Khalid Sheikh Mohammed portrayed himself as al-Qaida's most ambitious operational planner in a confession to a U.S. military tribunal that said he planned and supported 31 terrorist attacks, topped by the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, that killed thousands of innocent victims since the early 1990s.
The gruesome attacks range from the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings - in which nearly 3,000 people died - to a 2002 shooting on an island off Kuwait that killed a U.S. Marine, according to an account released by the Defense Department.
Many plots, including a previously undisclosed plan to kill several former U.S. presidents, were never carried out or were foiled by international counterterror authorities.
"I was responsible for the 9/11 operation from A to Z," Mohammed said in a statement read Saturday during a Combatant Status Review Tribunal at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mohammed's confession was read by a member of the U.S. military who is serving as his personal representative.
The Pentagon released a 26-page transcript of the closed-door proceedings on Wednesday night. Some material was omitted, and it was not possible to immediately confirm details. Some elements of it refer to locations for which the United States and other nations have issued terrorism warnings based on what they deemed credible threats from 1993 to the present.
President George W. Bush announced that Mohammed and 13 other alleged terror operatives had been moved from secret CIA prisons to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay last year. They are considered the 14 most significant captures since Sept. 11.
The military began the hearings last Friday to determine whether the 14 should be declared "enemy combatants" who can be held indefinitely and prosecuted by military tribunals.
Mohammed, known as KSM among government officials, was last seen haggard after his capture in March 2003, when he was photographed in a dingy white T-shirt with an over-stretched neck. He disappeared for more than three years into a secret detention system run by the CIA.
In his first public statements since his capture, his radical ideology and self-confidence came through. He expressed regret for taking the lives of children and said Islam does not give a "green light" to killing.
Yet he finds room for exceptions. "The language of the war is victims," he said.
He also said that in the same way that some consider George Washington, the first U.S. president, to be a hero for his role in the Revolutionary War, many Muslims view al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in the same light. "He is doing same thing. He is just fighting. He needs his independence."
In laying out his role in 31 attacks, his words drew al-Qaida closer to plots of the early 1990s than the group has previously been linked, including the 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing in which six people died.
Six people with links to global terror networks were convicted in federal court and sentenced to life in prison for that attack.
Mohammed made clear that al-Qaida wanted to down a second trans-Atlantic aircraft during would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid's operation.
And he confessed to the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in a section of the statement that was excised from the public document, The Associated Press has learned. Pearl was abducted in January 2002 in Pakistan while researching a story on Islamic militancy. Mohammed has long been a suspect in the slaying, which was captured on video.
If the 14 are declared enemy combatants, as expected, the military would then draft and file charges against them. The detainees would be tried under the new military commissions law signed by Bush in October.
The military barred reporters or other independent observers from the sessions for the 14 operatives and is limiting the information it provides about them, arguing that it wants to prevent the disclosure of sensitive information.