WASHINGTON—Khalid Shaikh Mohammed confessed to murdering Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, personally slicing off Pearl's head and holding it up for a video that appeared on the Internet, according to a revised transcript of a hearing held last weekend at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan," Mohammed told a panel of military officers who'll decided whether he should be held as an enemy combatant. "For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head."
Pentagon officials had deleted Mohammed's description of Pearl's death from a transcript of the hearing that was originally released Wednesday. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the deletion had been made to give officials time to brief Pearl's family. Once that had been done, a revised transcript was posted on the Defense Department's Web site, defenselink.mil.
But other deletions remained in the revised transcript, prompting protests from human rights groups that the censored portions referred to abusive treatment that Mohammed had suffered at the hands of his jailers. Mohammed, who also confessed to masterminding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was held secretly for three years by the CIA at undisclosed sites before being transferred to Guantanamo and military custody in September.
"It is a glaring misuse of the classification power for the government to classify information simply because it might be embarrassing or unlawful," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Mohammed's claims of torture should be investigated rather than concealed."
The group called on the Pentagon to release an exhibit, identified in the transcript as D-d, in which, according to the hearing transcript, Mohammed outlined how he was treated by his jailers.
"Were any of the statements that you made . . . the result of any of the treatment that you received during the time frame from 2003 to 2006?" the presiding officer asked.
"Statement for whom?" Mohammed replied.
"To any of the interrogators."
"CIA peoples," Mohammed said. "Yes. At the beginning they transferred . . ." The remainder of his comments were deleted.
The answer apparently didn't satisfy the presiding officer. "What I'm trying to get at is, any statement that you made, was it because of this treatment, to use your word, you claim torture. Do you make any statements because of that?"
After an interpreter repeated the question in Arabic, Mohammed began by saying, "I cannot remember now . . ." But the rest of the sentence and perhaps several following sentences were deleted, and it isn't clear from the transcript how he responded.
Pearl was abducted in January 2002 in Pakistan while reporting a story on Islamic militants.
Last October, Time magazine reported a U.S. intelligence leak that said forensic analysis had matched the hands in the video of the slaying to Mohammed's while the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind was in secret CIA detention at an undisclosed "black site."
(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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