Expert Looks Behind Mohammed's Confessions

Absolutely not, without additional evidence. He is canny and spontaneous and communicating in a self-serving manner. It would help to corroborate his account wherever possible. Suspects and defendants, in many circumstances, give statements in which their details do not match the facts known, for many reasons.

Can you give some examples?

To throw investigators off a trail; to protect someone from scrutiny; to minimize one's own involvement; to direct investigators away from uncovering an even more significant plot; to prevent investigators from discovering even more valuable evidence. Criminal investigations, especially those so elaborate as terrorism are complex and painstaking. Those who concretely say that when a person gives a confession that does not match the facts is necessarily innocent or uninvolved demonstrate their naivete through such blanket statements. Lying to the infidel, to advance the cause of jihad, would be perfectly acceptable to Mr. Mohammed and entirely consistent with the peculiar but wily Zacharias Moussaoui, who also gave investigators information that did not quite check out, even as other evidence involved him in flight instruction and other key elements of apocalyptic al Qaeda plotting.

What character qualities does Mohammed demonstrate in his testimony?

Mr. Mohammed is devout and believes he is right -- not surprising. Such conviction is required to inspire and direct others to kill themselves, and to justify your own living while they end their lives. He has the ideological resilience found in two types -- those of devout faith, those who recognize that others look to their statements for inspiration, or those who are both.

Are there other clues about the conditions of his confinement?

Mr. Mohammed expresses greater concern with the notion of his and other children being locked up than he does his own treatment. He speaks of the "language of war," and in my professional opinion, this refers to his own ideas about what he would expect from his being a prisoner.

Are there terror plots Mohammed takes credit for that are now revealed to the public for only the first time?

Rep. Curt Weldon wrote of the plot to destroy the Seabrook nuclear reactor that fell apart when Canadian police arrested Arabs in Ontario who were practicing flying maneuvers. Yet little attention arose in the press about this plot or even an al Qaeda plot to fly planes into nuclear reactors. The FBI and CIA have not released this information to the public and have kept it silent. Mohammed admits planning such attacks. Similarly, Mohammed's was the first confession to call attention to what has never been publicly disclosed -- that Richard Reid was only one shoe bomber of a wider plot aiming to involve at least one other.

Why is that significant to us, even if the plots were aborted?

Al Qaeda is a patient and optimizing enemy that tends to continue along similar modus operandi. Targeting of air travel will continue. So, too, will targeting of nuclear reactors for their maximum casualty capability. The significance of Canada as a launching point for airplanes as guided missiles no doubt must remain an important concern for the American public and our Canadian brethren who can inform law enforcement officials about any suspicious activity.

What is the al Qaeda operational strategy revealed through his testimony?

He characterizes a focus on targets on economic, military and political significance.

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