Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: Terrorist Mastermind, Inventor of Vacuums

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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Qaida member who is the accused mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, has been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2006. But before that, and after his 2003 capture in Pakistan, he spent some time in secret CIA prisons. While he was at a so-called black site named Britelite in Bucharest, one of the most infamous symbols of post-9/11 America spent some of his time trying to recreate a vacuum cleaner.

This is from an AP story Thursday that delves into Mohammed's time in the secret prisons. Mohammed, who holds a degree in mechanical engineering, made the request to be allowed to design a vacuum cleaner to CIA officers in Romania. The request was approved largely in an effort to keep Mohammed sane following his mentally excruciating interrogation, which had resulted in a litany of confessions. The prisoners at the CIA detention centers may have to stand trial one day, and "we didn't want them to go nuts," a former senior CIA offical told AP.

But Mohammed had more than vacuum designing to pass his time. According to AP, he had "office hours" at the prison, where he would lecture CIA agents on jihad while dining on tea and cookies. He would be awarded Snickers bars for completing "homework" assignments about al-Qaida. And he also, according to former CIA officials, enjoyed the Harry Potter book series.

Unfortunately, we don't know whether the vacuum project was completed. That's because the vacuum, like everything else that went on at the black sites, is classified. In response to AP's Freedom of Information Act request for the vacuum blueprints, the CIA said that, should the designs exist, they would be considered operation files of the agency. Sounds crazy, but maybe the vacuum wound up working too well.

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