By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, confessed at a Guantanamo Bay military hearing that he planned and funded that al-Qaeda operation and said he was involved in more than two dozen other terrorist acts around the world, according to documents released by the Pentagon yesterday.
In a rambling statement delivered Saturday to a closed-door military tribunal, Mohammed declared himself an enemy of the United States and claimed some responsibility for many of the major terrorist attacks on U.S. and allied targets over more than a decade. He said that he is at war with the United States and that the deaths of innocent people are an unfortunate consequence of that conflict.
"I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z," Mohammed told a panel of military officers through a personal representative, who read off a list of 31 terrorist acts that were either carried out or planned but not executed. According to transcripts released by Defense Department officials last night, Mohammed later spoke in broken English and Arabic, saying, "For sure, I'm American enemies."
Mohammed took responsibility for the attacks on New York and Washington in an interrogation detailed in the Sept. 11 commission's report. But his appearance before the tribunal at Guantanamo Bay marked the first time since his March 2003 arrest that he was allowed to make an extended statement that was not delivered to interrogators.
His capture was followed by years of detention in secret CIA facilities, where he was held without any contact with the outside world.
The Pentagon released the transcript last night along with similar records from two other hearings for alleged terrorists. They were among a group of 14 high-value detainees transferred to Guantanamo Bay from CIA custody last September on orders from President Bush. Each detainee is entitled to such a review to determine whether he is an enemy combatant and whether he should remain in U.S. custody. The hearings may be a prelude to possible charges and, ultimately, military trials.
Mohammed presented evidence, in the form of a written statement, in which he appears to allege abuse. The tribunal president told Mohammed he had received the statement "regarding certain treatment that you claim to have received" before arriving at Guantanamo Bay.
The tribunal president also asked whether any statements he made under interrogation were "as the result of any of the treatment." Mohammed answered: "CIA peoples. Yes. At the beginning when they transferred me . . ." The rest of the sentence is redacted from the transcript.
The other hearings were for Abu Faraj al-Libi, who did not appear at his hearing, and Ramzi Binalshibh, who allegedly played a direct role in the Sept. 11 attacks. He also did not participate in the hearing.
Mohammed described himself as Osama bin Laden's operational director for the Sept. 11 attacks and as al-Qaeda's military operational commander for "all foreign operations around the world."
He claimed to have been "responsible" for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, Richard Reid's attempt to ignite a shoe bomb on an airliner over the Atlantic Ocean in December 2001, and the October 2002 bombing of a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia.
Mohammed also said he plotted to assassinate several former presidents, including Jimmy Carter, a scheme not previously revealed.
Mohammed described several other plots that never came about, such as attacks on buildings in California, Chicago and Washington state, and on the New York Stock Exchange.
Despite his statements, it is unclear how much involvement he could have had in the 31 separate attacks he listed. The Sept. 11 commission described Mohammed as a flamboyant operative who developed grandiose plans for attacks even as other al-Qaeda leaders urged him to focus on the Sept. 11 plot.
One of those plans revealed Mohammed as captivated by "a spectacle of destruction with KSM as the self-cast star -- the superterrorist," the commission wrote.
Mohammed contended that he and al-Qaeda are not terrorists, but are in engaged in a long struggle against U.S. oppression in the Middle East. He apologizes for killing children in the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Because war, for sure, there will be victims," he said. "When I said I'm not happy that 3,000 been killed in America. I feel sorry even. I don't like to kill children and the kids."
Mohammed likened al-Qaeda's quest to Colonial America's struggles in the of America's Revolutionary War, drawing parallels between Laden and George Washington.
"So when we made any war against America, we are jackals fighting in the nights," he said, adding later that had Washington been arrested by the British, he, too, would have been considered an enemy combatant.
"As consider George Washington as hero, Muslims many of them are considering Osama bin Laden. He is doing same thing. He is just fighting. He needs his independence."
Mohammed said he wants to make a "great awakening" to force the United States to stop foreign policy "in our land."
He urged the U.S. military to release numerous detainees who were captured in Afghanistan and are now at Guantanamo, saying that many were wrongly swept up. At one point, he contended that a group of men sent to assassinate bin Laden and captured by al-Qaeda were later taken prisoner by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Bruce Hoffman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University, said Mohammed sees himself as a "reluctant warrior and justified" in his actions, as many other terrorists have characterized themselves.
Staff writer Ann Scott Tyson and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.