Jose Padilla, whose trial is concluding in Miami, is known worldwide as the man who plotted with Al Qaeda to detonate a radiological “dirty bomb” in a major U.S. city. The former Taco Bell employee made the proposal in 2002 as a way to justify fleeing Pakistan to avoid being sent to combat U.S. forces in Afghanistan, says a government account reported by the Christian Science Monitor.
Is Padilla a committed Al Qaeda operative or merely a big-talking mujahideen wannabe who wanted to go home? He is a U.S. citizen, arrested on U.S. soil, who was held in a military prison for 43 months and subjected to harsh interrogation techniques until he confessed. Legal scholars and intelligence experts say Padilla’s ordeal highlights the danger of a government that obtains information through secret, coercive means and then selectively releases some of it to justify its actions. “This is the hallmark of an authoritarian state,” says Larry Johnson, former State Department counterterrorism official and former analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. Federal prosecutors are using a broad conspiracy charge to allege that Padilla was a willing participant in a global terror campaign to wage violent jihad by murdering, kidnapping, and maiming people. Padilla denies it.