Portrait of 9/11 'Jackal' Emerges as He Awaits Trial





WASHINGTON — Not long after he was rousted from bed and seized in a predawn raid in Pakistan in March 2003, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed gave his captors two demands: He wanted a lawyer, and he wanted to be taken to New York.

After a nearly seven-year odyssey that took him to secret Central Intelligence Agency jails in Europe and an American military prison in Cuba, Mr. Mohammed is finally likely to get his wish.

He will be the most senior leader of Al Qaeda to date held to account for the mass murder of nearly 3,000 Americans, facing trial in Manhattan while his boss, Osama bin Laden, continues to elude a worldwide dragnet.

Yet the boastful, calculating and fiercely independent Mr. Mohammed has never neatly fit the mold of Qaeda chieftain. He has little use for the high-minded moralizing of some of his associates, and for years before the Sept. 11 attacks, he refused to swear an oath of loyalty to Mr. bin Laden — figuring that if the Qaeda leader canceled the Sept. 11 plot, he would not have to obey the order.

A detailed portrait of the life and worldview of Mr. Mohammed, 44, has emerged in the years since his capture, filled in by declassified C.I.A. documents, interrogation transcripts, the report of the Sept. 11 commission and his own testimony at a military tribunal. And the most significant terrorism trial in American history will be a grand stage for a man who describes himself as a “jackal,” consumed with a zeal for perpetual battle against the United States...

... It was not until the mid-1990s that American counterterrorism experts began to understand Mr. Mohammed’s significance to the cause of global jihad, after a thwarted plot to blow up 12 American commercial aircraft in midair. The so-called Bojinka plot, hatched in a Manila apartment with his nephew, the World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, was Mr. Mohammed’s first inspiration for using airliners as ballistic missiles against civilian targets, according to the 9/11 commission report and recently declassified C.I.A. documents.

In 1996, Mr. Mohammed traveled to Afghanistan to sell Mr. bin Laden on an idea: simultaneously hijacking 10 aircraft and flying them into different prominent civilian targets in the United States. He would be on the one plane not to crash, and after the plane landed would emerge and deliver a speech condemning American policy on Israel...


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