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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Designed Vacuum Cleaner While In CIA Custody

9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed apparently began pursuing a new career while in CIA custody:

WASHINGTON – Confined to the basement of a CIA secret prison in Romania about a decade ago, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, asked his jailers whether he could embark on an unusual project: Would the spy agency allow Mohammed, who had earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, to design a vacuum cleaner?

The agency officer in charge of the prison called CIA headquarters and a manager approved the request, a former senior CIA official told The Associated Press.

Mohammed had endured the most brutal of the CIA’s harsh interrogation methods and had confessed to a career of atrocities. But the agency had no long-term plan for him. Someday, he might prove useful. Perhaps, he’d even stand trial one day.

And for that, he’d need to be sane.

“We didn’t want them to go nuts,” the former senior CIA official said, one of several who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the now-shuttered CIA prisons or Mohammed’s interest in vacuums.

So, using schematics from the Internet as his guide, Mohammed began re-engineering one of the most mundane of household appliances.

That the CIA may be in possession of the world’s most highly classified vacuum cleaner blueprints is but one peculiar, lasting byproduct of the controversial U.S. detention and interrogation program.

By the CIA’s own account, the program’s methods were “designed to psychologically ‘dislocate'” people. But once interrogations stopped, the agency had to try to undo the psychological damage inflicted on the detainees.

The CIA apparently succeeded in keeping Mohammed sane. He appears to be in good health, according to military records.

But, what about the vacuum cleaner, you might ask:

It remains a mystery how far Mohammed got with his designs or whether the plans still exist. The secret CIA prison in Romania was shuttered in early 2006 and Mohammed was transferred later that year to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base prison, where he remains. It’s unlikely he was able to take his appliance plans to Cuba.

Mohammed’s military lawyer, Jason Wright, said he was prohibited from discussing his client’s interest in vacuums.

“It sounds ridiculous, but answering this question, or confirming or denying the very existence of a vacuum cleaner design, a Swiffer design, or even a design for a better hand towel would apparently expose the U.S. government and its citizens to exceptionally grave danger,” Wright said.

But Wright added that he often discussed “modern technological innovations” and the “scientific wonders” of the Quran with Mohammed. He called Mohammed “exceptionally intelligent.”

“If he had access to educational programs in Guantanamo Bay, such as distance learning programs, I am confident that in addition to furthering his Islamic studies, he could obtain a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, and very likely patent inventions,” Wright said.

The CIA won’t discuss the Mohammed’s vacuum plans, either. The AP asked the CIA for copies of the vacuum designs or any government records about them under the Freedom of Information Act.

The CIA responded in a letter to the AP that the records, “should they exist,” would be considered operational files of the CIA – among its most highly classified category of government files – and therefore exempt from ever being released to the public.

If you happen to start seeing ads for the CIA’s revolutionary new home cleaning device, you’ll know where it came from.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tyrell says:

    This is certainly a waste of manpower and talent. Send him to the government base at Area 51. Let him work on advanced technology and aircraft for our military.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. JKB says:

    I blame the failure of our education system. Could the CIA not see the symbolic meaning in a man “vigorously interrogated”, held in a secret CIA prison designing a vacuum cleaner? “This sucks!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Water-powered, no doubt. I understand that KSM has received a heightened appreciation of water power.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Sam Malone says:

    “…Mohammed had endured the most brutal of the CIA’s harsh interrogation methods…”

    Why can’t we just say we tortured the f’er? Are we so embarrased by our lack of morals? For all the chest thumping and bravado of people like Cheney….who institutionalized torture…they sure are cowardly bastards. We tortured him. 183 times, we tortured him. So just say so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  5. Andre Kenji says:

    @Sam Malone: Only people that have no knowledge about interrogation, like NYT reporters and the CIA, thinks that torture is an interrogation method. It´s not only morally wrong, it´s completely ineffective.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  6. Gavrilo says:

    @Sam Malone:

    Mohammed had endured the most brutal of the CIA’s harsh interrogation methods and had confessed to a career of atrocities.

    Fixed that for you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  7. Sam Malone says:

    So Gavrilo…what’s your point?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “It sounds ridiculous, but answering this question, or confirming or denying the very existence of a vacuum cleaner design, a Swiffer design, or even a design for a better hand towel would apparently expose the U.S. government and its citizens to exceptionally grave danger,” Wright said.

    Well of course it’s classified. It is now known by it’s acronym, the IEVC: Improvised Explosive Viet Cong. Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound right….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Franklin says:

    @Gavrilo: Ahhh, so you’re under the impression that torture results in reliable confessions. How cute.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  10. Sam Malone says:

    Is Jenos now Gravilo?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  11. Gavrilo says:

    @Franklin:

    No. Torture does not result in reliable confessions. Nor was the purpose of torturing Khalid Sheihk Mohammed to obtain a confession. The purpose of torturing Khaleid Sheikh Mohammed was to break his resistance, which by all accounts was effective. Once this was accomplished, Mohammed was never tortured again, and he provided any information he was asked to provide. There wasn’t even a need to interrogate him. All they had to do was ask him questions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  12. Matt Bernius says:

    @Gavrilo:
    Ah, so it was to break him, now.

    It’s amazing how many people end up “breaking” without moving to actual torture.

    And it’s amazing the lengths that people will go to defend our government taking actions that are “war crimes” when anyone does them against our citizens.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  13. JWH says:

    It does seem ridiculous that the vacuum cleaner is still classified. But on the other hand it is conceivable that the plans might contain some kind of secret message.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. Sam Malone says:

    “…The purpose of torturing Khaleid Sheikh Mohammed was to break his resistance, which by all accounts was effective…”

    Nonsense. Total nonsense.
    If your opinions are based on nonsense…then your opinions are nonsensical.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  15. Gavrilo says:

    @Matt Bernius: @Sam Malone: @Franklin:

    Ok, geniuses. Answer this: If the only purpose for torture was because Dick Cheney is a sadistic bastard, why did they ever stop? And, why use waterboarding? Why not severe beatings, or bolt cutters to the fingers, or any manner of torture methods that have been around since the middle ages?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  16. Sam Malone says:

    @ Gravilo…
    Frankly, I don’t know that they didn’t do those things…and neither do you. So you question is un-answerable. I’m shocked, shocked.
    Let me ask you…if torture is so effective…why did they have to torture KLM 183 friggin’ times? By definition something effective should work the first, maybe second, time.
    What a maroon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  17. Matt Bernius says:

    @Gavrilo:
    You realize that doesn’t address the larger point that we are making.

    The issue isn’t whether or not there was a point to the torture. It was the fact that BY ALL ACCOUNTS there were avenues available other than TORTURE.

    As to why torture might have been used … hmm perhaps it was a combination of factors including:
    a. fear of other attacks
    b. desire to get back at the bastards who did this

    Both of those, for example, suggest that torture was chosen (a) because people felt they could do it, and (b) for reasons other than overall effectiveness.

    But folks who support this decisions to Torture, continue to ignore these factors (and all counter evidence) to sooth their own consciences and pretend it was necessary to “keep us safe.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  18. Andre Kenji says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    As to why torture might have been used … hmm perhaps it was a combination of factors including:

    Torture was used because the CIA is filled with incompetent people, it´s simple as that. As a Brazilian cop once pointed out, if you torture someone he will confess that he killed Jesus Christ. That Leslie Stahl´s interview with the guy that invented this program shows a guy that has no idea about what he is talking about.

    Torture is a unreliable method of interrogation, it can´t be defended on a larger ground. Torture as punishment is another story. The same people that created this thing filled Guantanamo with people with no relation to Al Qaeda(To the point that the US had to bribe Samoa so a few Uighur s could be accepted there, it´s ridiculous).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. Stephen says:

    @Andre Kenji:
    Torture is useless … alone. If you begin by asking questions to which you already know the answers, train the victim to tell the truth, whether favourable or disfavourable to himself, and then begin mixing in questions to which you do not know the answers, it becomes quite useful. It’s still not enough for reliable information, but you can get information good enough to be worth checking. The classic torture, where you just train a victim to confess is, obviously, useless.

    Also, anybody who calls what the CIA does “torture” has no idea what modern torture looks like. How many times did the CIA apply power-drills to genitalia (Middle Eastern militia-style torture)? How about threats to family or beating prisoners unconscious (Pretty standard for dictators)? How many orifices got electrodes stuck in them (Chinese style torture)? You get the picture: Simulated drowning, with no long-term injuries, is not on the scale of torture.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0