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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Lays Out Attack Plans

Reporter's Committee for a Free Press has posted the trial exhibits in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial which recently were ordered released. The debriefing of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed(pdf), now in custody in a secret overseas prison, describes not only Moussaoui's non-participation in September 11, but minute details of the planning of 9/11, the participants, the operational theories behind it and the unformed plan for a second wave of attacks. It was introduced into evidence at Moussaoui's trial.

Also among the documents are the many e-mails between FBI agent Harry Samit who believed Moussaoui was an imminent terrorist danger, and other FBI agents who thwarted his attempts for a FISA warrant. Personally, I don't believe the FBI would have connected the dots no matter what, but that's what the jury in the Moussaoui case now is deliberating.

Today's New York Times provides this analysis of the documents.

To me, the most fascinating document is the summary of debriefing of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. From his overseas secret prison where he has been debriefed numerous times, he provided a wealth of information that anyone interested in 9/11, not just Moussaoui, will want to read.

Paragraph 53:

The final decisions to hit which target with which plane was entirely in the hands of the pilots. Atta informed Bin ai-Shihh in Juiy 2001 when they met in Spain of the intended targets, after which Bin al-Shibh informed Sheikh Mohammed. The final pilot selection of targets was made by Atta, Shehhi, Hanjour, Jarrah and Hazmi.

Paragraph 76:

While discussing the "tallest building in California plot," Sheikh Mohammed referred to the mission of Moussaoui and Faruq al-Tunisi as the "second wave." The phrase "second wave" did not originate with Sheikh Mohammed and has meant different things over the course of Sheikh Mohammed's debriefings. At one time "second wave" referred to any plans for attacks in the United States slated to follow 911, whether a sequel of aerial attacks or something entirely different, like subway strikes, poisoning o[f] reservoirs, demolition of bridges, etc. ....To clarify: Sheikh Mohammed indicated that "second wave" refers to efforts begun in parallel with the 911 plot to identify and train pilots and muscle for additional 911-style strikes in the United States.

Paragraph 78:

Progress in identifying/training non-Arab passport holding pilots lapsed far behind the development of the 911 plot, on which Sheikh Mohammed focused his attention, making it abundantly clear that attacks by the likes of Moussaoui and
Faruq ai-Tunisi wouid have to come aftrer the eventual 9/11 strikes. "Second wave" was thus an apt label. given what had been the expected sequence of events.

Paragraphs 79 and 80:

Sheikh Mohammed stated that Moussaoui had been recruited to participate
in a "second wave" of attacks that was originally planned to follow the September 11, 2001 attacks. This second wave of attacks was intended to utilize operatives with European and East Asian backgrounds whom Sheikh Mohanmed believed would operate more easily in what he expected to he a more stringent security environment fol!owing the 9/11 attacks, especially as it related to Middle Easterners. Sheikh Mohammed used only Middle Easterners in the first wave for this reason and Moussaoui was chosen for the second wave because of his French citizenship. Sheikh Mohammed stated that the second wave was not completely planned or ready for execution, but was on the "back burner." Sheikh Mohammed had no idea that the damage of the first attack would be as catastrophic as it was, and he did not plan on the U.S. responding to the attacks as fiercely as they did, which led to the next phase being postponed.

Sheikh Mohammed immediately said that Moussaoui was never slated to be a 911 operative, reiterating previous comments that he had anticipated a need for non-Arab passport holders to conduct the second wave of airplane operations after 911. Despite Moussaoui's admittedly problematic personality, Sheikh Mohammed tasked Moussaoui to take flight lessons in preparation for the second wave attacks. Sheikh Mohammed reiterated earlier claims that the second wave was only in its most preliminary stages, noting that Moussaoui was one of the few potential pilots identified for the operation, along with Mussa and Abu Faruq al-Tunisi. Sheik Mohammed also reiterated that he had not identified any targets for the second wave operation.

Paragraph 81:

Sheikh Mohammed repeatedly stated that Zacarias Moussaoui was intended to be part of a second wave. Sheikh Mohammed said that he was always working on more than one operation at a time. According to Sheikh Mohanmed, he did calculate for some residual effects from September 11. He knew that he would no longer be able to use operatives from the Middle East, but he never counted on the real impact of the September 11 attacks. Sheikh Mohammed was not concerned by the loss of second wave operatives, and thought that he could hold Moussaoui in reserve and always find more pilots at a later time. Sheikh Mohammed stated that this type of long tem, multiple operational thinking failed to anticipate the post-September 11 world.

As an aside here, he said other possible targets were the Sears Tower, the White House and the foreign Embassy in Washington.

Paragraphs 85, 87: Moussaoui was a problem from the start. Hambali complained about his behavior in Malaysia. Before his arrest, Moussaoui only knew he'd be flying a plane in the second wave and was not told of a target, because targets hadn't yet been identified.

Paragraph 89:

Sheikh Mohammed was impressed by the security measures implemented in the U.S. in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Based on the U.S. reaction to the attacks and future plots to the U.S., Sheikh Mohammed assessed at least for the short term that the prospects for a second round of hijacking attacks in the U.S. were dismal. Sheikh Mohammed began to think about the need to get Moussaoui out of the U.S. before he was caught. It quickly became clear that Moussaoui was lost to al Qaeda when the news arrived on 912/01 that Moussaoui had been arrested in late August 2001.

Paragraph 92:

Sheikh Mohammed recalled Moussaoui to Pakistan, where Moussaoui complained that training was difficult in in Malaysia because of the constant rain. Sheikh Mohammed, who believed that Moussaoui was not a suitable operative despite his European credentials, approached Muhammad Atif and Bin Laden and asked that Moussaoui be removed from the program, which was intended as a follow-up aircraft attack upon the completion of the program led by Atta. Despite Sheikh Mohammed's suggestion, Atif and Bin Laden insisted that Moussaoui remain in the progam and instructed that the program shuuld continue as planned.

In Par. 93, Mohammed says he sent Moussaoui to the U.S. for flight training but did not tell him why. Moussaoui did not know the identity of the other operatives who were in the U.S. at the same time as him. There was no way that Moussaoui would have been used in the 9/11 attacks because he was not Middle Eastern.

Par. 95: Mohammed told bin al-Shibh to send Moussaoui money and then break off ties with him because he was problematic.

Par. 100: Moussaoui's lax concern for security was his main flaw.

Par. 102: There was no contact with Moussaoui after bin al-Shibh broke off ties in August, 2001.

My conclusion: Moussaoui's testimony at trial was bunk. He had no part in 9/11, and even if he told all he knew, the FBI and the FAA could not have stopped the attacks. Moussaoui's lies -- and even his concealments -- were not responsible for lives being lost on 9/11.

On the other hand, the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security need to get their act together. There will be another attack. But after reading these documents, it seems like hijackings and suicide bombers are so last year. I'm no terrorism expert, but it seems to me it is far more likely that future suicide missions will be accomplished by flying in individuals, probably non-Middle Easterners, to several major cities, carrying toxic biological substances, who will unleash them on an airplane or in an airport or city after landing in the U.S. There is no doubt that al Qaeda operatives will gladly suffer any deadly disease in the name of their cause.

The idea that securing our Mexico borders will stop a terrorist attack is almost laughable. Rather than spending ridiculous amounts of money to prevent Mexicans who want to live and work here from doing so, we ought to be figuring out how to better secure our ports and identify problematic cargo, identify members of al-Qaeda to prevent them from entering the country (and they clearly are not just middle easterners) and figure out how to better screen passenger carry-on items and luggage for small vials of substances rather than explosives. We can interrogate Guantanamo detainees and captured al Qaeda members abroad until the cows come home, but it's not going to prevent a future attack. Whatever future attacks are planned have not been shared with those in captivity. We need to know in advance who will take the place of the higher ups who are captured. They are the ones most likely to know know what's coming next.

Update: Good article at Reason on how the Moussaoui trial evidence shows what really happened in 9/11 vis a vis the FBI.

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  • Re: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Lays Out Attack Plans (none / 0) (#1)
    by Kevin Hayden on Fri Mar 31, 2006 at 03:37:32 AM EST
    What, no wall to protect us from Mexicans? And what about those dangerous Canadians? Can't we make the US a gated community? I generally agree with your assessment, though I consider it far more likely they'll use conventional explosives or chemical weapons. I've yet to see rogue governments succeed with large scale bio attacks, so why would Al Qaida invest their effort in something so unproven?

    Re: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Lays Out Attack Plans (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jlvngstn on Fri Mar 31, 2006 at 06:42:06 AM EST
    It would seem that Khalid is only providing things are common assumptions relative to a next strike. A subway, more planes, tall buildings etc. I don't give this much credibility, pointing out the obvious targets or methods leads us to ineffective protection strategies. What I am afraid of is what we do not know. Such as overseas pilot training to have people become legitimate pilots for a foreign airline that potentially will attack western targets. This is a game of patience and long term strategy. Identifying subways or water systems as potential targets after nearly every "news program" has done an expose on the vulnerability of these targets reeks of telling us what we want to hear. What gives me pause is to consider how many people are currently training overseas to become pilots and what is the screening process? Moreover, a principal reason 9-11 was so successful was the passivity of the passengers. Standard protocol based on decades of negotiating with hijackers was to let them land the plane, negotiate for several hours and storm the plane or let them walk out. People were strongly encouraged not to play the hero and jeopardize their fellow passengers based on the history of these situations. Which of course leads me to the area of concern which is "what other standard operating procedures require passivity and compliance"? I see that as a much greater threat than the others. It is not as if a box cutter is going to scare anyone into submission on a plane ever again. Pre 9-11 I would have advised my fellow passengers to relax and comply and when we land they will negotiate for 15 hours and we will be free. Now, I would be the first one and most likely the dead one to confront them prior to seizing control of the cockpit. What other areas do we have a protocol of acquiesence? Hostage taking?

    Re: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Lays Out Attack Plans (none / 0) (#3)
    by Lora on Fri Mar 31, 2006 at 07:50:13 AM EST
    Sheikh Mohammed's testimony was obtained how? He is being held where? Does anyone have a problem with this besides me?

    Re: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Lays Out Attack Plans (none / 0) (#4)
    by Peaches on Fri Mar 31, 2006 at 08:05:18 AM EST
    The idea that securing our Mexico borders will stop a terrorist attack is almost laughable. Rather than spending ridiculous amounts of money to prevent Mexicans who want to live and work here from doing so, we ought to be figuring out how to better secure our ports and identify problematic cargo, identify members of al-Qaeda to prevent them from entering the country (and they clearly are not just middle easterners) and figure out how to better screen passenger carry-on items and luggage for small vials of substances rather than explosives.
    Imagine the worst posibgle scenario and then realize Al Qaeda has imagined this also. OBL is alive and he has given us a warning that the next attack will make 9/11 look small by comparison. His holy advisors have told him that up to $10 million Amercinas may be allowed to die in this jihad. OBL is trying or has already made arrangements to get nuclear material from the Russian mafia. They have the money and the will to carry this out. That is my fear. So, yes, securing our ports and identifying problematic cargo should be the number one priority along with identifying Al qaeda mambers. Meanwhile, we are spending huge and untold amounts of money fighting insurgents in Iraq--and OBL is still alive and planning the next attack.

    Re: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Lays Out Attack Plans (none / 0) (#5)
    by orionATL on Fri Mar 31, 2006 at 08:10:50 AM EST
    great resource. thaks for making it available.

    Re: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Lays Out Attack Plans (none / 0) (#7)
    by Rick B on Fri Mar 31, 2006 at 04:33:53 PM EST
    Narius, Executing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at any time will be as self-defeating as executing Timothy McVeigh was. I still think that McVeigh had a lot of assistance, and because Ashcroft was to hot to kill him, we will never know for sure. That may have been WHY Ashcroft wanted him dead. KSM presents the same issue. We may think we know everything he knows that is important, then there will be evidence that causes us to change the questions we want answered. Revenge isn't worth the potential loss of data.

    Re: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Lays Out Attack Plans (none / 0) (#8)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 07:17:36 AM EST
    Rick B. - A good point. Now. How do we get the data?

    Re: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Lays Out Attack Plans (none / 0) (#9)
    by Dadler on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 01:29:57 PM EST
    Jim, First you accept that you might NOT get the data, the you go about the business of trying to get it, knowing that physical torture is more apt to produce what the interrogators want to hear rather than any truth. Hell, get him stoned, party with him, get to know the guy in a way his buddies in Al Qeada never could.

    Re: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Lays Out Attack Plans (none / 0) (#10)
    by Sailor on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 02:41:12 PM EST
    Dadler -
    First you accept that you might NOT get the data, the you go about the business of trying to get it, knowing that physical torture is more apt to produce what the interrogators want to hear rather than any truth.
    They don't care about facts, they just want someone to say what they want to hear. Kinda like Jill Carroll's captors, eh?

    Posted by Lora Sheikh Mohammed's testimony was obtained how? He is being held where? Does anyone have a problem with this besides me? Yes, I do. It sounds like they have him in a witness protection plan. His activities in the US might be part of the 'Don't ask, don't tell' case handling policy of our agencies.
    Timeline at ThinkProgress July 23, 2001 - Suspected Sept. 11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), receives a U.S. visa despite a 1996 indictment linking him with earlier terrorist plots Risen: "This Was The Most Classic Whistleblower Case I've Ever Seen"


    Re: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Lays Out Attack Plans (none / 0) (#12)
    by Dadler on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 04:51:11 PM EST
    Sailor, Can't disagree here. He asked, tho. I answered.