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Khalid Shaikh Mohammed confesses to 9-11, other attacks

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 hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that was released Wednesday.

"I was responsible for the 9/11 operation from A to Z," Mohammed is 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 weekend hearing, which was in front of a panel chaired by a Navy captain and was 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 list of operations—some completed, some planned—while Mohammed sat in a hearing room on Saturday.

In the list, Mohammed, 43, allegedly confessed to the Sept. 11 attacks, 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 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 broadly blamed on al-Qaida.

Human Rights Watch attorney John Sifton in New York questioned Mohammed's confession and detention.

"Why are we here in 2007 having this happen? Why wasn't Khalid Shaikh Mohammed arraigned in March of 2003 in America? He wasn't captured on the battlefield. He was captured in Rawalpindi (Pakistan)," Sifton said.

He said the depth and breadth of Mohammed's statement was "weird . . . he's linked to everything," he said.

"The confession sounds like something that was taken off WhiteHouse.gov," Sifton added. "This is precisely why people are supposed to have lawyers."

One operation on the list of 31 was censored—No. 3. No. 1 was the 1993 World Trade Center attack. No. 2 was the Sept. 11 attack. No. 4 was the ill-fated shoe-bombing, aboard a Paris-to-Miami flight.

The Defense Department had earlier 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.

Before Mohammed's hearing, the Pentagon said it would issue transcripts scrubbed to protect national security after a military intelligence review.

It's unclear from the context whether operation No. 3 was completed, or never carried out—like the vast majority of operations Mohammed claimed to have plotted on the list.

Later, in broken English, Mohammed himself spoke in the transcript, seemingly supporting the statement that was read on his behalf.

He'd already admitted at that point to swearing an Islamic oath of allegiance to al-Qaida chief bin Laden "to conduct jihad of self and money."

Then he appeared to be appealing to the military panel as though one soldier to another.

"What I wrote here is not `I'm making myself hero,' when I said I was responsible for this and that," he's quoted as telling the officers in the room. "But you are military man. You know very well these are language for any war."

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.

The detainees 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 to family members.

Mohammed arrived at Guantanamo last year, three years after Pakistani security forces captured him in Rawalpindi and turned him over to U.S. intelligence agents for secret interrogation at a so-called CIA "black site." It isn't known whether Mohammed, a Pakistani-born man who was raised in Kuwait, wrote home.

The Pentagon released the transcript along with those of two other alleged al Qaida masterminds—Ramzi Binalshibh, who's been cast as a deputy planner in the Sept. 11 attacks, and Abu Faraj al Libi, a Libyan who allegedly plotted the ill-fated assassination attempt of Pakistani Pervez Musharraf.

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(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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