A senior al-Qaida military commander strongly warned Khalid Shaikh Mohammed not to kill Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, cautioning him "it would not be wise to murder Pearl" and that he should "be returned back to one of the previous groups who held him, or freed."
But Mohammed told his U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay that he cut off Pearl's head anyway.
Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, also told his captors of the aborted attempt by Richard Reid to light a shoe bomb aboard a flight from London to the United States in late 2001. He "stated that he had instructed Reid to shave his beard prior to boarding the airplane and to detonate the bomb inside the airplane bathroom."
But Reid refused to shave his beard, tried to ignite the bomb in his seat, and was stopped and arrested. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. For that, according to Mohammed, Reid was "irresponsible."
Fresh and often chilling portraits of Mohammed and the other most-prized "high value" detainees at Guantanamo emerged from U.S. military documents posted on the Internet Monday by WikiLeaks, the organization that has tormented the U.S. government by revealing military and diplomatic secrets. U.S. and British news organizations first reported the release of the documents on Sunday night.
The Obama administration acknowledged that the records contain genuine "classified information about current and former GTMO detainees." But the White House also sharply castigated WikiLeaks for releasing the material.
The documents are part of thousands of pages of Pentagon dossiers that describe how the detainees were captured, the nature of their alleged crimes and what they had told interrogators in interviews from 2002 to 2008.
Detainees are assessed "high," "medium" or "low" in terms of their intelligence value, the threat they pose while in detention and the continued threat they might pose to the United States if released.
In a statement, the Pentagon, which described the decision to publish some of the material as "unfortunate," stressed the snapshot and incomplete nature of the assessments.
In the Daniel Pearl slaying, according to the newly released material, Sayf al-Adl, a former top al-Qaida military commander, was outspoken in cautioning Mohammed against killing the reporter. But Mohammed turned for guidance to another al-Qaida leader, identified as Sharif al-Masri, the group's chief financial officer, and the two of them "disagreed with Adl on this point."
Next, according to the documents, Pearl was taken to al-Qaida finance chief Saud Memon's house in Pakistan and killed there.
Mohammed boasted in the documents that the "planes operation" of Sept. 11, 2001, was his "dream and life's work." A Pakistani raised in Kuwait, he was captured in March 2003, and later was waterboarded 183 times to get him to talk.
He described a plan to build remote-controlled firing devices disguised as Sega video-game cartridges. He began preparations for bombing "the tallest building in California" -- presumably the Los Angeles library tower, "using at least two separate shoe bombs to gain access to the cockpit."
He wanted to hit CIA and FBI headquarters and nuclear power plants, hack into U.S. bank computers and hijack U.S. cargo planes. He discussed a series of natural gas explosions he wanted to set off in Chicago and researched "the feasibility of an operation to set fire to a hotel or gas station" there.
Mohammed's right-hand man was Ramzi Binalshibh, the " 9/1 1 coordinator."
According to the documents, Binalshibh learned from lead Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta that "the targets were the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Capitol," sites selected by Osama bin Laden, and that the al-Qaida leader told the hijackers that "if they could not reach their targets, they were to simply to crash the aircraft."
Some wondered whether the plane that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania was headed for the Capitol or the White House.