Jose Padilla and the Zucchini
By Mike Whitney
-- - - The case against Jose Padilla would be funny if a
man’s life hadn’t been ruined in the process---but it has. The
Bush administration has leapt from one absurd accusation to the
next completely undisturbed by the glaring inconsistencies of
their case. The prosecution’s objective is the same now as it
was 5 years ago when the Chicago gang-banger was first arrested
at O’ Hare Airport as an alleged “dirty bomber”, that is, keep
Padilla behind bars for the rest of his life.
The government has no case against Padilla and they know it.
He’s merely a lab-rat in their experiment to expand presidential
powers. The Washington Post even admitted this in an article
earlier this week, “Few Specifics Evident as Padilla Trial
Nears” 4-23-07. Padilla had no nuclear material, no plan to
attack apartment buildings, and no part in any terrorist
conspiracy. It’s all baloney. In 5 years, the government hasn’t
produced a shred of evidence that Padilla is guilty of anything.
Nothing—zippo! In fact, according to the Washington Post, the
government’s case “lacks anything about the defendant being
involved in ANY particular plot in the United States OR ANYWHERE
So, why has this travesty been allowed to continue for so long?
Padilla has been in solitary confinement for the last 5 years.
During that time he was drugged, humiliated, and tortured—all of
the practices which have become commonplace under Bush. For the
first 4 years he was deprived of habeas corpus and legal
counsel. During that period, he was never charged with a crime.
He was simply declared an “enemy combatant” and stripped of his
rights. His arrest has been used to establish the precedent that
Bush can arbitrarily imprison American citizens without filing
charges. It is the very definition of tyranny.
But this is old news. What’s new is that the media’s coverage of
Padilla has grown strangely sympathetic. The Washington Post,
which has been one of the strongest backers of Bush’s foreign
adventurism, has been considerably less supportive of his attack
on civil liberties. The Post criticized the weakness of the
government’s case and the woeful lack of evidence connecting
Padilla to a crime. The prosecution even admits that the charges
are “hard to particularize” and that the defendant cannot be
“linked to a particular violent act or terrorist group.” This
explains the skepticism of U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke
who said (with some irony) that the indictment “is very light on
Nevertheless, the Padilla case is going forward even though
there is no evidence of a crime---just the possibility that
Padilla might do something illegal in the future. The parallels
to Franz Kafka’s “The Trial” have not been lost on Padilla’s
defense team who characterized the government’s case as “the
ethereal nature of an alleged conspiracy.”
By “ethereal” we assume they mean hogwash.
The Post does a good job of exposing the flaws in the
prosecution’s case, but stops short of saying the charges are
baseless and without merit. They know what Bush and his legal
team are up to and what extraordinary steps they will take to
reach their goal. They are trying to convict a man (and possibly
send him to his death) without producing any witnesses or
evidence of a crime. If they succeed, Bush will be able to
ignore the law and arrest whomever he chooses. That doesn’t mean
the outcome of the trial is certain. Far from it. In fact, it’ll
be hard to prove Padilla’s guilt with nothing but conjecture and
Presently, the government is charging Padilla as a material
witness in a “conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim”. But they
have no proof.
They say that he is part of a “North American support cell
that’s part of a vast international movement of foot soldiers,
recruiters and financiers who foment violent jihad around the
Again, there is no of this.
They say that he signed a “mujahideen data form”; an
“application form that was recovered from a reputed Al Qaida
Even if Padilla did sign this silly-sounding jihad application,
(which is still in doubt) that's guilt by association---it
doesn’t prove that he was involved in the commission of a crime.
The prosecution’s case depends on convincing jurors that Padilla
was secretly preparing Al Qaida forces for another terrorist
attack. They have submitted wiretapped phone conversations which
(they believe) implicate him in a conspiracy. But do they? The
conversations prove nothing. In fact, they're ridiculous. They
are merely recordings of Padilla with some unknown person
talking in code about spending “$3500 to buy zucchini”.
Is that it? Is that the government's case? Is it really worth
keeping a man behind bars for 5 years and driving him mad
because he talks about zucchini on the phone?
What about rhubarb?
Even the Post cannot relay the details of the “The Zucchini
Prosecution” without a hint of derision. The Post’s reporter,
Peter Whoriskey, mockingly notes that while the government’s
case is short on “violent specifics”; it is “rich in
Indeed. The entire case appears to be built on “atmospherics”
rather than facts. The prosecution has no more evidence now than
they did when they began this witch-hunt. Federal Prosecutor
Brian Frazier admitted as much when he was asked about the vague
nature of the charges.
Frazier said they were “hard to particularize” and that they
revolve around an “inchoate crime…rather than any completed
So, Frazier is admitting that the alleged crime was still in its
embryonic stages? That it hadn’t yet been committed!?!
Get this: Jose Padilla just spent 5 years in solitary
confinement for a crime, which the government now admits, never
The notion that a man can be imprisoned without proof of a crime
is “preemptive justice”, which is no justice at all. It denies
the “presumption of innocence” and cedes absolute power to the
The court needs to put an end to this nonsense and dismiss the
case for lack of evidence. This fiasco has gone on long enough.
No one should be caged like an animal for half a decade for
talking about zucchini on the phone.
Padilla should be released.
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