Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: I beheaded American reporter POSTED: 11:26 p.m. EDT, March 15, 2007

9 May

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told a U.S. military tribunal he personally beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, the Pentagon revealed Thursday.

“I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan,” said a Pentagon transcript of Saturday’s hearing. “For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head.”

The admission was part of testimony that was originally removed from a Pentagon transcript of Mohammed’s tribunal at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Background on Mohammed)

He also said he was the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, attacks.

“I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z,” Mohammed said through a military representative.

According to the 26-page transcript, a computer hard drive seized during Mohammed’s capture contained photographs of the 19 hijackers and a paper listing the pilot license fees for Mohammed Atta. Atta, the alleged ringleader of the attacks, flew one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center.

During the hearing, Mohammed also acknowledged he planned, financed or ran training for a catalog of high-profile terrorist attacks, including operations to assassinate several U.S. presidents and to destroy world-famous landmarks such as Chicago’s Sears Tower, the Panama Canal and London’s Big Ben. (Map)

He said he was behind Richard Reid’s attempted shoe bombing of an airliner over the Atlantic, the Bali, Indonesia, nightclub bombing and the 1993 World Trade Center attack. (Read transcript (PDF))

Mohammed’s admission about the Pearl decapitation had been removed from the tribunal’s original transcript because the description of the slaying was so specific and graphic that authorities wanted to contact Pearl’s family before releasing details, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

Pearl, 38, the Wall Street Journal’s South Asia bureau chief, was taken hostage in Pakistan in January 2002. A videotape of Pearl’s slaying was distributed, but the face of the killer who slit Pearl’s throat could not be seen.

After learning of Mohammed’s admission, Pearl’s parents, Ruth and Judea Pearl, issued a statement Thursday.

“It is impossible to know at this point whether Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s boast about killing our son has any bearing in truth,” they said. “We prefer to focus our energy on continuing Danny’s lifework through the programs of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, which aim to eradicate the hatred that took his life.”

Mohammed takes responsibility for 30 operations, the transcript shows. Mohammed also said he is partially responsible for an assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II while he was visiting the Philippines.

In the transcript, Mohammed acknowledged his role as top lieutenant to Osama bin Laden and likened himself to a revolutionary George Washington, although the document’s verbatim translation isn’t always clear. (Watch how Mohammed compares himself to Washington Video)

“If now we were living in the Revolutionary War and George Washington he being arrested through Britain,” it reads. “For sure he, they would consider him enemy combatant.”

Senior U.S. official: Acts are chilling, barbaric

A senior U.S. intelligence official said Thursday that Mohammed’s confessions “came as no surprise.” The official said there were “many, many debriefs,” during which much information was learned.

The official said that although there may be an element of bravado in Mohammed’s comments, “it should not in any way take away from the magnitude of what he did. It’s chilling. He was barbaric and his actions led to the death of thousands of people.”

Mohammed views his actions as “part of the jihad,” and his statements at the tribunal are a “continuation” of that, the official said.

Mohammed claimed he was tortured while in CIA custody, but he told the judge he was speaking freely at the hearing.

The intelligence official said “the CIA neither engages in or condones torture,” and added that “within the terrorism training manuals, jihadists are told to claim torture if caught.”

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said Mohammed’s torture claim requires an independent hearing, The Associated Press reported.

“We won’t know that unless there is an independent hearing,” he told AP. “We need to know if this purported confession would be enough to convict him at a fair trial, or would it have to be suppressed as the fruit of torture?”

Mohammed was arrested in March 2003 in a surprise raid by FBI agents and Pakistani security police at a house in Rawalpindi, outside the Pakistani capital.

In the 9/11 commission report, Mohammed is described as having a tendency to exaggerate the truth, according to Time magazine. That reputation has thrown an element of suspicion on Mohammed’s confession. (Read why many view the 9/11 mastermind’s admissions with distrust)

Mohammed: Sorry I killed kids

Mohammed made no apologies for what he has done, but he did express remorse for the death of children in the September 11 attacks.

“I don’t like to kill people,” he said. “I feel very sorry they been killed kids in 9/11.”

Transcripts from two other detainees considered “high-value” by the U.S. government — Abu Faraj al-Libi (transcript (PDF)) and Ramzi Binalshibh (transcript (PDF)) — were also issued Wednesday. Their hearings were held Friday. The three are part of a group of 14 detainees once held in secret CIA prisons but moved to Guantanamo Bay by President Bush in September.

All three hearings were held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo.

The three-member military panel hearings, unlike similar hearings in the past, were closed to the media and to the detainees’ lawyers because of fears the detainees might divulge classified information, according to Pentagon officials.

Officials have said the hearings would last between two and three hours each, but it could take days or weeks to know what transpired, because the findings must be approved by higher military authorities.

The 14 detainees have been given military advisers, but they are offered no legal assistance. Detainees are also given only an unclassified summary of the evidence against them but are allowed to have witnesses called in from out of the country to testify in their favor.

The hearings, called combatant status review tribunals, determine whether a detainee should be classified as an enemy combatant by the president to make them eligible for a military trial.

The hearings for the 14 are expected to last through April, according to Pentagon officials.

Pentagon officials said a total of six high-value detainees have now gone through these hearings. The names of the three others and the transcripts of their hearings have not yet been released.

CNN’s Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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