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Attorney: U.S. won't give Padilla forum to defend himself

Newman: "Justice will be done when the system is used properly, not when it has been evaded and avoided."
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Deputy Attorney General James Comey details Jose Padilla's alleged training by and contact with al Qaeda. (June 1)
Jose Padilla
Justice Department
Supreme Court
United States

(CNN) -- On Tuesday the Justice Department detailed its allegations against accused "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen who for the past two years has been held without charges as an enemy combatant. CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer spoke with Padilla's attorney, Donna Newman, following the Justice Department news conference.

WOLF BLITZER: Let's get Jose Padilla's perspective though from his attorney. Donna Newman is joining us on the phone right now. Donna Newman has been listening to this case being made right now by (Deputy Attorney General) James Comey.

Donna Newman, you have now met with Jose Padilla. First question, has he told U.S. interrogators all of these things that James Comey is now alleging?

DONNA NEWMAN: I would not know that, we have not been allowed to ask him numerous questions, including the question such information with respect to what he told his interrogators. So while I'm his attorney, now that the world has allegedly heard what Mr. Padilla has said, his attorney is first learning it also.

This is just another example of the strategy that the administration is using. Mr. Comey's statement sounds very much like, and very accustomed to, hearing as an opening statement. But rather than proceed with a trial, we -- everything, everything, including Mr. Padilla's version of the events would be heard at a public trial -- the government has taken the cause of secrecy and determined what and when they will release information without, without giving Mr. Padilla an opportunity to be heard.

And let me say this, that in the information that they have given to Congress, which I just received maybe an hour ago, states very specifically that -- in a footnote, that Mr. Padilla has in fact denied many of the things that are contained in this alleged summary and what Mr. Comey is saying. So even then again they have to say, like they said before, that what they are saying is not exactly accurate.

BLITZER: All right.

NEWMAN: How do we get accuracy? Trial.

BLITZER: Donna Newman, hold on one second, Donna. If you can bear with us, I want to go back and listen to some new information, additional information, Mr. Comey is making. Then we'll bring you back.

(Comey sound bite)

BLITZER: James Comey, the deputy attorney general of the United States, continuing to outline the case against Jose Padilla. James Comey making reference to the lawyer, the public defender, that was named to represent Jose Padilla, Donna Newman, is that attorney. She is joining us again from New Jersey.

It sounds like a very, very damning case against Jose Padilla, Donna Newman, specifically his confession which seems to be, at least if you believe what the deputy attorney general has to say, rather detailed?

NEWMAN: Yes, but in that we must recognize what you're saying. It is a confession. So what they are saying is that they obtained this information through Mr. Padilla based on other sources. Why wouldn't this be admissible at trial?

In addition, they said this has been all -- they didn't release it because of national security. But the information they received, based on what I know about national security, is not -- has not -- they have not proven their case. The information, therefore, was readily -- is available at trial.

BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt for a second, Donna Newman, let me interrupt for a second and ask, as an enemy combatant, does he have any rights, for example, Miranda rights, does the government have to tell him that anything he says will and can be used against him? Can and will be used against him? Do you know if he was given any of those kinds of Miranda warnings in advance of his confession?

NEWMAN: Well, two things. A, you're buying into the government's logic that he's an enemy combatant. Based on their logic, which I do not agree with, an enemy combatant would not receive Miranda rights because they're not going to be tried. They have said over and over again they will not try Mr. Padilla. They will not charge him. They want to hold him forever.

At a trial, for example, Mr. Padilla, of course, can deny everything that's being said here. We could prove, for example, that what they are saying is not accurate. In fact, as I mentioned, in their summary to Congress, they do mention that Mr. Padilla has denied much of what they are saying. So what we have said from day one, bring on the trial. All we have ever said, if you have the evidence, tell us and we will go to trial. Indict him.

BLITZER: Some of these questions are now before the U.S. Supreme Court, as you well know, Donna Newman. What is your suspicion why this information is being made public today?

NEWMAN: I don't speculate on government's motives. I leave that to the press to do. But one only has to look at the history in this case to understand that whenever the government has felt pressure, that what they are doing in their strategy in terrorism, they come forth to help themselves.

For example, they would not let me see Mr. Padilla or my co-counsel ... see Mr. Padilla. And then when they had to file their Supreme Court brief, all of a sudden they said, for some strange reason national security is not a problem and you can see him.

So every step of the way, the history of this case demonstrates when the government has been pushed against the wall they come forth with something. This, however, while they say it is very damning, it sounds so much like an opening statement that it's really surprising that Mr. Comey has said it in this way.

BLITZER: If presumably during the interrogation of Jose Padilla, the U.S. government, the interrogators used videotape to document what he was saying, that would be pretty incriminating, wouldn't it?

NEWMAN: Well, admissions are always incriminating. We always prefer videotapes actually because they show the defendant's state of mind and whether there has been coercion or not. So generally when there's a videotape, it's helpful to the defense.

But we all know that admissions, in fact, lately we have found from prisoners, it has been all over the news, that their admissions have been under coercion. I'm not saying that's here. I don't know. And that's the problem in this case. The counsel has been kept in the dark, the counsel has not been told of the facts, the counsel has not been allowed to really have full access to the client, and that the system is being tried to be turned up on his head.

If Mr. Padilla is as dangerous as they say, why not simply have a trial and then the -- with a verdict and certainly the sentence which can be quite severe, such as life, and that's what he would be facing, if he were tried and he was convicted, he would not be a danger.

BLITZER: All right.

NEWMAN: So our system works. And they have to have confidence in it. I have confidence in it. I have seen it work. I believe in it. And I think -- people have told me that that makes me more patriotic. I believe that that makes us all patriotic because we believe that in the end justice will be done when the system is used properly, not when it has been evaded and avoided.

BLITZER: Donna Newman is the public defender, the lawyer, representing Jose Padilla. Important, new information emerging from the Justice Department. You saw it here, the deputy attorney general, James Comey, making the case against Jose Padilla.

Donna Newman, thanks very much for joining us.

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