By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
March 14, 2007 – Suspected al Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Muhammad has admitted masterminding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as well as the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. "I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z," an interpreter read from Muhammad's statement to the Combatant Status Review Tribunal on March 10 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The tribunal was an administrative trial to determine only whether Muhammad could be designated as an enemy combatant. Muhammad used the opportunity to submit, through an interpreter, a two-part personal statement with 38 terrorism-related admissions.
He led the list by pledging his jihad allegiance to Osama bin Laden and finished with an admission to trying to destroy the American oil company in Indonesia owned by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Muhammad claimed responsibility for the 2001 attempted shoe bombing of American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris.
He offered a chilling confession to "managing and following up on the Cell for the Production of Biological Weapons, such as anthrax and others, and following up on Dirty Bomb Operations on American soil."
He also named four other skyscrapers that were supposed to be destroyed in a "second wave" of attacks after 9/11. They were the Library Tower in Los Angeles, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Plaza Bank in Seattle and the Empire State Building in New York City.
"I shared responsibility for the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II while he was visiting the Philippines," Muhammad also admitted.
Muhammad's lengthy closing oral statement began with a pledge to Allah in Arabic followed by a refusal to take an oath as part of the tribunal. He explained that he was not lying, but that his religious beliefs prevented him taking the oath and thereby accepting, at least in part, American law and its constitution.
Muhammad went on to say that he was not trying to make himself out to be a hero, but an enemy of America.
He drew a comparison between bin Laden and George Washington, both fighting for independence, and said that the term terrorist is "deceiving." He said that during the Revolutionary War, Washington would have been considered a terrorist by the British.
Muhammad said he did not like to kill people, especially children.
"I don't like to kill people. I feel very sorry they been killed kids in 9/11," Muhammad said in broken English. But, he said, their deaths are part of the "language" of war.
He closed by stating that war is part of life and that it will never stop.
Unclassified transcripts of the tribunal are online at:
Muhammad's tribunal was one of three for the 14 high-value detainees who were transferred Sept. 6 to Guantanamo Bay from CIA custody.
Proceedings were March 9 for Abu Faraj al-Libi, an alleged senior member of al Qaeda, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is said to have helped Muhammad plan the Sept. 11 attacks.
Shibh also elected to not participate in the tribunal. His personal representative said that Shibh was "uncooperative and unresponsive."
Evidence submitted by the U.S. government against Shibh included a diary recovered in a 2004 raid detailing his involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks. He was also identified on a videotape of potential suicide operatives, the evidence cited. Shibh attempted to obtain a U.S. visa four times in 2000 for the purpose of attending flight school here, the evidence states. All applications were rejected.
Many other connections to pre-9/11 terrorist activities were cited in the evidence, including wiring money to the actual terrorist hijackers.
Libi elected to not participate in the tribunal, citing through his personal representative that his freedom "far too important to be decided by an administrative process" and that he is awaiting legal proceedings.
Evidence submitted against Libi included sources who stated that Libi was the supervisor of an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Computer and other documentation were seized during his capture that contained manuals for explosives, detonators, chemicals, military tactics, missiles and tanks.
CSRTs are a one-time administrative process used to determine whether detainees at Guantanamo Bay can be designated as enemy combatants. No decisions have been made about the detainees' status.
Not all of the three detainees chose to participate in the CSRT proceedings. It was not released which detainees did or did not participate. The detainees have a right to personal representation and to receive an unclassified summary of evidence in advance of the hearing.
The CSRTs for the detainees were not open to media because of national security concerns.
The U.S. government established the CSRT process at Guantanamo Bay as a result of a June 2004 Supreme Court decision in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for bin Laden who challenged his detention at Guantanamo Bay. Between July 2004 and March 2005, DoD held 558 CSRTs at Guantanamo Bay. At the time, 38 detainees were determined to no longer meet the definition of enemy combatant, and 520 detainees were found to be enemy combatants.
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