Thursday, March 15, 2007

True confessions?

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed "mastermind" of the 9/11 attacks, apparently is responsible for planning over 30 terrorist operations over the last 15 years or so, at least according to the transcript of his confession to American military interrogators just released to the public. In addition to the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, Mohammed claimed credit for planning the botched 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the U.S.S. Cole bombing, the attempt by Richard Reid to blow up an airliner by igniting a bomb in his shoe and, most grotesquely, the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was taken hostage in Pakistan in January 2002.

There isn't much news value in Mohammed's confession -- at this point, it hardly matters who did what to whom. The whole point of a global campaign against terrorism is to prevent future such attacks through police work and intelligence gathering.

What is far more troubling than Mohammed's post-hoc admission of guilt in worldwide terrorism is whether we should even believe what he says. Given what we know about U.S. interrogation methods -- which include the full gamut of torture as a method to extract information from "enemy combatants -- it is alternately frustrating, sad and pathetic that we might never know who did what, and who else might be out there that fruitful interrogation could help us discover.

Mohammed will only remain alive as long as he is perceived as useful to the United States. Certainly, he knows this better than anyone, which is why he has every incentive to lie and exaggerate his role in al-Queda sponsored terrorism. No doubt that Mohammed wants to be remembered as a comic book super-villain. That, more so than any other motive, is what will keep him talking, not some twisted desire to make things right with his conscience.

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