updated 9/13/2007 1:11:51 PM ET 2007-09-13T17:11:51

The Pentagon has censored an audio tape of the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks speaking at a military hearing — cutting out Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s justification for waging jihad against the United States.

After months of debate by several federal agencies, the Defense Department released the tape Thursday. Cut from it was 10 minutes of a more than 40-minute closed court session at Guantanamo Bay to determine whether Mohammed should be declared an “enemy combatant.”

Since the March hearing, Mohammed has been assigned “enemy combatant” status, a classification the Bush administration says allows it to hold him indefinitely and prosecute him at a military tribunal.

Officials from the CIA, FBI, State Department and others listened to the tape and feared it could be copied and edited by other militants for use as propaganda, officials said.

“It was determined that the release of this portion of the spoken words of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would enable enemies of the United States to use it in a way to recruit or encourage future terrorists or terrorist activities,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. That could put U.S. lives at risk, he said.

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