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Tape of 9/11 suspect released

Pentagon censors part of Mohammed’s hearing

SHARE Tape of 9/11 suspect released

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has released a censored audiotape of suspected Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — deleting a part officials said could be used to recruit future terrorists.

The tape of Mohammed's 40-minute hearing before a U.S. military proceeding in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was edited to exclude a 10-minute passage about the kidnap and beheading of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl and Mohammed's explanation for why Islamic militants are waging jihad against the United States, as well as information the government said was classified.

Most of what was deleted was a long, rambling statement in poor English that often made it hard to understand what Mohammed was trying to say. The public may read that statement in a 26-page transcript previously released by the Defense Department, but after months of debate, officials decided the audio of it should be held back.

"It was determined that the release of this portion of the spoken words of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would enable enemies of the United States to use it in a way to recruit or encourage future terrorists or terrorist activities," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. "This could ultimately endanger the lives and physical safety of American citizens and those of our allies."

Calling Mohammed a "notorious figure," Whitman added, "I think we all recognize that there is an obvious difference between the potential impacts of the written versus the spoken word."

Remaining portions of the tape include voices of tribunal members, a translator and Mohammed, who spoke in a calm, often soft voice as he challenged evidence against him and responded to questions.

The March 10 closed court session at Guantanamo Bay was held to determine whether Mohammed should be declared an "enemy combatant." He has since been assigned that status, a classification the Bush administration says allows it to hold him indefinitely and prosecute him at a military tribunal.

Some of the statements deleted from the tape have already been widely reported since the transcript was posted to the Pentagon's Web site in mid-March. Others statements were cut both from the audio and the transcript and remain secret because of security and privacy concerns, officials said.

Mohammed was the first of 14 so-called "high-value" detainees who were held in secret CIA prisons before being transferred to the Pentagon facility at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Audiotapes of other high-value detainees have been released by the Pentagon. Whitman said he did not know if any of those have been used as propaganda by extremist groups on the Internet.

At Mohammed's hearing, he portrayed himself as al-Qaida's most active operational planner, confessing to the beheading of Pearl and to playing a central role in 30 other attacks and plots in the U.S. and worldwide that killed thousands.

The gruesome attacks range from the suicide hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001 — which killed nearly 3,000 — to a 2002 shooting on an island off Kuwait that killed a U.S. Marine.

Among other statements that appeared in the transcript but were cut from the audio were Mohammed saying he felt some sorrow over Sept. 11.

"I'm not happy that 3,000 been killed in America," the transcript quoted him as saying in broken English. "I feel sorry even. I don't like to kill children and the kids."

He said there are exceptions in war.

"The language of the war is victims," Mohammed said in a part of the transcript that was cut from the audio. He compared al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to George Washington, saying Americans view Washington as a hero for his role in the Revolutionary War and many Muslims view bin Laden in the same light.

Also cut from the audio were his assertions that Wall Street Journal reporter Pearl was in Pakistan to investigate on behalf of Israeli intelligence officials; that many terrorist suspects being detained by the United States are not enemy combatants; that Muslims have been oppressed by the United States, and that he is motivated to fight the United States on religious grounds.

On the Net: www.defenselink.mil/news/Combatant_Tribunals.html