INQUIRER: One June day in 1988, customs agents at the Frankfurt, Germany, airport pulled aside an intense and striking young man waiting to get on a plane back home to Philadelphia. They suspected he had heroin in his suitcase. They were right — two kilos’ worth from Pakistan, hidden under a false bottom. He wasn’t tough to crack: Before the day was out, Daood “David” Gilani decided to save his own skin, agreeing to betray his drug-dealing partners by helping U.S. drug agents set up a sting. It was the beginning of a complicated, off-and-on relationship as a confidential informant with the Drug Enforcement Administration — one that lasted more than a decade. In fact, Gilani was so helpful as a DEA informant in the late 1990s on heroin imported from Pakistan, according to records and Inquirer interviews, that prosecutors made a rare move: They ended his probation years early, allowing him to travel freely. Within weeks, investigators say, he began training with terrorists in Pakistan.
His latest arrest ended just like his first. On Oct. 3, FBI agents in Chicago approached the man – by now, he had changed his name to David Coleman Headley – just before he stepped on a plane for Philadelphia. This time, the FBI had questions about terrorism, not heroin. Once again, Headley immediately switched sides. Prosecutors say he admitted taking trips to the jihadist camps and performing surveillance and photo reconnaissance for terrorist plots in Denmark and India, including preparations for the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks. Today, the man who came to Philadelphia as a teenager and grew up over an Old City nightspot is in federal prison in Chicago, charged with murder. He has pleaded not guilty. The FBI says Headley’s videos and photographs were used by the squad of terrorists who killed 170 people in Mumbai, India, last year. By talking this time, Headley might escape the death penalty. MORE
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