|Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Arabic: خالد شيخ محمد
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed photographed by the Red Cross whilst in captivity in Guantanamo, July 2009.
March 1, 1964 or|
November 14, 1965 
Kuwait City, Kuwait
|Arrested||March 1, 2003
Joint team of CIA and ISI
|Detained at||CIA black sites; Guantanamo|
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (Arabic: خالد شيخ محمد, Khālid Shaykh Muḥammad; also transliterated as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and additionally known by at least fifty aliases) is a militant held in U.S. military custody in Guantánamo Bay for alleged acts of terrorism including the mass murder of civilians. He was identified as "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks" by the 9/11 Commission Report.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was allegedly a member of Osama bin Laden's terrorist al-Qaeda organization, leading al-Qaeda's propaganda operations from around 1999 until late 2001. He is alleged to have confessed under torture by United States agents to a role in many of the most significant terrorist plots over the last twenty years, but the means of interrogation put his confession into question.
In 2003 Mohammed was captured in hiding in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, by a combined force of members of the CIA and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of Pakistan, and transferred to U.S. CIA custody. In 2006 he was transferred to military custody and Guantanamo Bay detention camp. In March 2007, through the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, Mohammed confessed to masterminding the September 11 attacks, the Richard Reid shoe bombing attempt to blow up an airliner, the Bali nightclub bombing in Indonesia, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the murder of Daniel Pearl, and various foiled attacks, as well as numerous other crimes. He was charged in February 2008 with war crimes and murder by a U.S. military commission at Guantanamo Bay detention camp and faces the death penalty if convicted. In 2012, a former military prosecutor criticized the proceedings as insupportable due to confessions gained under torture.
In Boumediene v. Bush (2008), the United States Supreme Court ruled that detainees had the right of access to US federal courts to challenge their detentions, and that the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 were flawed. A revised Military Commissions Act was passed by Congress in 2009 to address court concerns.
Early life and education
According to the U.S. federal government, Human Rights Watch, and others, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was born on 14 April 1965 (or 1 March 1964) in Balochistan, Pakistan. However, BBC News and others have reported his place of birth as Kuwait City, Kuwait. It is believed that he belongs to the Baloch ethnic group and is fluent in Arabic, English, Urdu, and Balochi. Khalid Mohammad grew up and spent his formative years in Kuwait, as did his nephew Ramzi Yousef (three years his junior and the son of Mohammed's older sister).
According to U.S. federal documents, in 1982 he had heard Abdul Rasul Sayyaf's speech in which a call for jihad against the Soviets was declared. At age sixteen, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood. After graduating from high school in 1983, Mohammad travelled to the United States and enrolled in Chowan College in Murfreesboro, North Carolina. He later transferred to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and received a Bachelor of Science (BS) in mechanical engineering in 1986.
The following year he went to Peshawar, Pakistan, where he and his brothers, including Zahed, joined the mujahideen forces. He attended the Sada training camp run by Sheikh Abdallah Azzam, and after that he worked for the magazine al-Bunyan al-Marsous, produced by Sayyaf's rebel group. In 1992, he received a master's degree in Islamic Culture and History from Punjab University in Pakistan. By 1993, Mohammad had married and moved his family to Qatar, where he took a position as project engineer with the Qatari Ministry of Electricity and Water. He began to travel to different countries from that time onward.
The United States 9/11 Commission Report notes that, "By his own account, KSM's animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experiences there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel." However, on August 29, 2009, The Washington Post reported from US intelligence sources that Mohammed's time in the U.S. contributed to his becoming a terrorist.
"KSM's limited and negative experience in the United States — which included a brief jail stay because of unpaid bills — almost certainly helped propel him on his path to becoming a terrorist," according to this intelligence summary. "He stated that his contact with Americans, while minimal, confirmed his view that the United States was a debauched and racist country."
The news agency Adnkronos reported in 2009 that Khalid Sheik Mohammed had traveled to Bosnia in September 1995, and worked as a humanitarian aid worker under an assumed name for Egyptian Relief. Quoting the Sarajevo paper, Daily Fokus, they reported local intelligence officials confirmed Mohammed had obtained Bosnian citizenship in November 1995. Those officials told Daily Fokus that Egyptian Relief was a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Qatar, avoiding arrest
In early 1996 Mohammed returned to Afghanistan to avoid capture by U.S. authorities. In his flight from Qatar, he was sheltered by Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani, who was the Qatari Minister of Religious Affairs in 1996.
Alleged terrorist activities
Mohammed traveled to the Philippines in 1994 to work with his nephew Yousef on the Bojinka plot, a Manila-based plot to destroy twelve commercial airliners flying routes between the United States, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. The 9/11 Commission Report says that "this marked the first time KSM took part in the actual planning of a terrorist operation."
"Using airline timetables, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef devised a scheme whereby five men could, in a single day, board 12 flights — two each for three of the men, three each for the other two — assemble and deposit their bombs and exit the planes, leaving timers to ignite the bombs up to several days afterward. By the time the bombs exploded, the men would be far away and far from reasonable suspicion. The math was simple: 12 flights with at least 400 people per flight. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 deaths. It would be a day of glory for them, calamity for the Americans they supposed would fill the aircraft."
Bojinka plans included renting or buying a Cessna, packing it with explosives and crash landing it into CIA headquarters, with a backup plan to hijack the twelfth airliner in the air and use that instead. This information was reported in detail to the U.S. at the time.
In December 1994, Yousef had engaged in a test of a bomb on Philippine Airlines Flight 434 using only about ten percent of the explosives that were to be used in each of the bombs to be planted on US airliners. The test resulted in the death of a Japanese national on board a flight from the Philippines to Japan. Mohammed conspired with Yousef in the plot until it was uncovered on January 6, 1995. Yousef was captured February 7 of that same year.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was indicted on terrorism charges in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in January 1996 for his alleged involvement in Operation Bojinka, and was subsequently placed on the October 10, 2001, initial list of the FBI's twenty-two Most Wanted Terrorists.
Renewal of relationship with Osama bin Laden
|“||If now we were living in the Revolutionary War and George Washington he being arrested through Britain. For sure he, they would consider him enemy combatant. But American they consider him as hero.||”|
—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, speaking in 2007
By the time the Bojinka plot was discovered, Mohammed had returned to Qatar and his job as a project engineer at the country's Ministry of Electricity and Water. He traveled in 1995 to Sudan, Yemen, Malaysia, and Brazil to visit elements of the worldwide jihadist community, although no evidence connects him to specific terrorist actions in any of those locations. On his trip to Sudan, he attempted to meet with Osama bin Laden, who was at the time living there, aided by Sudanese political leader Hassan al-Turabi. After the US asked the Qatari government to arrest Mohammed in January 1996, he fled to Afghanistan, where he renewed his alliance with Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. Later that year, he formed a working relationship with bin Laden, who had settled there.
Bin Laden and his colleagues relocated their operations to Afghanistan at this time. Abu Hafs al-Masri/Mohammed Atef, bin Laden's chief of operations, arranged a meeting between bin Laden and Mohammed in Tora Bora sometime in mid-1996, in which Mohammed outlined a plan that would eventually become the quadruple hijackings of 2001. Bin Laden urged Mohammed to become a full-fledged member of Al Qaeda, but he continued to refuse such a commitment until around early 1999, after the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
Mohammed moved his family from Iran to Karachi, Pakistan, in 1997. That year, he tried unsuccessfully to join mujahideen leader Ibn al Khattab in Chechnya, where the Muslim opposition to Russian forces was supported by the United States CIA. Unable to travel to Chechnya, he returned to Afghanistan. He ultimately accepted bin Laden's invitation to move to Kandahar and join al-Qaeda as a full-fledged member. Eventually, he became leader of Al Qaeda's media committee.
Plan for September 11, 2001 attacks
The first hijack plan that Mohammed presented to the leadership of al-Qaeda called for several airplanes on both east and west coasts to be hijacked and flown into targets. His plan evolved from an earlier foiled plot known as the Bojinka plot (see above). Bin Laden rejected some potential targets suggested by Mohammed, such as the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles.
In late 1998 or early 1999, bin Laden gave approval for Mohammed to proceed to organize the plot. Meetings in early 1999 took place with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Osama bin Laden, and his military chief Mohammed Atef. Bin Laden led the plot and provided financial support. He was also involved in selecting the participants, including choosing Mohamed Atta as the lead hijacker. Mohammed provided operational support, such as selecting targets and helping arrange travel for the hijackers. Atef directed the actions of the hijackers.
After Atta was chosen as the leader of the mission, "he met with Bin Laden to discuss the targets: the World Trade Center, which represented the U.S. economy; the Pentagon, a symbol of the U.S. military; and the U.S. Capitol, the perceived source of U.S. policy in support of Israel. The White House was also on the list, as Bin Laden considered it a political symbol and wanted to attack it as well."
According to testimony by Philip Zelikow, bin Laden was motivated by a desire to punish the US for supporting Israel and wanted to move up the attack date. Mohammed argued for ensuring the teams were prepared.
"[Bin Laden] allegedly told KSM it would be sufficient simply to down the planes and not hit specific targets. KSM stood his ground, arguing that the operation would not be successful unless the pilots were fully trained and the hijacking teams were larger."
In a 2002 interview with Al Jazeera journalist Yosri Fouda, Mohammed admitted that he and Ramzi bin al-Shibh were involved in the "Holy Tuesday operation". KSM, however, disputes this claim via his Personal Representative: "I never stated to the Al Jazeera reporter that I was the head of the al Qaida military committee."
Daniel Pearl murder
According to a CNN interview with intelligence expert Rohan Gunaratna, "Daniel Pearl was going in search of the al Qaeda network that was operational in Karachi, and it was at the instruction of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that Daniel Pearl was killed." On October 12, 2006, Time magazine reported that "KSM confessed under CIA interrogation that he personally committed the murder." On March 15, 2007, the Pentagon stated that Mohammed had confessed to the murder. The statement quoted Mohammed as saying, "I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head." This confession was flawed by having been gained under torture, and Mohammed listed many other crimes at the same time.
According to an investigative report published in January 2011 by Georgetown University, the Federal Bureau of Investigation used vein matching to determine that the perpetrator in the video of the killing of Pearl was most likely Mohammed, notably through identifying a "bulging vein" running across his hand. Concerned that the confession obtained through waterboarding would not hold up in court, federal officials used this forensic evidence to bolster their case.
Interview with al-Jazeera
In April 2002 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, together with Ramzi bin al-Shibh, gave an interview to the al-Jazeera correspondent Yosri Fouda. They described the preparations for 9/11 attacks and said that they first thought of "striking at a couple of nuclear facilities" in the USA but then "it was eventually decided to leave out nuclear targets for now."
Capture and interrogation
On September 11, 2002, members of Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) claimed to have killed or captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed during a raid in Karachi that resulted in bin al-Shibh's capture. This was false.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, (about 20 km southwest of Islamabad), on March 1, 2003, by the Pakistani ISI, possibly in a joint action with the CIA's Special Activities Division paramilitary operatives and officers of the American Diplomatic Security Service. He has been in U.S. custody since that time. During 2003 he was waterboarded at a secret CIA camp, or black site, in Poland. He was transferred to a camp in Romania. In September 2006, the U.S. government announced it had moved Mohammed from a secret CIA prison (or black site) to the military custody at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The Red Cross, Human Rights Watch and Mohammed consider that the harsh interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, which he received from U.S. agents amount to torture.
According to later reports, Mohammed initially told American interrogators he would not answer any questions until he was provided with a lawyer, which was refused. He claims to have been kept naked for more than a month during his isolation and interrogations, and said he was "questioned by an unusual number of female handlers".
A CIA document reveals that Jane Harman (D-CA) and Porter Goss (R-FL) of the House Intelligence Committee were briefed on July 13, 2004, by the CIA Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt, General Counsel Scott Muller, and CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson on the status of the interrogation process of Mohammed. By this date, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had been subjected to 183 applications of waterboarding.
The document states:
On October 12, 2004, Human Rights Watch reported that 11 suspects, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had "disappeared" to a semi-secret prison in Jordan, and may have been tortured there under the direction of the CIA. At the time, Jordanian and American officials denied those allegations.
On February 5, 2008, the CIA Director Michael Hayden told a Senate committee that his agents had used waterboarding on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. A 2005 U.S. Justice Department memo released in April 2009 stated that Mohammed had undergone waterboarding 183 times in March 2003.
In October 2006 Mohammed described his mistreatment and torture in detention, including the waterboarding, to a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Mohammed said that he had provided a lot of false information, which he had supposed the interrogators wanted to hear, in order to stop the mistreatment. In the 2006 interview with the Red Cross, Mohammed claimed to have been waterboarded in five different sessions during the first month of interrogation in his third place of detention. While the Justice Department memos did not explain exactly what the numbers represented, a U.S. official with knowledge of the interrogation programs explained the 183 figure represented the number of times water was applied to the detainee's face during the waterboarding sessions, rather than separate sessions.
In March 2007, after four years in captivity, including six months of detention and alleged torture at Guantanamo Bay, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—as it was claimed by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal Hearing in Guantanamo Bay—confessed to masterminding the September 11 attacks, the Richard Reid shoe bombing attempt to blow up an airliner over the Atlantic Ocean, the Bali nightclub bombing in Indonesia, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and various foiled attacks. "I was responsible for the 9/11 operation from A to Z," Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said in a statement read Saturday during a Combatant Status Review Tribunal at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. His confession was read by a member of the U.S. military who is serving as his "personal representative."
Andrew Brown of The Guardian commented that in addition to confessing to the 9/11 attacks,
"[Mohammed] has now added to this a list of 30 other crimes and atrocities that he planned or put into action. It was published by the American government last week. There is nothing quite like this list outside the Moscow show trials that Stalin mounted; and if we accept Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confession, we owe Stalin's ghost a handsome apology."
According to the "unclassified summary of evidence" presented during the CSRT hearing, a computer hard drive seized during the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed contained the following:
- information about the four airplanes hijacked on 11 September 2001 including code names, airline company, flight number, target, pilot name and background information, and names of the hijackers;
- photographs of 19 individuals identified as the 11 September 2001 hijackers;
- a document that listed the pilot license fees for Mohammad Atta and biographies for some of the 11 September 2001 hijackers;
- images of passports and an image of Mohammad Atta;
- transcripts of chat sessions belonging to at least one of the 11 September 2001 hijackers;
- three letters from Osama bin Laden;
- spreadsheets that describe financial assistance to families of known al Qaeda members
- a letter to the United Arab Emirates threatening attack if their government continued to help the United States;
- a document that summarized operational procedures and training requirements of an al Qaeda cell; and
- a list of killed and wounded al Qaeda militants.
In June 2008, a New York Times article, citing unnamed CIA officers, claimed that Mohammed had been held in a black site or secret facility in Poland near Szymany Airport, about 100 miles north of Warsaw. There he was interrogated under waterboarding before he began to "cooperate."
In 2009 Mohammed described his actions and motivations in a document publicly released and known as The Islamic Response to the Government's Nine Accusations.
In April 2011, the British newspaper, The Telegraph said it received leaked documents regarding the Guantanamo Bay interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The documents cited Mohammed as saying that, if Osama Bin Laden is captured or killed by the Coalition of the Willing, an Al-Qaeda sleeper cell would detonate a "weapon of mass destruction" in a "secret location" in Europe, and promised it would be "a nuclear hellstorm".
Report that interrogators abused his children
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Ali Khan, the father of Majid Khan, another one of the 14 "high-value detainees," released an affidavit on April 16, 2006, that reported that interrogators subjected Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's children, aged 6 and 8 years old, to abusive interrogation.
Khan's affidavit quoted another of his sons, Mohammed Khan:
The Pakistani guards told my son that the boys were kept in a separate area upstairs, and were denied food and water by other guards. They were also mentally tortured by having ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and get them to say where their father was hiding."
Transfer to Guantánamo and hearing before his Combatant Status Review Tribunal
On September 6, 2006, then-American President George W. Bush confirmed, for the first time, that the CIA had held "high-value detainees" for interrogation in secret prisons around the world. He also announced that fourteen senior captives, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were being transferred from CIA custody, to military custody, at Guantanamo Bay detention camp and that these fourteen captives could now expect to face charges before Guantanamo military commissions.
In a September 29, 2006, speech, Bush stated:
Once captured, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al Shibh, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were taken into custody of the Central Intelligence Agency. The questioning of these and other suspected terrorists provided information that helped us protect the American people. They helped us break up a cell of Southeast Asian terrorist operatives that had been groomed for attacks inside the United States. They helped us disrupt an al Qaeda operation to develop anthrax for terrorist attacks. They helped us stop a planned strike on a U.S. Marine camp in Djibouti, and to prevent a planned attack on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, and to foil a plot to hijack passenger planes and to fly them into Heathrow Airport and London's Canary Wharf.
In March 2007, Mohammed testified before a closed-door hearing in Guantánamo Bay. According to transcripts of the hearing released by the Pentagon, he said, "I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z." The transcripts also show him confessing to:
- Organizing the 1993 World Trade Center bombing,
- The Bali nightclub bombings,
- Richard Reid's attempted shoe bombing,
- Planning the attacks on Heathrow Airport and Big Ben clock tower in London,
- Daniel Pearl's murder in 2002,
- Planned assassination attempts on Pope John Paul II, Pervez Musharraf and Bill Clinton.
Because war, for sure, there will be victims. When I said I'm not happy that three thousand been killed in America. I feel sorry even. ... Killing is prohibited in all what you call the People of the Book, Jews, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. You know the Ten Commandments very well. The Ten Commandments are shared between all of us. We all are serving one God.—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, before his tribunal
On March 15, 2007, BBC News reported that "Transcripts of his testimony were translated from Arabic and edited by the U.S. Department of Defense to remove sensitive intelligence material before release. It appeared, from a judge's question, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had made allegations of torture in US custody." In the Defense Department transcript, Mohammed said his statement was not made under duress but Mohammed and human rights advocates have alleged that he was tortured. CIA officials have previously told ABC News that "Mohammed lasted the longest under waterboarding, two and a half minutes, before beginning to talk." Legal experts say this could taint all his statements. Forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner, M.D., an expert in false confessions, observed from the testimony transcript that his concerns about his family may have been far more influential in soliciting Mohammed’s cooperation than any earlier reported mistreatment.
One CIA 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." For example, according to Mike Rogers, a former FBI agent and the top Republican on the terrorism panel of the House Intelligence Committee, he admitted responsibility for the Bali nightclub bombing, but his involvement "could have been as small as arranging a safe house for travel. It could have been arranging finance." Mohammed also made the admission that he was "responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center Operation," which killed six and injured more than 1,000 when a bomb was detonated in an underground garage, Mohammed did not plan the attack, but he may have supported it. Michael Welner noted that by offering legitimate information to interrogators, Mohammed had secured the leverage to provide misinformation as well.
In an article discussing the reliability of Khalid's confession and the motive for giving misinformation under torture, Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent with considerable experience interrogating al-Qaeda operatives, pointed out that:
When they are in pain, people will say anything to get the pain to stop. Most of the time, they will lie, make up anything to make you stop hurting them. That means the information you're getting is useless.
His words are echoed by the US Army Training Manual's section on interrogation, which suggests that:
the use of force is a poor technique, as it ...can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.
As an example of this the article discloses that although the George W. Bush administration made claims that the water-boarding (simulated drowning) of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed produced vital information that allowed them to break up a plot to attack the U.S. Bank Tower (formerly Library Tower and First Interstate Bank World Center) in Los Angeles in 2002, this has been proven to be untrue. In 2002 Shaikh Mohammed was busy evading capture in Pakistan. Likewise the claim by the Obama administration that torture of Kahlid Mohammed led to the lead in finding Osama Bin Laden has also been shown to be false. According to U.S. Senator John McCain, "The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. ...not only did the use of 'enhanced interrogation techniques' on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden's courier, Abu Ahmed; it actually produced false and misleading information."
List of confessions
- The February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City
- The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the United States Capitol using four hijacked commercial airliners.
- A failed "shoe bomber" operation
- The October 2002 attack in Kuwait
- The Paddy's Pub nightclub bombing in Bali, Indonesia
- A plan for a "second wave" of attacks on major U.S. landmarks after the 9/11 attacks, including the Library Tower in Los Angeles, the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago, the Plaza Bank Building in Seattle and the Empire State Building in New York City
- Plots to attack oil tankers and U.S. naval ships in the Straits of Hormuz, the Straits of Gibraltar and in Singapore
- A plan to blow up the Panama Canal
- Plans to assassinate Jimmy Carter
- A plot to blow up suspension bridges in New York City
- A plan to destroy the Sears Tower in Chicago with burning fuel trucks
- Plans to "destroy" London Heathrow Airport, Canary Wharf and Big Ben in London
- A planned attack on "many" nightclubs in Thailand
- A plot targeting the New York Stock Exchange and other U.S. financial targets
- A plan to destroy buildings in Eilat, Israel
- Plans to destroy U.S. embassies in Indonesia, Australia and Japan in 2002.
- Plots to destroy Israeli embassies in India, Azerbaijan, the Philippines and Australia
- Surveying and financing an attack on an Israeli El-Al flight from Bangkok
- Sending several "mujahideen" into Israel to survey "strategic targets" with the intention of attacking them
- The November 2002 suicide bombing of a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya
- The failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli passenger jet leaving Mombasa airport in Kenya
- Plans to attack U.S. targets in South Korea
- Providing financial support for a plan to attack U.S., British and Jewish targets in Turkey
- Surveillance of U.S. nuclear power plants in order to attack them
- A plot to attack NATO's headquarters in Europe
- Planning and surveillance in a 1995 plan (the "Bojinka plot") to bomb 12 American passenger jets
- The planned assassination attempt against then-U.S. President Bill Clinton during a mid-1990s trip to the Philippines
- "Shared responsibility" for a plot to kill Pope John Paul II
- Plans to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
- An attempt to attack a U.S. oil company in Sumatra, Indonesia, "owned by the Jewish former [U.S.] Secretary of State Henry Kissinger"
- The beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl
After Mohammed arrived at Guantánamo, a team of FBI and military interrogators tried to elicit from him the same confessions that the CIA had obtained about the 9/11 plot, but by using only legal means of interrogation. By 2008, the Bush Administration believed that this so-called Clean Team had compiled sufficient evidence to charge Mohammed and the others with capital murder.
The Department of Defense announced on August 9, 2007 that all fourteen of the "high-value detainees" who had been transferred to Guantanamo from the CIA's black sites, had been officially classified as "enemy combatants". Although judges Peter Brownback and Keith J. Allred had ruled two months earlier that only "illegal enemy combatants" could face military commissions, the Department of Defense waived the qualifier and said that all fourteen men could now face charges before Guantanamo military commissions.
Confession used in Sheikh Omar's defense
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, also known as Sheikh Omar, was sentenced to death in a Pakistani court for the murder of Daniel Pearl. Omar's lawyers recently announced that they planned to use Mohammed's confession in an appeal. They had always acknowledged that Omar played a role in Pearl's murder, but argue that Mohammed was the actual murderer.
Prosecution in France
In 2009, the French government decided to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in absentia on terrorism charges with respect to the Ghriba synagogue bombing on the Tunisian island of Djerba in 2002, which killed 14 German tourists, five Tunisians and two French nationals. They intended to charge him along with the captured German national Christian Ganczarski and Tunisian Walid Nawar. French judges later decided to separate Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's case from those of Ganczarski and Nawar and try him separately at a later date.
Trial for 9/11
On February 11, 2008, the United States Department of Defense charged Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali and Walid Bin Attash for the September 11, 2001 attacks under the military commission system, as established under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. They have reportedly been charged with the murder of almost 3000 people, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism and plane hijacking; as well as attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury and destruction of property in violation of the law of war. The charges against them list 169 overt acts allegedly committed by the defendants in furtherance of the September 11 events."
The charges include 2,973 individual counts of murder—one for each person killed in the 9/11 attacks. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty, which would require the unanimous agreement of the commission judges.
Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Center for Constitutional Rights, and U.S. military defense lawyers have criticised the military commissions for lacking due process for a fair trial. Critics generally argue for the trials to be held in a federal district court, with defendants treated as criminal suspects, or by court-martial as a prisoner under the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit civilian trials for prisoners of war. Mohammed could face the death penalty under any of these systems.
The Pentagon insisted that Mohammed and the other defendants would receive fair trials, with rights "virtually identical" to U.S. military service personnel in the USCMJ system. There are some differences between U.S. courts-martial and military commissions.
The U.S. Department of Defense has built a $12 million "Expeditionary Legal Complex" in Guantánamo with a snoop-proof courtroom capable of trying six alleged co-conspirators before one judge and jury. Media and other observers are sequestered in a soundproofed room behind thick glass, at the rear. The judge at the front and a court security officer have mute buttons to silence the feed to the observers' booth—if they suspect someone in court could spill classified information.
The trial, presided over by judge Ralph Kohlmann, began on June 5, 2008, with the arraignment. About thirty-five journalists watched on closed-circuit TV in a press room inside a converted hangar, while two dozen others watched through a window from a room adjacent to the courtroom.
Mohammed insisted he would not be represented by any attorneys. The other detainees quickly followed suit and said they too wanted to represent themselves. David Nevin, one of the civilian attorneys rejected by Mohammed, later told the Associated Press that he would attempt to meet with Mohammed to "hear him out and see if we can give him information that is helpful."
Mohammed was careful not to interrupt Kohlmann. He lost his composure only after the Marine colonel ordered several defense attorneys to keep quiet "It's an inquisition. It's not a trial," Mohammed said in broken English, his voice rising. "After torturing they transfer us to inquisition-land in Guantanamo."
He said he believes only in religious Sharia law and railed against U.S. President George W. Bush for waging a "crusade war." When the judge warned Mohammed that he faces execution if convicted of organizing the attacks on the United States, Mohammed said he welcomes the death penalty. "Yes, this is what I wish, to be a martyr for a long time," Mohammed declared. "I will, God willing, have this, by you."
The judge twice turned off the sound feed to journalists. The sound was also turned off when another defendant discussed early days of his imprisonment. Judge Ralph Kohlmann said that in both cases, sound was turned off because classified information was discussed.
On September 23, 2008, in the voir dire process, Mohammed questioned the judge on his potential bias at trial.
"Glaring and poking an occasional finger in the air," Mohammed told Kohlmann, 'The government considers all of us fanatical extremists,' and asked, 'How can you, as an officer of the U.S. Marine Corps, stand over me in judgment?' Insisting that he was attempting to work out if Kohlmann was a religious extremist, he continued: '[President] Bush said this is a crusader war and Osama bin Laden said this is a holy war against the crusades. If you were part of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson's group, then you would not be impartial.'"
For his part, Kohlmann said that he was not affiliated with a church "because I’ve moved so often." He added that he had previously worshipped at "various Lutheran churches and Episcopal churches."
Mohammed asked Kohlmann about his views on torture. As part of the background materials supplied to him–or made available to the civilian lawyers who are voluntarily assisting him in his defense–Mohammed referred to an ethics seminar that Kohlmann had conducted at his daughter’s high school in 2005. Kohlmann asked the students to consider their responses to a "Ticking Time Bomb" scenario. Based on a fictional proposition that a bomb is about to go off, and an unwilling captive knows its location but is unwilling to disclose the information, the scenario is widely used by proponents of "enhanced interrogation techniques" to justify the use of torture.
Kohlmann explained that he encouraged the debate as part of "a complex question that might be dealt with differently if someone were specifically trying to save the nation or just looking at it from an ethical sense or just looking at it from a legal sense." He dismissed a combative question from Mohammed—"It seems that you are supportive of the use of torture for national security?"—by saying, "I have no idea where that would come from."
On October 12, 2008, Kohlmann ruled that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and his four co-charged, should be provided with laptops, so they can work on their defenses.
On December 8, 2008, Mohammed and four co-defendants sent a note to the military judge expressing their desire to confess and plead guilty.
Following the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, his administration undertook a review of the Guantanamo cases to determine how to pursue them. In November 2009, according to an Administration official, Mohammed was being transferred from Guantanamo Bay to New York to face a federal trial. Four other detainees will be facing trial in front of civilian federal court, as well.
On January 22, 2010, the Pentagon officially dropped military charges against Mohammed and the four other alleged conspirators, clearing the path for likely transfer from Guantanamo to a location in the United States to face charges in a civilian federal court.
On August 22, 2012, the government said that the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-conspirators will not be televised and may not begin for another four years.
Kohlmann unexpectedly replaced
Kohlmann was scheduled to retire in 2009. In November 2008, he was unexpectedly replaced by Stephen Henley.
Possible guilty plea
On December 8, 2008, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-defendants told the judge that they wished to confess and plead guilty to all charges. The plea will be delayed until mental competency hearings for Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi and Ramzi bin al-Shibh can be held; Mohammed said, "We want everyone to plead together." Spencer Ackerman, writing in the Washington Independent, reported that the Presiding Officer Stephen Henley had to consider whether he was authorized to accept guilty pleas.
Transfer of the case to a civilian court
On November 13, 2009, the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Walid bin Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi would be transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for trial. He expressed confidence that an impartial jury would be found "to ensure a fair trial in New York."
On January 21, 2010, all charges were withdrawn in the military commissions against the five suspects in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks who were being held at Guantanamo Bay. The charges were dropped "without prejudice"—a procedural move that allows federal officials to transfer the men to trial in a civilian court. It also allows the possibility, if necessary, to bring charges again in military commissions.
On February 1, 2010, the White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told CNN, "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to meet justice and he's going to meet his maker. He will be brought to justice and he's likely to be executed for the heinous crimes he committed." The spokesperson's statement was criticized as violating the principle of the presumption of innocence and was characterized as "egregious" by an attorney of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
On February 24, 2010 Fox News reported that the legal counsel access to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the legal counsel of several other captives, was halted without warning. The attorneys had made the trip to Guantanamo in the usual manner—a trip that requires advising authorities of the purpose of their trip. Upon their arrival in Guantanamo, they were informed they were no longer allowed to see their clients, as the military charges had been dropped. They were told that letters to their clients, telling them that they had travelled to Cuba, to see them, could not be delivered, as they were no longer authorized to write to their clients.
Camp authorities told them that since the charges against their clients had been dropped, while the Department of Justice decided where to charge the suspects, the detainees no longer needed legal counsel. Camp authorities told the attorneys that, henceforward, all access to the detainees had to be approved by Jeh Johnson, the Department of Defense's General Counsel. Fox reported that during earlier periods when the charges had been dropped, the captives had still been allowed to see their attorneys. Fox claimed that its coverage of the incident led to the captives' access to their attorneys being restored.
Transfer of the case to a military commission
On January 7, 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act,[vague] which explicitly prohibits the use of US Defense Department funds to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States or other countries. Congress prohibited the use of Pentagon funds to build facilities in the United States to house detainees, as the president had originally suggested. The move essentially barred the administration from trying detainees in civilian courts. The president objected to the provision in the bill before signing it, calling it "a dangerous and unprecedented challenge to critical executive branch authority" but also said his team would work with the US Congress to "seek repeal of these restrictions."
On April 4, 2011, United States Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other 9/11 terror suspects would face a military trial at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Holder strongly criticized Congress for imposing restrictions on the Justice Department's ability to bring the men to New York for civilian trials.
"After thoroughly studying the case, it became clear to me that the best venue for prosecution was in federal court. I stand by that decision today," Holder said. "As the president has said, those unwise and unwarranted restrictions (imposed by Congress) undermine our counterterrorism efforts and could harm our national security. Decisions about who, where and how to prosecute have always been—and must remain—the responsibility of the executive branch." Holder insisted, "We were prepared to bring a powerful case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-conspirators—one of the most well-researched and documented cases I have ever seen in my decades of experience as a prosecutor." He added, "Had this case proceeded in Manhattan or in an alternative venue in the United States, as I seriously explored in the past year, I am confident that our justice system would have performed with the same distinction that has been its hallmark for over 200 years."
Holder had promised to seek the death penalty for each of the five men and on 4 April he warned that it was an "open question" if such a penalty can be imposed by a military commission if the defendants plead guilty.
On May 5, 2012, the trial started. A small number of 9/11 victims' relatives attended the hearing. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed refused to answer the judge's questions. Each of the defendants refused to wear the earphones that provided translation into Arabic of the proceedings. An Arabic translator present in court ensured that the accused could follow proceedings.
October 2012 pre-trial hearing
On October 17, 2012, Mohammed spoke briefly.
"You have to keep in mind that the government is using the definition of national security as it chooses. Everyone uses this expression as he chooses. When the government feels sad for the killing of 3,000 people who were killed on September 11, we also should feel sorry that the American government who is represented by General Martins and others who have killed thousands of people. Millions. This definition is a resilient definition. Every dictator can put on this definition as the shoes that he uses to step on every person in this world, every law and every constitution. Many can kill people under the name of national security, and to torture people under the name of national security, and detain their children under the name of national security. I don't want to be long but I can say that the president can take someone and throw him in the sea in the name of national security. And so well he can also legislate the killings, assassinations, under the name of national security, for American citizens. My only advice to you that you do not get affected by the crocodile tears. Because your blood is not made of gold and ours made of water. We are all human beings. Thank you."
In response, Judge James Pohl seemed apologetic for allowing the speech:
"This is a one-time occurrence," he told the defense attorneys seated in the courtroom before him. "If the accused wish to represent themselves, that's one issue. But no matter how heartfelt, I'm not going to entertain personal comments from the accused about how things are going. He has a right to have that opinion, he does not have the right to voice that opinion, or any accused, to give his personal observations and comments."
Release of new images
On September 9, 2009, photographs of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ammar al Baluchi were published on the Internet and widely in US and international media. Camp authorities have strict controls over the taking and distribution of images of the Guantanamo captives. Journalists and VIPs visiting Guantanamo are not allowed to take any pictures that show the captives' faces. Journalists may see "high value" captives such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed only when they are in the court room, where cameras are not allowed. But, on September 9, 2009, independent counter-terrorism researchers found new images of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his nephew Ammar al Baluchi on "jihadist websites". According to Carol Rosenberg, writing in The Miami Herald: "The pictures were taken in July, said International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman Bernard Barrett, under an agreement with prison camp staff that lets Red Cross delegates photograph detainees and send photos to family members."
In January, 2014, a 36-page "nonviolence manifesto" written by KSM was declassified and released by the government. The title is "Khalid Sheikh Mohammad's Statement to the Crusaders of the Military Commissions in Guantanamo". The document outlines 3 parts, but appears to be just the first section, describing "the path to happiness". The subject writes to his captors and appears interested in converting his wider audience to Islam. The author has utilized cultural criticisms, theological and historical references to clarify a rational for Westerners to follow Islam. The notes contain eight books with three Western authors and penciled initials with the date Oct. 31, 2013.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and Sulaiman Abu Ghaith
"In 2006, his interrogation summaries were read aloud in the capital murder trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, and Moussaoui was spared the death penalty. Two years later, different Mohammed statements were read in a military commission trial, or tribunal, that led to the release from Guantanamo Bay of Osama bin Laden's chauffeur, Salim Hamdan." 
Stanly Cohen, an attorney for Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, requested to interview Mohammad, who they described as "the most qualified person alive" to assist in Abu Gaith's defense. Mohammad, through his attorney David Nevin, agreed to be interviewed, but only "in the absence of government personnel whether physically present or by listening or recording remotely."
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