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.
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