Motion asks for release of unseen terror trial tape

October 6, 2011 4:17:22 PM PDT
Federal prosecutors in Chicago are refusing to release a behind-the-scenes videotape of admitted terrorist David Coleman Headley.

The video shows FBI agents interrogating Headley and was played in open court during a recent terrorism trial.

In this Intelligence Report: Why the government will soon have to explain its decision to withhold the video.

Confessed terror plotter David Headley was the star witness in this summer's conviction of Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana. Both men helped plan overseas attacks by Pakistani militants. The I-Team and other news organizations made a routine request for copies of Headley's FBI video that was played in court, but prosecutors said no. Late Thursday, a motion filed in federal court asks that the U.S. attorney be directed to turn over the tapes.

Headley, the mysterious terrorist operative marked by different colored eyes, was a scout for the radical Pakistani organization Lashkar-e-Taiba. Headley admits having been on numerous missions for terrorist leaders, setting up targets here in Denmark and also in Mumbai, India, later the scene of a horrific massacre in 2008.

After Headley was arrested, and during almost two weeks of FBI questioning, he turned on his boyhood friend Rana. Parts of that interrogation were played in court by Rana's attorney, who suggested that Headley was simply trying to save himself.

But Rana's lawyer neglected to enter the video into evidence, a technicality now claimed by prosecutors as the reason they don't have to make it public.

But in a motion filed Thursday for media access to the video, ProPublica, a public interest reporting organization, and the PBS show Frontline, are demanding the video, citing a Seventh Circuit ruling that "what transpires in the courtroom is public property."

In Rana's case, the court already overruled the prosecution's objections and allowed the tapes shown.

Jurors and the courtroom public saw "scenes of a palpably nervous Mr. Headley groping for one last deal," a plea bargain for himself to avoid the death penalty.

The motion notes that Headley has in the past successfully manipulated and evaded federal authorities, who even failed to investigate warnings from his relatives that he was plotting terror attacks.

Those relatives include Headley's wife, Faiza Outalha, who was interviewed by the I-Team last week.

"I went to them and I then started saying stuff, I said he's going to bomb everything, he's a criminal. They didn't bother," Outalha said.

The motion filed Thursday asks for the video to be turned over quickly, citing an hour-long terrorism documentary that Frontline is planning to air next month. There is a court hearing on the motion to obtain video clips scheduled for next Wednesday morning.

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