Ultimately, the evidence that September 11th was an al-Qaeda operation rests entirely on the confessions of one man, Khalid Sheik Mohammad. We now know that KSM, as he’s been dubbed in various reports, learned the hard way to remember his role in 911. Naked and with his feet bound to a wooden board, KSM’s lower half was elevated and buckets of water were slowly poured into his nasal passages. Unable to breathe, with water entering his lungs, he would have been sure that he was drowning. The natural human reaction is to survive and the only way to survive is to tell the aggressor whatever he wants to hear. It’s that simple. The main reason we don’t use waterboarding here in America is that it simply doesn’t provide truth, only words to stave off imminent death. After two years of this treatment and a year of sleep deprivation, snarling dogs and humiliation, KSM also “confessed” to every evil act under the sun over the past 15 years — to planning 31 other attacks around the world.

We later learned that his interrogation was videotaped, but the tapes mysteriously vanished. The 911 Commission, taking its cue from the Bush administration, referred to the deranged KSM as a “super terrorist” or “terrorist entrepreneur.” In June 2008, KSM appeared in a military court at Guantanamo. Shackled and rambling incoherently, his initial complaint was that the court-appointed artist had botched his profile, specifically that his nose was drawn much too large. After the vanity issue, his next complaint was another ramble about having been tortured for the previous five years.

The President himself informed the nation in a September 2006 speech about the success of the waterboard. Referring to another detainee, Abu Zubaydah, al-Qaeda’s so-called planning chief, Mr. Bush said, “We knew that Zubaydah had more information that could save innocent lives, but he stopped talking. As his questioning proceeded, it became clear that he had received training on how to resist interrogation. And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures. I cannot describe the specific methods used — I think you understand why” — with a pause — “but I can say the procedures were tough. After he recovered, Zubaydah was defiant and evasive. He declared his hatred of America. During questioning, he at first disclosed what he thought was nominal information — and then stopped all cooperation. Well, in fact, the ‘nominal’ information he gave us turned out to be quite important. For example, Zubaydah disclosed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — or KSM — was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks.”

The 911 Commission Report concluded that KSM was the “mastermind” of these attacks, with financial and logistical support from Osama bin Laden. But the Commission’s conclusions — or assumptions — are based entirely on thirdhand testimony. Remarkably, no one from the commission was allowed to talk with KSM or even with KSM’s interrogators. Americans have been given proofs that amount to little more than words from men behind the curtain. After torturing a prisoner, our government releases his “confessions” to the media with no question as to its authenticity, just as the “confession” tapes of Osama bin Laden give us another unverified source of disinformation. When we consider that only one in seven Americans can find Iraq on a map, the deception is like taking candy from a baby.
Astonishingly, the 911 Commission’s final report states the following, within a warning-style box:

The following chapters on the 911 plot rely heavily on information obtained from captured al-Qaeda members… . Assessing the truth of statements by these witnesses … is challenging. Our access to them has been limited to the review of intelligence reports based on communications received from the locations where the actual interrogations take place. We submitted questions for use in the interrogations, but had no control over whether, when, or how questions of particular interest would be asked. Nor were we allowed to talk to the interrogators so that we could better judge the credibility of the detainees and clarify ambiguities in the reporting. We were told that our requests might disrupt the sensitive interrogation process.

This testimony wouldn’t be allowed in traffic court but in the Post-911 World, this is all we need in order to know who planned the massacre of 3,000 people on 911. The New York City Fire Department lost 343 men; the NYPD lost 23; nearly 200 people jumped to their deaths from the burning towers; United and American lost 33 crew members and 314 passengers; airport security was defeated; the United States military was defeated; the American economy was ruptured; we have warrantless wiretaps, two wars with 4,000 dead American soldiers, another hundred thousand physically and mentally disabled and perhaps another one million dead in the Middle East. Yet thirdhand hearsay from a waterboarded captive is all we care to offer by way of explanation or closure.

Even if we grant these two chapters of hearsay, there is, as noted earlier, still no accounting for the advanced tactical knowledge, logistical support or aviation training required for the mission.