[There are a number of shadings of responsibility relating to possible crimes.  Prosecutors generally must prove that defendants: 1) committed a crime or 2) attempted to commit a crime.  Less provable and less culpable if at all are 3) conspiracies to commit a crime, and 4) thinking about committing a crime.

Needless to say a conspiracy is a dicey deal.  One can be charged with conspiring with individuals whom one does not know and has never met or interacted with in any way.  Going to an al-Qaeda training camp could carry with it the burden of conspiring to commit a crime.  But presumable a bit more would be required to nail down this one and to distinguish it from merely thinking about committing a crime — who has not done that at one time or another.

We shall have to see what the final rap will be.  It may well turn out that he has served time already for the items alleged, but not certainly proved in these gray areas of legal responsibility.  Ed Kent]



After five years, charges against Padilla peter out


From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail

May 15, 2007 at 6:32 AM EDT

WASHINGTON — After five years in prison, most of it in solitary in a grim navy brig where he was held as an enemy combatant, Jose Padilla went on trial Monday in a case that spotlights the Bush administration’s legal tactics in the so-called war on terror.

Instead of representing America’s worst nightmare – the homegrown Islamic extremist poised to turn a booming city centre into a deadly wasteland with nuclear debris – the trial of the onetime Chicago gang member and U.S. citizen has become a cautionary tale in prosecutorial hype.

“In apprehending al-Muhajir [Mr. Padilla’s Muslim name] as he sought entry into the United States, we have disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot to attack the United States by exploding a radioactive dirty bomb,” was the apocalyptic pronouncement by then-attorney-general John Ashcroft. At the time, fear gripped the country in the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center.

The actual threat posed by Mr. Padilla, 36, seems to have steadily receded ever since.

Yesterday, in a Miami courtroom, the real case against him was revealed: He was accused of filling out an application form to become a jihadi, or holy warrior. “Joining an al-Qaeda training camp was an incredibly rare thing for an American to do,” said assistant U.S. attorney Brian Frazier, claiming that Mr. Padilla and two co-defendants, Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, also provided money and support to Muslims fighting in Kosovo, Chechnya and Lebanon in the 1990s.

Its not clear if the government intends to attempt to link any of the three to any actual terrorist attacks. The indictment no longer makes any mention of the dirty-bomb plot.

“The case is going to go out with more of a whimper than a bang,” said Stephen Vladeck, a University of Miami law professor who had filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the legality of Mr. Padilla’s detention in the navy prison in Charleston, S.C.

“The government’s central argument is that Padilla is a bad guy who hung out with other bad guys,” Mr. Vladeck told Reuters.

Defence lawyers dispute even that, claiming that Mr. Hassoun, a Palestinian computer programmer, and Mr. Jayyousi, a former school administrator, were engaged in nothing more sinister than helping downtrodden co-religionists in strife-torn parts of the world and that Mr. Padilla, a Muslim convert, simply wanted to study Islam.

The prosecution insisted that “Jose Padilla was an al-Qaeda terrorist trainee providing the ultimate form of material support – himself.”

Mr. Padilla and his co-defendants could still face life in prison if convicted.

But it is not just Mr. Padilla on trial.

The case has attracted international attention and is regarded by many legal scholars as a test of whether the U.S. justice system will finally show itself capable of dealing with trials in a fashion more consistent with traditional legal standards.

Mr. Padilla’s unprecedented detention as a enemy combatant nearly reached the Supreme Court although the Justice Department avoided any decision by agreeing to move the case to civilian courts. He spent three years without being formally charged and his interrogation is widely seen as having violated his constitutional rights, including the right to have a lawyer and remain silent.

The government has admitted that most of the evidence collected, including the dirty-bomb allegations, may have been extracted from other alleged al-Qaeda operatives who claimed they were tortured and thus is inadmissible.

“At stake in this case is nothing less than the essence of a free society,” wrote U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens in comments on the Padilla case.

“Unconstrained executive detention for the purpose of investigating and preventing subversive activity is the hallmark of the star chamber.”

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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