No 'Dirty Bomb' Questions at Padilla Interrogation?
- An official record of the first FBI interrogation of Jose Padilla
following his 2002 arrest contains no reference to al Qaeda or a
"dirty bomb" plot Padilla was allegedly spearheading.
FBI FD-302 From Day Of Padilla's Arrest Inconsistent With Later
Urgency About Imminent Plot By 'Enemy Combatant'
By J.M. Berger
PHOTOS: Stills From Video of Jose Padilla During Enemy Combatant Detention
Padilla was detained on May 8, 2002, at Chicago's O'Hare Airport,
where he had been arrested upon entering the country.
The subsequent FBI interrogation is memorialized in an FD-302 record
introduced as an exhibit during Padilla's ongoing trial in Florida.
FD-302 is the FBI's routine form for recording the details of an
interview by agents.
During three hours of interrogation, Padilla was asked about his
personal history, family details and travel, but the record reflects
no question or answer directly dealing with his alleged ties to al Qaeda.
Nevertheless, at the end of the session the alleged al Qaeda operative
was detained on a material witness warrant related to a "conspiracy to
use weapons of mass destruction."
More than a month later, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft announced
Padilla had been detained as a suspected "dirty bomber."
Padilla "is an Al Qaeda operative and was exploring a plan to build
and explode a radioactive 'dirty bomb,'" Ashcroft said.
According to Ashcroft, the arrest "disrupted an unfolding terrorist
plot to attack the United States by exploding a radioactive 'dirty
"The safety of all Americans and the national security interests of
the United States require that Abdullah Al Muhajir (Padilla's alias)
be detained by the Defense Department as an enemy combatant," Ashcroft
said. Padilla was subsequently detained for more than three years
without being charged or allowed to meet with an attorney.
The FD-302 interrogation record does not seem to reflect Ashcroft's
sense of urgency in any way. The 302 describes an almost leisurely
discussion of Padilla's personal history and his interest in Islam.
Padilla was even provided with dinner during a one-hour break after
the first hour of interrogation.
However, it is important to note that details may have been omitted
from the record when it was transcribed, or the form may have been
edited after the fact.
Previous internal investigations by the FBI's Inspector General have
found fault with the lack of standards for FD-302s, including a lack
of clear guidelines as to the appropriateness of after-the-fact editing.
One page is also missing from the early part of the document as it was
filed with the U.S. District Court in Florida. The missing section
(page 4) is immediately preceded by and followed by a discussion of
Padilla's family history; the missing page appears to be part of that
INTELWIRE has posted the document as it was filed. The interrogation
record may be viewed by clicking here.
FBI agents present for the interview included Special Agents R.J.
Holley and Todd T. Schmitt.
Padilla told the agents his most recent residences were in Cairo and
Tanta, Egypt, but could not provide an address or phone number for
either location. He told the FBI he had come to Chicago to visit his
son, and subsequently planned to visit his mother in Florida.
Padilla said his first introduction to Islam came while he was in a
Florida prison serving time on gun charges. There, he met a member of
the Nation of Islam, who sparked his interest in Islam generally. He
told FBI agents he could not remember this individual's name.
The Nation of Islam's beliefs are modeled on traditional Islam, but
are not the same.
While in prison, Padilla had a vision that increased his interest in
"After a fight with another immate, PADILLA was placed in solitary
confinement as punishment for the altercation," the FBI report states.
"PADILLA went on a three day hunger strike while in confinement and
during this time, had a dream which he thought was of significance.
"In a brief moment during this dream, PADILLA saw himself floating and
was wearing a black hood and a blue robe. This 'vision' inspired
PADILLA to focus intently on the study of Islam," the report says.
Padilla said he studied Islam after his release from prison at the
Darul Uloom center in Davie, Florida, according to the record. While
working at a Taco Bell in Davie, he learned to read Arabic and studied
Islam during the evenings with the hopes of becoming an Islamic scholar.
According to Padilla, he determined that his vocation would best be
served by study abroad, and he left the country in 1998, over his
In Egypt, Padilla married a second wife with whom he had two children.
He studied Salafism, an extremely fundamentalist branch of Sunni Islam
with a strong focus on jihad. He traveled to Mecca, Saudi Arabia
during Ramadan of either 1999 or 2000, where he was offered an
oppourtunity to study Islam in Pakistan, by his own account.
Padilla refused to answer any detailed questions about his "activities
and associates in Pakistan," according to the 302 form. According to
subsequent media reports, those associates included top al Qaeda
leaders Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, but neither man is
named in the 302.
Padilla was asked about the $10,000 in cash found on his person at the
time of his arrest and said it had been given to him by "an Egyptian
based man" as a "simple gift by a fellow Muslim who wanted Padilla to
visit his family and introduce his son to Islam."
U.S. officials first indicated that the money carried by Padilla was
intended for use in buying materials for a "dirty bomb," or
radiological disperson device, which consists of a traditional
explosive designed to scatter radioactive debris over a wide area.
Later, U.S. officials backed off of this claim and alleged Padilla was
plotting to blow up apartment buildings using improvised materials.
Padilla was also asked whether he was traveling alone, which he
claimed was the case. However, "PADILLA recalled seeing a man in an
adjoining office" in Pakistan, where he had been stopped for
questioning regarding his passport. Padilla had replaced his passport
before traveling from Pakistan after claiming his first one was stolen.
Padilla "speculated that (the other man) may have been detained for
questioning by Pakistani authorities for similar reasons." Padilla
said he didn't know the man, didn't know what had happened to him
after the questioning, and "never saw the man previously and it was
not possible that" the man knew him.
By the third hour of the interview, Padilla still did not seem unduly
concerned with the line of questioning. He said he was tired and
wanted to call his mother and see his son. Padilla became "insulted
that he was being interviewed when he had done nothing wrong and had
been cooperative with the agents."
Finally, at 7:35 p.m., more than four hours after the interrogation
began, Padilla refused a request to meet with agents the next day. He
was asked to voluntarily travel with the agents to New York, but refused.
Padilla was then arrested on a material witness warrant from the
Southern District of New York to testify before a grand jury about
information he might possess concerning "a conspiracy to kill U.S.
nationals, bombing or bombing conspiracy and conspiracy to use weapons
of mass destruction."
The reference to the warrant -- on page nine of the nine page FD-302
form -- is the only reference in the entire document to WMDs and the
only reference that in any way suggests that agents were concerned
with a "dirty bomb" plot. The record contains no references to al
Qaeda, or terrorist training camps, and it does not name any al Qaeda
leaders or operatives.
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW