The mysterious Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) has once again made headlines after his confession to about 30 different terror plots was revealed at a recent secret hearing at Gitmo. The man, who is a dead ringer for porn star Ron Jeremy, claims to be the mastermind of so many well-publicized plots that Kurt Nimmo has dubbed KSM the
Forrest Gump of manufactured terrorism. But, it is not only Nimmo who finds KSM's superman-like terror activity to be unbelievable.
Time Magazine has taken a skeptical look at the KSM confession and Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East, also finds the confession less than compelling. "Until we hear more, the mystery of who KSM is and what he was responsible for is still a mystery," writes Baer.
Nick Fielding, a former senior reporter for the London Sunday Times and co-author of Masterminds of Terrorreported the following last year:
Perhaps the most important piece of evidence against the Justice Department case (against Zacarias Moussaoui) was provided by the man who planned the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM). Arrested in Pakistan in March 2003 and quickly handed over to the Americans, no one now knows where he is being held, although numerous reports have made it clear that he has been tortured using the infamous "waterboarding" technique and that he is now cooperating with his interrogators.
Fielding describes this evidence:
KSM's comments emerged in a little-reported document submitted to Moussaoui's trial. The 54-page document is a mixture of summaries of the information he has provided to his CIA interrogators, together with statements he wrote himself.
It is accepted as conventional wisdom that KSM was the 9/11 mastermind, but the details that would prove this are not known. He was deemed to be the 9/11 mastermind even before he was apprehended. Perhaps the government could put to rest numerous 9/11 conspiracy theories if credible evidence of what happened was made available. The 9/11 Commission Report's information on KSM's culpability seems to be based entirely on intelligence reports that are based on information obtained from KSM and other detainees.
The 54-page document referenced above was introduced into evidence at the Moussaoui trial on March 28, 2006 and was likely produced in 2004. KSM's new "A to Z" confession gives no new details and adds nothing to what was already asserted about his real or imagined role in the 9/11 attacks.
The secret KSM hearing at Gitmo was observed on closed-circuit television by Senators Carl Levin and Lindsey Graham. Apparently, they accept KSM's confession is valid even though they are calling for an investigation into allegations that KSM was physically abused while in CIA custody.
The Washington Post reported that "Levin and Graham did not challenge the secret nature of Mohammed's hearing or the classification of his allegations of abuse" and "they were convinced that he was telling the truth during the hearing". The Washington Post also reported the following:
"It was apparent to us," the senators wrote in their statement, that Mohammed "wanted to use the tribunal process to detail his role in 9/11 and many other terror plots and to record for history the part he has played in a war that he has unabashedly waged." Mohammed "views himself as a warrior, motivated by religious teachings, and seeks his place in history."
The two senators helped write legislation codifying the Combatant Status Review Tribunals. Yesterday they offered no new details on the content of the hearing but said they were impressed with "the professionalism and demeanor of the tribunal." Mohammed was denied an attorney for the hearing, which was called to establish whether he qualifies as an enemy combatant. Evidence was withheld from him, and the military panel rejected his request to call two witnesses -- also at Guantanamo -- to corroborate assertions that nearly half of the military's case against him is false.
So, the Senators that helped design the Combatant Status Review Tribunals were impressed with the tribunal, despite KSM being denied evidence, witnesses, and an attorney. They are also certain of the veracity of KSM's confession, despite their own concerns that he was abused. Apparently, they are only concerned with what KSM's comfort level was during his detention but not a confession obtained through torture.
There has been much speculation in recent days about whether KSM made his confession under duress at Guantanamo. The interrogation of KSM began well before he was transferred from a secret prison to Gitmo which was announced in September 2006. It is the methods used to interrogate KSM, rather than his egotism, that calls into question the truthfulness of his statements.
KSM may have been subjected to water-boarding at Gitmo or this may have happened before he arrived there. It is known that he was subjected to this interrogation technique, considered torture by more than 100 law professors, because of a September 6, 2006 report by ABC News:
CIA officers told ABC News that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed lasted the longest under water boarding, two and a half minutes, before beginning to talk.
Assuming ABC News didn't fabricate this story, the speculation over whether KSM was tortured can end. The real question is when and where the torture took place. It would make sense that the torture occurred before March 28, 2006 when KSM's 54-page document was produced as evidence in the Moussaoui trial. It would also make sense that this torture took place soon after KSM was apprehended, given that the ticking time-bomb scenario for the justification of torture is often asserted by torture advocates. Why would interrogators wait until KSM arrived at Gitmo to begin water-boarding him?
Water-boarding wasn't the only interrogation technique used to make KSM talk. Imagine how fast you would talk if the CIA did a rendition on your young children. What would you be willing to confess to in order to facilitate their safe return?
Consider this excerpt from the March 10, 2003 story by Olga Craig, a reporter for The Telegraph:
Two young sons of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks, are being used by the CIA to force their father to talk.
Yousef al-Khalid, nine, and his brother, Abed al-Khalid, seven, were taken into custody in Pakistan in September when intelligence officers raided a flat in Karachi which their father had fled hours earlier. They were found cowering behind a wardrobe with a senior al-Qaeda member.
The boys have been held in Pakistan, but this weekend they were flown to America to be questioned about their father.
CIA interrogators confirmed on Saturday that the boys were staying at a secret address.
"We are handling them with kid gloves. After all, they are only little children," said an official. "But we need to know as much about their father's recent activities as possible. We have child psychologists on hand at all times and they are given the best of care."
Their father, Mohammed, 37, is being interrogated at the Bagram US military base in Afghanistan. He is being held in solitary confinement and subjected to "stress and duress" interrogation.
He has been told that his sons are being held and is being encouraged to divulge future attacks against the West and the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.
The CIA rendition of KSM's young sons becomes even more murky. Consider the following excerpt from the appendix of a letter to the President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, from Amnesty International regarding these children:
The whereabouts of two other children arrested in September 2002 also remains unknown. Nine-year-old Yousef al-Khalid and seven-year-old Abed al-Khalid are the sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is allegedly a senior leader of al-Qa’ida. According to press reports, Yousef and Abed were picked up in September 2002 by Pakistani security forces during a raid on an apartment in Karachi where it was believed their father was hiding. However, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed escaped arrest.
The boys were then reportedly held in an undisclosed place until March 2003. Following the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on 1 March 2003, Yousef al-Khalid and Abed al-Khalid were reportedly transferred to custody in the US allegedly to force their father "to talk" (The Sunday Times, London, 9 March 2003).
US authorities have denied that Yousef and Abed were in the custody of US officials, either in the US or anywhere else, or that the boys had been interrogated by US officials (The Daily Times, 12 March 2003). However, when asked where Yousef al-Khalid and Abed al-Khalid were, the US spokesperson allegedly declined to comment. Amnesty International is not aware of any statement about the brothers being made by the Pakistani authorities.
It is no surprise that that there is conflicting information regarding KSM's children, their whereabouts, or when KSM was detained - or killed. Consider these excerpts from an October 30, 2002 article in Asia Times:
Ever since the frenzied shootout last month on September 11 in Karachi there have been doubts over whether Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed head of al-Qaeda's military committee, died in the police raid on his apartment.
Now it has emerged that Kuwaiti national Khalid Shaikh Mohammed did indeed perish in the raid, but his wife and child were taken from the apartment and handed over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in whose hands they remain.
Initially, the joint ISI-FBI plan was to take Shaikh Mohammed alive so that he could be grilled, especially as he was believed to have knowledge of other al-Qaeda cells in Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and elsewhere. However, as a plainclothed officer climbed the stairs toward the third-floor apartment, a hand grenade was thrown, and he retreated. Reinforcements then arrived, and for the next few hours a fierce gun battle blazed.
The FBI, still keen to take Shaikh Mohammed alive, teargassed the area, and a number of people were captured. However, despite instructions to the contrary, a few Pakistan Rangers entered the flat, where they found Shaikh Mohammed and another man, allegedly with their hands up. The Rangers nevertheless opened fire on the pair.
But now it emerges that an Arab woman and a child were taken to an ISI safe house, where they identified the Shaikh Mohammed's body as their husband and father. The body was kept in a private NGO mortuary for 20 days before being buried, under the surveillance of the FBI, in a graveyard in the central district of Karachi.
The widow subsequently underwent exhaustive interrogation in the custody of FBI officials, during which she revealed details of people who visited her husband, and of his other contacts and plans. News of the death of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was intentionally suppressed so that officials could play on the power of his name to follow up leads and contacts.
Six months later, KSM escaped from his grave in Karachi and was apprehended in Pakistan. According to a March 2, 2003 article in the New York Times:
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, suspected of planning the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington and one of the F.B.I.'s most wanted terrorists, was detained by Pakistani authorities this morning and is now in American custody, officials said.
Finally, KSM was in American custody. Or was he? An article from Reuters, also appearing on March 2, 2003, told a different story:
Pakistan's interior minister denied reports on Sunday that suspected September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had been handed over to the United States and said he was still in Pakistan.
President Pervez Musharraf's spokesman Rashid Qureshi also said Mohammed was in Pakistan and was being jointly interrogated by Pakistani and U.S. agents.
The capture of KSM became even more confusing the next day. Consider these excerpts from an article in the Guardian:
Mohammed was captured in a raid on a private house on Saturday in Rawalpindi. Pakistani intelligence service agents were initially believed to have handed him straight over to US officials. He was said to have been flown out of the country to an undisclosed location.
However this was denied by the Pakistani government which insisted he was still in their hands and was being jointly questioned.
Yesterday the Khan family who live at the two-storey grey house at 18a Nisar Road, where officials say they found Mohammed, gave a very different account of the raid.
Dr Abdul Quddus Khan, 78, a retired microbiologist who runs a respected cardiology institute lives at the house with his wife Mahlaqa, their son Ahmed, 42, his wife and their two young children. Dr Khan and his wife were at a wedding in Lahore on Friday.
At 3am on Saturday a squad of around 20 armed police and intelligence officers kicked open the door and burst into the house. They dragged away Ahmed and held his wife and children at gunpoint for an hour as they ransacked the house, according to Ahmed's sister Qudsia.
"They left clothes and books strewn on the floor and took a bundle of dollar bills which were locked in a cupboard," she said. "The bedrooms were turned upside down, one door upstairs was broken and they took the new computer," she said.
At no point, the family say, was Mohammed or any other man in the house. The agents did not even ask about them. "The only people in the house were my brother, his wife and their kids," Qudsia said. "I have absolutely no idea why the police came here."
Several bloggers have called attention to KSM's claim that he was responsible for "planning, training, surveying, and financing" a second wave of attacks against various skyscrapers including the Plaza Bank in Washington state. The problem is that KSM was detained in 2003 and the Plaza Bank was founded in 2006.
KSM claims he "was responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center Operation", but the 9/11 Commission found that KSM's contribution to that incident was $660. Chapter Five of the 9/11 Commission's Report is devoted almost exclusively to KSM and contains the following:
KSM first came to the attention of U.S. law enforcement as a result of his cameo role in the first World Trade Center bombing. According to KSM, he learned of Ramzi Yousef's intention to launch an attack inside the United States in 1991 or 1992, when Yousef was receiving explosives training in Afghanistan. During the fall of 1992, while Yousef was building the bomb he would use in that attack, KSM and Yousef had numerous telephone conversations during which Yousef discussed his progress and sought additional funding. On November 3, 1992, KSM wired $660 from Qatar to the bank account of Yousef's co-conspirator, Mohammed Salameh. KSM does not appear to have contributed any more substantially to this operation.
We have been told for 14 years that Ramzi Yousef, KSM's nephew, was the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center attack. Now we are told that KSM has confessed to being responsible for this attack. Yet, Senators Levin and Graham are convinced KSM is telling the truth - this time. Perhaps if the Warren Commission documents are ever released, we will find out that KSM was Lee Harvey Oswald's cousin and that he was responsible for the assassination of JFK.
KSM is indeed an international man of mystery. Robert Fisk has reported that KSM was once an ISI asset. To avoid being called a coincidence theorist, I won't even bother to go into the links between the ISI (Pakistan's intelligence agency) and the Taliban or the CIA. Paul Thompson has also documented a number of bizarre and confusing reports about KSM.
The mystery of who KSM is and what he was responsible for will remain a mystery. Like all information about the events surrounding 9/11 and the perpetual war on terror, the KSM story is classified top secret. It as is if the anonymous government officials who make one erroneous statement after another to the press are teasing the public. After all is said and done regarding the KSM confession story, it may just be that the public has been made the victim of more propaganda designed to prove that torture works, boost the President's popularity ratings, and/or divert attention from a growing number of scandals and issues of real importance.
This article contributed by Tom Blanton of Richmond, Virginia.