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How a Detainee Became An Asset
John L. Helgerson, the former CIA inspector general who investigated the agency's detention and interrogation program, said his work did not put him in "a position to reach definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of particular interrogation methods."
"Certain of the techniques seemed to have little effect, whereas waterboarding and sleep deprivation were the two most powerful techniques and elicited a lot of information," he said in an interview. "But we didn't have the time or resources to do a careful, systematic analysis of the use of particular techniques with particular individuals and independently confirm the quality of the information that came out."
After his capture, Mohammed first told his captors what he calculated they already knew.
"KSM almost immediately following his capture in March 2003 elaborated on his plan to crash commercial airlines into Heathrow airport," according to a document released by the CIA on Monday that summarizes the intelligence provided by Mohammed. The agency thinks he assumed that Ramzi Binalshibh, a Sept. 11 conspirator captured in September 2002, had already divulged the plan.
One former U.S. official with detailed knowledge of how the interrogations were carried out said Mohammed, like several other detainees, seemed to have decided that it was okay to stop resisting after he had endured a certain amount of pressure.
"Once the harsher techniques were used on [detainees], they could be viewed as having done their duty to Islam or their cause, and their religious principles would ask no more of them," said the former official, who requested anonymity because the events are still classified. "After that point, they became compliant. Obviously, there was also an interest in being able to later say, 'I was tortured into cooperating.' "
Mohammed provided the CIA with an autobiographical statement, describing a rebellious childhood, his decision to join the Muslim Brotherhood as a teenager, and his time in the United States as a student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, from where he graduated in 1986 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
"KSM's limited and negative experience in the United States -- which included a brief jail stay because of unpaid bills -- almost certainly helped propel him on his path to becoming a terrorist," according to the intelligence summary. "He stated that his contact with Americans, while minimal, confirmed his view that the United States was a debauched and racist country."
Mohammed provided $1,000 to Ramzi Yousef, a nephew, to help him carry out the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. In 1994, he worked in the Philippines with Yousef, now serving a life sentence at the federal "supermax" prison in Colorado, on a failed plot to down 12 U.S. commercial aircraft over the Pacific.
Mohammed told interrogators it was in the Philippines that he first considered using planes as missiles to strike the United States. He took the idea to Osama bin Laden, who "at first demurred but changed his mind in late 1999," according to the summary.
Mohammed described plans to strike targets in Saudi Arabia, East Asia and the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks, including using a network of Pakistanis "to target gas stations, railroad tracks, and the Brooklyn bridge in New York." Cross-referencing material from different detainees, and leveraging information from one to extract more detail from another, the CIA and FBI went on to round up operatives both in the United States and abroad.
"Detainees in mid-2003 helped us build a list of 70 individuals -- many of who we had never heard of before -- that al-Qaeda deemed suitable for Western operations," according to the CIA summary.