A New Book The ‘Siege’ About 26/11 Mumbai Massacre: Fact or Fiction?
In a New York Times article titled, U.S. Had Warnings on Plotter of Mumbai Attack, which was co-written by journalist Ginger Thompson was published October 16, 2010. In fact it was Thompson whom met with and interviewed David Coleman Headley’s Moroccan wife Faiza Outalha. I know this to be true because Faiza told me herself in detail about Thompson’s visit to Morocco as well as the extent of the interview. Also, the above referenced article also mentions it: “The Moroccan wife described her separate warnings in an interview with The New York Times.” There is a very good reason why I point this out. Therefore, what was told to Thompson of the New York Times was communicated by Faiza verbally, doing a face-face interview. It was not a remote interview via computer in a written question and answer format.
I recently began reading The Siege: 68 Hours Inside The Taj written by authors Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy and published by Penguin Books. What jumped out at me off the pages was a shocking revelation. What jumped out at me were the words, “she wrote in her dairy” on page 49 referring to Faiza Outalha. I know Faiza extremely well, if anything we have grown even closer than when we first met in Old Manali, India in the Spring of 2008. Faiza abruptly broke off all communications with me shortly before the 26/11 Mumbai Massacre in 2008. After I was investigated by India’s newly formed intelligence and counter-terrorism agency, the NIA, we stayed incommunicado.
Actually, the NIA mentioned that they may want me to try to contact her on their behalf. However, that never happened. Shortly after they cleared me in an investigation that lasted several months, and returned my U.S. passport my family and I quickly and secretly moved to a new location within Goa and a few months later we left the country. Natasha and I waited a couple of months for our daughter Zoya who was born on December 12, 2009 to be slightly older before we flew internationally.
A day before my family and I were scheduled to fly to Thailand, we made a surprise visit to the NIA headquarters in New Delhi to try a last attempt to get my Apple Mac Book Pro back. Anybody who has travelled to India, lived there or is from there would understand the humor in what I am about to tell you. I have a written and signed document from the NIA that states: “The laptop would be returned after forensic analysis.” The NIA agent assured me that on November 24, 2009 that I would have my Mac Book Pro back within five days.
Once inside the NIA headquarters we received a very warm and friendly welcome. Several agents took pictures of Zoya. The last time the lead agent saw Natasha she was 9 1/2 months pregnant back in Palolem, Goa. I was then told that in early March of 2010 that the Mac Book Pro wasn’t back from Hyderabad for forensic analysis yet Incredible India! This was over 3 months later and much longer than the 5 days as promised. However, I was much more concerned about what was on the computer as opposed to the actual computer itself. It had 9 months of pregnancy photos that Natasha specifically asked me to take during her pregnancy to show our daughter Zoya when she got older [right about her current age of 4 would be perfect.] I even begged for a mere copy of the hard drive with the hundreds of priceless and irreplaceable photos but they declined.
Getting back to Faiza and I. We have been in constant contact since we were reunited back in 2010. I even spent 6 weeks with her in Morocco at and the end of 2010 and early 2011. Thus we celebrated New Year’s together in 2011 in Morocco. Keep in mind that David Headley has not had any direct verbal, written nor electronic communication with Faiza since his arrest on October 3rd, 2009. As far as I know the two only communicated briefly via Headley’s lawyer for about a year after his arrest and after that there has been no communication between David and Faiza whatsoever. Therefore, I can say with confidence that I know her extremely well. So when I saw the words, “she wrote in her dairy”, I immediately thought that either she had a physical diary stolen from her, her computer was hacked or it was a fabrication. I called her up and we talked for over an hour. As I suspected she said that there was no diary. I asked her did you discuss any of these topics via email with any journalists and / or publishers? She assured me that she hadn’t.
In the book The Siege: 68 Hours Inside The Taj, authors Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark made reference to an Indian citizen was allegedly a mole for the Inter Services Intelligence [ISI], Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, codenamed, ‘Honey Bee’. Sheela Bhatt a journalist for Rediff recently wrote an article titled, Exclusive! Who is ISI’s Honey Bee in New Delhi? Here are a few excerpts from the article:
Levy, in an exclusive interview to Rediff.com, said he tried hard to detect the identity of this Indian mole, but he is yet to succeed.
Levy and Scott-Clark travelled to ten countries on four continents and met hundreds of people to write the book. [Note: They did NOT meet or talk to Faiza Outalha] Levy says they are very sure of their information even though they have not been able to establish the identity of the ISI mole in India.
The claim about the existence of the Indian mole Honey Bee, if true, is obviously serious. However, the authors have not offered much evidence about the alleged Indian mole.
This was an attack of a major magnitude and had there been a mole by the name Honey Bee in the Intelligence agencies, it would have been known long back.
Intelligence Agencies across the world do try and set up their moles in the other agencies, but when it comes to such a major operation, they do not take such a huge risk.
This book speaking about the Honey Bee is essentially a book written by the CIA.
With regard to the Honey Bee, I do not believe that an officer of a high level would have been involved.
C D Sahay, former chief of RaW [Research and Analysis Wing (RAW or R&AW) is the primary external intelligence agency of the Republic of India.] asks about the authenticity of the Honey Bee. Anyone can write anything, but I think it would have sounded more authentic had the Honey Bee been named. I do agree that intelligence agencies from across the world do try and plant their moles in other agencies. However in this case, I am sure that it would not have been possible at all.
Fact or Fiction
I wanted to interject the Honey Bee scenario because it raised my eyebrows as well as many others’. However, the “she wrote in her dairy” reference had me practically jump out of my chair. Getting back to the New York Times article mentioned in my opening paragraph, here is an excerpt verbatim from that article:
“I told them, he’s either a terrorist, or he’s working for you,” she recalled saying to American officials at the United States Embassy in Islamabad. “Indirectly, they told me to get lost.”
Here is a direct quote from page 54 of The Siege:
Faiza wrote in her diary: ‘I told them, he’s either a terrorist, or he’s working for you. They pretty much told me to get lost.’
Another excerpt from the 2010 New York Times article:
She [Faiza] said she told them that he was passionately anti-Indian, but that he traveled to India all the time for business deals that never seemed to amount to much.
Here is a direct quote from page 51 of The Siege: ‘He told me he worked in an immigration office but there was no real evidence of any real business,’ she wrote in her diary.
The latter example is not verbatim but suspiciously close especially given the fact that Faiza Outalha denies having kept a diary. I did read the A Note on Sources as well as the Acknowledgements sections of the book. Not surprising to me, there was no mention of Faiza and her fabricated diary.
What is very troubling is that if Honey Bee is a fabrication [this conveniently may never be known] and certainly according to Faiza Outalha her diary is in fact a fabrication, then what about the rest of the book? Okay, it is obvious that some of it is true, the police recording dates and times in the log books, the phone calls traced by ATS, text messages from victims etc. But if you read the book it is filled with an abundance of flowery and colorful dialogue that I now find extremely suspicious. Much of it can not be proven nor disproven, in fact the authors go to great lengths to try and compensate for any discrepancies as per their A Note on Sources section:
There were many challenges in getting to grips with the siege of the Taj hotel. Crisis breed confusion. People under fire or captive in a burning building can have wildly differing memories of the same events, making it difficult for us to build a reliable timeline with which to reconstruct events as they happened. Now I do not argue with the above statement but if you read between the lines, it is almost an excuse to use creative license as well as an obvious legal disclaimer.
To answer my question in the title of my article, Fact or Fiction, I would have to say both. What percentage break down, I don’t know. The book is intriguing and craftily constructed and makes for a great read. However, it appears that it is possible that a great deal of creative license has been taken and the authors are trying to pass it off as authentic and factual. I have the sense that much of the dialogue can not be proven nor disproven. However, claiming to quote from a diary that Faiza says does not exist as well as the of taking quotes from a NY Times article and passing it off as a taken from her diary is quite obvious and blatant. After all, Faiza unlike the unfortunate victims was not being attacked by gunfire, being held nor was she in a burning building, according to the authors of The Siege she was with Headley. From page 129:
“An hour later, David Headley received an SMS. With M1 (Shazia) ensconced in Chicago, he was back with M2 (Faiza) in a rented apartment in Lahore.”
However, the book did not say from her diary to the previous quote. But I did find a similar description from my blog, in a post titled, U.S. Knew About 26/11 Attacks: Headley’s Wife Faiza Outalha:
26/11 Mumbai attacks were watched by Headley and wife on television at home in Lahore
Ironically the original article by Star News was posted on September 23, 2011 and was originally titled, Warned US about impending terrorist attack: Headley’s wife, has since been taken down? However, the entire article can be viewed in the paragraph above on my blog.