Time Magazine reports that US officials have confirmed Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s account that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the actual murderer of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
several U.S. officials tell TIME that KSM’s role in the Pearl murder appears more direct than previously acknowledged — and that the Bush Administration plans to try him for it. The officials tell TIME that KSM confessed under CIA interrogation that he personally committed the murder. Moreover, when he faces a military tribunal at Guantanamo, perhaps as soon as next year, the U.S. plans to charge him not only with the 9/11 plot, but also with direct responsibility for Pearl’s death.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) was one of 14 “high value” prisoners recently moved to the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from secret CIA prisons overseas. In announcing the transfer on Sept. 6, President Bush also promised to try some of the most important captives in military tribunals, a plan that Congress approved last month.
One former U.S. national security official tells TIME there is no doubt that KSM personally wielded the knife that killed the Wall Street Journal reporter. This official says that Ahmad Omar Saed Sheik insisted under interrogation that taking Pearl’s life was not at first part of the kidnap plot — though Sheik also told his questioners that Pearl’s kidnappers could never have released him because he was Jewish. But as the scheme unfolded, someone senior to him in the al-Qaeda hierarchy, known as “the fat man,” took control of the operation and beheaded Pearl.
Sheik never identified KSM as the actual killer, however. The FBI deduced KSM’s role only after analyzing a video of the crime, in which only the perpetrator’s hands are visible. That video was released by Islamic militants soon after Pearl’s murder and then widely shown on Arab television and the Internet. Eventually, the FBI obtained its own version of the original video, as well as the camera used to photograph the murder.
Once KSM was taken into custody in March 2003, a comparison of the hands shown in the video and KSM’s own hands, along with other evidence, confirmed the FBI’s suspicions. Then, under interrogation, KSM confessed, national security officials told TIME, admitting without remorse that he personally severed Pearl’s head and telling interrogators he had to switch knives after the first one “got dull.”