Terrorism

Is That a Zucchini in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Supporting Terrorism?

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Today a federal jury begins deliberating on whether Jose Padilla, formerly an "unlawful enemy combatant" in military custody and now a criminal defendant, should be convicted of conspiring to "murder, kidnap, and maim" people in other countries. Unlike the jurors, I have not heard all the evidence, but my impression based on the press coverage is that the government has fallen short of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense, for what it's worth, chose not to submit any evidence or testimony.

The strongest evidence against Padilla is an Al Qaeda training camp application with his fingerprints on it that the prosecution says he signed under an alias. It seems pretty clear that Padilla did undergo some sort of Al Qaeda training, or at least that he tried to do so. But that in itself was not clearly a crime at the time he allegedly signed the application (which was found in Afghanistan in 2001). So the government instead has tried to connect him to a terrorist conspiracy involving two acquaintances who say they were only funding Muslim relief work in Kosovo, Chechnya, and Somalia. The line between helping oppressed Muslims and funding terrorism in such places is thin, and Padilla's connection to this relief work/terrorist conspiracy seems tenuous. The government's case depends heavily on accepting its interpretation of phone conversations involving Padilla's associates (and occasionally Padilla himself) that were secretly recorded between 1993 and 2001. In particular, to buy the government's story the jury has to accept its definition of "code words" used by Padilla's friends and its identification of Padilla with two "aliases" they mention. Still, given Padilla's Al Qaeda link, it seems likely the jury will convict him on at least some of the charges.

Addendum: As readers puzzled by the headline will see if they check out the second New York Times story, the prosecution said zucchini was code for weapons.

NEXT: The Right to Be a Sleazebag

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  1. Do you really have to sign an application to join Al Qaeda? That’s interesting. I wonder if you have to provide references, relevant terrorist experience, etc.

  2. I can see it now.

    “Yeah, we would like you..but you really are a bit too overqualified for this position. We’re worried you’ll leave and start your own terrorist group.”

  3. I wonder if you have to provide references, relevant terrorist experience, etc.

    “I’m sorry, Abdullah, but your references didn’t check out. And the check for your application fee bounced. It says here that one of your friends growing up was a Christian. Frankly, we question whether you would be willing to do what it takes.”

  4. What would say is biggest weakness, as a terrorist?

    Well, sometimes I’m too much of a perfectionist. If the fuse isn’t soldered to the timer just right, I’ll stay up up all night with the soldering iron, even if I’m supposed to be editing a decapitation tape.

  5. If Al-Qaeda has a mandatory pre-employment drug test, maybe libertarians would join the fight against them!

  6. But John Ashcroft told me he was caught on a plane with a dirty bomb in his sneakers that he was trying to light with some matches. It was on the tee-vee.

    God, if this is what the bed-wetters are frightened of imagine if they met a real terrorist.

  7. Don’t forget he was plotting to enrich a bucket of uranium by swinging it around above his head.

  8. Don’t forget he was plotting to enrich a bucket of uranium by swinging it around above his head.

    DIY centrifuge.

  9. Jacob writes “Still, given Padilla’s Al Qaeda link, it seems likely the jury will convict him on at least some of the charges.”

    That’s the idea in a terrorist prosecution trial, for the prosecution to prove the suspected terrorist guilty. Or do you think that is a problem, now?

    Should American law enforcement not arrest and try to convict suspected terrorists? You make it sound like it is American law enforcement that should be on trial.

  10. “Malik, what’s your greatest strength and what’s your greatest weakness as a terrorist?”

    Malik: “Well, I’m not very detail-oriented, so that’s definitely my weakness. Oh, and I’m poor on follow-through. But I’m a creative big picture guy, and even when I don’t follow through I usually manage to at least get a response going that advances the agenda. I’d say that if you put me on a team that included a more detail-oriented guy, then we could really hit the ground running on taking this operation to the next level, while sticking to core competencies.”

  11. Should American law enforcement not arrest and try to convict suspected terrorists? You make it sound like it is American law enforcement that should be on trial.

    Not if their case is as weak as this. I’d say it would hurt the U.S. more to arrest someone and then have them get off.

    Why didn’t they just monitor him like they do to the rest of us? He likely would have provided more evidence and maybe led to other terrorists?

    Look, I’m not advocating surveillance here, I’m just saying that it will be a rallying cry for real terrorists if Padilla gets off.

    Do it correctly the first time and it won’t create more problems. That part of why we have these things called “laws.”

  12. What does this have to do with Zucchini?

  13. *from a tapped phone conversation…

    “…so I was out in the garden harvesting my vegetables and my bucket was completely full with roma tomatoes and kale, so I had to stick the zucchini in my pocket to make it inside in one trip…”

    Gub’ment translation:

    garden – national mall
    zucchini – bazooka
    inside – white house

    Gub’ment decision: “Move in, boys.”

  14. What does this have to do with Zucchini?

    One of the other folks on some surveillance tapes talks about buying $3500 worth of “zucchini.”

    Padilla is a terrorist in the same way Tori Spelling’s manicurist is a celebrity.

  15. Let’s say Padilla attended a training camp in Afghanistan. Wouldn’t that amount to TERRORISTS providing material assistance to HIM?

  16. joe- did they provide him with the training in hopes that he’d do something with it in the future? Or was it like a terrorist fantasy camp?

  17. You make it sound like it is American law enforcement that should be on trial.

    I take it you haven’t been following Radley Balko’s posts.

  18. joe,

    The terrorists had the capital, Padilla provided the labor. I think your dialectic is out of whack.

  19. Did he wrap his zucchini with aluminum foil and stuff it in the front of his trousers?

  20. One of the other folks on some surveillance tapes talks about buying $3500 worth of “zucchini.”

    Maybe the cops figured, “hey, we might get terrorists, but if not, at least we’ll shut down a porn studio.”

  21. Jeff writes:

    Should American law enforcement not arrest and try to convict suspected terrorists? You make it sound like it is American law enforcement that should be on trial.

    Oh, it’s law enforcement now? I keep forgetting whether Padilla is a POW, criminal, or unlawful combatant. It seems like the Bush administration changes his status based on what’s convenient to deny him his Constitutional rights. (he is an American citizen, after all..)

  22. Padilla is a terrorist in the same way Tori Spelling’s manicurist is a celebrity.

    I have a suggestion. Let’s wait until the jury decides on Mr. Padilla’s case.

    Richard Reid (the shoe bomber) was a bumbling idiot as well, but he had no less malicious intent because of his ineptitude.

  23. I have a suggestion. Let’s wait until the jury decides on Mr. Padilla’s case.

    All, and I mean all, of the initial allegations against Padilla are not in the indictment of Padilla. No dirty bomb, no attacks on apartment buildings, no attack plans in the US or outside. Zip.

    He was charged with being part of a North American terrorist cell that sent money and recruits overseas.

    The only reason he was charged at all was to avoid an adverse decision by the Supreme Court on his extralegal detention.

    The judge assigned to the case was quoted in all the major news stories after the charges were filed the the indictment was “very light on the facts.”

  24. de stijl, I guess the jury saw it differently.

  25. wayne,

    I have no doubt Padilla is a bad guy and probably deserved to be be convicted of the conspiracy charges.

    He was also an American citizen arrested on American soil who was detained without charge for five years. It was claimed that he had met with bin Laden and was planning to explode a dirty bomb. It was claimed that he was planning to destroy American apartment buildings and hotels.

    He was charged with conspiracy to terrorism – basically consorting with some guys who were sending money to various “charity” groups who are suspected of financially supporting terrorist groups. He filled out a form that was basically a jihadist job application when he was in Afghanistan.

    During interrogation he said he was going to enrich uranium by putting it in a bucket and swing it around vigorously. The guy is an utter moron.

    Should he be in jail? Absolutely. You know what I love about this finding is that it was an American jury that found him guilty of a crime. Not a rogue President who declared him an enemy combatant without any rights of redress whatsoever.

    He should also have been put on criminal trial five years ago when he was initially arrested instead being sent to a Kafkaesque hidey hole down in Cuba.

    And you what? I still think he is a terrorist just like Tori Spelling’s manicurist is a celebrity.

  26. “During interrogation he said he was going to enrich uranium by putting it in a bucket and swing it around vigorously. The guy is an utter moron.”

    I agree that it is moronic to think that you can separate out an isotope of Uranium by spinning a bucketful around your head. However, this does show that Padilla knows that Uranium is enriched using a centrifuge. For a guy as dumb as Padilla, that is a fairly sophisticated piece of knowledge. I would bet that 80% of non-science-major college graduates don’t know that. Since I don’t see Padilla as the sort who reads Scientific American, I wonder where he got it.

    “And you what? I still think he is a terrorist just like Tori Spelling’s manicurist is a celebrity.”

    The difference is that TS’s manicurist might try to give you a mind-blowing blow job, while Padilla would try to blow your brains out (there is a pun in there somewhere, but I could not make it erupt). You seem to only want to apprehend intelligent, successful terrorists.

    Last point, Padilla was arrested shortly after 911. That was a crazy time, and he was handled in a dumb manner. Similar things have happened in the past.

  27. de stijl,

    “He should also have been put on criminal trial five years ago when he was initially arrested instead being sent to a Kafkaesque hidey hole down in Cuba.”

    Padilla never left US soil after being arrested. Unlike his more fortunate fellow jihadists, there was no all expenses paid vacation in the sunny Caribbean for Padilla.

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