Well, this has been too long in coming:
WASHINGTON (AP) – Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen held without charges for more than three years on suspicion of plotting a “dirty bomb” attack in this country, has been indicted on three counts alleging he conspired to “murder, maim and kidnap” people overseas.
The indictment naming Padilla and four others was unsealed Tuesday after being returned last week by a federal grand jury in Miami. While the charges allege Padilla was part of a U.S.-based terrorism conspiracy, they do not include the government’s earlier allegations that he planned to carry out attacks in America.
“The indictment alleges that Padilla traveled overseas to train as a terrorist with the intention of fighting a violent jihad,” Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said at a news conference. Gonzales declined to comment on why none of the allegations involving attacks in America were included in the indictment.
Padilla, a Brooklyn-born Muslim convert, had been held as an “enemy combatant” in Defense Department custody. The Bush administration had resisted calls to charge and try him in civilian courts.
My best guess as to why the Bush Administration bas been so dilatory: lack of political courage. They didn’t like the political implications or possible consequences of following their preferred course of action. I think that’s been a major factor in way too many of their actions over the years.
Jeff Medcalf of Caedroia has an excellent proposed decision tree on how these cases should be treated using citizenship status, where the suspect was apprehended, and conditions under which the suspect was apprehended as parameters. I’m in substantial agreement with Jeff on this and won’t steal his thunder by quoting the amount of his post I’d need to give you the thrust of his ideas. As Jean-Luc Picard used to say, Make it so!
James Joyner of Outside the Beltway, too, thinks This should have been resolved years ago.
Balkinization has a substantial commentary. A small sample:
By indicting Padilla now, The Bush Administration moots Padilla’s appeal to the Supreme Court. It also leaves standing the Fourth Circuit’s decision in the Padilla case, which broadly upheld the President’s power to detain U.S. citizens like Padilla as unlawful combatants. (See Marty Lederman’s post here for an analysis).
The Heretik finds the indictment curious:
Jose Padilla has been indicted for terrorist acts, but not for the most famous one he was accused of: the dirty bomb that would go off somewhere here in the United States.
Andrew Cochran of The Counterterrorism Blog has a link-filled post on the indictment and its relation to the Patriot Act of 2001:
So this indictment provides the Bush Administration and PATRIOT Act supporters with additional justification for the reauthorization of the Act – see Dennis Lormel’s and Michael Kraft’s posts on that issue. The new indictment renders irrelevant a pending Supreme Court showdown over the enemy combatant issue, as Padilla will now be under the custody of the Justice Department for this case.