Guilty as Charged
By Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | 8/17/2007
“We will probably never know if [José] Padilla was a would-be terrorist,” declared the New York Times in a March editorial. Five months on, the Times might consider issuing a retraction. In a ruling that powerfully bolsters the Bush administration’s muscular prosecution of the war on terror, Padilla was yesterday convicted on terrorism-conspiracy charges in a Miami criminal trial.
First let's review the background. A Brooklyn-born American of Puerto Rican origin, Padilla had a troubling rap sheet long before he came to the attention of federal authorities. After moving to Chicago as a boy, he joined a Puerto Rican street-gang called the Maniac Latin Disciples. Less law abiding than their name may indicate, the gang led Padilla into trouble. Before the age of 18, he was arrested and convicted of murder. It would get worse.
Sent to prison in Florida, Padilla became a convert to Islam, later adopting the name Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir. Upon his release, the violent felon found a receptive audience for his fervor among a group of Islamic radicals, who encouraged him to travel to the Middle East. Abroad Padilla came into contact with senior al-Qaeda leaders, receiving instructions to travel to training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When he returned to the United States in 2002, Padilla was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on suspicion of planning to detonate a radiological “dirty bomb,” inspiring the name by which he has been known ever since: the dirty bomber. His subsequent detention, initially as an enemy combatant in military custody and then as civilian, has triggered a contentious debate on the merits of the Bush administration’s detention policies and the conduct of the war on terror more broadly.
Yesterday’s guilty verdict by no means settles the debate. But it decisively lays to rest one of the more aggressive myths of the Bush administration’s foes: that Padilla was the blameless victim of a “lawless” U.S. government. Specifically, Padilla has now been convicted of taking part in a conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim people in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, among other countries, in the years between 1993 to 2001. In essence, the jury found that Padilla, along with his co-defendants Adham Hassoun and Kifan, had actively worked to support terrorist jihad overseas. Guilty on all counts, Padilla now faces a sentence of life imprisonment. It turns out that, contrary to the assurances of the New York Times, he was a “would-be terrorist” after all.
The trial’s outcome was hardly a foregone conclusion. Repeatedly, defense attorneys for Padilla sought to turn the legal proceedings in Miami into a political trial of the U.S. government. Early on, they claimed that Padilla was “tortured” following his arrest in May of 2002, making him mentally incompetent to stand trial. Allegedly, Padilla’s treatment at the hands of U.S. authorities had been so brutal as to turn him insane.
However dubious, the charge of “torture” found resonance among the more ideologically inflexible civil-liberties groups, where the notion that the U.S. government brutally mistreats detainees enjoys the status of faith. Media outlets did their part to popularize the claim. Britain’s Guardian, in the course of alleging “routine and systematic torture” by the United States, ventured that Padilla “appears to have been lobotomized: not medically, but socially.” If this did not exactly clarify matters, that was irrelevant. The upshot was that Padilla was innocent, the Bush administration guilty.
More skeptical was U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke. After hearing from a psychiatrist, she found Padilla fully fit for trial. Judge Cooke did not rule on the allegations of torture, but it is doubtful that these would have withstood investigation. It is true that Padilla was subjected to coercive interrogation, including isolation, hooding (literally, being covered with a hood), sleep deprivation, and being placed in stressful positions. But such techniques hardly qualify as torture and few without lifetime membership in the ACLU would consider them beyond the pale.
Having failed to derail the trial, the defense changed tack. Padilla, they now argued, was not a “member of any support cell because there wasn't one.” Far from a terrorist operative, they insisted, he was a pious seeker of truth who had traveled to the Middle East at the prompting of his Islamic faith. In closing arguments, Padilla’s attorney made a point of claiming that his client had “an intent to study, not an intent to murder.”
Publicado: 08-17-2007 07:53 AM
The jury was unconvinced, and with good reason. For telephone wiretaps introduced in the trial painted a very different -- and far darker -- portrait of Padilla’s activities during the 1990s. For instance, an April 2000 conversation has Padilla referring to Yemen --- then as now the home of top al-Qaeda leaders, including contacts of Osama bin Laden -- where he wanted to travel and to which end he was seeking a “recommendation to connect with the good brothers, with the right faith.” Which “brothers” might these have been? An answer is suggested in a July 2000 conversation between Adham Hassoun and another recruit, Mohamed Hesham Youssef, which features the latter revealing that Padilla “is supposed to be at Osama’s” and that Padilla had “entered into the area of Osama.”
Defense attorneys, to be sure, tried to assure the jury that the Osama in question was not the al-Qaeda chieftain. If they didn’t succeed it may be because the prosecution corroborated the telephone intercepts with a mujahedeen membership form bearing Padilla’s fingerprints that he allegedly filled out in 2000 while attending an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. In their indictment, prosecutors charged that Padilla had been “recruited by the North American support cell to participate in violent jihad and traveled overseas for that purpose.” Going by yesterday’s ruling, the jury agreed.
Toxic though it is in certain political quarters, the ruling vindicates the wisdom of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism strategy. Since his 2002 arrest, the administration maintained that Padilla had ties to terrorism that required his continued detention. In that judgment it has been amply confirmed.
But don’t expect the administration to get any credit for its steadfast support, in the teeth of often reckless opposition, of wiretapping terrorist suspects. Nor will it win plaudits for its detention policies. Never mind that if Padilla had been released, as many demanded, he would have never been brought to justice.
Instead, we are likely to hear much teeth-gnashing about the fact that Padilla was not convicted of the original charge for which he was arrested: plotting an attack with a dirty bomb. As a technical matter, that’s true. It is also deeply misleading. The administration has argued, plausibly, that in order to bring charges against Padilla on those grounds it would have had to release sensitive intelligence information, thereby compromising the broader counterterrorism effort. Seen in that light, the reluctance to try Padilla on the bigger charge seems eminently defensible.
That’s not to say that there was no evidence connecting Padilla to the plot. On the contrary, Abu Zubaydah, a close confidante of bin Laden, has previously told American interrogators that in 2001 Padilla had approached him and other al-Qaeda leaders with a crude plan to explode a nuclear bomb in the U.S. Not for nothing is Padilla known as the “dirty bomber.”
Equally unconvincing is the complaint of hypocrisy. According to this logic, the fact that the administration initially classified Padilla as an enemy combatant before consenting to a civilian trial is evidence of its tyrannical contempt for civil liberties. But as Benjamin Wittes, a fellow at the center-Left Brookings Institution and a critic of the Bush administration, has noted, designating Padilla as an enemy combatant was not so much an attempt to “aggrandize executive power but to prevent his release and to create a detention status under which agents could interrogate him and find out what he knew.” In the context of a broader war against Islamic terror, that decision, too, seems perfectly justified.
In his book Against All Enemies, Clinton counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke spoke for many on the Left when he blusteringly proclaimed that the case of José Padilla shook the “confidence of many Americans in the government’s ability to safeguard our rights.” In truth, the public has always been more comfortable with the Bush administration’s assertive approach than partisans like Clarke can allow themselves to admit. The Padilla verdict is unlikely to win any converts to Clarke‘s view.
Publicado: 08-17-2007 07:54 AM
L D (EFE) El presidente George W. Bush declaró en 2002 a José Padilla "enemigo combatiente" de EEUU y permaneció tres años y siete meses detenido en una base militar en Carolina del Sur sin que se le presentaran cargos por la presunta conspiración para detonar una "bomba sucia" radiactiva en una ciudad de Estados Unidos.
"Es una importante victoria para nuestros esfuerzos en la lucha contra la amenaza que representan los terroristas y quienes los apoyan", dijo Alberto Gonzales, Fiscal General de Estados Unidos. "Como este juicio demostró, vamos a utilizar nuestra autoridad como fiscales para desmantelar las redes terroristas y a quienes las apoyan dentre del país y en el extranjero", agregó.
Ex pandillero convertido al islám
El ex pandillero convertido al islám fue hallado culpable de integrar una célula de apoyo a grupos extremistas creada para enviar dinero, suministros y reclutar a "Muyahidínes" (combatientes islámicos), que operaba en varias ciudades de Canadá y Estados Unidos.
El jurado también determinó que Padilla viajó al extranjero para recibir entrenamiento y luchar en una guerra santa, que incluía secuestrar, mutilar y asesinar a personas, entre octubre de 1993 y noviembre de 2001. El 24 de julio de 2000 Padilla presentó una solicitud de "Muyahidín" para entrenar en un campo de Afganistán, según la Fiscalía Federal del distrito sur de Florida.
Dos culpables más
Los otros dos acusados, el libanés Adham Amin Hassoun y Kifah Wael Jayyousi, de origen jordano y naturalizado estadounidense, fueron declarados culpables por los mismos cargos. En las acusaciones que afrontó Padilla no se incluyó la relacionada con la "bomba sucia".
Las cinco mujeres y siete hombres que integraron el jurado emitieron el veredicto tras casi dos días de deliberaciones y un juicio de más de tres meses. La jueza Marcia Cooke encargada del caso tiene previsto dictar sentencia el próximo 5 de diciembre.
Estrella Lebrón, madre de Padilla, dijo que esperaba que los abogados apelaran el veredicto y negó que su hijo se hubiera involucrado en actividades terroristas. "Mi hijo nunca le hizo daño a nadie y Bush sabe eso. El no ha hecho nada en este país, pregunten a Bush, él mismo lo vio. Esto es un triunfo para él", declaró al salir del tribunal.
Los fiscales federales presentaron algunas de las 300.000 grabaciones de conversaciones telefónicas interceptadas a los acusados y aseguraron que utilizaban códigos para hablar sobre sus actividades. La voz de Padilla se escuchó en siete de esas grabaciones.
Al ser preguntada por qué Padilla viajó al extranjero, Lebrón ratificó que su hijo deseaba aprender el idioma árabe. "Es un musulmán, él puede tener la religión que quiera. ¿Cuál ese el problema? El es un ciudadano estadounidense y debe ser tratado como tal", enfatizó.
Michael Caruso, abogado de Padilla, argumentó durante el juicio que su cliente nunca perteneció a ningún grupo terrorista y que viajó a Egipto para estudiar el islám y aprender el idioma árabe. Los tres acusados afrontarían cadena perpetua por conspiración y quince años de cárcel por las demás dos acusaciones.
Bomba sucia radioactiva
Padilla fue arrestado en el aeropuerto de Chicago el 8 de mayo de 2002 como sospechoso de conspirar para detonar una "bomba sucia" radiactiva.
El Departamento de Justicia lo mantuvo detenido como "testigo material", pero en junio de ese mismo año fue considerado un "combatiente enemigo" por una orden ejecutiva de Bush, y se le transfirió a una base naval en Charleston, Carolina del Sur.
A Bush le llovieron críticas por la situación de Padilla, pero su administración sostuvo que tenía derecho a detener sin cargos y sin realizar un juicio como "combatientes enemigos" a individuos, incluyendo a estadounidenses, en el contexto de la guerra contra el terrorismo.
Publicado: 08-17-2007 02:31 PM
Cuban "diplomats" and Puerto Rican Terrorists
Source: The Miami Herald
Published: November 2, 1999 Author: Juan O. Tamayo
Cuban linked to terrorists may get diplomatic visa
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
WASHINGTON -- A Cuban diplomat linked to Puerto Rican terrorists will receive a U.S. visa to work in Washington once Cuba agrees to let in two State Department officials assigned to Havana, U.S. officials say. The FBI initially filed a formal veto to Fernando Garcia Bielsa's assignment to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, but later reviewed its decision and withdrew the objection, the officials added. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-NC, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has called Garcia Bielsa ''a notorious Cuban intelligence operative'' and hinted at Clinton administration pressures on the FBI to reverse itself.
The State Department ''now has no legitimate reason to deny [Garcia Bielsa] a visa, but they're waiting for reciprocity for the people waiting to go to Havana,'' said one congressional source knowledgeable about the controversy.
The State Department and the Cuban Foreign Ministry maintain there's no official link between the Garcia Bielsa case and the delays on Cuban visas requested by two State Department officials assigned to Havana.
U.S. officials said the FBI has intelligence reports showing Garcia Bielsa met often in Cuba in the 1970s with two radical Puerto Rican pro-independence groups, the Macheteros and Armed Forces of National Liberation, known as FALN. A wave of FALN and Machetero terror bombings around the United States in the early 1970s killed six people and wounded more than 60. Police suspect the Macheteros of four bombings that injured one person in Puerto Rico last year.
Garcia Bielsa was a top official of the Americas Department of the Cuban Communist Party in the 1970s, then tasked by President Fidel Castro with training and arming leftist guerrilla groups around Latin America.
The FBI based its objection of Garcia Bielsa on his 1970s meetings with the Puerto Rican radicals. Under U.S. procedures the veto would have forced the State Department to deny him a visa.
Queried by the State Department, the FBI later reviewed its evidence and procedures and decided that meetings alone were not enough to deny the Cuban a visa, congressional officials said.
FBI spokesmen declined to explain either decision. The Cuban Interests Section in Washington said only that Garcia Bielsa is still awaiting a State Department reply to his visa request.
LETTER TO ALBRIGHT
Helms, in an angry letter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Sept. 21, hinted that Garcia Bielsa had done far more than meet with the Puerto Rican radicals but offered no details. A conservative Washington magazine, Insight, three days later quoted a U.S. intelligence official as saying that Garcia Bielsa ''personally oversaw the funding and direction of the Macheteros.
Cuba has long been on the State Department's list of nations linked to international terrorism, along with others such as Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria and North Korea.
The 1998 list notes that while there was ''no evidence'' Cuba sponsored any attacks in the previous year, ''it continues to provide sanctuary to terrorists from several different . . . organizations.''
Among the some 90 U.S. fugitives alleged to be living in Cuba are several Machetero and FALN members and former Black Panther member Joanne Chesimard. Washington and Havana have no extradition agreement.
Note: The Puerto Rican terrorists involved in those crimes were pardoned by Clinto/Hillary to pander to the Puerto Rican vote in New York at the prodding of Castro’s long time apologist, Congressman Jose Serrano.
For more information please open www.cubanet.org/Cnews/y99/sep99/27e9.htmA Visa for Castro’s Terrorism Chief in Washington? By J. Michael Waller, Insight on the News Online, Sep 24/99
Publicado: 08-18-2007 05:48 PM