When federal prosecutors begin today to present evidence against terrorism suspect Jose Padilla, the case is expected to rest heavily on a single document: his alleged application to become an Islamic warrior, reports the Los Angeles Times. The federal indictment says Padilla filled out the mujahedin data form in 2000, “in preparation for violent jihad training in Afghanistan.” The indictment alleges Padilla and two codefendants sought U.S. recruits and funding for foreign holy wars. Prosecutors plan to call a covert CIA operative to testify in disguise about the document and to introduce more than half of the 200-plus transcripts from wiretapped conversations among the defendants.
Nowhere in the indictment is there mention of the sensational charges against Padilla when he was arrested in Chicago in 2002. Then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft said U.S. agents had thwarted a plot between Padilla, a U.S. citizen, and top Al Qaeda figures to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” or blow up apartment buildings in U.S. cities. The case against Padilla, now 36, has come a long way, and illustrates how the administration’s policies of detaining suspects in the war on terrorism can backfire. Conspiracy charges agaisnt him came about when the Pentagon abandoned its effort to jail him indefinitely as an enemy combatant. The Supreme Court had been considering a review of his status and rights.