Six letters. In the end that is what it took to capture the man named as the “principal architect of the 9/11 attacks” in the 9/11 Commission Report.
CIA agents, working with Pakistani authorities captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 2003. They were tipped off to his whereabouts by a paid informant who sent a six-letter text message that read: “I M W KSM”
That simple message was taken to mean “I am with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” and it brought to an end an enormous manhunt for one of al-Qaeda’s top operatives.
It’s an old story. As the Daily Mail reported, the text message was mentioned in a 2012 book titled “The Hunt for KSM.”
But it was mentioned again in the new torture report released yesterday by the Senate Intelligence Committee. And as a recent article from Motherboard points out, the story of that simple text message “is a damning indictment of the usefulness of waterboarding and other torture methods.”
The story stands in stark contrast to what the American people were told by President George W. Bush about how Mohammed was captured.
The new Senate report suggests, according to Motherboard, that there are “no CIA records to support the assertion that [two tortured suspects] Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, or any other CIA detainee played any role in the planning and execution of the operation that captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”
But in a 2006 speech, Bush said that “Zubaydah was questioned using these procedures [the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques], and soon he began to provide information on key al-Qaeda operatives, including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September the 11th."
“The information Zubaydah provided helped lead to the capture of bin al-Shibh,” Bush added. “And together these two terrorists provided information that helped in the planning and execution of the operation that captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”
But the new torture report attributes Mohammed’s arrest to the man, identified only as “Asset X,” who sent the text message and was paid $25 million for helping the CIA. That suggests that old-fashioned human intelligence was far more successful than the controversial torture techniques.
The CIA “handler” for Asset X who was directly involved in the search for Mohammed is quoted in the Motherboard story as saying the operation “was a HUMINT [human intelligence] op pretty much from start to finish.”