[Ppnews] Washington Exploits Guantánamo “Confession” To Justify Its Crimes

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Mar 16 17:57:47 EDT 2007

Washington Exploits Guantánamo “Confession” To Justify Its Crimes

By Bill Van Auken

17 March, 2007
<http://www.wsws.org/articles/2007/mar2007/ksmo-m16.shtml>World Socialist Web

The American public was inundated Thursday with 
non-stop coverage of the confession allegedly 
given by the man accused by the Bush 
administration of orchestrating the September 11, 
2001 terrorist attacks against New York City and Washington.

The 26-page transcript supplied by the Pentagon 
has Khalid Sheikh Mohammed taking responsibility 
for literally dozens of attacks, plots and 
threats carried out on at least five continents over the course of 15 years.

This transcript was purportedly the record of a 
closed-door military hearing conducted at the US 
prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. It is 
replete with multiple redactions, including the 
blacking out of sections of the detainee’s 
testimony dealing with torture as well as of the 
names of every US officer and enlisted men taking part in these proceedings.

Media coverage of these events has exhibited a 
definite breathless quality, with a focus on the 
most sensationalist aspects of Mohammed’s alleged 
testimony, taking responsibility for everything 
from “A to Z” in the 9/11 attacks, to the 1993 
World Trade Center bombing, the 2002 Bali 
nightclub bombing, the beheading of Wall Street 
Journal reporter Daniel Pearl as well as alleged 
plots to blow up other skyscrapers and landmark 
buildings, including New York’s Stock Exchange 
and Empire State Building, Chicago’s Sears Tower 
and London’s Big Ben, and to assassinate world 
figures ranging from ex-US President Jimmy Carter to Pope John Paul II.

Curiously, the confession to the savage murder of 
Pearl was redacted from the original version of 
the transcript released by the Pentagon. It was 
added only later, with the Defense Department 
explaining that it had blacked it out until 
authorities were able to inform the journalist’s 
family of what Mohammed had said.

The obvious question is: why such haste to 
release the transcript­which was from a hearing 
conducted last Saturday. The most likely answer 
is that the release was timed for the political 
benefit of the Bush White House.

After barring the press from the secret hearing, 
the Pentagon released the Mohammed transcript as 
part of a deliberate effort by the Bush 
administration to divert public attention away 
from the crimes of the administration and the 
deepening debacle confronting the US occupation 
in Iraq. The confession had the added advantage 
of removing the deepening political crisis 
surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and 
the politically motivated firing of eight federal 
prosecutors from the top of the news.

The reality is that there is little new in terms 
of these revelations. Much of what was included 
in the transcript had already appeared in reports 
leaked to the media as well as in an account of 
Mohammed’s interrogation that was included in the 
September 11 commission report. What is largely 
obscured by the media’s approach is that 
Mohammed’s confession was extracted over the 
course of four years of detention and torture in 
secret CIA prisons, and that thousands of others 
subjected to similar treatment have yet to be 
accused of, much less tried for, a single crime.

The unstated purpose of the confession being 
waved in front of the public is to justify more 
than five years of international lawlessness on 
the part of US imperialism: unprovoked wars, 
targeted assassinations, extraordinary 
renditions, secret prisons, torture and illegal spying.

Mohammed is one of 14 so-called high value 
detainees whom Bush ordered moved from secret CIA 
prisons to Guantánamo in September after the 
existence of the CIA “black sites” became widely 
publicized. The military court that he and others 
are being called before is known as a combatant 
status review tribunal, whose sole purpose is to 
rubber stamp the Bush administration’s definition 
of these detainees as “enemy combatants,” who, by 
definition, are denied rights under both the US 
Constitution and the Geneva Convention.

Once their status is confirmed, they can be held 
indefinitely before being brought before another 
military tribunal with the power to condemn them to death.

The nature of the proceeding emerges clearly from 
the Mohammed transcript. He was not provided with 
a lawyer, but rather a “personal representative,” 
i.e., another military officer. He was not 
allowed to call two witnesses that he requested, 
both fellow detainees at Guantánamo. Nor was he 
allowed to see classified evidence that was assembled against him.

According to the transcript presented by the 
Pentagon, Mohammed accepted his designation as an 
enemy combatant, while rejecting the legitimacy 
of the US tribunal. He insisted, however, that 
most of the 385 other men being held in 
Guantánamo­many of whom are now on hunger 
strike­had nothing to do with terrorism or 
attacks on the US and were innocent people swept 
up by US forces in the wake of the invasion of Afghanistan.

This assessment was supported by Mark Denbeaux, a 
Seton Hall law professor acting as an attorney 
for two Tunisians held at the Guantánamo prison 
camp. “The government has finally brought someone 
into Gitmo who apparently admits to being someone 
who could be called an enemy combatant,” he said. 
“None of the others rise to this level. The government has now got one.”

Mohammed was the only one of the 14 thus far who 
agreed to participate in the hearing. Another 
detainee called before a tribunal last week, Abu 
Faraj al-Libbi, issued a statement saying he 
would refuse to appear before any body except a 
court of law in the US. He pointed out that he 
had been denied a lawyer and could not call witnesses in his defense.

“If I am classified as an enemy combatant,” he 
said in the statement, “it is possible that the 
United States will deem my witnesses are enemy 
combatants and judicial or administration action 
may be taken against them. It is my opinion the 
detainee is in a lose-lose situation.”

With its focus on the details of the myriad 
attacks and plots to which Mohammed supposedly 
confessed, the mass media failed to raise any 
number of questions posed by the highly peculiar 
transcript made public by the Pentagon.

The first and most obvious is: why should anyone 
take either the Pentagon’s account at face value, 
or for that matter, the account­if it is indeed 
genuine­given by Mohammed himself?

No independent observers were allowed into the 
secret hearing held in Guantánamo last weekend. 
All anyone has are the 26 pages issued by Defense 
Department. The cable and network news filled in 
the blanks with images of buildings and 
individuals supposedly targeted in the listed 
plots and by interviewing “terrorism experts.”

As for Mohammed, his confession would be ruled 
inadmissible in any genuine court. There is no 
question that he was subjected to forms of 
extreme torture. He was further intimidated by 
the CIA’s seizure of his wife and two young 
children, who were threatened with similar 
treatment unless he told his interrogators what they wanted to hear.

The 9/11 Commission, meanwhile, basing itself on 
evidence given by the CIA, described him as 
someone prone to “inflating his own role,” who 
saw himself as a “self-cast star, the 
superterrorist.” According to some media 
accounts, cynical US intelligence officials 
referred to Mohammed as the “Forrest Gump of 
Islamic terrorism,” for his tendency to place 
himself at the center of every single event over the course of decades.

Why are the military tribunals secret?

Another question largely glossed over by the 
media is why the hearings to determine the status 
of Mohammed and 13 other former prisoners of the 
CIA are being held in secret. Clearly, the main 
purpose of this secrecy is not to protect 
“national security,” but to prevent the American 
public and indeed the world at large from hearing 
any detailed testimony as to the torture the 
detainees have undergone at the hands of US intelligence.

The secrecy surrounding the hearings is also 
designed to shield a number of 
countries­reportedly including Jordan, Egypt, 
Poland, Thailand and Morocco­which provided the 
US with sites for its clandestine prisons and, in 
some cases, assisted in the torture.

Finally, and most importantly, the secrecy is 
meant to protect high-ranking US officials, 
including Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others, who 
undoubtedly issued orders to torture prisoners, 
acts that are crimes of war that could bring them 
before an international tribunal for prosecution.

There is another question left unanswered in the 
media frenzy surrounding the Guantánamo 
“confession”. Who is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 
really, and what were his relations with the 
intelligence services of the United States and 
its allies? Supposedly he is the hardest and most 
ruthless of terrorists, yet he is the only 
detainee who agreed to participate in the 
kangaroo courts in Guantánamo, offering a detailed confession.

His capture, it should be recalled, took place 
four years ago in March 2003. It was the result 
not of some covert US operation, but rather of 
the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate 
(ISI), Pakistan’s secret service, going and 
picking him up at the house where he had been 
living in Rawalpindi, the city where both the ISI 
and the Pakistani military are headquartered.

It has been widely reported that Mohammed, who 
was born in Kuwait and educated as an engineer at 
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State 
University in the US, had functioned as either an 
agent or asset of the ISI in the 1980s and 1990s, 
and freely traveled on a Pakistani passport.

As noted in the transcript released by the 
Pentagon, Mohammed participated in the 
US-financed mujahideen guerrilla war against the 
Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan in the early 
1980s, when he and others, including Osama bin 
Laden, received funding, support and training from the CIA.

In 1992, he went to Bosnia, working to mobilize 
Muslim fighters in support of the US-backed 
government that had seceded from Yugoslavia that 
year. Later, he took a special interest in the 
war between Russia and Muslim forces in Chechnya. 
Throughout his career, Mohammed is said to have 
lived a lavish and decidedly secular life-style.

In short, this is an individual who was not an 
Islamist and whose activities over the course of 
more than a decade appear to have dovetailed 
neatly with those of the CIA, directly serving 
the interests of American foreign policy.

That such an individual is identified as the 
“mastermind of September 11” only raises once 
again the essential question surrounding the 
still unexplained and tragic events of that day: 
was the US government informed in advance of the 
9/11 plot and did it deliberately allow it to 
take place in order to provide the Bush 
administration with the pretext that it required 
to launch its already planned campaign of 
military aggression and conquest in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf?

It is not only Mohammed’s history as an apparent 
“asset” of both the CIA and Pakistani 
intelligence that raises this question. Any 
serious examination of the information that has 
emerged about how these attacks were prepared 
strongly suggests that intelligence officials in 
the US actively intervened to prevent the plot 
from being exposed and to protect those who ultimately carried it out.

Those quickly identified as the hijackers after 
9/11­Mohammed Atta, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf 
al-Hazmi and others­were well known to US 
intelligence and had been under surveillance, in 
some cases for years, by the CIA. Nonetheless, 
they were allowed to enter and reenter the US, 
living openly and flying on transcontinental 
airplanes under their own names. The latter two 
individuals were even given housing by the FBI’s 
chief informant on Islamic radicalism in southern California.

Such questions, however, are raised neither by 
the media nor by the Bush administration’s 
ostensible political opposition, the Democratic 
Party. On the contrary, both rallied in support 
of the essential aim of the administration in 
releasing the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed transcript: 
terrorizing the American people and diverting public opinion.

Particularly revealing was the response of 
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barak Obama of Illinois.

“Obviously, just from the confession, we see the 
scope of the planning that was done by al-Qaeda,” 
he declared on the morning television news 
program “Today” Thursday. “I think it just 
redoubles our need to make sure that we are 
securing the homeland...and that we are 
aggressive in terms of human intelligence, and 
really snuffing out these terrorist networks.”

To talk of the need to be “aggressive in terms of 
human intelligence” in relation to a case in 
which US intelligence officials acknowledge the 
use of the most extreme forms of torture, to the 
extent that the suspect cannot even be presented 
publicly, has unmistakable significance. Indeed, 
the entire subtext of the public discussion of 
Mohammed’s confession­obviously embraced by 
Obama­was that torture is both legitimate and necessary.

Obama went on to make the case that the Democrats 
demand for a withdrawal of combat troops­though 
by no means all troops­from Iraq was predicated 
on their redeployment... to Afghanistan.

“We have not followed through on the good starts 
we made in Afghanistan, partly because we took so 
many resources out and put them in Iraq,” he 
said. “I think it is very important for us to 
begin a planned redeployment from Iraq, including targeting Afghanistan.”

What emerges from this reaction to the Mohammed 
transcript is the bipartisan support for 
militarism abroad and sweeping attacks on 
democratic rights at home. Both major big 
business parties are agreed that the wars and 
occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan must continue 
and that the open-ended “war on terror” should be 
used to justify military aggression 
internationally. They also both support the use 
of police state powers and stepped-up spying at 
home to defend the interests of America’s ruling 
financial aristocracy. To the extent that there 
are differences, they are only over how well 
these methods have been employed and over what 
constitute the best tactics for accomplishing their shared goals.

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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