Padilla and the 'dirty bomb' plot

Padilla Is Guilty on All Charges in Terror Trial - New York Times

In a significant victory for the Bush administration, a federal jury found Jose Padilla guilty of terrorism conspiracy charges on Thursday after little more than a day of deliberation.

Mr. Padilla, a Brooklyn-born convert to Islam who became one of the first Americans designated an “enemy combatant” in the anxious months after Sept. 11, 2001, now faces life in prison. He was released last year from a long and highly unusual military confinement to face criminal charges in Federal District Court here. The government’s chief evidence was a faded application form that prosecutors said Mr. Padilla, 36, filled out to attend a Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 2000. Mr. Padilla’s extraordinary legal journey began in May 2002, when he was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, where he grew up. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Mr. Padilla’s capture a month later, interrupting a trip to Moscow to say that an “unfolding terrorist plot to attack the United States by exploding a radioactive dirty bomb” — one that could have caused “mass death and injury” — had been foiled.
The Padilla Conviction - New York Times

It would be a mistake to see the guilty verdict against Jose Padilla as a vindication for the Bush administration’s serial abuse of the American legal system.

It is hard to disagree with the jury’s guilty verdict against Jose Padilla, the accused, but never formally charged, dirty bomber. But it would be a mistake to see it as a vindication for the Bush administration’s serial abuse of the American legal system in the name of fighting terrorism. On the way to this verdict, the government repeatedly trampled on the Constitution, and its prosecution of Mr. Padilla was so cynical and inept that the crime he was convicted of — conspiracy to commit terrorism overseas — bears no relation to the ambitious plot to wreak mass destruction inside the United States, which the Justice Department first loudly proclaimed. Even with the guilty verdict, this conviction remains a shining example of how not to prosecute terrorism cases.

When Mr. Padilla was arrested in 2002, the government said he was an Al Qaeda operative who had plotted to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb inside the United States. Mr. Padilla, who is an American citizen, should have been charged as a criminal and put on trial in a civilian court. Instead, President Bush declared him an “enemy combatant” and kept him in a Navy brig for more than three years. The administration’s insistence that it had the right to hold Mr. Padilla indefinitely — simply on the president’s word — was its first outrageous act in the case, but hardly its last. Mr. Padilla was kept in a small isolation cell, and when he left that cell he was blindfolded and his ears were covered. He was denied access to a lawyer even when he was being questioned. The administration also insisted that the courts had no right to second-guess its actions. It was only after the Supreme Court appeared poised last year to use Mr. Padilla’s case to decide whether indefinite detention of an American citizen violates the Constitution, that the White House suddenly decided to give him a civilian trial.