Jose Padilla

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Jose Padilla is an American who was arrested, in 2002 by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, on charges that he was plotting to detonate a "dirty bomb". Soon afterwards, however, he was declared an enemy combatant by President George W. Bush,[1] and transferred to military custody and interrogation. A subsequent opinion from Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, stated that the military had the authority to detain him "as a prisoner captured in an international armed conflict", in part based on ex parte Quirin, which also involved individuals captured on U.S. soil. Padilla, as opposed to Quirin et al., was an American citizen. Also, the memo determined that the Posse Comitatus Act did not apply to such captures, since the context was warfare rather than civilian law enforcement. [2]

In Rumsfeld v. Padilla, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the President did not have authority, in this case, to put him into military detention. He was eventually transferred back to the judicial system. In 2007, he was convicted of lesser charges, "conspiracy to murder, maim or kidnap," in the context of providing support to Islamic militants in Chechnya, Somalia, and other areas outside the United States.

Civilian arrest

Originally, he was arrested as a material witness warrant from the New York the federal prosecutor's office in Manhattan, where Comey was then the U.S. attorney.

Declaration of nonjudicial status

Part of the government case was that he was an "enemy combatant", having been in Afghanistan in late 2001.

He was held in the U.S. Navy prison in Charleston, Virginia, and interrogated, using coercive methods, by military personnel. Jack Goldsmith, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush Administration, wrote that there was a problem of public perception of the Padilla case: as opposed to the situation in ex parte Quirin, where the accused were clearly Nazi saboteurs, "Padilla had no uniform to discover and his connection to al Qaeda and his dangerousness were questioned" Military action in the United States against someone in street clothes violates the deepest taboos of our constitutional system..."[3]

Part of the 2004 public accusations, with respect to the radiological weapon attack, was that he reported to Abu Zubaydah, met with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and conspired with Aafia Siddique. He was also accused of planning to use natural gas to cause explosions in apartment buildings, according to then Deputy Attorney General James Comey.[4] None of these were charges in the eventual trial, since some of the evidence may have come from torture of detainees.


Rumsfeld v. Padilla led to his transfer back to civilian control in 2005.[5]

Civilian trial

He was convicted on this charge and the coercive interrogations were kept outside court review.[6]

U.S. District Court judge Marcia G. Cooke, observed "There is no evidence that these defendants personally maimed, kidnapped or killed anyone in the United States or elsewhere." In sentencing him to 27 years rather than the life sentence sought by the prosecution, she considered his time in "I do find that the conditions were so harsh for Mr. Padilla . . . they warrant consideration in the sentencing in this case." [7]

In his 2007 trial, his defense argued that he was made incompetent to cooperate in his defense, as a result of, according to Newsweek, as "extreme isolation, manipulation of the temperature in his cells, loud noises and other techniques designed to break him down." The technical director of the prison said he was checked at unannounced and irregular intervals and made to sleep on the steel frame of a bunk; this was argued as sleep deprivation. His charge that he had been injected with drugs, however, was strongly denied by the government. Citing the need to protect techniques from future prisoners, the government did not reveal the full range of techniques. It was agreed that some sessions were inadmissible since he had not been given his legal rights.[8] A recording of his last interrogation, on March 2, 2004, could not be found by the Defense Intelligence Agency. [9]


  1. George W. Bush (June 9, 2002), Memorandum to the Secretary of Defense
  2. Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice (June 8, 2002), Memorandum Regarding Determination of Enemy Belligerency and Military Detention
  3. Jack Goldsmith (2007), The Terror Presidency, Norton, pp. 117-118
  4. "U.S.: Padilla planned to blow up apartments; Suspect allegedly met with al-Qaida figures", MSNBC, June 1, 2004
  5. George W. Bush (November 20, 2005), Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, Re: Transfer of Detainee Jose Padilla
  6. Jenny S. Martinez (August 17, 2007), "The Real Verdict on Jose Padilla", Washington Post
  7. Peter Whoriskey and Dan Eggen (January 23, 2008), "Judge Sentences Padilla to 17 Years, Cites His Detention", Washington Post
  8. Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball (February 28, 2007), "The Missing Padilla Video", Newsweek
  9. Ramona Branch Oliver, National Archives and Records Administration (June 4, 2008), Response to Freedom of Information Act request for records regarding the destruction of...recordings of the Padilla interrogations