So it looks like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al Qaeda No. 3 long-reputed to be the mastermind behind 9/11, was a worse dude than anyone thought. Last night, the Pentagon released a 26-page transcript of a closed hearing in which KSM (as he's called) admitted to planning or executing 31 terrorist acts, some successful and some unsuccessful. I think it's safe to assume he's sealed his death sentence.
From the AP, snippets of things KSM reportedly admitted to:
- The 9/11 attacks.
- The 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
- The failed Richard Reid shoe bombing.
- The beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
- Attempted assassinations of Pope John Paul II, President Clinton and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
- The 2002 bombing of a Kenya beach resort.
- The 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia.
- Planned but unexecuted attacks on the Sears Tower, the Empire State Building, the New York Stock Exchange, the Panama Canal, the Big Ben clock tower in London, and Heathrow Airport.
The two questions I have are:
(1) Were these admissions the product of torture? I mean torture in the immediate sense and in the "KSM has been through the black site prison system for three years and has probably been tortured dozens of times, creating a lasting psychological effect that might impair his ability to think, judge, and communicate." If KSM were to be tried in a court of law, would his confessions hold up?
(2) Should we be suspicious of the timing? Who knows when these admissions were actually made. All we do know -- as Josh Marshall points out -- is that their release is timed to knock Alberto Gonzales and the Attorney General flap off the front pages. Remember when Jose Padilla's arrest was announced? John Ashcroft interrupted a trip to Russia to declare that the U.S. had arrested a domestic terrorist and heroically stopped his "dirty bomb" attack. As it turned out, Padilla had been arrested a month before and Ashcroft's announcement was timed to knock a bunch of bad news out of the headlines. And the government could never prove the "dirty bomb" charge.
It's a true shame that even when a really nasty guy is caught and proven guilty, alert citizens have to be suspicious and skeptical of the Administration's behavior. But it poisoned the well from which we all drink.