Fleischer : No proof necessary

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 15 Jun 2002 10:24:19 +0100

WASHINGTON--The Bush White House was on the defensive Wednesday over
whether the administration overstated the threat posed by accused
al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla, the former Chicago gang member. 

"I would say that if you don't bring attention to it, then you'll be
criticized for close-hold and not telling anybody," Homeland Security
Director Tom Ridge said. 

"And if you do bring attention to it, you're accused of hyperbole, and I
think that's unfortunate." 

Attorney General John Ashcroft used strong, dramatic language Monday
when he disclosed, via telecast from Moscow, that Padilla was nabbed May
8 by federal agents at O'Hare Airport and was plotting to attack the
United States with a radioactive bomb. 

Ashcroft said federal agents had uncovered an "unfolding terrorist
plot," though he never said the plot was ready to be executed. On
Tuesday, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said he did not think
there was "actually a plot." 

Reporters pressed the White House on Wednesday about the differing
statements, particularly since more has been learned about Padilla. 

The sketchy profile developed so far about Padilla, 31, is a picture of
an ill-educated ex-Chicago gang member with a long arrest record for
violent acts--not someone capable of figuring out where to hijack
radioactive materials from U.S. universities and navigate without being

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer insisted the Ashcroft and
Wolfowitz statements were not really that far apart. 

"Hang on every word," Fleischer advised. "The attorney general talked
about how he was exploring these plans, which is exactly what we have

Fleischer also said not to expect detailed information as the nation
fights the war on terrorism. 

"We are not going to have exact down-to-the-detail, precise
information," he said. "We're going to have somewhat generalized
information about people who have plans, intentions to bring harm to our

Still, whether Padilla was a big fish in the al-Qaida organization or a
smaller catch was made a little clearer. 

Fleischer said Padilla was not in the top organizational structure of
al-Qaida. Other U.S. officials told the Associated Press that Padilla
accompanied one of Osama bin Laden's top aides, Abu Zubaydah, from
Afghanistan to Pakistan and surfed the Internet at a house in Lahore,
Pakistan, to study ways to build a ''dirty" bomb. 

Because Padilla was apprehended at O'Hare, his real mission is not
known. Some law enforcement sources said agents did not want to chance
losing Padilla while following him from the airport. 

A second man, Benjamin Ahmed Mohammed, is being questioned by the FBI in
Islamabad, Pakistan, for his links to Padilla, AP reported. 

In a Manhattan federal courtroom Wednesday, a judge gave the government
until June 21 to respond to a petition filed by Padilla's attorney,
Donna Newman, asking that the government either charge him with a crime
or free him. He is being held indefinitely in a South Carolina military
brig as an "enemy combatant" of the United States. 

Padilla moved from Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood to Florida when
he was 18 and converted to Islam a few years later. He attended a South
Florida mosque that has seen at least two other suspected criminals pass
through its doors in recent years. 

Padilla attended an introductory religion class at the Darul Uloom
Institute in Pembroke Pines, Fla., between 1995 and 1997, said Maulana
Shafayat Mohamed, an Islamic scholar at the center. He stood out in the
community, west of Fort Lauderdale, because he wore a red-and-white head

"It was Middle Eastern-type garb, which you don't normally see here,"
Mohamed said. "He was a strange guy." 

Mohamed recalled that Padilla's ex-wife, Cherie M. Stultz, called the
mosque about a year ago and sought counseling, saying Padilla was in
Egypt and had remarried. 

Padilla is not the only suspected terrorist to attend the mosque. 

Mohamed confirmed that Pakistani immigrant Imran Mandhai and Shueyb
Mossa Jokhan, a naturalized American from Trinidad and Tobago, also
prayed there. 

Mandhai, 19, and Jokhan, 24, are awaiting trial on terrorism conspiracy
charges. They were accused in May of plotting a "holy war" bombing
campaign in South Florida, targeting the National Guard Armory in
Hollywood and electrical substations in the region. 

The bombings, which were never carried out, were intended to spark race
riots, authorities said. The FBI secretly taped their threats, court
records show. The men are not believed to have any connections to the
Sept. 11 attacks. 

"The Mandhai guy--he was more extreme in his religious practices, the
way he prayed. He didn't seem to tolerate the way we mix men and women
here," Mohamed said, describing his more than 700-member mosque as one
of the most religiously liberal in Florida. "We are welcoming--very
diverse and interfaith. People sometimes call me 'rabbi' or 'reverend.'
That is how liberal we are." 

Federal agents visited the mosque after the Sept. 11 attacks to see
whether any of the hijackers worshipped there, Mohamed said. But he said
he did not recognize any of them from photos the agents showed him. 

"The good, the bad and the ugly can pass through our doors," he said.
"We are very open." 

Source:  SunTimes

You can choose whether you prefer to receive regular emails or a weekly digest 
by visiting http://www.muslim-news.net

Archive: http://archive.muslim-news.net

You can subscribe by sending an email to request@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word 
"subscribe" (without quotes) in the subject line, or by visiting 

You can unsubscribe by sending an email to request@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx with the 
word "unsubscribe" (without quotes) in the subject line, or by visiting 

You are welcome to submit any relevant news story to submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

For regular Islamic cultural articles by email, send email to 

Other related posts:

  • » Fleischer : No proof necessary