Yesterday’s indictment of Jose Padilla illustrates that four years after the 2001 terrorist attacks, “the government has yet to settle on a consistent strategy for holding and punishing people it says are terrorists,” says the New York Times. Padilla asked the Supreme Court last month to decide whether federal authorities could “seize American citizens in civilian settings on American soil and subject them to indefinite military detention without criminal charge or trial.”
The White House says the issue is moot in Padilla’ case because President Bush has ordered the Defense Department, which had been holding Padilla as an “enemy combatant,” to transfer him to the Justice Department for criminal proceedings. The Supreme Court has accepted a case on whether the president has the authority to try detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for terrorist offenses before military commissions there. Last year, the court ruled that people held at Guantánamo and those designated as enemy combatants had the right to challenge their detentions in the courts or before a “neutral decision maker.” Padilla was charged in Miami with being part of a “North American support cell” that supported violent jihad campaigns in Afghanistan and elsewhere overseas from 1993 to 2001. He was not charged in connection with a “dirty bomb” plot to which federal authorities had linked him.