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9/11 brain now CIA asset
- Torture debate as Mohammed reveals Qaida secrets

Washington, Aug. 29: After enduring the CIA’s harshest interrogation methods and spending more than a year in the agency’s secret prisons, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed stood before US intelligence officers in a makeshift lecture hall, leading what they called “terrorist tutorials”.

In 2005 and 2006, the bearded, pudgy man who calls himself the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks discussed a wide variety of subjects, including Greek philosophy and al Qaida dogma. In one instance, he scolded a listener for poor note-taking and his inability to recall details of an earlier lecture.

Speaking in English, Mohammed “seemed to relish the opportunity, sometimes for hours on end, to discuss the inner workings of al Qaida and the group’s plans, ideology and operatives,” said one of two sources who described the sessions, speaking on the condition of anonymity because much information about detainee confinement remains classified. “He’d even use a chalkboard at times.”

These scenes provide previously unpublicised details about the transformation of the man known to US officials as KSM from an avowed and truculent enemy of the US into what the CIA called its “pre-eminent source” on al Qaida. This reversal occurred after Mohammed was subjected to simulated drowning and prolonged sleep deprivation, among other harsh interrogation techniques.

“KSM, an accomplished resistor, provided only a few intelligence reports prior to the use of the waterboard, and analysis of that information revealed that much of it was outdated, inaccurate or incomplete,” according to newly unclassified portions of a 2004 report by the CIA’s then-inspector general released on Monday by the justice department.

The debate over the effectiveness of subjecting detainees to psychological and physical pressure is in some ways irresolvable, because it is impossible to know whether less coercive methods would have achieved the same result. But for defenders of waterboarding, the evidence is clear: Mohammed cooperated, and to an extraordinary extent, only when his spirit was broken in the month after his capture on March 1, 2003, as the inspector general’s report and other documents released this week indicate.

Over a few weeks, he was subjected to an escalating series of coercive methods, culminating in seven and a half days of sleep deprivation, while diapered and shackled, and 183 instances of waterboarding. After the month-long torment, he was never waterboarded again.

“What do you think changed KSM’s mind?” one former senior intelligence official said this week after being asked about the effect of waterboarding. “Of course it began with that.” Mohammed, in statements to the Red Cross, said some of the information he provided was untrue.

“During the harshest period of my interrogation I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to make the ill-treatment stop. I later told interrogators that their methods were stupid and counterproductive. I’m sure that the false information I was forced to invent in order to make the ill-treatment stop wasted a lot of their time,” he said.

Critics say waterboarding and other harsh methods are unacceptable regardless of their results, and those with detailed knowledge of the CIA's programme say the existing assessments offer no scientific basis to draw conclusions about effectiveness.

“Democratic societies don’t use torture under any circumstances. It is illegal and immoral,” said Tom Parker, policy director for counterterrorism and human rights at Amnesty International.

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