As the Supreme Court considers whether the Bush administration improperly declared Jose Padilla an enemy combatant, the Justice Department on yesterday declassified documents it said showed he posed a grave terrorist threat, the New York Times says. Padilla, a former Chicago gang member accused of joining Al Qaeda, has cooperated with American interrogators after his capture in May 2002. The declassification may not affect the high court case, which the administration is in danger of losing.
The Times says the Justice Department’s move appeared aimed at helping win over public opinion, and hinted that Justice Department could bring criminal charges against him. Defense attorneys criticized what they called the government’s trying Padilla in the media. “If we believe someone is bad, there’s a new form of justice: we put them in a black hole,” said Donna Newman, a Padilla lawyer. Donald Rehkopf Jr., a lawyer in Rochester, N.Y., who has written amicus briefs in the case for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, suggested that the new allegations could have “an inevitable spillover” in unduly influencing the high court just as it nears a decision in the case.