Another Perspective

What Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Saying?

Whether he's bragging or not, he's pointing to a wider terrorist world than merely Al Qaeda.

By 3.19.07

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After terrorist extraordinaire Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) acknowledged involvement in over 30 plots going back to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing at his Guantanamo Bay hearing (pdf), some pundits complained he was bragging. Yet although KSM may have padded his resume, U.S. authorities have long recognized his centrality. Already in December 2002, several months before his capture, the Congressional Joint Inquiry reported, "Since September 11, the CIA has come to believe that KSM may have been responsible for all bin Ladin operations outside Afghanistan."

KSM also explained that not all his terrorism was for al Qaeda; there were "operations," before he joined the organization. That, indeed, is the official U.S. position: neither the Trade Center bombing, nor a 1995 plot to bomb a dozen U.S. airliners, in which KSM was also involved, was the work of al Qaeda.

Is There More to This Than Islamic Militants?
When KSM was based in the Philippines, preparing the plot against U.S. airliners, he and his co-conspirators had girlfriends and otherwise enjoyed Manila's decidedly un-Islamic nightlife. At his hearing, KSM stated in broken English, "I consider myself, for what you are doing, a religious thing, as you consider us fundamentalists," but then proceeded to talk about George Washington, World Wars I and II, and other conflicts in U.S. history. Perhaps, KSM sought to relate to his American audience, but what other major Islamic figure has sought to explain himself without one reference to tyrants and wars in Islamic history?

A hearing was also held for a high-value detainee known as Abu Faraj al-Libi, captured in Pakistan in May 2005. The transcript (pdf) states: "In September 2004 several members of al Qaeda involved in terrorist operations, including the detainee, met in Syria to discuss a variety of terrorist operations, including planned operations in the United States, Europe and Australia." What were al Qaeda members doing in Syria? Was Syrian intelligence involved with them? What attacks did they plan? Did any materialize? Walid Jumblatt, a key figure in Lebanon's political reform movement, recently met with President George Bush and warned him about Syrian support for al Qaeda's growing presence in Lebanon.

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About the Author

Laurie Mylroie is an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Study of Revenge: The First World Trade Center Attack and Saddam Hussein''s War Against America (AEI Press, 2001).