As the day nears for the 20th year since terrorists crashed two hijacked planes into the World Trade Center buildings, a reckoning may be in store for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the attacks. The advent of COVID-19 delayed the case’s pretrial proceedings that shut down the court in Guantanamo Bay. In one of the worst moments in American history, the al Qaeda terrorists also hijacked two other planes; one crashed into the Pentagon and other in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, in all killing nearly 3,000 people.
Mohammed and four other terrorists have not had a trial, and paramount to the case will be whether the confessions derived by torture would be admitted during the trial. The lawyers for the defendants have claimed the confessions were obtained by “enhanced interrogation techniques” or torture, including many instances of Mohammed being waterboarded.
Col. Matthew McCall of the Air Force will be the presiding judge when the trial resumes on Tuesday, the fourth judge to take the bench in the hearings. The case has been interrupted on several occasions because of the changes of judges, defense counsel, and lead prosecutors.
The numerous waterboardings of Mohammed were conducted under the jurisdiction of Dr. James Mitchell, a psychologist contracted by the CIA. Nearly 200 sessions of the simulated drowning technique were applied to Mohammed. Mohammed’s counsel cited a Senate report that concluded, “The CIA’s justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.” Mitchell defended his actions as patriotic and told the court, “I’d get up and do it again.”
Much of Mitchell’s techniques are fully disclosed in his book “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying to Destroy America,” co-authored with Bill Harlow. “Call me Mukhtar,” Mitchell claimed Mohammed declared. “Mukhtar means ‘the brain,’” Mohammed added. “I was the emir of the 9/11 attacks.”
Mohammed was captured in 2003 in Pakistan, where he was probably born. From there he was transferred to a succession of CIA black sites. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, Mohammed traveled across Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America gathering recruits and disclosing parts of his terrorist attacks. According to al Jazeera, in 2002, Mohammed termed the attacks “Holy Tuesday,” bragging that they were designed to create chaos and havoc and kill as many people as possible.
“I was responsible for the 9/11 operation,” he confessed, though saying he was not happy that children were among those killed. There are reports now that he has stopped making claims about the dastardly deeds that included the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan.” He said there were pictures of him on the Internet holding Pearl’s head. That claim has been confirmed by the FBI.