ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Zacarias Moussaoui made the stunning admission Monday that he knew Al Qaida would attack the World Trade Center’s twin towers and that he and shoe bomber Richard Reid were supposed to fly a jetliner into the White House the same day.

In a boon to the prosecutors’ case, Moussaoui also said he lied to FBI agents after his Aug. 16, 2001, arrest to protect the Sept. 11 plot.

Moussaoui is on trial to determine whether he should face the death penalty for lying about the plot. Prosecutors contend that Moussaoui’s lies foiled the FBI’s chance to prevent the slaughter.

But it was apparent after a full day of testimony from Moussaoui, and transcripts from the CIA’s interrogation of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, that Moussaoui may have overstated – or even lied about – his role in the plot.

Mohammed told the CIA that Moussaoui was supposed to be part of a West Coast plane attack at a later time. But Mohammed scratched Moussaoui from that mission because he was a blabbermouth whose frequent phone calls to Al Qaida leaders threatened to expose the whole operation.

Moussaoui’s amazing claim, coupled with his statement that Reid was a member of his hijack crew, contradicted his previous denials that he had any Sept. 11 role. It was, in fact, the latest in a long series of contradiction by Moussaoui since his arrest more than four years ago that makes it hard to know when he’s telling the truth.

The sight of the admitted Al Qaida soldier politely, even cheerfully, answering questions about the Sept. 11 plot riveted the victims’ families who watched him testify.

Asked by prosecutor Rob Spencer if he was supposed to be in the same plot as Sept. 11 cell leader Mohamed Atta, he replied, “9/11, that is correct.”

“I was supposed to pilot a plane into the White House” on Sept. 11, Moussaoui told the amazed court.

Moussaoui proudly said Monday he not only knew about the plot to attack the World Trade Center, but easily identified pictures of each hijacker, confirming that he knew most of them from his days in Afghan terror camps. When asked if his goal in the U.S. was “to kill Americans,” he replied, “That is correct.”

But Moussaoui’s limited insight into the plot to attack the twin towers was apparent when he said he didn’t know the attack date and knew “no specific details.”

“I knew it would happen after August,” he said.

Moussaoui said he even got a radio in jail to listen for news of the attacks. And as the plane taking him to Virginia flew over the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center, he recalled telling the U.S. marshals with him, “It is smoking good.”

Moussaoui told the court that he was at first a reluctant martyr, refusing an offer in 1999 to go on a suicide mission.

He was later inspired by a dream of flying a 747 into the White House, which he shared with Osama Bin Laden, and agreed to accept a suicide assignment.

Sent to Malaysia, he quickly angered his handlers by blabbing about his dream to other operatives. A meeting with Bin Laden got Moussaoui back on the suicide team, but when he still wasn’t assigned to America, he went there on his own in 2001, he told the court.

Statements read into the record from Mohammed suggested he initially considered using Moussaoui for an attack after Sept. 11 on the tallest building on the West Coast, but concluded Moussaoui couldn’t be relied on to keep his mouth shut.

When Moussaoui demanded $15,000 from Mohammed, the terror mastermind told the CIA, he sent the cash to get Moussaoui off his back.

Mohammed said that besides being too chatty, Moussaoui called paymaster Ramzi Binalshibh eight times from the U.S. – a breach of security.

Moussaoui’s defense lawyers, who tried to persuade him not to testify, have suggested they may challenge their client’s sanity. They even brought in a mental health expert to observe his testimony.


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