Expert Looks Behind Mohammed's Confessions

No. He provides a statement only after having contorted as much as possible, and even on fine points, to reduce his responsibility as much as possible. He is careful to present how he is lower on the operational chain of command than Abu Hafs al Masri. He distances himself from the title of military commander, and even downplays himself as a media spokesperson at another point. And he denies al Qaeda responsibility for the attack that killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, even as he admits what Internet evidence shows -- that markings of his hands confirm he did kill Mr. Pearl. He downplays his involvement in an assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. The bigger concern for law enforcement has to be, in Mohammed's case, whether his creativity can mislead investigators and disrupt other investigations into future al Qaeda plans.

Does deflecting al Qaeda from the Pearl murder necessarily reflect that he is telling the truth?

No. Pearl's murder is internationally unpopular. Mohammed is not so isolated that he would not know that Daniel Pearl will be intertwined through movie immortality into a Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie hero of love and kindness, including to Muslims, the kind that transcends even al Jazeera's ability to distort. Mohammed is smart to distance al Qaeda from that murder, whether he was responsible or not. I would note that his reference to Pearl as a spy plays on a familiar canard in the Muslim world that quite cleverly counters the universally sympathetic impressions of Pearl, even in heavily Islamic fundamentalist hotbeds like Pakistan.

What does he get from telling the truth?

Mr. Mohammed's family means something to him. Their comfort and safety may be a negotiated point. Likewise, a person who seeks to selectively misinform maintains his ability to misinform by giving his interrogators more than enough credible information to maintain his enduring potential value to them. Mr. Mohammed is so uncommonly linked to different aspects and nuances of al Qaeda that he maintains a capacity to control his current and future situation, in part, making decisions about just exactly how much truth he will reveal to his interrogators, when and why, and how and when to mislead them. This distinguishes his situation in custody from other participants in al Qaeda cells who were informed only on a need-to-know basis, and thus have far less enduring value in interrogation.

If he has concerns about his children, does that mean Mohammed is being coerced with the fear for their safety?

That is always a consideration. Again, the statements he offered were far too inclusive to be necessary to protect a loved one. This would be more of a consideration to me, as a forensic psychiatrist, if Mr. Mohammed offered nothing more than a complete confession on the 9/11 plot, confession that establishes his testimony as credible in other proceedings, and nothing more. Here he offers statements that have not been used in other prosecutions and have not yet demonstrated any evidentiary significance, to any degree. And again, he disputes claims of his involvement in cases, such as Pearl, that have drawn accusations against him from actual heads of state.

With all of the information provided, including that information for which other evidence exists, can you tell whether Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is telling the truth in everything he says?

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