Washington, Feb 16: President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan has listed convicted key Mumbai terror attack plotter David Coleman Headley among five high-value targets that had been captured with US intelligence support.
Brennan, Obama’s nominee to be the next chief of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), listed Pakistani-American Headley, who was last month sentenced to 35 years of imprisonment by a Chicago court for his role in the Lashkar-e-Taiba staged November 2008 Mumbai attack, in response to questions from a Senate panel.
Since January 2009 when he became Obama’s terrorism adviser, “dozens of individuals have been arrested, detained, interrogated, and convicted of terrorism-related offences in federal court,” he told the Senate Intelligence Committee in written answers Friday.
“Individuals arrested here in the United States include David Headley, Mansoor Arbabsiar, Najibullah Zazi, Faisal Shahzad, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.”
“Individuals initially taken into US custody overseas include Ahmed Ghailani, Jesse Curtis Morton, Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed, and Betim Kaziu, and subsequently brought to the United States for interrogation and prosecution,” Brennan said.
In response to other questions, Brennan said setting up a special court to oversee deadly drone strikes against American citizens is worth considering but raises difficult questions over how much authority it would have in decisions currently made by the president.
“It would raise some novel, and potentially difficult, questions and furthermore would grant courts authority over decisions that have traditionally been exercised principally, if not exclusively, by the executive branch,” he said.
“Nevertheless, given the stakes involved and the consequence of such determinations…all options are worth considering.”
Committee’s Democratic Chairperson Dianne Feinstein has said she is considering legislation to set up a special court system like the one that signs off on government surveillance in espionage and terrorism cases to regulate drone strikes.
In response to another question from Feinstein, Brennan, who has guided administration policy on the use of drones abroad, would not say whether it could carry out drone strikes inside the US, but simply stated that it has not.
“This administration has not carried out drone strikes inside the United States and has no intention of doing so,” he said.
Brennan also did not answer who precisely makes final determination within the administration about whether a US citizen who is targeted for death as a suspected terrorist is actually a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda, or if that person poses an imminent threat.