Speaking of Jose Padilla,
The terrorist you've never heard of | Salon News :
In a Miami courtroom on Monday morning, defense lawyers for Jose Padilla, the American citizen accused of conspiring with al-Qaida, will argue what could be a landmark motion. Padilla's defense attorneys are asking the presiding judge to dismiss the case on the grounds of “outrageous government conduct.” The abuse Padilla has endured while in custody, they contend, has so scarred him that he can no longer even discuss the case against him. They believe he has been rendered incompetent to stand trial.
The logic of the federal government's response to the defense motion was stunningly cold. The U.S. Attorney's office agrees that Padilla needs his competency evaluated. We didn't torture him, argue the representatives of the U.S. government, but if we did, and it made him crazy -- well, then, no claims he makes about said torture can be trusted. He is, after all, mentally incompetent.
Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University who specializes in constitutional criminal procedure, calls this argument “bizarre.”
“It would create a rather perverse incentive,” marvels Turley. “As long as the government can force someone into mental incompetency they cannot face a motion for incompetency in court.”
“It would seem,” concludes Turley, with great understatement, “to invite abuse.”
When then-Attorney General John Ashcroft first announced the detention of Padilla, it was as a suspected dirty bomber. But the indictment eventually handed down against Padilla, after the Bush administration moved him from military jurisdiction to a federal criminal court to avoid the potential of a Supreme Court review of Padilla's detention, mentions nothing about a dirty bomb. Actually, it hardly mentions Padilla at all; most of it focuses on his alleged co-conspirators. The parts of the case that do make specific reference to Padilla, the judge overseeing the case said in an August hearing, seem to be “very light on facts.” That's because most of the evidence the government says it has can't be used in court. According to a November 2005 report in the New York Times, the reason that Padilla was not charged with conspiring to explode a dirty bomb is that the case has been contaminated by the extraordinary, if not extralegal, methods that were employed to develop some of the evidence against him.
The information that drove the FBI to arrest Padilla as he stepped off a flight from Pakistan at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on May 8, 2002, reportedly came from two al-Qaida members now in U.S. custody, Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
Ron Suskind, the author of “The One-Percent Doctrine,” tells Salon that Zubaydah gave up Padilla as an al-Qaida associate as the result of an interrogation process that used psychology, rather than force, to glean information from the captured al-Qaida member.
“Zubaydah was surprised that he had survived the capture when so many of his associates had been killed,” Suskind says. “The interrogator managed to get inside of his head on this point and say that he survived for a reason, because there's a strong strain of pre-deterministic thought in his particular theology, and that was how we were essentially able to get him to talk.”
But once the FBI had handed Zubaydah over to the CIA, these softer interrogation methods -- Suskind calls them “more sophisticated” -- were replaced by a harsher regime. Both Zubaydah and Mohammed were subject to some of the “alternative interrogation methods,” like waterboarding, that have become so notorious during the war on terror. And, the Times report says, the decision to use those methods against Zubaydah is apparently what doomed the “dirty bomber” allegation against Padilla. Prosecutors are reportedly worried that if the two men take the stand, the credibility of their statements would be impeached by allegations of torture. Similarly, according to the Times report, some of the information about a Padilla bomb plot came from Padilla himself, while he was held in Department of Defense custody in a military prison without counsel, and would thus be unusable in court.
Suskind says the ultimate utility of traditional law-enforcement investigative methods in the Padilla case, as opposed to the relative inutility of these new, tougher tactics, is an important lesson.
“It's not a matter of, we do these things and get information or not,” he says. “Long-standing interrogation practices showed that you can get all the information you need using, let's just say, accepted methodology.”
there is another terrorist on trial, except the methods chosen by the government are slightly less harsh, for some reason....
The Bush administration has defended its handling of Jose Padilla and other alleged terrorists in federal custody by arguing that the post-9/11 “war on terror” requires extraordinary methods. But while the Department of Justice has been tying itself in knots trying to justify the government's handling of Padilla, the nearly simultaneous -- and successful -- prosecution of another supposed “dirty bomber” in Tennessee stands as proof that the measures taken in the Padilla case are at best counterproductive. Without fanfare, and without any damage to the Constitution, 41-year-old Demetrius Crocker has been convicted of plotting to explode a bomb and release sarin gas outside a courthouse.
On Nov. 28 -- six days before the Times ran its photos of Padilla -- Demetrius “Van” Crocker was sentenced to 30 years in prison. David Kustoff, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, where Crocker was prosecuted, tells Salon that “It was one of the preeminent anti-terrorism cases of 2006 nationwide.” Whether or not that is true, few outside of the greater Memphis metropolitan area have ever heard of Crocker. Only one reporter, John Branston of the weekly Memphis Flyer, even covered his entire trial. What is certain is that in every particular his case is a study in contrasts with the prosecution of Jose Padilla.
According to court documents, the investigation of Demetrius Crocker began in early 2004, around the time he told a man named Lynn Adams that Timothy McVeigh “[did] things right.” Adams, who had met the Mississippi-born farmhand through a mutual acquaintance, began to hear from Crocker about his plans for mass murder. A resident of rural Carroll County, Tenn., an hour northeast of Memphis, Crocker told Adams he wanted to kill the black population of nearby Jackson, Tenn., with mustard gas and explode a bomb outside a courthouse.
By then, Adams had learned a lot about Crocker's background: his previous membership in the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, his anti-government beliefs, his fascination with Adolf Hitler and idolization of Oklahoma City bomber McVeigh. “Fuck them. Let God sort them out,” Crocker said when Adams asked if he was worried about killing innocent women and children.
Crocker, meanwhile, hadn't learned nearly as much about Adams. He didn't know, for example, that Adams was a former sheriff's deputy and a confidential informant for the Carroll County drug task force. At first, Adams didn't take Crocker seriously, but as their relationship progressed, Adams began believing Crocker was more than just talk.
At that point, the Carroll County Sheriff's Department passed the case on to the FBI. Steve Burroughs, an FBI agent, began working undercover. Posing as an employee at the Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas, where some of the country's remaining chemical weapons are stored to await destruction, Burroughs offered to help Crocker obtain explosive materials. Without Burroughs' prompting, Crocker became more ambitious. He began talking about blowing up a radioactive bomb outside the U.S. Capitol.
There was an element of the fantastic in Crocker's plan; he hoped, he told Burroughs, to obtain the necessary plutonium for the dirty bomb he wanted to explode outside Congress by communicating with mail-order brides from Russia, one of whom would presumably put him in touch with a former KGB agent with access to nuclear material. His lawyers claimed he had an IQ of just 85.
But tapes of the conversations between Crocker and Burroughs reveal that Crocker knew what he was doing. He had made a version of Zyklon B, the gas used in the gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps, and he accurately described its manufacture. He had made nitroglycerin. He had the ingredients for a rudimentary bomb in his home, where he also kept several guns he told Burroughs he would use to kill any government agent sent to capture him.
Oh I see, it's that kind of terrorism. No wonder CNN didn't breathlessly tell us every possible detail and speculation about Crocker. Terrorism is defined as enemies of the Christian Taliban, and not just some dude who wants to commit mass murder. Silly me.
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