Guantanamo torture produces convenient ‘confession’…


Richard Moore

...but he forgot to explain how he got all the explosives into the Twin Towers.


Original source URL:

March 15, 2007

Suspected Leader of 9/11 Attacks Is Said to Confess

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, long said to be the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, 
confessed to them at a military hearing held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on 
Saturday, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon yesterday. He also 
acknowledged full or partial responsibility for more than 30 other terror 
attacks or plots.

³I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z,² he said.

In a rambling statement, Mr. Mohammed, a chief aide to Osama bin Laden, said his
actions were part of a military campaign. ³I¹m not happy that 3,000 been killed 
in America,² he said in broken English. ³I feel sorry even. I don¹t like to kill
children and the kids.² [Excerpts, Page A23.]

He added, ³The language of war is victims.²

Though American officials had linked Mr. Mohammed to the attacks of Sept. 11, 
2001, and to several others, his confession was the first time he spelled out in
his own words a panoply of global terror activities, ranging from plans to bomb 
landmarks in New York City and London to assassination plots against former 
Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul II. Some of the 
plots he claimed to plan, including the attempt on Mr. Carter, had not 
previously been publicly disclosed.

Mr. Mohammed indicated in the transcript that some of his earlier statements to 
C.I.A. interrogators were the result of torture. But he said that his statements
at the tribunal on Saturday were not made under duress or pressure.

His actions, he said, were like those of other revolutionaries. Had the British 
arrested George Washington during the Revolutionary War, Mr. Mohammed said, ³for
sure they would consider him enemy combatant.²

The hearing also summarized some of the evidence the Pentagon says supports the 
designation of Mr. Mohammed as an enemy combatant, including a computer hard 
drive containing information about the Sept. 11 hijackers, letters from Mr. bin 
Laden and the details of other plots. It was seized, the government says, when 
Mr. Mohammed was captured.

Mr. Mohammed spoke before a combatant status review tribunal that has the narrow
task of determining whether President Bush had properly designated him an enemy 
combatant. Mr. Mohammed¹s confession will almost certainly be used against him 
if and when he is tried for war crimes by a military commission.

Parts of the transcript were redacted by the military, and there were 
suggestions in it that Mr. Mohammed contended he was mistreated while in the 
custody of the C.I.A. after his arrest in 2003. He was transferred to military 
custody at Guantánamo Bay last year.

By tribunal rules, Mr. Mohammed was aided by a ³personal representative,² not a 
lawyer. His attempt to call two witnesses was denied. And the tribunal indicated
that it would consider classified evidence not made available to Mr. Mohammed.

Combatant status review tribunals are informal hearings created in response to a
2004 decision by the United States Supreme Court to judge whether prisoners at 
Guantánamo were properly designated as enemy combatants and subject to 
indefinite detention. Unlike the military commissions that hear war crimes 
charges, the combatant status review tribunals offer minimal procedural 
protections and are not recognizably judicial.

In the past, the hearings have been partly open to the press. But a series of 
recent hearings, involving some of the 14 so-called high-value detainees 
transferred to Guantánamo from secret C.I.A. prisons last year, were closed. In 
addition to the Mohammed transcript, the Pentagon yesterday also released 
transcripts of the hearings of Abu Faraj al-Libbi and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, top 
Qaeda operatives.

Mr. Libbi did not attend his hearing, and in a statement contained in the 
transcript he said he would refuse to do so until he could be tried according to
accepted judicial principles in the United States. He said he had not been 
granted a lawyer and could not introduce witnesses in his defense.

³If I am classified as an enemy combatant,² he said in the statement, ³it is 
possible that the United States will deem my witnesses are enemy combatants and 
judicial or administration action may be taken against them. It is my opinion 
the detainee is in a lose-lose situation.²

The tribunals in all three cases reserved judgment on the question of whether 
the men were indeed properly classified as enemy combatants, but there is little
doubt that the president¹s designation will be affirmed.

The prisoners may appeal the conclusions of the tribunals to a federal appeals 
court in Washington. While not contesting his own guilt, Mr. Mohammed asked the 
United States government to ³be fair with people.² He said that many people who 
had been arrested as terrorists in the wake of 9/11 were innocent.

Mr. Mohammed¹s representative, an Air Force lieutenant colonel whose name was 
not released, read a statement on Mr. Mohammed¹s behalf ³with the understanding 
he may interject or add statements if he needs to.²

In the statement, Mr. Mohammed described himself as the ³military operational 
commander for all foreign operations around the world² for Al Qaeda.

He also took responsibility for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and 
the 2002 bombing of a nightclub in Bali.

Mr. Mohammed also outlined a vast series of plots that were not completed. Among
his targets, he said, were office buildings in Chicago, Los Angeles and New 
York; suspension bridges in New York; the New York Stock Exchange ³and other 
financial targets after 9/11²; the Panama Canal; British landmarks including Big
Ben; buildings in Israel; American embassies in Indonesia, Australia and Japan; 
Israeli embassies in India, Azerbaijan, the Philippines and Australia; airliners
around the world; and nuclear power plants in the United States.

He said he managed ³the cell for the production of biological weapons, such as 
anthrax and others, and following up on dirty-bomb operations on American soil.²

Mr. Mohammed also said that he had taken part in ³surveying and financing for 
the assassination of several former American presidents, including President 
Carter.² He added that he was responsible for an assassination plot against 
President Clinton in the Philippines in 1994.

But Mr. Mohammed interrupted his representative to clarify that he was not 
solely responsible for a 1995 attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II during a 
visit to the Philippines.

³I was not responsible,² Mr. Mohammed said, ³but share.²

American officials and President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan have said that Mr.
Mohammed took part in killing Daniel Pearl, a reporter for The Wall Street 
Journal, in Pakistan in 2002. Though Mr. Mohammed referred to Mr. Pearl in 
passing in the transcript, he did not confess to the killing. He did say that he
had plotted to assassinate President Musharraf.

At the end of the recitation, Mr. Mohammed was asked, ³Were those your words?²

³Yes,² he answered.

Later, he said: ³What I wrote here, is not I¹m making myself hero, when I said I
was responsible for this or that. But you are military man. You know very well 
there are language for war.²

It is not clear how many of Mr. Mohammed¹s expansive claims were legitimate. In 
2005, the Sept. 11 commission said that Mr. Mohammed was noted for his 
extravagant ambitions, and, using his initials, described his vision as 
³theater, a spectacle of destruction with KSM as the self-cast star, the 

Mr. Mohammed declined to speak under oath, saying his religious beliefs 
prohibited it. But he said he was telling the truth.

³To be or accept the tribunal as to be, I¹ll accept it,² he said. ³That I¹m 
accepting American Constitution, American law or whatever you are doing here. 
That is why religiously I cannot accept anything you do.²

He added: ³When I not take oath does not mean I¹m lying.²

Mr. Mohammed, 41, is an ethnic Pakistani who grew up in Kuwait and graduated 
from North Carolina State Agricultural and Technical State University in 1986. 
He was captured on March 1, 2003, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and was held in the 
secret C.I.A. prison system, where he is believed to have been subjected to 
harsh interrogation.

In a long monologue that fills about four single-spaced pages of the transcript,
Mr. Mohammed said his motives were military ones.

³If America they want to invade Iraq they will not send for Saddam roses or 
kisses, they send for a bombardment,² he said. ³I consider myself, for what you 
are doing, a religious thing as you consider us fundamentalist. So, we derive 
from religious leading that we consider we and George Washington doing the same 

He pleaded on behalf of some of his fellow detainees. ³I¹m asking you again to 
be fair with many detainees which are not enemy combatant,² Mr. Mohammed said. 
³Because many of them have been unjustly arrested.²

The unclassified part of the hearing lasted for a little more than an hour, 
according to the transcript.

Near the end, Mr. Mohammed summed up. ³The American have human right,² he said. 
³So, enemy combatant itself, it flexible word.²

³War start from Adam when Cain killed Abel until now,² he said.

Margot Williams contributed reporting.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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