'Appropriate pressure' being put on al Qaeda leader
U.S.: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed planned 9/11 attacks
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- "All appropriate pressure" is being put on Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the man believed to be the key planner of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to reveal plots for any future operations, a senior U.S. intelligence official said Sunday.
The capture of the man linked to nearly every al Qaeda attack of the past five years is a "huge win," the official said.
Al Qaeda members must now worry about which plots Mohammed -- the group's operations chief -- has exposed, and what information he might reveal that could lead to them, the official said.
U.S. officials were practically gleeful Sunday after Mohammed's arrest early Saturday in Rawalpindi, outside the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, a week after he eluded capture during a raid in Quetta, Pakistan, 400 miles away.
U.S. officials were present when Pakistani authorities arrested Mohammed and two other men, but they did not participate, the senior U.S. intelligence official said.
Pakistan held Mohammed "a few hours" before turning him over to the CIA, which immediately took him out of Pakistan, officials said. Mohammed is in U.S. custody at an undisclosed location, they said.
There are no plans to bring Mohammed to the United States, U.S. government officials said.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said it was "hard to overstate the significance" of Mohammed's arrest a week after he eluded arrest in Quetta, and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee called the arrest "huge."
"This is the equivalent of the liberation of Paris in the second world war," said Republican Rep. Porter Goss of Florida. "This is taking out [Nazi propagandist Joseph] Goebbels as an operative of the German Wehrmacht. This is just extremely important, and it's going to lead to other very successful activities very shortly, I'm sure."
Goss' counterpart in the Senate, Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas, said the arrest was "a big downer" for Osama bin Laden's network.
"We have taken the operations officer of the al Qaeda right at the same time they were planning a spring offensive," Roberts said.
Sen. Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations committee, said the arrest was a "big deal" and "a phenomenal breakthrough."
Biden warned that Mohammed had been living "in plain daylight" near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, however.
"It is in a totally uncontrolled area," he said. "And there is overwhelming reason to believe that the other 22 of the top 25 we're looking for, including Osama bin Laden, are in the vicinity."
Senior administration officials also said that Mohammed likely has information on the whereabouts of other terrorist members, possibly including bin Laden.
Goss: Torture 'not permissible'
Goss said it was "certainly not permissible" to obtain any information from Mohammed through torture.
"The hallmark of our country is decency, democracy, freedom and so forth," Goss said. "The other guys don't, but we have to maintain our standards."
Goss added that he believes the United States can obtain information from Mohammed anyway. "There's lots of motives that make people do what they do, and there may be ways we can gather information in the process of professional interrogation that will link with other pieces that we have already."
The self-described head of al Qaeda's military committee, Mohammed is described as the strategist who helped coordinate finances and recruit for bin Laden's global terrorist network. The U.S. State Department had offered as much as $25 million for information leading to his arrest. (Life of terror)
In the mid-1980s, after studying engineering at Chowan College in Murfreesboro, North Carolina, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, the Kuwait-born son of a Pakistani trained volunteers fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan -- and met bin Laden.
Terror conspiracy indictment
Investigators in the Philippines found evidence linking Mohammed to a plot to blow up 12 U.S.-bound commercial airliners in a two-day period after Mohammed's nephew, Ramzi Yousef, set fire to his Manila apartment while experimenting with explosives.
Yousef was caught in Pakistan in February 1995, a month after the apartment fire, but Mohammed vanished into the terror underground. A year later, he was indicted on seven counts of terror conspiracy for his alleged role in the plot.
Mohammed might have been difficult to find, but he apparently kept up his organizational work for al Qaeda.
He has been linked to the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000; Richard Reid's foiled attempt to blow up an airliner with a shoe bomb in 2001; and most recently, the bombings at the El Ghriba synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, and the bombings in a resort town in Bali last year.
Rohan Gunaratna, terrorism expert and author of "Inside Al Qaeda," said Mohammed ordered the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan last year.
-- CNN correspondents Maria Ressa, Mike Boettcher, Ash-Har Quraishi, Kelli Arena, John King and Suzanne Malveaux, and producers Syed Mohsin Naqzi and Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.