Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – The Making of a Terrorist

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - The Making of a Terrorist

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

5th Amendment, US Constitution

His capture was anti climatic.

Out of nowhere one day a man, said to be a distant relative, contacted KSM about goings on within their family. Over the ensuing months they had kept in touch and had even come to welcome each others company.

On that fateful evening both had enjoyed a pleasant meal and amiable conversation. The man, known only as Baluchi to the western world, had excused himself to go to the bathroom. There, he latched the door, took a cellphone from his pocket and texted the message “I am with KSM.”

Pakistani intelligence agents along with their CIA cohorts quickly established a perimeter around the residence and began a tedious waiting game.

At 0200, the Pakistanis broke through the front door, herded the startled residence into a back room and took to searching for KSM. They found him, under the influence of sleeping pills in a side room. Members of the CIA’s SAD unit followed quickly, secured the still groggy KSM, and began searching for evidence. A few papers and the hard drive of a computer were seized.

Everything was bundled up and all was whisked away into the night.

A series of transfers from one CIA ‘black site’ to another, and yet another, followed. Continuing for 4 years. Due to the CIA’s highly classified nature little is known about that period of time. In 2006 KSM was transferred to military custody and detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Beginning in March of 2007 he was tortured, using a technique known as waterboarding and confessed to being the mastermind behind the 11 September 2001 attack of New York City.

As well as numerous other crimes against humanity.

The last time he set foot on US soil was in 1987.

Waterboarding is a form of torture, more specifically a type of water torture, in which water is poured over a cloth covering the face and breathing passages of an immobilized captive, causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning. Waterboarding can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, lasting psychological damage, and death. Adverse physical consequences can manifest themselves for months after the event, while psychological effects can last for years.


The United States is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. As well, there is the contention that torture violates the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution.

Which brings us to the question is waterboarding torture?

In the above mentioned Convention, torture is defined as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person.” Legally speaking, whether waterboarding is illicit torture or an acceptable interrogation practices depends on the amount pain and suffering the procedure inflicts.

Which can only be subjective if a person has never experienced waterboarding.

There will be those  who say that it’s not. As well as those who say that it is.

US policy makers allowed KSM to be interrogated using waterboarding. And they allowed it to occur on foreign soil.

From the time of his capture until September of 2006, KSM was shuffled between an unknown number of secret CIA prisons. All on foreign soil.

And subjected to waterboarding an undisclosed number of times which amounted to water being administered a total of 183 times.

Before his confession.

KSM claims that he confessed in order to stop the waterboarding.

This brings us to 2 significant questions;

  1. Can we believe his confession – given what we know about the techniques used to obtain it?
  2. What other evidence exists to support the allegation that he is responsible for 911?

First the evidence.

At the time of his capture a computer hard drive was confiscated. It contained, among other things;

  • information about the 4 airplanes hijacked on 11 September 2001
  • 3 letters from Osama bin Laden

KSM claims that the computer was not his.

In a 3 page summary of evidence dated 08 February 2007 by the Department of Defense, item 3b states that KSM was “the head of the a1 Qaida military committee and was Usama bin Laden’s principal a1 Qaida operative who directed the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States.”

Little in the remainder of that summary supports that statement. And other than his confession, that is the evidence supporting the detention and proceedings against KSM.

Military Tribunal proceeding began in March of 2007 against KSM. Due to several complications, notable among them being that the FBI had eavesdropped on defense team conversations and had coerced a classification specialist into signing a document stating that he would inform on defense team strategies, many believe that the trail may be delayed well into 2016.

And the question of whether waterboarding constitutes torture has yet to be resolved.

Some notable ‘experts’ on the subject of interrogation have commented on the case.

Ali Soufan, a former FBI Special Agent noted 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.”

An unnamed CIA official stated 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.”

And 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.”

A report issued by Amnesty International and cited in The Guardian stated that “ one morally salient thing about torture when it is used as a matter of routine policy, is that it is much more effective at concealing information than it is at extracting it.”

It could be said that the CIA’s use of waterboarding was (or is) routine.

Is there something they’d rather we not know?

by James Bradrick

Written by James Bradrick

James Bradrick left the sun and surf of southern Mexico to blog and write about civil and human rights issues from San Diego CA.

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