Senate Report on CIA Torture
Capture of KSM
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) was identified as the alleged “mastermind behind the attacks of September 11, 2001.” KSM had been a “top priority target” since 1995, as he was linked to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and the CIA had determined in 1998 that KSM was “very close” to Osama bin Laden. It was also reported in June 12, 2001 that “Khaled” was “actively recruiting people to travel outside Afghanistan, including to the United States…to carry out terrorist-related activities for [bin Laden].” Two foreign government sources, two CIA officers, and a CIA Counterterrorism Center officer wrote in the days and months following the 9/11 attacks that KSM was very likely involved in these attacks. One of the CIA officers stated, on October 16, 2001, that "although more proof was needed, 'I believe KSM may have been the mastermind behind the 9-11 attacks.'"
However, the CIA said several times that Abu Zubaydah “identified KSM as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks” after “enhanced interrogation techniques were employed.” The Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel “cited a document provided by the CIA” that stated that “enhanced interrogation” provided “otherwise unavailable actionable intelligence” and that “ordinary interrogation techniques had little effect on...Zubaydah.” However, the information provided by Zubaydah was actually “corroborative of information already in CIA databases.” According to the report, “[t]here is no evidence to support the statement that Abu Zubaydah’s information…was uniquely important to the identification of KSM as the ‘mastermind’ of the 9/11 attacks.”
In a set of documents and talking points for CIA director Michael Hayden to use in a briefing to the president on the effectiveness of waterboarding, the CIA also asserted that Zubaydah identified KSM's alias as “Mukhtar” “after the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.” However, Zubaydah actually provided this information “to FBI interrogators prior to the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques.” KSM's alias was also already in CIA databases prior to Zubaydah's capture, “including in a cable from August 28, 2001.”
The CIA also stated that, after being subjected to “enhanced interrogation,” Zubaydah began to provide information that led to the capture of one of KSM's 9/11 accomplices, Ramzi bin al-Shibh. Furthermore, the CIA stated that information gained by their interrogation of both bin al-Shibh and Zubaydah “provided information that helped in the planning and execution of the operation that captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.” President Bush’s September 6, 2006 speech was based on this information and “vetted by the CIA.” However, “there are no CIA records to support the assertion that Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, or any other CIA detainee played any role” in the capture of KSM. Instead, a unilateral CIA asset referred to in the torture report as ‘Asset X’ led the CIA directly to KSM in February and March of 2003. The CIA had connected with Asset X shortly after 9/11, when they were suspicious that KSM was linked to 9/11 and Asset X “demonstrate[d] some degree of access/knowledge” regarding KSM. Though the CIA’s initial refusal to accept Asset X’s plan and later refusal to pay him delayed the process, Asset X eventually led the CIA directly to KSM.