This Just In: Jose Padilla Doesn't Eat Cheese

It was a big day yesterday in the terror consipracy and support trial of Jose Padilla. Here's how the Associated Press put it: "Jose Padilla was never overheard using purported code words for violent jihad in intercepted telephone conversations and spoke often about his difficulties learning Arabic while studying in Egypt, the lead FBI agent in the case testified Tuesday."

In a classic exchange that took place Tuesday in federal court in Miami between a government witness and a defense attorney, for perhaps the first time in the history of American law does the phrase "eating cheese" take on enormous significance in a criminal trial.

Here are the details, again from the AP:

In one February 1999 conversation, Padilla tells codefendant Hassoun that he is learning Arabic "better than before" and hopes to be accepted into Cairo's prestigious Al-Azhar University to continue his studies.

"It's gonna be hard work,' Padilla says. "The Arabic language ... hard, very hard."

Later that year, Padilla tells Hassoun about his recent marriage to an Egyptian girl and what his priorities are for the future.

"First, I have to get settled with my marriage. Then I'm going to continue with my studies and after that ... whatever Allah the Almighty has open for us," Padilla says.

Defense attorney, Michael Caruso, asked [FBI Agent James T.] Kavanaugh whether Padilla ever was heard using what prosecutors say were code words for violent jihad, such as "picnic," "smelling fresh air" or "eating cheese."

"No, he does not," Kavanaugh replied.

Will the government's concession that Padilla didn't exactly talk the talk of terrorists be enough to generate reasonable doubt among his jurors? Probably not. Jurors already have been shown an Al Qaeda training camp "application form" that prosecutors say Padilla filled out after the terror attacks on America and it strikes me that the panel will place more weight on the value of that document than anything else they see or hear during the trial. So is the form itself enough to convict Padilla?

That's the central mystery of the trial right now; that and whether the efforts by Padilla's attorneys to "humanize" him for jurors gains any sort of traction. The goverment wants jurors to believe that Padilla was this shrewd, calculating, eager terror trainee. Padilla's lawyers are trying to convince the panel -- and they have a good argument, if you ask me -- that their guy was a dumb thug who wasn't remotely smart enough to travel along Osama bin Laden's path. I mean, if you want to be an Islamic terrorist, you can't really complain about how hard it is to learn the language, right?

By Andrew Cohen |  June 19, 2007; 10:53 PM ET
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"Eating cheese"?!? Proof that he must be French, not Hispanic! Plenty enough evidence under the Gonzales "justice" system to imprison him for life...

Posted by: Bukko in Australia | June 20, 2007 10:18 AM

Bukko must not be familiar with cotija, asadero, chihuahua etc.. cheeses. Not bad, fresh and soft, although often too heavily salted. There is a crumbly one I don't like as much.

Posted by: | June 20, 2007 12:38 PM

"Eating cheese" as a code word for jihad (the experts tell us this is such a central tenet of Islam)? What planet are these prosecutors from? Have they ever been outside North America, or if so, outside their tour group?

Or maybe they studied "political science" in the US, giving them expert knowledge of the rest of the world, without understanding the cultures (no, just making the sounds of the language and copying the movements don't qualify).

Posted by: Eugene | June 20, 2007 12:45 PM

Nice to know that the the security services have something to keep them busy: monitoring international traffic for signs of cheese eating. Bet they needed a lot of National Security Letters for Wisconsin.

A tip to the spooks: when in Portugal recenly the feriegn devils served a little plate of cheese With Every Meal! Go get 'em.

Posted by: wrb | June 20, 2007 01:14 PM

Crucial that I clarify:

Cotija may be the crumbly one; anejo is another good one.

Posted by: | June 20, 2007 01:30 PM

Now setting THE MISSION for Portugal. Will STAY THE COURSE (secret rendition sites already set up, with faithful collaboration of our dear friends in Poland and Romania). Will televise when MISSION IS ACCOMPLISHED. August could be...bloody.

Posted by: Mick | June 20, 2007 01:47 PM

Code Words used by terrorists: "HUMMINGBIRD" by SS for 1934 putsch / "NAHER el BARD" (cool river) by ARAFAT in1972 to his PLO in KHARTUM embassy to murder hostage USA ambassadors -- should not be brushed off / semantisized

Posted by: moshe brodetzky | June 20, 2007 02:32 PM

Another terrorist code phrase: "Where is the restroom?"

Posted by: | June 20, 2007 03:26 PM

Another terrorist code phrase: "Where is the restroom?"

Posted by: | June 20, 2007 03:26 PM

Moshe:

ACCORDING TO YOU, these were code words for two events in the last 70 years. Maybe, maybe not. Don't know the context how these words were used, or were found out. So according to you, any word is a possible code for a terrorist plot. I'd say "eating cheese" sounds a quite far-fetched connection.
Normal reason and common sense isn't "semanticizing", whatever that means in reality.

I am just skeptical of your eagerness to act as if any word could have some terrorist symbolism, as if it is the most normal thing in the world, and your justification for that is to generalize from alleged phrases in two totally unrelated plots (Nazis and the PLO) separated by almost 40 years, to say "Code words used by terrorists" (as if to say "this is what SUCH PEOPLE do, even though two totally unrelated events).

I hope you aren't generalizing that because code words (so you say)were found in two plots (over 40 years, whatever other myriad events occurred in that span of time)interesting to Israel, that therefore any word has innate UNIVERSAL significance to be a possible "terrorist" code word at any time. That would be idiotic.

Posted by: John U | June 20, 2007 05:41 PM

Moshe:

ACCORDING TO YOU, these were code words for two events in the last 70 years. Maybe, maybe not. Don't know the context how these words were used, or were found out. So according to you, any word is a possible code for a terrorist plot. I'd say "eating cheese" sounds a quite far-fetched connection.
Normal reason and common sense isn't "semanticizing", whatever that means in reality.

I am just skeptical of your eagerness to act as if any word could have some terrorist symbolism, as if it is the most normal thing in the world, and your justification for that is to generalize from alleged phrases in two totally unrelated plots (Nazis and the PLO) separated by almost 40 years, to say "Code words used by terrorists" (as if to say "this is what SUCH PEOPLE do, even though two totally unrelated events).

I hope you aren't generalizing that because code words (so you say)were found in two plots (over 40 years, whatever other myriad events occurred in that span of time)interesting to Israel, that therefore any word has innate UNIVERSAL significance to be a possible "terrorist" code word at any time. That would be idiotic.

Posted by: John U | June 20, 2007 05:41 PM

Blank commenter: Thanks for the tutorial on Mexican cheese. I only knew queso fresca when I lived in the U.S. I was scared of eating Mexican cheese because there were too many reports of listeria outbreaks from stuff produced in unsanitary conditions in unlicenced operations around Los Angeles.

Now I'm going to make myself a nice toastie with moutarde aux herbes and tomme d'Auvergne. This is obviously code for something horrible. I am timing this to see how long it takes the NSA to alert the ASIO (Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation) to give me a knock on the door...

Posted by: Bukko in Australia | June 20, 2007 07:00 PM

The Drastic decline From the Democrarcy of our Great 60's to the current Dictatorship in DC, is really really SAD.

Specially with the kidnapping, arrest, torture, & murder of Muslims world wide & within US, as Mr.Bush & the so called United-Nations at Gun-point wants to Stop ISLAM, which is being every second accepted, by all the Folks in US of A & also world-wide.

Even worse Violation of our Constitution(& our Bill of Rights), is being done every second by our Corporate-Media, who are supporting this Dictatorship of Mr.Bush against MUSLIMS....Mr.Cronkite must be crying at the Media(in-BED with the Dictator)....Only GOD can save the USA now, & HE will INSHALLAH....

Posted by: Arshad Ali Khan, Rolla, Missouri | June 21, 2007 05:09 AM

Arshad, there are many, many serious problems, but what is this kidnapping and torture of Muslims within the U.S.? I don't know anything about this.
You talk as if the crimes are wrong because you claim they are about "stopping Islam" at a time "when it is being accepted worldwide" (as if the problem is stopping some new spread of Islam; my impression is that it had long been widely accepted,until unrepresentative distortions did some of what they did) , not that they are unacceptable because they are crimes, period.

I don't see the US invading Morocco, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Indonesia etc.., all of which are predominantly Muslim countries, so your presumption of the motives that this is directed "against Islam" doesn't seem to hold much.
Your repetition that G. Bush is a dictatorship (and there ARE many many unacceptable problems) "against Muslims", and myopic self-important (and I'm sorry, sort of whining)preoccupation with only Muslims, and the inflated rhetoric hurt the credibility of a position for which there is ample substantial support.

Haven't paid attention all the time, but it sometimes seems as if non-Arabs outside the Mideast are more bothered by violations by the occupation forces than the Arabs and Iraqis are; they only protest when it happens to their own group or faction. I wonder if that is part of why violations continue, that Iraqis do the same thing or worse, so occupation figures it is acceptable in a way (when in Rome..), rather than outrage by Arabs that outside forces professing idealism and supposing better principles than the natives' would engage in some of the incidents that have occurred, or that have been given a token slap on the wrist.

Posted by: Ahmed Khwaja | June 21, 2007 11:23 AM

i have read some of the information about the trial but so far not one word about vits to jose by his mother.can you imagine a mother deserting her son when he is in trouble? can anyone answer this?

Posted by: coe best | July 1, 2007 10:08 PM

i have read some of the information about the trial but so far not one word about vits to jose by his mother.can you imagine a mother deserting her son when he is in trouble? can anyone answer this?

Posted by: coe best | July 1, 2007 10:08 PM

i have read some of the information about the trial but so far not one word about vits to jose by his mother.can you imagine a mother deserting her son when he is in trouble? can anyone answer this?

Posted by: coe best | July 1, 2007 10:08 PM

i have read some of the information about the trial but so far not one word about vits to jose by his mother.can you imagine a mother deserting her son when he is in trouble? can anyone answer this?

Posted by: coe best | July 1, 2007 10:08 PM

i have read some of the information about the trial but so far not one word about vits to jose by his mother.can you imagine a mother deserting her son when he is in trouble? can anyone answer this?

Posted by: coe best | July 1, 2007 10:08 PM

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