Jose Can You See?

Remember Jose Padilla, the American street punk who John Ashcroft later called a "dirty bomb" terrorist for Al Qaeda? Remember how the Attorney General beamed the news of Padilla's radiological bomb plot back to us via satellite from Russia, as if it were the most vital victory ever in the war on terrorism? Remember how Padilla was locked up for years as an "enemy combatant" without proper access to an attorney or the ability to communicate with anyone in the outside world? Remember how long it was that he was held, without charges, as the executive branch and the judicial branch squared off over his status? Remember how the feds finally caved to legal pressure and released Padilla from military custody on the eve of a Supreme Court hearing into the matter? And remember how they neatly placed him in an existing terror-support case in Florida, one that had absolutely nothing at all to do with dirty bombs?

Well, yesterday, the federal judge overseeing that Florida trial called the case against Padilla and his co-defendants "light on facts" and demanded that federal prosecutors provide more information to her and the defense attorneys. According to today's Miami Herald, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke "ordered the government to flesh out its charges by providing defense lawyers with names of unindicted co-conspirators, broad descriptions of intended victims of alleged acts of violence and specifics about false statements Hassoun allegedly made about the meaning of phone calls intercepted by the government." Hassoun is one of Padilla's co-defendants. They all are charged with providing money and other support to Al Qaeda and other terror organizations.

The ruling doesn't mean that Padilla ultimately will prevail and gain an acquittal. It doesn't even really mean that prosecutors are going to turn over much more new information until trial. The feds say that defense counsel and the judge "misunderstand" the charges against the men and that there is more than enough detail in the indictment to satisfy whatever concerns the judge may have. But "light on facts" is a trend we have seen through several of these "material support" cases-- not to mention the 9/11 conspiracy trial of Zacarias Moussaoui-- and Judge Cooke deserves praise for putting the government through its paces and not just rolling over for prosecutors the way so many judges did in the immediate wake of the terror attacks on New York and Washington.

There is no doubt that Padilla is a bad guy. But we've given worse guys better justice than the once-upon-a-time "dirty bomber" has received since he was arrested back in 2002.

By Andrew Cohen |  June 21, 2006; 9:00 AM ET
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Posted by: insurance auto | June 21, 2006 10:53 AM

The Judicial Branch just might save this country from possibly the worst combination of Executive and Legislative branches in American History.

Posted by: MC | June 21, 2006 10:19 PM

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