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U.S. official denies intelligence breakdown in Mumbai warnings

By Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Coordinated attacks in Mumbai, India, left more than 170 dead in November 2008. The Taj Mahal Palace hotel was set on fire.
Coordinated attacks in Mumbai, India, left more than 170 dead in November 2008. The Taj Mahal Palace hotel was set on fire.
  • The information received included "nothing specific," a U.S. official says
  • It came from the wife of a man later convicted of helping plan the attack
  • Reports: A former wife had expressed concern about the man two years earlier

Washington (CNN) -- A senior U.S. official is denying allegations that American officials ignored warnings by the Moroccan-born wife of David Headley, a Drug Enforcement Administration informer in Pakistan who was convicted of helping to plan the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai.

"She expressed concern about individuals that her husband was hanging around with," he said. "She had concerns that they were involved in a terrorist plot. She had no details about who he was associated with or what they might be contemplating."

He added, "There was nothing specific. There was nothing necessarily to follow up on."

The official, speaking on background because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the subject, said the wife "walked into the U.S. Embassy in December 2007. There was a follow-up meeting in 2008. That was the last contact that we had with her."

The attack occurred in November 2008.

An American former wife of Headley also expressed concern about Headley's activities to U.S. investigators two years earlier, news reports say, but Headley was able to continue his contacts and training with militants in Pakistan.

The senior U.S. official denied, however, that the information was ignored. "We took what the wives told us seriously," he insisted.

This official said the State Department shared the information with "relevant" U.S. agencies. He said he did not know whether that information was shared with Pakistan. He would not say whether the information was shared with India, although he added that, as a matter of course, the U.S. shares intelligence with India and did so both before and after the Mumbai attacks.

Asked whether the State Department fully investigated the Moroccan wife's concerns, the official said that since the United States has limited authority in a foreign country it "checked out what she told us." He provided no details.

Monday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that if the United States had had specific information on possible planning for the Mumbai attacks it would have shared it with India.

"We would have absolutely provided it to the Indian government, you know, beforehand," he said. "The fact is that while we had information and concerns, it did not detail a time or place of the attack."

Any information she did provide was followed up on, Crowley said.

"We followed up on that information and provided it to relevant agencies across the U.S. government," he said at a State Department news conference.