FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
STATEMENT OF ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT
REGARDING THE PADILLA CASE:
“The Department of Justice is pleased the Supreme Court has granted the government's petition and will review the decision issued by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the Jose Padilla case. The President, acting as Commander in Chief in a time of war, determined that Padilla is closely associated with al Qaeda, an international terrorist organization with which the United States is at war, that he has engaged in conduct that constituted hostile and war-like acts, that he possesses intelligence that would aid U.S. efforts to prevent attacks by al Qaeda, that he represents a grave danger to the national security, and that it is in the interest of the United States to detain Padilla as an enemy combatant. The President's authority to designate individuals as enemy combatants is a vital part of the war on terrorism. The Court's action today provides an opportunity to reaffirm this critical authority.”
Additional background information:
Padilla Was Closely Associated with Al Qaeda and Trained and Worked Under
- After his release from prison in the United States in the early 1990s, Padilla traveled to Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan, taking the name Abdullah Al Muhajir.
- Padilla met with senior al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden lieutenant Abu Zubaydah, on several occasions while in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001 and 2002.
- At the direction of al Qaeda, Padilla received training from al Qaeda operatives, including how to wire explosive devices. Padilla also conducted research on construction of a uranium-enhanced explosive device at al Qaeda’s safehouse in Lahore, Pakistan.
- Padilla discussed with senior al Qaeda operatives his involvement and participation in terrorist operations targeting the United States, including a plan to detonate a “radiological dispersal device” (or “dirty bomb”) within the United States as well as other operations involving the detonation of explosive devices in hotel rooms and gas stations.
- Padilla was directed by al Qaeda members to return to the United States to explore and advance the conduct of further attacks against the United States on al Qaeda’s behalf.
Multiple Intelligence Sources Separately Confirmed Padilla’s Involvement in Planning Future Terrorist Attacks Against the United States with Al Qaeda Leaders. As the Supreme Court said in the unanimous Quirin decision, sustaining the constitutionality of military detention without regard to the combatants’ citizenship: “[c]itizens who associate themselves with the military arm of the enemy government, and with its aid, guidance and direction enter this country bent on hostile acts are enemy belligerents within the meaning of the Hague Convention and the law of war.”
The Detainment of Padilla by Authorities May Have Prevented the Escalation of His Plan for Further Terrorist Attacks. Padilla, a.k.a. Al Muhajir, was arrested on May 8 when he flew from Pakistan to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. That arrest disrupted the exploration of potential terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
The President Determined that Padilla Poses a Threat to Americans. On Sunday, June 9, 2002, President Bush, acting as Commander in Chief, determined that Abdullah al Muhajir, born in the United States as Jose Padilla, is an enemy combatant who poses a serious and continuing threat to the American people and our national security. Al Muhajir was subsequently transferred from the custody of the Justice Department to the control of the Defense Department.