August 17, 2007
Padilla Guilty on All Charges
Jose Padilla, a man the government said was an al-Qaeda wannabe was found guilty on three counts of terrorism conspiracy charges yesterday:
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.Indeed, Padilla's fingerprints were all over that "faded" application to join al-Qaeda. And there was plenty of other evdidence as well including a trip Padilla took to Pakistan where he met known al-Qaeda members as well as wiretaps on his phone.
The jurors, seven men and five women from Miami-Dade County, would not speak publicly at the courthouse and left through a side entrance. But one juror, who asked that her name not be used, said later in a telephone interview that she had all but made up her mind before deliberations began.
“We had to be sure,” the juror said in Spanish. “We wanted to make sure we went through all the evidence. But the evidence was strong, and we all agreed on that.”
Padilla was originally charged with being part of a plot to explode a dirty bomb in an American city. That charge was dropped when the Administration suddenly dropped his "enemy combatant" designation in order to try him in civil court. The reason for dropping the much more serious charge was the fact that the Bush Administration was concerned about revealing classified information at trial as well as information from informants that may have been extracted using techniques the Supreme Court later found illegal.
Padilla, an American citizen, became a cause celebre for the left when he became the first citizen held as an enemy combatant. His incarceration was highly unusual. He was held in solitary confinement for more than 1300 days and subjected to sensory deprivation techniques. A psychiatrist who interviewed Padilla for 22 hours claims he has suffered massive brain damage. The government denies this and also denies he was mistreated while in prison.
It's a mixed bag for the Bush Administration. The conviction proves that Padilla was a danger but the fact he was tried in civil court gives ammunition to those who believe that detention centers like Guantanamo are unnecessary and that the American justice system should handle all terrorism cases.
It is not an argument that will end any time soon.