The Central Intelligence Agency harboured deep concerns over the possibility that America might be viewed as an exporter of terrorism, and the case of David Headley, prime accused in the Mumbai terror attacks, only substantiated such fears, according to a confidential memo released by the Wikileaks whistleblower website.
The latest in a string of controversial government documents revealed on the Wikileaks website was a paper titled “What If Foreigners See the United States as an 'Exporter of Terrorism'?”, reportedly authored by the CIA's ‘Red Cell.’ According to reports the Red Cell was a think tank set up after the 9/11 attacks by then-CIA Director George Tenet, to provide “out-of-the-box” analyses on “a full range of analytic issues.”
In the report the CIA argued that the actions of Pakistani-American Headley, among others, might indeed have led to the view that the U.S. was a “terrorism exporter”. Headley, who was linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group, pled guilty to undertaking surveillance prior to the 2008 attacks and is currently in U.S. custody.
The CIA further remarked, in the paper, that even other terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda must have been aware of how easily operatives such as Headley moved in and out of the U.S, Pakistan and India.
Reacting to the release of the paper CIA spokesperson Marie Harf however downplayed the significance of the paper. “These sorts of analytic products – clearly identified as coming from the Agency's 'Red Cell' – are designed simply to provoke thought and present different points of view,” she was quoted as saying.
Yet the Red Cell paper clearly noted that even as counterterrorism experts focused on threats to the homeland, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups “may be increasingly looking for Americans to operate overseas.”
In this context, the CIA expressed concern that "If the U.S. were seen as an exporter of terrorism, foreign partners may be less willing to cooperate with the United States on extrajudicial activities... including detention, transfer, and interrogation of suspects in third party countries.”
However the paper also acknowledged a wider context of American citizens’ involvement in terror-related activities abroad, arguing that such involvement was neither a recent nor rare phenomenon.
The report said, for example, that “Baruch Goldstein, an American Jewish doctor, killed 29 Palestinians praying at a mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994.” It noted that that incident triggered a wave of bus bombings by the extremist Palestinian Hamas group, in 1995.
Further, U.S. citizens also provided “financial and material support” for armed groups in Northern Ireland and a significant amount of funding for the Irish Republican Army came from Irish-Americans.
In a candid admission the CIA’s paper concluded that the American export of terrorism or terrorists was not associated “only with Islamic radicals or people of Middle Eastern, African or South Asian ethnic origin.”