Civil Liberties

We Think 'Ride the Gwazi Lion' Is Code for Terrorist Training

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In its case against dirty bomber cum building saboteur cum Al Qaeda sympathizer Jose Padilla, which is scheduled for trial later this month, the Justice Department has to persuade jurors to interpret apparently banal telephone conversations in the most sinister possible light, as evidence of a conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism. I have to admit Padilla's discussion of a possible trip to Busch Gardens gives me the chills, but not because of the implications for the worldwide struggle between radical Islam and Western civilization. (To be fair, I've only been to the one in Williamsburg, which has a European theme; the one in Tampa, which Padilla was thinking about visiting, offers "an array of fascinating attractions based on exotic encounters with the African continent.") Some of the other wiretapped exchanges do seem pretty fishy, although what exactly they signify is hard to say. The government needn't be too worried about proving its case, though: Padilla, who has gone from "material witness" to "enemy combatant" to criminal defendant during the last few years, can always be sent back to the brig if any reasonable doubts materialize during his trial.

NEXT: Have a Nice Day...Whitey!

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  1. Given his treatment over the past few years almost guarantee an aquittal in a criminal court? Why are they doing this? what am I missing?

  2. If they drop the charges, they will have to admit they were wrong and that they held an innocent American citizen for years without due process. But they can’t introduce evidence they discovered through coercion/torture, or their tactics will be subject to judicial scrutiny. That’s my take, anyway.

  3. The telephone conversation was recorded in 1997, long before Padilla was an alleged dirty bomber or an “Al Qaeda sympathizer” or an “enemy combatant”.

    So this guy was basically a nobody, low-wage Puerto-Rican worker in Florida, who decided to adopt a new religion, but the government felt it necessary to wire-tap and record his private phone conversations.

    Seems like widespread wire-tapping was a federal hobby even during the Clinton era.

  4. “Seems like widespread wire-tapping was a federal hobby even during the Clinton era”

    RussR: considering the behavior of the DoJ during those years (and it’s post Oklahoma City), are you surprised?

    (or considering the behavior of the DoJ from Bush I onwards (Ruby Ridge), are you surprised?)

  5. Dear Zeus–I didn’t just plan to go to Busch Gardens, I actually went there last week. I hope this doesn’t jeopardize any future security clearances I may need.

    Incidentally, “Ride the Gwazi Lion” is code for “wait in line”. Ever since the hoi polloi were given annual passes for the price of a single admission, the park has been a mess. Fortunately, the Tampa version has all the cool animals and stuff to keep you entertained.

  6. PL-

    Anything at an amusement park is code for “wait in line.” Either that or “Spend $6 on a soda.”

  7. thoreau,

    No doubt, but things have gotten much worse since the cheap annual pass became a reality. I haven’t been to Disney since they introduced that scheduled ride deal–wonder how that’s working out? Queuing is for pansies, anyway. Just fight your way to the front of the line.

  8. PL, by “scheduled ride deal” are you referring to what Disney calls the “fastpass”? I’ve found it to work really well, and it works out for all concerned, since most people spend the time they’d normally spend in line in the gift shops.

  9. I shudder when I think of how many times I rode the Loch Ness Monster and Da Vinci’s Cradle. One more ride and I could’ve gone to jail.

  10. Right, the Fastpass. That’s it. Now that I think about it, a Disney fanatic buddy of mine said that it worked well for him, too. I’ll have to remember that the next time that I go.

    Perhaps they should introduce feats of strength or mental challenges to allow the stronger and/or smarter to ride first. Beats waiting in line, and it would give people an incentive to be in better shape and to be smarter.

  11. PL, I like the way you think – sort of combining The Happiest Place on Earth? with Thunderdome!

    Two men enter, one rides Space Mountain!

  12. The best way to enjoy an amusement park is to masquerade as a handicapped person. Disney has wheelchairs that they will basically give (or maybe rent I think) to anyone who asks for one. People in a wheelchair and their party get to use special entrances to each ride and also skip to the front of the line.

    I’ve never done it but I know plenty of people who have.

  13. Fastpass IMHO only works on days that are moderately crowded. On any really crowded day (read: most days) you end up waiting in line to get the fastpass, then waiting in the fastpass line anyway. I was struck by the irony of waiting in line to get a ticket so that later I could…wait in line.

  14. Some of the other wiretapped exchanges do seem pretty fishy, although what exactly they signify is hard to say.

    So an “outspoken Palestinian” (no doubt NYTimespeak for “supporter of Palestinian terrorism”) invites Padilla to Busch Gardens, and Padilla doesn’t want to discuss it over the phone, and it’s hard to figure out what that means? It means Padilla was bright enough to know he was being invited to a meeting where illegalities would be discussed, but not bright enough to play along without talking about being wiretapped, thus proving that he knew he was doing something shady.

  15. You know, you can actually have a variety of “exotic encounters” in the neighborhoods all around Busch Gradens, without having to wait in any lines at all!

  16. A European-themed Busch Gardens?

    What do they have, starlings and cattle?

  17. It means Padilla was bright enough to know he was being invited to a meeting where illegalities would be discussed, but not bright enough to play along without talking about being wiretapped, thus proving that he knew he was doing something shady.

    Ah, and everyone knows if you seem shady, the government gets three years to detain you without trial and turn your brain into jelly. It’s in the constitution. I think.

  18. “A European-themed Busch Gardens?

    What do they have, starlings and cattle?”

    No, They have a Muslim Rape Wave Park. It’s awesome!

  19. The European Busch Gardens is actually quite cool. (Though I haven’t been since I left Virginia a decade ago.) I grew up in the area, so I had season passes. Like all theme parks it has overpriced food, but the overpriced food has a European flavor. So do the overpriced souvenirs.

    The park itself is divided into sections named after various countries. There’s “Scotland,” with a cool roller coaster called the Loch Ness Monster, “Italy,” with various cool Da Vinci- and Roman-themed rides, “Germany,” “France” and a few more. The prizes you could win at the games were mostly medieval-themed as well. I remember an old boyfriend won me two enormous teddy bears in jester costumes; I handcuffed them together and used them as a wall decoration. Good times.

    When I moved to New England I lost all interest in amusement parks, because the Busch Gardens was so very nice that the parks up here all looked appallingly shabby to me.

  20. Not sure if everyone has seen these videos of the US military in Iraq or not, but they are pretty amazing: Hopefully our ‘surge’ will not include too many of these types…
    http://minor-ripper.blogspot.com/2006/12/winning-hearts-and-minds-part-three.html

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