WASHINGTON – 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 Sept. 11 mastermind was key to some plots but a bit player in others.
The 31 on his list range from the stunningly vicious suicide hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001, to others that current and former government officials say were more talk than concrete plans, such as a plot to kill Jimmy Carter and other former U.S. presidents.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, noting Mohammed’s activities are likely to be the subject of an upcoming military tribunal.
His confession, his first public statement since his March 2003 capture in Pakistan, came in a hearing in the newly established U.S. tribunal process. A 26-page transcript of the Saturday session at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was made public Wednesday.
While there apparently is truth in much of the statement, several officials said, there’s also an element of self-promotion. “I have never known a criminal – either terrorist or otherwise – that didn’t exaggerate,” said Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, a former FBI agent.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said authorities would decide the credibility of Mohammed’s claims if he is tried. “These are his words,” Whitman said.
The United States linked Mohammed closely to the attacks of Sept. 11, and his statement said he was responsible “from A to Z.” Officials don’t doubt his claim that he beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl with what he called his “blessed right hand.”
But his role in some plots may be more minor than his hands-on involvement in coordinating the attacks of Sept. 11 – evidence of which was found on his computer when he was captured. Some of the plots were formulated in al-Qaida’s early years, when alliances among jihadists were even more fluid than they are today.