Ah, the blogosphere is again one day ahead of the MSM. Yesterday, when news of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confessions came out, Jim and I expressed our doubts. Now we're seeing the same sentiment in the AP, TIME, and Newsweek.
Robert Baer, CIA agent extraordinaire and popular author, writing in TIME:
On the face of it, KSM, as he is known inside the government, comes across as boasting, at times mentally unstable. It's also clear he is making things up. I'm told by people involved in the investigation that KSM was present during Wall Street Journal correspondent Danny Pearl's execution but was in fact not the person who killed him. There exists videotape footage of the execution that minimizes KSM's role. And if KSM did indeed exaggerate his role in the Pearl murder, it raises the question of just what else he has exaggerated, or outright fabricated...
Although he claims to have been al-Qaeda's foreign operations chief, he has offered no information about European networks. Today, dozens of investigations are going on in Great Britain surrounding the London tube bombings on July 7, 2005. Yet KSM apparently knew nothing about these networks or has not told his interrogators about them.
The fact is al-Qaeda is too smart to put all of its eggs in one basket. It has not and does not have a field commander, the role KSM has arrogated.
Michael Hirsh, who has broken some important scoops on the Iraq War, writes in Newsweek about how the KSM case is a perfect illustration of how not to fight a war against terror:
Had the case been handled properly, KSM's confession to plotting 9/11 and many other actual or planned terror acts could have made him a "showcase defendant" for America's cause, rallying support and allies around the world. "He could have been charged within six months of his detention and prosecuted in a proceeding, which would have added to the reputation of our country for justice," says [Scott] Horton[, a human rights attorney.]
Instead, the legal black hole is only getting deeper. The transcript released Wednesday night indicates that KSM's references to his previous treatment are all carefully redacted. [John] Sifton [of Human Rights Watch] and others say the redactions clearly indicate that KSM was referring to his secret interrogationsduring which he might well have been physically abused. The question of whether such dubiously extracted testimony could be used in any legal proceeding will probably prolong his case for years to come.
Sifton notes, accurately, that the administration has been wildly inconsistent over the past six years. Some terror suspects are held without recourse to habeas corpus at Gitmo; others have been prosecuted in the U.S. courts. In one case involving a Pakistani father and son living in New York, Saifullah and Uzair Paracha, the two have been treated completely differently. "The young Paracha is in federal prison. The older is at Gitmo," said Sifton. (The father, Saifullah, was arrested in Bangkok; his son in the United States, both on suspicion of agreeing to help an Al Qaeda operative sneak into the United States to carry out a chemical attack.) "There are no principles guiding this. It would be fine if the "war on terror" were just a metaphor, but it's not," says Sifton.
And the AP:
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's claims that he was responsible for dozens of successful, foiled and imagined attacks in the past 15 years relies on a loose definition of the word "responsible." Officials say the 9/11 mastermind was key to some plots but a bit player in others...
While there apparently is truth in much of the statement, several officials said, there's also an element of self-promotion. They view the claims as at least in part a rallying cry to bolster his image and that of al-Qaida...
One official cautioned that many of Mohammed's claims during interrogation were "white noise" designed to send the U.S. on wild goose chases or to get him through the day's interrogation session.
Look -- KSM is a nasty, nasty dude. I said as much when I blogged about him yesterday. And I'm sure he's guilty of enough to be executed a dozen times over. But when the military releases a statement from a terrorist mastermind owning up to every unresolved high-profile terrorist act over the last ten years and releases with it no photos, no video, no audio, and no corroborating evidence, I have questions. I think, given the Bush Administration's record of being forthright with the nation, we all should.
Update: Colleagues report that the mainstream media began debunking KSM's claims as early as yesterday morning. So, kudos to the appropriate parties. I only found the print articles today, which led to this blog post.