Detainee claims he killed Journal's Pearl

 

crosenberg@miamiherald.com

Mystery solved.

Item No. 3 of the 31 terrorist operations to which alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessed helping organize, according to transcripts released by the Pentagon Wednesday night, had been censored for national security.

But on Thursday the Pentagon released an updated version of a transcript in which it said Mohammed also confessed that he personally beheaded Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl.

The previously withheld boast was among a broad list of global terror plots -- most unrealized -- that the al Qaeda kingpin allegedly claimed he had a hand in. The Pentagon said his confessions came during a secret hearing Saturday at the remote naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

NOTIFYING FAMILY

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said Thursday that the delay was to give officials time to brief Pearl's family that the crude claim would be released to the public.

In it, Mohammed allegedly said: ``I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head.''

Pearl was abducted in January 2002 in Pakistan while reporting a story on Islamic militants.

Last October Time magazine reported a U.S. intelligence leak that said forensic analysis had matched the hands on an Internet videocast of the slaying to Mohammed's while he was in secret CIA detention at an undisclosed ``black site.''

Mohammed was moved to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and U.S. Defense Department custody in September; the hearings on Saturday were to determine whether, four years after his 2003 capture by Pakistani security forces in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, he met the minimum Pentagon definition of ``enemy combatant.''

Time magazine didn't name its source but attributed to ''national security officials'' the detail that Mohammed admitted under interrogation to having killed Pearl, 'admitting without remorse that he personally severed Pearl's head and telling interrogators he had to switch knives after the first one `got dull.' ''

The 26-page transcript released by the Pentagon Wednesday night had him confessing to plotting a reign of worldwide anti-American terror, from the 9/11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania to unrealized assassination plots against Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and Pope John Paul II.

NOM DE GUERRE

Military intelligence circles refer to Mohammed, a U.S.-educated, Kuwait-born Pakistani, as KSM, a nom de guerreof sorts that President Bush himself adopted in revealing his transfer to Guantánamo on Sept. 6.

According to the transcripts of the 75-minute weekend hearing, the presiding Navy captain referred to Mohammed's claim -- apparently filed in writing before the session -- that he was tortured in CIA custody.

Specifics remained censored in the transcript after the Pearl revelation was posted -- prompting protest from Human Rights Watch.

''It is a glaring misuse of the classification power for the government to classify information simply because it might be embarrassing or unlawful,'' said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. ``Mohammed's claims of torture should be investigated rather than concealed.''

The group called on the Pentagon to release the exhibit, identified in the transcript as D-d, in which, according to the U.S. Navy captain, ``you use your word, you claim torture.''

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