Lawyer: Dirty bomb suspect's rights violated
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Decrying the government's decision to transfer her client to the custody of the U.S. military, an attorney for Jose Padilla, the suspect in an alleged radioactive "dirty bomb" plot, urged a federal court Tuesday to release him.
"The last time I looked at the Constitution, he still had constitutional rights," court-appointed attorney Donna Newman told CNN.
The Padilla case should be a "constitutional concern for everybody," Newman said. "He was taken and will now be detained in a military prison." (Full story)
While U.S. District Court Judge Michael 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.
Mukasey set a hearing for 3:15 p.m. Wednesday to consider Newman's motion.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said earlier Tuesday that Padilla -- who also goes by the name of Abdullah Al Muhajir -- may never face trial.
"Our interest is not in trying him and punishing him," Rumsfeld said. "Our interest is in finding out what he knows."
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Padilla 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)
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.
But Rumsfeld, speaking during a stopover in Qatar on his way to India, said Padilla "was unquestionably involved in terrorist activities."
President Bush branded Padilla a "bad guy" on Tuesday, saying he was one of many "would-be killers" in custody as part of the war against terrorism.
"This guy, Padilla, is a bad guy," Bush said as he met with lawmakers at the White House to discuss his proposal for a Department of Homeland Security. "And he is where he needs to be -- detained." (Full story)
Padilla is being held at the Consolidated Naval Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, apart from the regular brig population.
Officials said the plot had not advanced beyond the discussion stage, and he has not been charged with any crime.
"It certainly wasn't at the point of having a specific target," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said. "He had indicated some knowledge of the Washington, D.C., area, but I want to emphasize again there was not an actual plan. We stopped this man in the initial planning stages."
A "dirty bomb" is a conventional explosive equipped with radioactive material designed to spread over a wide area. But experts say chaos and fear are more likely to cause casualties than such a device. (Details)
Besides the alleged dirty bomb plot, officials said Padilla discussed a range of attacks with al Qaeda leaders, including blowing up hotels and gas stations in the United States.
Suspect could be held indefinitely
Since Padilla has been classified an "enemy combatant," he may be detained indefinitely without being charged, as long as the war against terrorism continues, a constitutional law expert told CNN.
Northwestern Law School professor John McGinnis said U.S. officials need only to present evidence that Padilla at least planned to harm U.S. interests. (Full story)
Federal officials said Monday that Padilla, 31, was captured May 8 as he flew from Pakistan into O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois.
In the weeks before, U.S. intelligence tracked Padilla flying between Pakistan, Egypt and Switzerland, U.S. officials said.
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 say Padilla met with senior al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan before heading to Chicago, where he grew up, for a "reconnaissance" mission.
Officials said that when Padilla arrived in Chicago, he declared having $8,000 but was found to have more than $10,000 in his possession.
U.S. officials later said an associate of Padilla was arrested in Pakistan before May 8. It is unclear whether Ashcroft was referring to this person when he said Padilla worked with someone in Pakistan on plans to build a dirty bomb. (Transcript)
Suspect declared 'enemy combatant'
Bush signed off Sunday night on the decision to treat Padilla as an enemy combatant, senior U.S. officials said, adding that the government faced a Tuesday deadline to decide whether to charge Padilla in the federal court system or turn him over to the Defense Department.
Bush accepted the recommendations of Ashcroft and Rumsfeld, the officials said, and the transfer from Justice Department to Defense Department custody was made Monday morning.
Padilla's mother, Estella Ojeda-Lebron, has little knowledge of the case, her court-appointed attorney, Victor Olds, said Tuesday. She only discovered her son had been designated an enemy combatant on the news, he said.
"We don't know the basis on which they're taking these actions. It's a little unusual to say the least," Olds said. "We don't know a lot about what the government is basing their actions on."
Olds was appointed to represent Ojeda-Lebron because she received a subpoena from a federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York while her son was originally being held on a material witness warrant. Olds said she testified before the grand jury about two weeks ago.
Ashcroft: Suspect 'trained with the enemy'
The Justice Department said Padilla served time in prison in the United States in the early 1990s, when he took on his new name. (Padilla's background)
After his release, he traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan and met with senior al Qaeda officials, Ashcroft said.
"While in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Al Muhajir trained with the enemy, including studying how to wire explosive devices and researching radiological dispersion devices," Ashcroft said.
"Al Qaeda officials knew that as a citizen of the United States, as a citizen of the United States holding a valid U.S. passport, Al Muhajir would be able to travel freely in the United States without drawing attention to himself," the attorney general said.
---- CNN correspondents Kelli Arena, David Ensor, Jeff Flock, John King, Sheila MacVicar, Mark Potter and Barbara Starr, producer Phil Hirschkorn and CNN terrorism consultant Peter Bergen contributed to this report.
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