Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Jose Padilla, Hard to Particularize

Non-violence is not an easy path.

In the days before Jose Padilla converted to Islam, he was a member of the Maniac Latin Disciples, a peer group that wouldn’t instill a whole lot of faith in his understanding of what is and is not violent.

 Non-violence is not an easy path.
In the days before Jose Padilla converted to Islam, he was a member of the Maniac Latin Disciples, a peer group that wouldn’t instill a whole lot of faith in his understanding of what is and is not violent. Drinking and apparently on a whim, Padilla and a buddy decided to rob a couple of Mexican immigrants who may or may not have been rival gang members.
Not exactly rolling over, the Mexicans put up a fight and chased them. One of the guys wouldn’t quit. Tired of running, Padilla and his buddy turned on Elio Evangelista, the buddy stabbed him and Padilla repeatedly kicked him in the head ''because he felt like it.'' Not a nice guy. But, if you’ve lived in Chicago and been mugged, as I have, it’s not all that unusual a story either.  Padilla went to juvenile hall for three years, until he turned eighteen.
Flash forward fourteen years, during which Padilla’s life is bizarre, an understatement;
  • 1991 (age 21) he does a ‘road-rage’ in Florida with a 38 pistol, fires off a round or two at another driver and, when the police nail him, he does another 10 months.
  • Converts to Islam, espouses non-violence, then hangs out with the wrong crowd yet again.
  • Marries, travels through the Middle East (ostensibly teaching English), marries an Egyptian Muslim, divorces his American wife, is said to hang out with very radical Muslims--supposed al Qaeda-types.
  • These are questionable characters (although one wonders what an al-Qaeda ‘type’ is), who allegedly taught him to be a master bomb-builder.
In return, this petty thug with the constantly changing Muslim names gives his new terrorist associates a plan for an atomic bomb. The plan turns out to be copied from a satirical website.
FbimuellerA master bomb builder, with scrounged plans for an atom bomb? Satire isn’t limited to websites. Flying back to Chicago, he’s arrested by the FBI getting off the plane at O’Hare Airport and Director Robert Mueller calls him the ‘dirty bomber’ instead of the ‘satirical bomber.’
(NYTimes) The central allegations against Mr. Padilla are contained in one unsealed memorandum, a declaration by Michael H. Mobbs, a Pentagon official. Mr. Padilla, the memo says, is an associate of Al Qaeda who, in travels to Afghanistan and Pakistan, met with senior Qaeda officials, trained in wiring explosives, ''researched'' dirty bombs, concocted plans for attacks on the United States and, ''it is believed,'' returned to the United States to ''conduct reconnaissance and/or attacks'' on behalf of Al Qaeda.

The declaration was based on Mr. Mobbs's review of reports from ''multiple intelligence sources.'' In a footnote, Mr. Mobbs said that two of those sources might not have been ''completely candid'' and might have tried to provide some disinformation. One source recanted some information, and another was being treated ''with various types of drugs'' for a medical condition. But, the footnote continued, much of their information checked out.
So much for multiple intelligence or any intelligence at all from these yahoos.
Johnashcroft Senior al-Qaeda officials seems a stretch, but who knows who John Ashcroft considers senior. But to concoct is to dream up or cook up or trump up and none of those meanings are sufficiently focused (one would hope) for an indictment.
The administration suggests Padilla returned to Chicago to plot a "conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim" instead of meandering back to his roots after running out of jihadist enthusiasm and money. With no more already-stabbed immigrants to kick, Padilla was more tired minor criminal than dangerous international mastermind.
But we shall see.
Alberto Gonzales (or whoever may represent the Justice Department later in the month) will insist before U.S. District Court Judge Marcia G. Cooke, that Padilla is in fact a dangerous international mastermind, even though
(Washington Post) The dirty-bomb plot has disappeared from the allegations. The two sources who first told U.S. authorities that Padilla was a potential dirty bomber are not expected to testify, presumably because the federal government does not want them to or because prosecutors fear the testimony would be inadmissible. One of the two sources was Abu Zubaida, identified as a top al-Qaeda operative, who says he was tortured in U.S. custody.

None of Padilla's statements during military interrogations at the Charleston naval brig is expected to be presented in court, either, even though authorities said that in the statements Padilla confirmed his interest in a dirty bomb. For those interrogations, the suspect was not offered a lawyer, as required in criminal procedures.
Judge Cooke has stated that the indictment "is very light on facts."
That didn’t seem to be a problem for then Attorney General Ashcroft, when he announced via satellite from Moscow,
"We have disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot to attack the United States by exploding a radioactive dirty bomb," Ashcroft said, adding that the government's suspicions about Padilla's plans came from "multiple, independent, corroborating sources."
Bushpreemptive That the Ashcroft announcement came the same day news of Bush's military doctrine of "preemptive first strikes" hit the newspapers and TV should come as no surprise. Does that make me a conspiracy-theory kind of guy? One would hope not, but Justice already had Padilla for two months when suddenly the announcement seemed so urgent that Ashcroft excused himself from meetings in Moscow to spread the word. 
In addition to preemptive first strikes, an FBI whistleblower was also scheduled to testify that day.
The Bush White House has not done well with its prosecutions of terrorists thus far. But it's a hard slog in this war on terror. It’s hard to trample the law, hard to grind habeas corpus underfoot, hard to get self-incriminating evidence by torture and then extra hard to appeal to the ‘law’ for redress.
(WaPo) The charges revolve around an "inchoate crime . . . rather than any particular completed operation," federal prosecutor Brian K. Frazier told the judge. "It's very hard to particularize."
Josepadilla2 I guess a crime that was only partly in existence would be hard to be specific about. But only in the eyes of justice, certainly not in the Rambo authority of the Justice Department.
It’s not hard to be specific about Padilla. He’s a crummy guy, a minor-league thug, a bully, a braggart and an accomplice to murder. He’s stupid and manipulative, but a terrorist?
Not bloody likely.
Media comment;

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