Wearing a military-style vest, self-declared 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed delivered a scathing anti-US diatribe at a military tribunal on Wednesday.
The US president “can legislate assassinations under the name of national security for American citizens,” the Kuwaiti-born Pakistani said during the third day of a pre-trial hearing at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Often considered an agitator, Mohammed was allowed to speak with a 40-second time delay that would have enabled his comments to be censored had he touched on sensitive issues.
Mohammed was detained in a secret CIA prison from 2002 to 2006, and the government has acknowledged that he was subjected to waterboarding 183 times.
“Every dictator can choose” his definition of national security, he said.
“Many can kill people under the name of national security, many can torture people under the name of national security and detain children under the name of national security, under-aged children,” he said.
Mohammed spoke calmly in Arabic and waited until each of his sentences had been translated into English. Having studied in the US, he sometimes paused to correct the interpreter.
“In the name of God ... When the government feels sad for 3,000 people who were killed on 9/11, we should feel sorry that the federal government ... has killed millions of people under the name of national security,” he said.
He also made an apparent reference to al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, killed by the US in Pakistan last year: “The president can take someone and throw him under the sea under the name of national security.”
Following his diatribe, Judge James Pohl alerted him that he would not be allowed to speak again.
“I didn’t interrupt you ... this is a one-time occurrence,” Pohl said.
The hearings are in preparation for a 9/11 trial to be held at some point next year.
Mohammed is accused of orchestrating the hijacked airliner plot that left 2,976 people dead, while his alleged al-Qaeda accomplices are charged with providing funding and other support for those who crashed the planes.
In addition to felling the Twin Towers, the trained engineer claims to have beheaded US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 and to have helped in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six.
The defense is seeking to prevent US President Barack Obama’s administration from arguing that the treatment and alleged torture of the defendants during interrogations in secret CIA prisons before being sent to Guantanamo in 2006 is classified for national security.
A portion of Wednesday’s exchanges were blurred when a lawyer made a “specific reference to a classified hypothetical interrogation technique,” the judge explained when the transmission resumed.