Today saw the eighth anniversary of 9/11 and, as usual, there were a slew of articles. The most interesting was this one on ABC, which probably requires three posts to digest fully. I have previously expressed extreme scepticism at some of the statements reportedly made by alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) under waterboarding and other torture, and this report further confirms my suspicions he told his interrogators a pack of lies, which they and then the 9/11 Commission believed to an unhealthy extent.
The ABC article is about an FBI mole who had penetrated a radical mosque in Florida. It begins:
In an exclusive interview to be broadcast tonight on ABC World News with Charles Gibson and Nightline, former undercover operative Elie Assaad says he spotted and became suspicious of [alleged 9/11 leader Mohammed] Atta in early 2001, when he was sent by the FBI to infiltrate a small mosque outside Miami. Atta was there with Adnan Shukrujumah, an al Qaeda fugitive who now has a $5 million U.S. reward on his head.
So Atta was clearly at the mosque and, based on other information, I understand his accomplice Marwan Alshehhi was too.
Contrast this with KSM’s statements. Based on “Intelligence report, interrogation of KSM, May 19, 2003,” the 9/11 Commission wrote:
KSM says that though he told others involved in the conspiracy to stay away from mosques and to avoid establishing personal contacts, he made an exception in this case and instructed Alhazmi and Almihdhar to pose as newly arrived Saudi students and seek assistance at local mosques. He counted on their breaking off any such relationships once they moved to the East Coast.
KSM’s substitution for testimony at the Moussaoui trial says:
Because of their deficiencies, Shaikh Mohammed permitted Alhazmi and Almihdhar, unlike the other 9/11 hijackers, to go to the local mosque to request assistance any advice on functioning in American society…
This is clearly false and, as reported by the 9/11 Joint Congressional Inquiry, Atta and Alshehhi attended a mosque in Florida. There is simply no way KSM could not know this, as Atta met with Shukrijumah at the mosque, and KSM knew Shukrijumah. In fact, it was reportedly information provided by KSM that led US authorities to focus on Shukrijumah.
The best explanation here is that, under torture, KSM lied. He must have known Atta and Alshehhi had attended to the mosque, but kept this from his interrogators, possibly in an attempt to keep others linked to the mosque from scrutiny. And, despite having contradictory information, US authorities—specifically the FBI and the 9/11 Commission—believed him, or perhaps simply pretended to do so.