Our blood is not water: 9/11 mastermind
18 October 2012, 14:50
Guantanamo Bay - Wearing a military-style vest, self-declared 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed delivered scathing anti-American criticism at a military tribunal on Wednesday in what the judge called a "one-time occurrence".
The US president "can legislate assassinations under the name of national security for American citizens", the Kuwaiti-born Pakistani said during the third day of a pre-trial hearing at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Often considered an agitator, Mohammed - known by his initials KSM - was allowed to speak with a 40-second time delay that would have enabled his comments to be censored had he touched on sensitive issues.
Mohammed was detained in a secret CIA prison from 2002 to 2006, and the government has acknowledged that he was subjected to waterboarding 183 times.
"Every dictator can choose" his definition of national security, he said.
"Many can kill people under the name of national security, many can torture people under the name of national security and detain children under the name of national security, under-aged children."
Reference to bin Laden
Mohammed spoke calmly in Arabic and waited until each of his sentences had been translated into English. Having studied in the United States, he sometimes paused to correct the interpreter.
"In the name of God... When the government feels sad for 3 000 people who were killed on 9/11, we should feel sorry that the federal government ... has killed millions of people under the name of national security," he said.
He also made an apparent reference to al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, killed by the United States in Pakistan last year: "The president can take someone and throw him under the sea under the name of national security."
Donning a thick beard dyed with henna and a white turban, Mohammed, who was regarded as one of bin Laden's most trusted and intelligent lieutenants, concluded by saying "our blood is not made of water".
Following his speech, Judge James Pohl alerted him that he would not be allowed to speak again.
"I didn't interrupt you ... this is a one-time occurrence," Pohl said.
Facing death penalty
The hearings are in preparation for a 9/11 trial to be held at some point next year.
Mohammed is accused of orchestrating the hijacked airliner plot that left 2 976 people dead, while his alleged al-Qaeda accomplices are charged with providing funding and other support for those who crashed the planes.
All five face the death penalty if convicted.
In addition to felling the Twin Towers, the trained engineer claims to have beheaded US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 with his "blessed right hand", and to have helped in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing that killed six.
Mohammed, who considers himself a prisoner of war, appeared on Wednesday wearing a military-style camouflage vest over a white tunic.
The prosecution has dubbed the defendants "unlawful combatants", and sought to deny them the right to military-style clothing on security grounds, but Pohl dismissed this concern.
Mohammed and the other defendants also have the right to stay in their cells and not attend the five-day pre-trial hearing, which runs until Friday.
'Hypothetical interrogation technique'
KSM had planned to attend on Wednesday, then asked to be taken back to his cell, only to change his mind again and appear at the hearing, the judge said.
In the end, Mohammed showed up during a break in the proceedings.
The defence is seeking to prevent President Barack Obama's administration from arguing that the treatment and alleged torture of the defendants during interrogations in secret CIA prisons before being sent to Guantanamo in 2006 is classified for national security.
A portion of Wednesday's exchanges were blurred when a lawyer made a "specific reference to a classified hypothetical interrogation technique", the judge explained when the transmission resumed.
"If I beat you, I'm not providing you information. If I chain you to the ceiling, I'm not providing you information," said lawyer Kevin Bogucki, saying that only information could be classified, not memories of experiences.
During the exchange, Mohammed leaned toward co-defendant Ammar al-Baluchi, and, after addressing him from a distance, raised his hand to indicate he wanted to speak.