Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the man who the United States says masterminded the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, confessed to that attack and to plotting a reign of terror worldwide, according to a military transcript of a weekend hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that was released on Wednesday.
"I was responsible for the 9/11 Operation from A to Z," he's quoted as saying in the 26-page transcript, which was posted on the Defense Department Web site.
The confession likely clears the way for the Pentagon to try the man who the U.S. says was Osama bin Laden's operations chief before a U.S. military war-crimes court that's empowered to sentence alleged terrorists to death.
No attorney was present at the hearing, which was in front of a panel chaired by a Navy captain and meant to determine whether Mohammed could be classified as an "enemy combatant."
The Pentagon also barred the news media.
According to the transcript, an Air Force lieutenant colonel read a 31-point laundry list of operations—some completed, some planned—while Mohammed sat in a hearing room on Saturday.
In them, Mohammed, 43, allegedly confessed to the Sept. 11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center attack and to plotting assassination attempts on Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul II.
He said he dispatched so-called shoe-bomber Richard Reid to down American airplanes; plotted the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing attack that killed 162 people, most of them Australians; and plotted unrealized attacks on far-flung landmarks.
The unrealized attack targets included Big Ben in London, the Panama Canal, Chicago's Sears Tower, New York's Empire State Building, the port city of Eilat in Israel, NATO headquarters in Europe and the New York Stock Exchange.
He also plotted attacks on the American embassies in Indonesia, Australia and Japan, and the Israeli embassies in India, Azerbaijan, the Philippines and Australia.
According to the transcript, Mohammed interrupted the U.S. officer's recitation at item 29 to clarify that he wasn't uniquely responsible for an ill-fated Pope John Paul II assassination attempt in the Philippines, date unknown.
"I was not responsible, but share," said Mohammed, prompting the officer to re-read the claim of shared responsibility, not sole responsibility.
Missing from the list were the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, which the United States has blamed on al-Qaida.
Only one of his list of 31 was censored—No. 3.
Before Mohammed's hearing, the Defense Department had ordered a news media blackout at the proceedings—an about-face from an earlier policy. Previously, reporters watched a Guantanamo detainee address a three-officer panel in a trailer at Camp Delta at the remote U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.
Instead, the Pentagon said it would issue transcripts scrubbed to protect national security after a military intelligence review.
Mohammed was the most notorious of 14 so-called high-value detainees who arrived at Guantanamo in September by order of President Bush; until then they had been held by the CIA and hadn't been allowed contact with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains international prisoner rolls.
Since their arrival, they were transferred to Pentagon custody, though kept out of sight of other prisoners on the base, and allowed to meet Red Cross delegates, who gave them the opportunity to write family members.
It's not known whether the Pakistani-born Mohammed, who was raised in Kuwait, wrote home, but another captive yet to appear before a review board wrote his mother in Indonesia.
(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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