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Lawyer: 'Dirty bomb' suspect's rights violated

Jose Padilla, 31, also goes by the name Abdullah Al Muhajir.
Jose Padilla, 31, also goes by the name Abdullah Al Muhajir.  

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A federal judge will consider a motion Wednesday to release the man suspected of plotting to build and detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey set a hearing for 3:15 p.m. Wednesday to consider the motion filed by Jose Padilla's attorney, Donna Newman. The lawyer told the court Tuesday that the government's decision to transfer Padilla to the custody of the U.S. military was unconstitutional.

The Padilla case should be a "constitutional concern for everybody," the court-appointed attorney said. "He was taken and will now be detained in a military prison." (Full story)

While Mukasey said he would consider Newman's motion, it was unclear what jurisdiction, if any, the court has in the case now that Padilla is in the custody of the U.S. military.

Padilla, 31, a U.S. citizen, is being held at the Consolidated Naval Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, apart from the regular brig population. He has not been charged with a crime. U.S. officials said the plot had not advanced beyond the discussion stage.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has said Padilla, a suspected al Qaeda operative, would be treated as an "enemy combatant" of the United States, a move that means he has fewer legal rights than an ordinary defendant in a criminal case. As an enemy combatant, Padilla can be held indefinitely by the military. (Full story)

U.S. officials said the primary information about Padilla came from Abu Zubaydah, the most senior al Qaeda figure captured by U.S. authorities. (Full story)

 Click here for dirty bomb key points

Newman said that source was troubling.

"A person is being detained on information -- the value of which, the credibility of which and the reliability of which, we don't know," Newman told reporters after a hearing in federal court.

In Bern, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Ashcroft rejected criticism over Padilla's detention and said the United States faces more threats from al Qaeda.

"We do not believe that al Qaeda maintained camps in which thousands and thousands, perhaps 10,000 to 20,000 people were trained, so that they might send 19 or 20 individuals to the United States for one day -- albeit a very tragic day -- of activity," Ashcroft said. "We believe there is a continuing threat. We believe it is a serious threat. We believe it is an international threat." (Full story)

Ashcroft said the apprehension of Padilla, who also goes by the name Abdullah Al Muhajir, "was made possible by the cooperation and help of Swiss authorities."

Bush administration officials said Wednesday the White House has made clear to the Justice Department that it believes the announcement of Padilla's arrest could have been handled better. Ashcroft made the announcement while traveling in Russia. The officials said the White House felt the attorney general should have let deputies in Washington announce the arrest. (Full story)

Passport application raised eyebrows

Padilla was taken into custody May 8 on a material witness warrant at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. He had flown there on a flight from Zurich, Switzerland, after leaving Pakistan.

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In the weeks before, U.S. intelligence tracked Padilla flying between Pakistan, Egypt and Switzerland, officials said.

In addition to the dirty bomb plot, officials said Padilla allegedly discussed a range of attacks with al Qaeda leaders, including blowing up hotels and gas stations in the United States.

A "dirty bomb" is a conventional explosive equipped with radioactive material designed to spread over a wide area. But experts said chaos and fear are more likely to cause casualties than such a device. (Details)

A State Department source said that Padilla applied in February for a new passport at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, saying he had lost the original and needed to replace it.

A new passport was issued in March. The source said officials at the consulate were suspicious, wondering why a man with the name of Padilla was hanging out in Pakistan, and they asked other agencies to check into him.

U.S. officials said Padilla met with senior al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan before heading to Chicago, where he grew up, for a reconnaissance mission.

U.S. officials later said an associate of Padilla's was arrested in Pakistan before May 8. It is unclear whether Ashcroft was referring to this person Monday when he said Padilla worked with someone in Pakistan on plans to build a dirty bomb.

The Justice Department said Padilla served time in jail in the United States in the early 1990s, when he began using the name Abdullah Al Muhajir. (Padilla's background)




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