'Alternative' CIA tactics complicate Padilla case
Evidence against the American terror suspect was obtained through torture, his lawyers say.
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Mr. Mohammed is one of 10 individuals being held at Guantánamo Bay who had been facing war-crimes conspiracy charges before the military commission process was struck down by the Supreme Court. Because of those charges, he has been afforded access to a lawyer.Skip to next paragraph
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According to an affidavit signed by Patel, Mohammed was being held in Pakistan at the time the Padilla warrant application was prepared. US agents wanted incriminating information about Padilla. The affidavit says Mohammed was hung on a wall with a leather strap around his wrists for a week by his Pakistani jailers. He was beaten with a leather strap, and was questioned with a loaded gun pressing into his chest, the affidavit says.
It says he was questioned by four individuals who identified themselves as agents of the FBI. The affidavit adds that Mohammed says he is sure that if he sees them again or sees their photos he will be able to identify them.
Mohammed has told lawyers that US agents were not happy with his level of cooperation against Padilla and sent him from Pakistan to Morocco. There, according to an Amnesty International report, Moroccan interrogators used a razor blade to make 20 to 30 small cuts on his genitals. This was done once a month for 18 months, the report says. Eventually, Mohammed was sent to Afghanistan and then Guantánamo.
The specific issue in the Padilla case is whether federal prosecutors in Miami can use evidence seized from Padilla at the Chicago airport and use statements Padilla made during nearly eight hours of questioning by customs, immigration, and FBI agents before he was given Miranda warnings and placed under arrest.
After arresting Padilla, agents found the names and telephone numbers of individuals the government says were Padilla's Al Qaeda recruiter and his sponsor. They found the e-mail address of Ammar al-Baluchi, a key aide to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks. And they discovered a cellphone that had allegedly been provided to Padilla by Al Qaeda officials.
In addition, they confiscated $10,526 in cash, most of which they allege had been provided to Padilla by Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan a month earlier. During questioning, agents say Padilla told them that he received the money in an envelope from an individual in Pakistan, but then said it was money he had earned.
Such evidence could play a critical role in Padilla's terror conspiracy trial, set to begin in January. Judge Cooke has already criticized the government's case as being "very light on facts." She has dismissed the most serious conspiracy count in the indictment.
The bulk of the evidence against Padilla's alleged coconspirators is 220 intercepted conversations. But there are only 28 instances where Padilla speaks or is allegedly mentioned, according to court documents. And none of the 28 conversations directly implicates Padilla in any acts of violence, his lawyers say.
In contrast to the skimpy evidence in the Miami criminal case, the government has assembled a mountain of intelligence information about Padilla's alleged actions and cooperation with Al Qaeda. But virtually all of it was obtained from interrogations during his 3-1/2 years in military detention as a presidentially designated enemy combatant, or through the harsh interrogation of other enemy combatants overseas. As such, it is generally ineligible for use in the criminal court system.
The 2002 warrant issue is important, legal analysts say, because it could lead to wider use in American courts of the fruits of harsh interrogations overseas. And it highlights the difficulty of blending proactive intelligence operations with law-enforcement efforts, these analysts say.
He's a Palestinian, born in Saudi Arabia, and the first significant member of Al Qaeda captured – in March 2002 in Pakistan. Intelligence officials say he:
• Headed the reorganization of Al Qaeda in Pakistan, as well as planned attacks on US interests.
• Had connections to a plan to blow up the US Embassy in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as a planned attack on the American embassy in Paris.
• Is thought to have briefed Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, who was arrested on board a flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001
• Is a master of disguise who used at least 37 aliases
• Is the first Al Qaeda suspect subjected to harsh interrogation, according to President Bush in a speech Sept. 6. He was interrogated in Thailand and initially questioned by the FBI, which gave him some humanitarian aid. A CIA team was later sent in. It apparently forced him to strip and stand in a cold room and subjected him to loud music.
Source: Various news reports