September 11 suspect ‘confesses’
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed also admits to other al-Qaeda operations, the US says.
The hearing was being held to determine whether Mohammed, a Pakistani national, can be defined as an “enemy combatant” and can be detained indefinitely, but also opens the door to criminal proceedings, where he will be put on trial.
2002: Bali nightclub bombings
Planned assassination attempts:
Using his own words, the transcript connects Mohammed to many “terror plots” attempted or carried out in the past 15 years – and to others that have not occurred.
Mohammed said he beheaded the US journalist, Daniel Pearl: “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl.
“For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the internet holding his head.”
Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan in 2002.
Mohammed has long been considered a prime suspect in the case.
He also said he was involved in planning the 2002 bombing of a Kenya beach resort frequented by Israelis and the failed missile attack on an Israeli passenger jet after it took off from Mombasa, Kenya.
In addition, he said he was responsible for the bombing of a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia in 2002, in which 202 people were killed.
Other plots he said he was responsible for included planned attacks against the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Empire State Building, New York Stock Exchange, the Panama Canal, Big Ben and Heathrow Airport in London – none of which occurred.
Mohammed is believed to have been the responsible for planning 28 individual attacks.
“Is any statement that you made, was it because of this treatment, to use your word, you claim torture,” the colonel asked during the hearing. “Do you make any statements because of that?”
Portions of Mohammed’s response were deleted from the transcript, and his immediate answer was unclear.
He later said his confession read at the hearing to the long list of attacks was given without any pressure, threats or duress.
The colonel said that Mohammed’s torture allegations would be “reported for any investigation that may be appropriate” and also would be taken into account in consideration of his enemy combatant status.
In a remark apparently spoken through a translator, Mohammed appeared to express regret for some of the casualties of September 11.
“The government has finally brought someone into Guantanamo who apparently admits to being someone who could be called an enemy combatant”
Mark Denbeaux, defence lawyer
“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,” the transcript said.
The Pentagon also released transcripts of the hearings of Abu Faraj al-Libi and Ramzi Binalshibh.
Both refused to attend the hearings, although al-Libi submitted a statement.
Al-Libi, through his personal representative, claimed that the hearing process is unfair and that he will not attend unless it is corrected.
“The detainee is in a lose-lose situation,” his statement said.
Binalshibh, a Yemeni, is suspected of helping Mohammed with the September 11 attack plans and is also linked to a foiled plot to crash an aircraft into London‘s Heathrow Airport.
The hearings, are being conducted in secret by the US military as it tries to determine whether 14 alleged terrorist leaders should be declared “enemy combatants” who can be held indefinitely and prosecuted by military tribunals.
“We need to know if this purported confession would be enough to convict him at a fair trial or would it have to be suppressed as the fruit of torture”
Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch
If, as expected, they are declared enemy combatants, the military would then draft and file charges against them.
The detainees would then be tried under the new military commissions law signed by George Bush, the US president, in October.
The 14 were moved in September from a secret CIA prison network to the prison at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, where about 385 men are being held on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
Mark Denbeaux, a Seton Hall University law professor, who represents two Tunisians held at Guantanamo, said that based on the transcripts, Mohammed might be the only detainee who would qualify as an enemy combatant.
“The government has finally brought someone into Guantanamo who apparently admits to being someone who could be called an enemy combatant,” Denbeaux, a critic of most of the detentions, said.
“None of the others rise to this level. The government has now got one,” he said.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, questioned the legality of the closed-door session and confession and whether the confession was the result of torture.
“We won’t know that unless there is an independent hearing,” he said.
“We need to know if this purported confession would be enough to convict him at a fair trial or would it have to be suppressed as the fruit of torture?”
The military held 558 combatant status review tribunals between July 2004 and March 2005 and the panels concluded that all but 38 detainees were enemy combatants who should be held.
Those 38 were eventually released from Guantanamo.