Besides being waterboarded and kept awake for 180 hours, there's not an awful lot to do when you're in the custody of the CIA for orchestrating the biggest terrorist attack in American history. So after he spilled all the secrets he could spill, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed did what anyone in his position would do to pass the time: He designed a vacuum cleaner.
As the Associated Press tells the story, the CIA had gotten what they needed from Mohammed, who has a bachelor's in mechanical engineering, but wanted to keep him around and keep him sane in case they needed him in the future. This was a solid challenge for all detainees, especially since they'd just invested countless man hours breaking him down to tease a confession out of him. "We didn't want them to go nuts," one senior CIA officer told the AP.
The vacuum thing is weird to be sure, but it's not the only odd concession the CIA made to their widely abhorred detainee. Mohammed also held "office hours" where he'd lecture the intelligence officers about whatever was on his mind. He also became a big Harry Potter fan and even tried sending his fellow prisoners a message not to talk about Osama bin Laden's courier through one of the books. It's unclear if he planned to embed secret messages in his vacuum design; unfortunately, we may never know. As Mohammed's lawyer explained:
It sounds ridiculous, but answering this question, or confirming or denying the very existence of a vacuum cleaner design, a Swiffer design, or even a design for a better hand towel would apparently expose the U.S. government and its citizens to exceptionally grave danger.