursuing.

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