Balkinization: “Today the U.S. government formally indicted Jose Padilla, an American citizen arrested in the United States who had been held as an enemy combatant for three years outside the reach of the criminal justice system.

Originally the Justice Department claimed that Padilla had planned to detonate a ‘dirty bomb’ (i.e., one that would explode radioactive nuclear waste) in the United States. Later the Justice Department changed that to an allegation that he planned to set fire to (or blow up) an apartment building in Chicago. In today’s indictment, the Justice Department alleges neither act; instead it claims that Padilla had traveled abroad to become ‘a violent jihadist’ and that he had conspired to send ‘money, physical assets and new recruits’ overseas to engage in acts of terrorism.’

Since 9/11 the Bush Administration has sharply criticized others for daring to suggest that citizens accused of terrorism should be dealt with through the criminal justice system. It has insisted that 9/11 changed everything and that terrorism must be dealt with through novel methods that dispense with the ordinary protections that the Constitution affords the accused. Now it has backtracked in one of the most prominent cases and done precisely what it said it could not do– treat Padilla as a criminal defendant.”

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