Padilla case opens —minus “dirty bomb” charge

Remember all the hype when Padilla was first arrested? Now that he is finally going to trial—on considerably less ambitious charges than those originaly floated—it is a discrete little story on the inside pages. Funny how that works, huh? We have noted a lot of utterly specious terrorism cases lately. This much-hyped case could turn out to be another one. From Los Angeles Times, April 16:

MIAMI – Cast as a murderous al-Qaida warrior when arrested five years ago, Jose Padilla goes on trial this week on downsized charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism.

The former Chicago gang member, 36, was initially accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb in an unnamed U.S. city. In a dramatic satellite broadcast from Moscow in May 2002, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft portrayed Padilla’s arrest at O’Hare International Airport as a government victory, averting disaster on the scale of the Sept. 11 attacks.

But after holding him in solitary confinement in a South Carolina military brig for 3 1/2 years, deprived of human contact and subjected to sensory-distorting extremes of light, temperature, noise and odor, the Bush administration dropped its contention that he figured in any specific bomb plot.

The government’s shift on Padilla has made his trial, which begins with jury selection today, a focal point in the national debate about how terrorism suspects are treated. Pa- dilla’s detention without charges as an “enemy combatant” was about to come under U.S. Supreme Court review when he was indicted in U.S. District Court here on the conspiracy charges in November 2005.

Padilla and two co-defendants, Kifah Wael Jayyousi and Adham Amin Hassoun, are accused of providing money and manpower to extremist groups and may face life in prison if convicted.

See our last post on the Padilla case.