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Khalid Sheik Mohammed Confesses . . . to Everything

Khalid Sheik Mohammed has signed a two page confession taking responsibility for the 9/11 attacks and dozens of other terrorist operations in a hearing at Guantanamo Bay over the weekend.

WaPo:

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.

Photo Khalid Sheik Muhammed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind, is seen shortly after his capture during a raid in Pakistan Saturday March 1, 2003 in this photo obtained by the Associated Press. Mohammed confessed to the 9/11 attacks and a string of others during a military hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a transcript released Wednesday by the military. (AP Photo, file)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.

NYT adds:

In a rambling statement, Mr. Mohammed, a chief aide to Osama bin Laden, said his actions were part of a military campaign. “I’m not happy that 3,000 been killed in America,” he said in broken English. “I feel sorry even. I don’t like to kill children and the kids.”

He added, “The language of war is victims.”

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, “for sure they would consider him enemy combatant.”

He apparently stopped short of claiming credit for killing the czar and his ministers, and shooting either the sheriff or his deputy.

The story is creating a major blogstorm and is obviously news. Still, I’m not sure what to make of it. He has been in American custody nearly four years, without access to an attorney, and claims to have been subjected to torture. I’m just not sure how seriously to take his claim of responsibility for the 9/11 attack, let alone for all the other crimes. That he’s a liar is a given; that he’s insane, a distinct possibility.

Indeed, even Robert Spencer concedes Mohammed may be “displaying a bit of jihadi braggadocio.”

Andrew Cochran has links to the transcripts of the interviews by the Defense Department of Mohammed and the other two most senior Al Qaeda leaders in custody, Abu Faraj al-Libi and Ramzi Binalshibh. He provides no analysis.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. of memorable quotes from NewsHog’s linked blogs will jog your memory – hey it was less than a week ago, eh: “He apparently stopped short of claiming credit for killing the czar and his ministers, and shooting either the sheriff or his deputy.” Outside the Beltway “I reckon he kicked his dog too, and stole my milk money.” the road to surfdom The Guardian had a full list of his crimes against someone: · I was member of al-Qaida council · I was director for planning and execution of 9/11, from A to Z

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  2. of a military hearing can be trusted, which it probably can’t, but let’s set that aside a minute) to just about every act of jihadist terror in the last dozen years. Everything from a plot to kill Jimmy Carter to thinking really mean thoughts. One blog snarked: “He apparently stopped short of claiming credit for killing the czar and his ministers, and shooting either the sheriff or his deputy.” Wired magazine’s new “Danger Room” blog, which I’ve really been enjoying lately, has thus coined the

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  3. ja tiettyä verenhimoisuutta, joka varsinkin suomalaisissa jutuissa näkyi. Tietenkin Mohammed on paha mies, mutta pahoja miehiä on muuallakin, ja monilla heistä on puku päällä. (Kriittisiä arvioita Mohammedin puheista täällä, täällä ja täällä.)

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  4. Gay Orbit says:

    ve no doubt that Mohammed was responsible for 9/11, I do wonder if he gave this statemement willingly. I’m doubtful. Update: Yeah. Thought so. Update II: James Joyner has a lengthier post on this. Mohammed Confesses… to Everything.

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  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Any word on Jimmy Hoffa and Judge Crater?

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  6. Rodney Dill says:

    “…and then once when I was a kid, I mixed up this batch of fake puke and…”

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  7. Bithead says:

    that he’s insane, a distinct possibility

    Which, I would think, would be a real possibility for anyone contemplating such attacks. Catch 22.

    Since a fair amount was redacted from his statement before releasing it to the rpess, I have to assume there was a lot going on we still don’t know about. We, being you and I and the rest reading this. However, it would also seem to suggest that he was SAYING things we don’t know about, either… things that he, and investigators close to the case, WOULD know.

    The possibility exists he’s trying to take the heat off his fellow terrorists, certainly.

    One of the major points to my mind was the admsision of planned attacks against Bubba and Jimah…. and I wonder how Democrats will react to that.

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  8. 9/11 mastermind confesses in Guantanamo

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, confessed to that attack a…

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  9. Ugh says:

    Can we charge him with the Kennedy assassination too?

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  10. James,

    You forgot one thing. He didn’t claim credit for shooting JFK.

    Cheers,

    Bill

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  11. Ugh says:

    Ah, this reminds me of this wonderful story:

    Two young sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks, are being used by the CIA to force their father to talk.

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  12. Stormy70 says:

    He was suspected of masterminding 9/11 and killing Daniel Pearl when they caught him. None of this is a surprise unless you weren’t paying attention when they were trying to catch him. Of course, this is from James, who tends to downplay every single good thing that happens in the War on Terror.

    Carry on.

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  13. James Joyner says:

    Of course, this is from James, who tends to downplay every single good thing that happens in the War on Terror.

    Yep, that’s me alright….

    And, yeah, we’ve always suspect he was a major 9/11 planner. We’ve had him in custody since 2003. What, precisely, has changed here? How is America safer with this confession than it was Saturday morning?

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  14. [...] I noticed this story over the wire yesterday and to be honest, my reaction was essentially the same as James Joyner’s: I’m not sure what to make of it. He has been in American custody nearly four years, without access to an attorney, and claims to have been subjected to torture. I’m just not sure how seriously to take his claim of responsibility for the 9/11 attack, let alone for all the other crimes. That he’s a liar is a given; that he’s insane, a distinct possibility. [...]

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  15. Anderson says:

    One of the biggest objections to Bush’s discarding of judicial process is precisely that we have to ask these questions about KSM’s confession, rather than being able to trust the system.

    After being repeatedly waterboarded & held in solitary for 4 years, KSM might well prefer execution to more of the same.

    I am curious what evidence *besides* his confession we have. I’ve been assuming he was indeed guilty as accused, but if I were a judge or a juror, I would have to put aside that assumption.

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  16. Jim Henley says:

    Did he say “mistakes were made?” Cause otherwise he’s not really taking responsibility at all.

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  17. Stormy70 says:

    Who said anything about safer? They just released a transcript, that’s all.

    As he personally slit the throat of Daniel Pearl, I’m not too concerned if they waterboarded him. I hope they did, and he cried like a baby.

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  18. James Joyner says:

    Who said anything about safer?

    That’s my definition for “good thing that happens in the War on Terror.” What’s yours?

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  19. carpeicthus says:

    Haha, James, you’ve become a Defeatocrat. ;-)

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  20. Sam says:

    Carter??? Why Carter?? Carter would happily surrender and wear a burka if necessary.

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  21. Anderson says:

    Did he say “mistakes were made?” Cause otherwise he’s not really taking responsibility at all.

    Too wicked, Henley, too wicked.

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  22. 9-11 mastermind confesses to involvement in many t…

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the main plotters of the 9-11 attacks, has confessed to being the mastermind behind as many as 28 terrorist plots and attacks…

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  23. [...] The language of war is victims. We struggle to hear, to listen. So the world will have more such exclamations, perhaps from a braggart most likely tortured, a liar who sees no civilians. Violence is our sentence, interminable and endless. And this news comes to us now. [...]

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  24. RJN says:

    “They said Michael Corleone this and Michael Corleone that, and I said – - yeah.”

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  25. srv says:

    Stormy, ppGaz really misses you at BJ.

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  26. Stormy70 says:

    Heh. I miss him, too. However, my work suffers when I join the fray in Balloon Juice, as it took up too much of my time. I will probably be back in the summer, when I have time to set them all straight. :)

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  27. Bithead says:

    Carter??? Why Carter?? Carter would happily surrender and wear a burka if necessary

    Just so.
    But apparently even that amount of lip/butt contact would not have availed him. Lesson there, ya think?

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  28. Bithead says:

    That’s my definition for “good thing that happens in the War on Terror.” What’s yours?

    You’re talking about ultimate goals. This is about a major step in that direction.

    Illustration:

    In changing a flat tire, one does not have a rolling car when one has performed the steps of locating the jack, figuring out how to USE said jack, using it, getting the hubcaps off, the wheel loose, and then removed from the vehicle.

    Those are merely a number of the steps needed to bring about the desired end….a rolling car.

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  29. James Joyner says:

    This is about a major step in that direction.

    And what step would that be?

    KSM has been in custody for four years. He still is.

    We’ve presumed from nearly the beginning that KSM was a/the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. We now have ever-so-slightly more evidence in that direction.

    What else did we gain from Saturday’s “confession”?

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  30. Bithead says:

    We’ve presumed from nearly the beginning that KSM was a/the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. We now have ever-so-slightly more evidence in that direction.

    Well, yes and no… depends on who ‘we’ encompasses.

    Mind you, James… this is off the cuff, here.

    The left has, for just as long as we’ve held the goon, been suggesting he was a small fish and complaining we’d not captured BinLaden yet…. because, said they, we’re not safe until OBL is caught, supposedly. KSM’s previous claims of responsiblity have been discounted by the left, who complained that his admissions were not worth spit because of the ‘torture’ he went through.

    So along comes KSM, suggesting this time, it’s a free will offering… which thus eliminates that ‘he was tortuned’ argument. They’ll have no choice but to at least consider he’s been telling the truth.

    (As an aside, since his offering now, mirrors almost exactly what he admitted under duress, what does that say to the claims of tourture not being effective, hmmmmmm?)

    If we take KSM at his word… (granted a tricky proposition, for reasons we’ve discussed) we see he’s of greater import than BinLaden, if getting the guy responsible for 9/11 was the agenda.

    We also find a little wake up call for the anti-war/anti-Bush crowd… whose backside kissing as I said before, doesn’t exempt them from being slaughtered, if this guy and his followers have the chance.

    From all of this, we come down to two points, which semi-conflict;

    * We were safer all along.. at least in the short term, than many would have us think, given KSM’s out of the picture, he being a bigger fish, in reality, than OBL….
    …and…

    * those who wish us to withdraw (nee, Cut and Run) from this fight, have had a bit of a wakeup call… which makes us safer in the long term… that wakeup call will (one would hope) lessen their stridency against our actions in Iraq and elsewhere… and that left, upon seeing how personal this was getting against their people,too, will finally to start cheering for OUR side, for once.

    That last part alone will make us safer…maintaining the resolve to fight.

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  31. Anderson says:

    B-Head: The left has, for just as long as we’ve held the goon, been suggesting he was a small fish

    I call b.s. — who, “for just as long as we’ve held” KSM, has said he was a small fish?

    As an aside, since his offering now, mirrors almost exactly what he admitted under duress, what does that say to the claims of tourture not being effective, hmmmmmm?

    Aha! And I bet that he said his name was Khalid, didn’t he? Torture works!!!

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  32. Ugh says:

    Anderson – you’re wasting your time.

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  33. annoyed says:

    We support your war of terror. May George Bush drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Iraq.

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  34. Bithead says:

    I call b.s. — who, “for just as long as we’ve held” KSM, has said he was a small fish?

    Well, here’s one such.

    Well, its cheesy the story on OBL and 911 and KSM. KSM is nobody but a small actor in the vast plot..if he was that important, he would not have been caught. He was certainly caught for the purpose of spilling the beans of a supposed OBL plot on 911, plot that resides only in the minds of those who believe in UFO’s etc…

    No shock that this is William Arkin’s place at work. The DU was full of this kind of comment as well, at the time.

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  35. Anderson says:

    B-head cites a commenter? How do we know this is even one of “the left,” and not an agent provocateur?

    Weak beer, indeed. We were told “the left” does something, and that turns out to be false. (Who, anyway, is “the left”? A sure hint that B-head doesn’t actually know who he’s talking about.)

    Anderson — you’re wasting your time.

    I know, just like I know I don’t like Twinkies, but every few years I have to eat one anyway ….

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  36. [...] Joyner notes the confession and says, in part: The story is creating a major blogstorm and is obviously news. Still, I’m not sure what to make of it. He has been in American custody nearly four years, without access to an attorney, and claims to have been subjected to torture. I’m just not sure how seriously to take his claim of responsibility for the 9/11 attack, let alone for all the other crimes. That he’s a liar is a given; that he’s insane, a distinct possibility. [...]

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  37. Bithead says:

    Ah. And we’re to accept that commenters are not speaking the views of the rank and file Democrats? Must such statements come form Democrat LEADERS to make them legit?

    Com’on, Anderson, yuou’re dancing… and not very well.

    And let’s see about some of the other comments, while we’re here.

    What are the statements making fun of KSM’s claim of responsibility (ies) but a claim that he was less important to the Islamo- fascists than we’ve been saying all along?

    And yes, the left seems on board with this claim

    And here, too:

    The point that I was trying to make is that it seems as though, with these reports of KSM’s sensationalized “confession” of having masterminded so many terrorist attacks over the years, most notably 9/11, he is being made to seem more important than OBL himself, especially since we actually captured him. Ultimately, I think that this whole story, in addition to trying to take our focus off the Bush (mis-)administration’s “whack-a-scandal”, is intended to further marginalize OBL and minimize Bush’s failure to capture him.

    You tell me, Anderson; How are we to take such comments, other than to suggest KSM is a small fish, and more complaints about not having landed OBL?

    Now, if you’d like to tell me that those posting on the democratic underground are not routinely members of what we would call “the left”, I can’t help you.

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  38. [...] Kahdesta pahasta ei tietenkään tule tekemälläkään yhtä hyvää, mutta pakko silti hiukan ihmetellä sinisilmäistä sumeilemattomuutta, jolla Mohammedin “tunnustukset” meillä ja maailmalla uutisoitiin — ja tiettyä verenhimoisuutta, joka varsinkin suomalaisissa jutuissa näkyi. Tietenkin Mohammed on paha mies, mutta pahoja miehiä on muuallakin, ja monilla heistä on puku päällä. (Kriittisiä arvioita Mohammedin puheista täällä, täällä ja täällä.) [...]

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  39. [...] Second, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, has confessed just about every terrorist attack planned or committed in recent years. Of course, the validity of this testimony will be up in the air as he has been kept three-and-a-half years in secret CIA detention centres; in where the proceedings are likely to be kept classified. You can read more about skeptic reactions, for example, from Guardian, Outside the Beltway, or Danger Room. See the full Pentagon transcript HERE. The Commission’s notes indicate that, according to another terror chieftain, Abu Zubaydah, Mohammed originally offered Osama bin Laden a more modest proposal for attacking the U.S., but that bin Laden reportedly berated him, saying “Why do you use an ax when you can use a bulldozer?” What’s more, Mohammed has also used disinformation in the past. He admitted under previous interrogation that a list of 30 supposed U.S. targets, which he circulated shortly after 9/11, was a lie to exaggerate the scale of al-Qaeda’s planning. Terrorism experts say that though there is no doubt Mohammed played a major role in planning 9/11, he’s famous among interrogators for his braggadocio. “He has nothing else in life but to be remembered as a famous terrorist,” says Bruce Riedel, Senior Fellow at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institute and a 29-year veteran of the CIA. “He wants to promote his own importance. It’s been a problem since he was captured,” says Reidel, who went on to say he wouldn’t be surprised is Mohammed was exaggerating his role in other plots. [...]

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